Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Deep

It's windy, cold and one feels more like hibernating than like going on a walkabout. A wonderful alternative is going to The Deep, OK, I am in the fringes of what I have allowed myself to write about in this blog, but The Deep is a good excuse to wander off limits. The Deep is Hull's aquarium. When it opened in 2002 it had what it used to be the deepest tank in the world (not sure if the record still holds now). A wonderfully colourful reef tank is still my favourite place. You can sit on the floor and imagine yourself diving in a bright, shallow tropical lagoon with rays, small sharks and fishes of all colours and sizes.


Giant Isopods
 The Twilight Zone is also quite good, with a tank with several Nautilus, fish with luminescent patches, and deep sea giant isopods and the life cycle of the jellyfish.

Atlantic Mudskipper

A reconstruction of the lobe-finned fish Tiktaalik
Recently, they have installed a new Mangrove swamp tank for Mudskippers, fantastic to watch too, and an exhibit with a  reconstruction of Tiktaalik, an ancient fish which was in the evolutionary line to the evolution of tetrapods. The exhibit is so realistic that you wonder from a distance if the fish is alive. These are the last part in the Evolution of Seas exhibit.

Clown fish and anemone

Garden Eels

A reconstruction of the jaws of Carcharodon megalodon, a giant fossil shark which dwarfs the Great White Shark

 Other attractions are a shark tunnel, garden eels and a North Sea tank. From The Deep's restaurant there are wide views of the Humber estuary and the mouth of the river Hull and its impressive tidal barrier.
The Deep Website

Monday, 23 November 2009

East Park

The Chestnut Walk
The weather forecast was sunny for the morning, so I headed off to East Park. Not many people around, some dog walkers, and parents/grandparents with young children. The wildfowl approached us, looking hopeful for a little bread, but they were disappointed.

I hadn't been to the little zoo for a while. The Rheas seemingly bred earlier in the year, and their young were forming a little group of 4, a little taller than a peacock. There was also a young, cream coloured alpaca amongst the grown up ones.

Usual birds for the season. The highlight were three pairs of Goosanders, which kept close to the island, therefore the photos were not great. They were preening and diving.
Mirror Mute Swans
Deer feeding
Feral pigeon enjoying the sun
Black-headed Gulls
Confiding Coot
  1. Crow, there are lots, it is easy to count 10 visible at any one time 
  2. Black-Headed gulls, the most common in the park, everywhere 
  3. Woodpigeons eating on the grass near the trees 
  4. Magpie 
  5. Canada Geese 
  6. Blackbirds feeding in rowan and hawthorn 
  7. Greylags, large flock on the feeding area 
  8. Wren, "Chrrr!" 
  9. Starlings 
  10. Coot, lots about 
  11. Mallards 
  12. Herring Gull immature flying over the lake 
  13. Moorhens, 2 
  14. Tufted Duck 
  15. Swans, pair, swimming with stunning symmetry. 
  16. Blue tit 
  17. GOOSANDERS, 3 males and 3 females, between the island and the bridge. 
  18. Pochard 
  19. Common gull, I see one. 
  20. A duck in the island I cannot ID, with white band on body, likely a Drake Teal 
  21. Collared dove

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The (almost non-existant) Holderness ancient woods: a virtual tour (1)

This is an unusual post. I haven't been out today, or the last few days. It's been raining a lot. Frustration. I usually vent my frustration of not being able to be out and about with two things - my favourite computer games if you like- : Google Earth and Geograph. Virtually flying over satellite imagery of the earth is the best thing ever if you like looking at maps, and I can spend hours looking at maps. Enter Geograph, where you can see down to earth photos of most sites in the UK, for free, and I am hooked. So I put together this virtual tour of the few sites thought to hold the last remaining ancient in the Holderness peninsula according to English Nature:
"Holderness was at one time cloaked in forests. From the initial colonisation of birch as the glaciers retreated, to a high forest of oak some five thousand years ago, early human settlers would have been faced with an extensive wildwood..."
Unfortunately, the soil left behind after glaciations is extremely fertile and the plains of Holderness are prime agricultural land (you struggle to see pastures as well as forest). This means most ancient woods were felled to make room for agriculture. A few tiny jewels survive

Burton Bushes

A satellite view of Burton Bushes, courtesy of Google Earth
Burton Bushes is the last remnant (11 ha) of the old Beverley Westwood, nowadays a surviving common land usually grazed by cattle. The horizontal bar is equivalent to 100 m to give you an idea of its size. The following excerpt gives some information on the puzzle of why the wood is now pasture and the bushes is the only significant area remaining of the wood:
"Near Beverley stood, some years ago, an extensive range of thriving oak-wood, though not of large size, called "The West-Woods." These were held under the See of Durham, and regular falls were taken by the lessees, or the Bishop, at stated periods, by which means a perpetual succession was preserved; and while the timber and underwood remained in an uniform state, a regular income arose from them to the See. But these woods were, by some means or other, taken down a few years since, though not without having become an object of legal investigation; but whatever might have been the decision of the law, the law could not make the woods grow again, or the land revert to wood; consequently it is now cultivated, and some one has thus obtained the whole capital value of the wood, who had only a right to the annual income arising from it, and with it has obtained the annual income of the land into the bargain."
(From A general view of the agriculture of the East-Riding of Yorkshire By H.E. Strickland, 1812; scanned by Google Books)
Still today there is some ecological interest in this tiny fragment of ancient forest and the place is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest, see this for more info).
Blue Bells in April. Photo by Carolyn Metcalfe from Geograph.
A description of a walk around the Westwood, inlcuding Burton Bushes, can be found at the Walking the Riding website (under "Beverley Westwood Bounds).

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Noddle Hill Fishing Lake and Community Woodland

If you look at a local map, the low-lying areas north of Hull, around the river, are littered with toponyms including 'Ings' and 'Carr'. This is evidence this area was is flooded in the past, and, despite being crisscrossed by drains and ditches, is still easily flooded today. A 'carr' is a waterlogged wooded terrain, where common trees are alder, willow and sallow, whereas 'ings' is an old Yorkshire word for water meadows and marshes. Some examples are North Carr, Nun Carrs, East Carr, Swine Carrs, Carr Hill, Turf Carr, Carr House, Skidby Carr, The Ings and New Ings.
A view of North Carr, the diagonal line towards he right is the Holderness Drain. Note the whitish areas that, despite being in the middle of crop fields, are temporary ponds where regular flooding occurs. Drains and ditches also mark the limits between fields.
The place where we went today is placed on an edge of North Carr. It is a fishing lake surrounded by fields that were planted a few years ago (1996-99) and now are developing into a woodland and wet grassland. Two names are used for the site, Noddle Hill Fishing lake and Bransholme Fishing lake. This site is likely to become the first local nature reserve in Hull. It is well known for its dragonflies, fourteen species have been recorded here (check this website from the British Dragonfly Society for info and the latest sightings).
Great Culvert Pumping Station next to Holderness Drain.
Foredyke Stream
A view of the lake
The resident pair of Mute Swans
There are several marked paths, a Woodland Path and a Pond Path, and several other shorter ones with suggestive names. The Woodland path is a circular walk around the perimeter of the site, there are broad views of North Carr and Foredyke Stream (a drain in fact). The paths are being improved for access, but there are still many muddy sections. There is a small educational pond surrounded by bullrushes and with a dipping platform and many benches and tables for picnicking.
 Foxes, rabbits, squirrels and harvest mice can be found in the site or nearby areas. As for birds, Barn Owls, Lapwings, Golden Plovers, Reed Buntings and Skylarks among many others have been sighted. A plant list can be found here.
Today there weren't many birds at the site. This is our bird list:
  1. Carrion Crow
  2. Blackbird
  3. Robin
  4. Mallard
  5. Moorhen, several immatures.
  6. Goldfinches
  7. Mute Swan, pair, not ringed.
  8. Wren
  9. Dunnock
  10. Woodpigeon
  11. Collared Dove
Where to find it:

View Larger Map

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Barmston Drain

Hull is surprisingly green from high up. The 7th floor of the University Library offers a unique vantage point to appreciate this. Parks, gardens, railway lines, cycle lanes, tree-lined avenues, the river Hull and drains, form a green network that allows wildlife to live right inside the city. One of such green corridor is the Barmston Drain (or Barmy drain, as is also locally known). You can walk, even cycle, on the banks on part of the drain. Is is crisp and sunny today and I head for the section of the drain between Stepney and Skulcoates lane via the disused railway track bed now a cycle-pedestrian path between Hull and Hornsea. As soon as we get there we see some Mallards and Moorhens feeding. A number of moorhens are immature, so they probably breed here in good numbers. The banks are well vegetated with reeds, willows, brambles and hawthorns. One of the sections has a line of good-sized poplars on one side. A Kestrel swoops down from one of the trees into a field. The drain water runs clear, with lots of submerged macrophytes. Something jumps from the bank into the water with a plop! and disappears underwater, a Water Vole, perhaps? These are known to live on the drain. Rabbits, foxes and Roe Deer have also been reported from the drain and nearby areas.
 If you ignore the odd supermarket trolley or rubbish here and there it makes a remarkably nice walk.

Grey Squirrel eating berries

Moorhen and supermarket trolley

A view of the drain towards Stepney Lane
Tales from the Riverbank, is an ongoing post with great photos of wildlife in the drain led by Bob Carter.
Where is it?

View Larger Map


  1. Great tit, pair with blue tits feeding on the lime
  2. Blue tit, pair
  3. Blackbird
  4. Magpies, a tidings of 8 magpies
  5. Goldfinches, 2
  6. Robins singing and ticking
  7. Common gull
  8. Woodpigeon, one sunbathing on a field
  9. Wren
  10. Sparrows
  11. Starlings, feeding on Cordyline buds
  12. Dunnock, cricket call
  13. Kestrel, next to the drain
  14. Moorhens, lots of adults and immatures in the drain
  15. Mallards, several pairs in the drain
  16. Long-tailed tits, group crossing near Skulcoates lane
  17. Herring gulls feeding on a field, they seem to dance on the spot and then feed
  18. Crow in the park, seems to be caching food
  19. Mistle thrush park, pair
  20. Chaffinches, pair feeding on the ground
  21. Canada geese, 28 including the hybrid and the lame one.
  22. Large flock of geese flying south in V, more than 50, high pitched call.