Monday, 20 November 2017

River Hull. Stage 17. Whinhill Farm to River Head and Bell Mills

This is the last stage I can do on the river Hull using public rights of way, and therefore the last chapter in the walk up the River Hull. I split the trip in two, the first one the walk from River Head at Driffield down the Driffield canal via the canal towpath, which runs parallel to the river, and the second the accessible section around Bells Mill.
 It is a gloomy day, although not too cold and the forecast was for rain all morning, however, for most of the walk it was dry. West Beck (the local name for the river Hull here) at this stage is still only about 14 m over the sea level, and its waters will only rise another 10-15 m in the springs around the village of Kirkburn, west of Driffield forming Eastburn and Southburn becks, which merge into Driffield Trout stream. Another set of springs arising between 20-30 m, NW of Driffield form around Elmswell Beck and after the Keld become Driffield Beck. Geologically, these springs sit at the base of the Yorkshire Wolds, in the interface between the porous Cretaceous chalk that forms the backbone of the Wolds and the impermeable Kimmeridge and Speeton clays that sit underneath it. The springs themselves and the becks described above are not public right of way.
 I walk around River Head, with listed warehouses and mills witnesses of an era when Driffield flourished due to the canal traffic. Some of these are now converted into flats.
View from Riverhead, which is in fact the start of Driffield Navigation. The canal is fed by one of the river Hull tributaries, simply called 'The Beck', which runs across the middle of Driffield.
The Beck, upstream of Riverhead.

View of one of the listed warehouses by Riverhead. The crane to the left of the photo in the background is also listed.
Information panel on the Driffield Canal.
The canal is broad and shallow here, with transparent water and abundant aquatic vegetation. I spot several large Brown Trout in it. A male Muscovy duck displays to an indifferent Mute Swan on the canal.
Brown Trout.
Muscovy duck in hot pursuit of the Mute Swan.
Cormorant showing its good balancing skills on wires.
Once the canal leaves town, the towpath on the side of the river is lined by fences and hedges, but occasionally I can get a glimpse of the river. The area, of riverside grassland, fen and swamp is called The Bottoms and the chalk stream is fished for Brown Trout and Grayling.
The Bottoms.
A bend of the river Hull (west Beck) visible from the towpath.
West Beck.
I see at least five Little Grebes between the canal and the river in this stretch. Here, one with a Mute Swan.
Little Grebe on the side of the canal.
A group of Fieldfares and Redwing.
I quickly arrive at Whinhill Farm, opposite to the end of last stage and turn round. It has started to drizzle. After the lock I count three Little Grebes in the canal. A Kingfisher flies past, settling just on the opposite bank and giving me some photo opportunities while it fishes.
A bull Highland cattle.
Driffield Lock.
Muscovy duck.
Canal crane.
Loafing Black-headed gulls by the canal.
A Little Egret at River Head.
 For the second part of the walk, I drove to Bell Mills. The river is split into different arms, some of them feeding the mills themselves. There is also a lush island covered on riverside wet woodland, with Alder and Willow carr. After a walk around the area, I celebrate the end of the walk up the river Hull with a hot bowl of soup in the Bell Mills cafe.
Pair of Mute Swans with Bell Mills island on the background.
A shallow chalk stream by the mills  
Another view of West Beck near the Mills.
Bell Mills island on the right.

Bell Mills, which used to be a water mill. Now Bradshaw Flour Mill.
Bell Mills outflow

The end of the public right of way by Bell Mills island.

More information
River Hull Headwaters. SSSI information.

A circular walk from River Head to Wansford and to Nafferton here.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Two winter birds at Flamborough

A trip to Flamborough Head this morning, where a mixed flock of linnets, Snow Buntings and three Shore Larks had been reported feeding on a ploughed field south of the light house for the last few days.
 It was bright and mostly sunny, with a steady NW wind. Shortly after arriving, Robert spotted a Stonechat on the fence by the lighthouse.  We quickly arrived at the ploughed field, where we had just seen a flock of small passerines flying into. A Kestrel flushed them again, and the black and white wings of a few Snow Buntings stood out amongst the Linnets as they flew. When they landed it was hard to spot the constantly moving Snow Buntings in between the clods of soil and furrows, but while looking for them we found the three Shore Larks. The low winter sunlight from behind us was great to get a few shots when the Snow Buntings and Shore Larks stood briefly exposed atop the soil.
 Having had our fill of these local winter visitors of our eastern shores, we moved onto Bempton Cliffs. The sea was very rough, exposed to the NW wind, and the breakers were showing in the distance over Filey Brigg too.
White Horses at Selwicks Bay 
The ploughed field. 
There are two well camouflaged Shore Larks in this shot. 
Snow Bunting. 
Snow Bunting feeding. 
Two Snow Buntings.  
This Shore Lark stopped to groom. 
...and a Snow Bunting photobombed it. 

Stretching out before moving on. 
The rough seas at Bempton Cliffs. 

The breakers at Filey Brigg. 
A late drinker caterpillar on the path.
Kestrel on the barn owl box.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

A sunny November day at Spurn

The first frost of the year, I had to scrape ice from the car windshield before the trip. It was a beautiful sunny morning, with a very light westerly wind. I made a first stop on Kilnsea Wetlands, where the highlight were three drake Pintail sleeping amongst the Greylags, and a Knot. A few Dunlin, Redshank and Lapwing were the only other waders, but there was a flock of Curlew on the field at the other side of the road. 
Knot on the wetlands. 
A view of the wetlands from the hide. 
Group of birds on the spits. 
Redshank and Dunlin smiling for the camera. 
 I move onto the triangle. There were Blackbirds everywhere, on the beach, on the road, and especially gorging on the haws of the hedgerows. Also plenty of Redwing and Robins. A Chiffchaff fed quietly on the willows by the Crown and Anchor. Very little actually migrating though, a group of 60 Pink-footed geese moving south were the most noticeable. Out of the breeze and in sunny areas it was quite mild. A Red Admiral fluttered around a flowering ivy on the church grounds, and I came across 2 darters, one of them too flighty to photograph and plenty of droneflies. The other notable invertebrate was a snail-killing fly, 
A ringed blackbird on the beach. 
Sunbathing starling. 
Robin on the caravan site. 
 It is low tide, and there is quite a lot of activity on the mudflats near the high tide mark, with Redshank, Golden and Grey Plover, Curlew Dunlin and Ringed plover, and a Little Egret feeding on the creeks of the saltmarsh.

A ring of Golden Ploved on the mudflats. 
Common Darter near the new visitor centre. 
Grey Plover. 
Ringed Plover. 
A view of the new visitor centre from the bank. 
Around the warren it feels very quiet. I walk toward the breach and see that there was a breach in the early morning tide, with new sand piling over the saltmarsh side.
 On the fence posts near the Blue Bell, a lone Stonechat feeds. Overall, 53 bird species on the day trip.

Wall pattern of the Warren Cottage.
Magpie near the breach. 
The unimog trail on the breach, looking north. 
A snail-killing fly, Sepedon sphegea.
Scarecrow on field.
Pink-footed geese skein. 
Great Black-backed gull on the beach.