Thursday 9 February 2017

Feeding Station Photography and Other things.

In December I went out to Scallows Hall to set up my winter station.  It was good to be pottering about round the hide and filling up the feeders again.  On returning a few days later I found them completely empty so the birds out there are as voracious as ever.  I got into the habit last year of feeding sunflower hearts, but I could not fill up the feeders quickly enough (or my wallet).  This year I have decided to use more whole sunflower seeds and just use the hearts when I am photographing.  After topping up the feeders on this second visit I stood back and watched for a while.  Already the common members of the tit family were constantly back and forth and it was good to see a visit by a party of long tailed tits.  Nuthatches had found the feeders again and were present as was a single woodpecker. 

After feeding several times, I made my first visit to photograph at the feeding station on Saturday 14th January, a bitterly cold, but beautifully sunny and crisp day.  On arriving I took down all of the feeders and replaced them with a mossy branch leant against the feeder pole that I wanted to use for a perch to photograph my subjects.  I baited the back of it (out of sight of the lens) with my patent brand of peanut fat. To make this I blitz a couple of handfuls of peanuts in the food processor and then mix these into a pound of lard.  Sometimes I add meal worms or bird seed to the mix.  This attracts most birds and I can apply it where I want the birds to land.  The trick is to get the photographs before the bird gets at the fat or its beak becomes lathered with it.  All of the usual suspects visited and I was delighted to get shots of them all with the exception of the woodpecker which as, usual was extremely wary and flew off the minute I moved the lens.  I always look forward to the winter feeding station and never tire of watching and photographing common species at extremely close quarters.  It is nice to visit exotic places, but we need to remember that we have stunning wildlife on our own doorsteps.

Since that first occasion I have visited again and also spent some time photographing winter fungi in the wood: yellow brain and velvet shank.  Whilst out walking Jet above the village on a miserable damp and foggy afternoon we were delighted to disturb a barn owl.  There used to be a pair in one of the local barns but it is possible that both birds succumbed to cold or age and have not been seen for a year or two so it was a real pleasure to come across.  I have seen it again one morning when I was searching for the buzzard and managed a couple of poor shots before it flew off.  Another byproduct of buzzard hunting was the kestrel hunting above the valley which I managed some shots off.

A satisfying start to the year.

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Saturday 4 February 2017

The Yorkshire Wolds Way: Stage 1 Barton Upon Humber - South Cave.

Having completed the Viking Way Long Distance Footpath last year starting in March and finishing in Oakham on 2nd December w have decided to tackle the 80 miles of the Yorkshire Wolds Way from Hessle to Filey.  Although the official route begins on the north bank of the Humber at Hessle, for completeness we wanted to begin at the same start point as for the Viking Way and walk over the Humber Bridge first.  For such an early start date we were blessed with excellent weather - chilly but with virtually cloudless skies all day.  Our day began with the usual shuffling around of cars, first leaving one at our finish point at South Cave and returning to Barton in the other.  Notwithstanding we were walking by 10.30 and made our way to the official start point of The Viking Way: The Sloop on the corner of Far Ings Road, before heading up onto the bridge.  Views from the bridge were expansive and it wasn't long before we were walking along the north shore of the Humber.  As with the Viking Way I enjoyed this part of the walk - excellent views and lots to see.  On the wildlife front it was good to spot a large patch of butterbur.  One of our earliest Spring arrivals with the flowers appearing before the very large leaves which, in days gone by, were used to wrap butter in to keep it cool during the summer.
We were not long reaching North Ferriby where we enjoyed reading the information board about the Bronze Boats that were found at this spot, interestingly there is the outline of one laid out on the ground.  An impressive size.  Not long after this we had to make our way through the edge of the village as we couldn't continue on the route along the shore as the tide was in.
Eventually, after negotiating the busy A63 we entered out first stretch of Wolds hillside as we made our way up the wooded Terrace and Bow Plantations before descending into the delightful village of Welton which the guide book describes as one of the prettiest in the area.
Frome here the route makes its way up the superb dry glacial valley of Welton Dale with the millponds of Welton Mill at the beginning.  Here we heard the strange whinnying call of a dabchick or little grebe.  I have often photographed this species the male of which develops handsome breeding plumage in the spring.
From the top of Welton Dale we emerged onto high Wolds chalk scenery; classic terrain with good views over the patchwork of fields.  Soon the route descended steeply towards Brantingham into the fast setting winter sun with views out over the Humber towards the Trent Valley.  Before reaching the village we turned down steeply across meadows with superb views of Brantingham church nestled in the valley below, beautifully lit by the last of the sun.  It was a steep climb out of wooded Brantingham Dale before descending and then climbing again past a farm perched high above the estuary with a final descent to where we had parked the car on the outskirts of South Cave just as darkness descended.
The only thing remaining was some serious rehydration in the Sloop in Barton and a welcome meal of steak pie, chips and peas.  Magic!