Monday, 22 May 2017

River Hull. Stage 10. Leven Canal to Baswick Landing

This is a very remote and beautiful stretch of the River Hull, with just a few farms. Not only there are no bridges, there are few roads reaching it, so after some consideration I decided to start the stage at Baswick Steer farm, where I parked, walk down river until Leven Canal and then return via the same route.
 It's been was a warm, sunny day with a southerly breeze. Baswick Steer is a farm by the River Hull with a gate that allows access to the public footpath down river. On the opposite bank is Tophill Low, the Yorkshire Water nature reserve, so I expected to see some interesting wildlife.
 Most of the river floodplain here, as in previous stages, is on very low lying agricultural land and pastures, the large fields are drained by ditches, with hedgerows and the occasional copse. The river is still corseted by high grassy, level clay banks. The water is now quite clear, and there are some open accessible banks where I could see fish and aquatic invertebrates (top). Reed Buntings call all through the stage from patches of reeds. A Cetti's Warbler sings near High Baswick farm.
Despite the signs of Public Right of way, gates between the farms did not appear to welcome the walker, as several were either padlocked, tied shut or are not easy to open. The path over the bank hasn't been mowed in months either, and in a section south of Linley Hill the grass is up to my waist.
 I pass by Wilfholme Landing, with colourful boats and boathouses where Swallows are nesting. There is also a House Martin colony in one of the houses and a pair of Pied Wagtails.
 This is also the first stage in the river in which I see dragonflies, the first one a Hairy Dragonfly near Leven Canal, which rises from the grass before I can take a photo. Also Large Red Damselfly and a couple of blue ones that don't settle.
I finally reached Leven Canal, which runs in 5 straight km between Leven and the river SSSI. I had my lunch as a cuckoo called. A beautiful female Broad-bodied Chaser flew over, carrying prey. It found a sheltered spot by some brambles and settled, allowing close views. As I was still sitting eating, a Hobby! I dropped my food and grabbed the binoculars. What stunning raptors they are! Before it disappeared over the trees I even managed a record shot.
 It was time to turn round and retrace my steps (4.22 km each way was today's stage). The path I had opened on the tall grass made the going easier.
 Near Linley Hill Farm, I see a couple of black labradors on the bank, just ahead of me. Nobody is with them, my heart quickens. They spot me and come barking furiously. Shielding myself behind my backpack, I greet them as if they were my dogs, cheering and asking them to walk along back home. One of them calms down straight away and starts trotting back to the farm, the other barks for a while longer, but finally follows the other. I breathe a sigh, put my backpack on and carry on. Fortunately, they don't come out of the farm as I walk past.
 As I get to Baswick Landing, I go down to the bank to wash my feet. It's a muddy bank. I look forward to the chalk banks upstream for a dip!
 As I put the 4 km2 lists in Birdtrack, I realise that I've had 60 bird species today, a very decent list given it wasn't a nature reserve.
Baswick Steer farm, looking upstream. Tophill Low is on the left hand side beyond the river bank. 
The tiny jetty at Baswick Landing. 
A Moorhen busy carrying nesting material to the other side bank. 
Shelduck and ducklings. The drake flew off and circled over, trying to distract me from his family. 
Canada Geese family. 
An Oystercatcher rises to mob a Marsh Harrier near Tophill Low. 
Singing Whitethroat. 

Spotty horse. 
The flock of domestic geese have a couple of goslings. 
Colourful boats at Wilfholme Landing. 
Singing Swallow on a boat. 
The meandering river Hull. 
Little Egret.
Female Broad-bodied Chaser. 
Record shot of Hobby
Large Red damselfly. 
The path I opened in the bank, on the way back. 
6 spot Burnet caterpillar (thanks to Harry Witts for ID). 
Benches overlooking the river at Linley Hill farm. 
Pied Wagtail by Baswick Steer Farm.
Stone Loach, thanks to Harry Witts and Robert Jaques for ID. 

The stage map
Check the wild at Hull map for more details.

More information
Leven Canal. A Yorkshire Dragonfly Group site.
Tophill Low Nature Reserve. Website.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Dancing in the rain

 It had to be a hide and seek day given the forecast of rain, so, for a change I headed to Blacktoft Sands RSPB. I had just arrived when a birder came excitedly into the visitor centre as a Cuckoo was sitting on a tree nearby. I tortured the camera, bringing it out in the rain to capture it. The cuckoo sat there for quite a while braving the rain while the tree lashed about in the wind.
 The six Konik ponies were standing in full view of the visitor centre (above). Many Swifts and House Martins, with some Swallows and a few Sand Martins flew low over the reeds and the water. I had good views of a male Marsh Harrier and then moved onto the east side of the reserve. It was very quiet at Townend and ended up at Singleton for a while. The Cuckoo had just been seen nearby and it flew onto the reeds close to the hide, starting to call. Not long after, someone spotted a distant Montagu's Harrier, the female that has been about and pointed out the differences with the Marsh Harriers. The Montagu's landed in a bush and hunkered there and we could see her through a telescope. I took a hundred terrible photos of the bush that I won't share.
 The lack of recent rains meant that the west end of the reserve was very dry, with just a few puddles. From Ousefleet Hide, highlights were a flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers, two Yellow Wagtails and an Avocet feeding near the hide in a puddle. Even the Gadwall were walking in between puddles, some sight! I managed to miss a food pass by the Marsh Harriers.
 In between hides, it was warbler fest, with at least a Cetti's calling in amongst them, but no Grasshopper warbler to be heard.
 Despite the damp, a good day indeed!
Male cuckoo. 
Male Marsh Harrier. 
Little Grebe. 
A very handsome adult Grey Heron. 
Mating moorhens. 
Male Cuckoo. 
Male Cuckoo. 
Female Montagu's Harrier.
Female Marsh Harrier with Alkborough in the background.
Swallows preening on the reeds. 
Yellow Wagtails. 
Avocet feeding. 
Gadwall on a muddy walkabout. 
Freshly killed mole. The predator appeared to have just eaten the brain and left the rest.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Swinemoor with Hull Nats

A beautiful, still and mild evening put an end to the Arctic wind we have been putting up with in the last week. I revisited Swinemoor Common in the Tuesday night field meeting of Hull Nats. We walked around the common going south by Beverley and Barmston drain and then following the river upstream.
We started by admiring the horses galloping alongside the river bank.
Andrew spotted a pair of Grey Partridge feeding close to us, the first time any of us sees this species there.
One of the two Yellow Wagtails we saw. 
A Lapwing with 5 young chicks. They were very busy chasing crows and jackdaws away (top shot), and also an unfortunate Little Ringed Plover that dare approach the chicks. 
The shadows of Hull Nats members observing Lapwing chicks through Andrew's telescope. 
Male Lapwing in the wet pasture. 
We were hoping to watch Snipe drumming. Instead, we were treated to the sight of 16 local Snipe joining in a flight (a wisp of Snipe that is) around the common.
Plenty of Swifts and Swallows about, and this is what they are after following the river, drains and other wet areas during their migration, clouds of midges gathering over Beverley and Barmston Drain. 
The only Domestic Geese left. 
The trip finished with a beautiful sunset over Beverley.