Lunchtime Walks

I had been thinking that I would post several times about my recent lunchtime walks but I have decided to do one, longer one, instead. It has been a while in the making. It has bits and pieces from this year along the canal and river. The main reason for doing the one posting is to bring it all together to show off the area around the river and canal. In future I think I will keep them nice and small though.

Working at Salts Mill with the canal, river and Robert’s Park close by is great. Recently we have changed from having 45 minutes for lunch to having an hour. The extra 15 minutes has certainly made a difference to lunchtime. It is now possible to get up to the rowing club at Hirst Wood and still have time to take a few photos. Or walk the other way along the canal then the river to Baildon Bridge and back.

In May this year, when I was looking for all the sculptures on the Aire Sculpture Trail I was lucky enough to spot 9 Long Tailed Tit chicks on a branch. I initially thought it was a scarf wrapped round the branch but when a few of them moved I realised it was not. This is a reasonably clear shot of 5 of them getting cosy.

Long-tailed tit chicks

When the weather gets a bit warmer (this one below was taken early June) the canal has swarms of flies going back and forth. There are plenty here to feed loads of fish and birds. Though this is probably too thick for a bird to fly through.

1 or 3 flies

I also have a couple of others, here, on flickr but with a slow shutter speed.

For a few years I have watched the Kestrels nesting in Salts Mill and occasionally I have noticed smaller birds fly into holes and cracks in the walls. You can see my photos of Kestrels in this set on flickr. But this June I set up my tripod to get some shots of a pair of Blue Tits going in and out of a hole right next to the Music Shop along by the railway line. The hole in the wall was only a few feet from the entrance to the shop, right next to their sign.

Bluetit with tasty caterpillar

The hot weather we have had brought fish close to the surface. There were also a couple of days when I don’t think many boats were going along the canal so the water was clearer than usual. I have yet to see one caught but there are some big fish in the canal, and there have been some very small ones.

These range from tiny at less than 1 inch (approx 2 cm)

Tiny fish, Leeds Liverpool Canal, Saltaire

with lots at 3 or 4 inches


Medium sized fish

And then some very big ones. During the hot weather we had they came to the surface and slowly swam along the canal together. They are of a size certainly worth catching. Bream I think.

A shoal of good sized fish

Big Fish, Leeds Liverpool Canal, Saltaire

With the number of fish it is surprising that I have only occasionally seen Cormorants fly along the river and on 1 occasion saw one atop New Mill. However, one morning in June this year two were on the mud bank opposite the Boat House with their wings spread presumably warming themselves by the morning Sun.

Cormorants, Robert's Park

Hopefully you have seen my photo of a Sparrow catching a Mayfly. In May, June and July the Mayfly emerge from the canal and the Sparrows perch in the small branches overhanging the canal waiting for them. Here is a male Sparrow, with Mayfly, on the banks of the canal just down from Hirst Lock.

Male Sparrow with Mayfly

Grey Herons are frequent visitors to the river and canal much more visible than the Cormorants. The most I have seen together was 13 up behind the Bradford Rowing Club but there is often one on the canal apparently oblivious to the people walking along the tow-path. Many of the walkers are also oblivious to the Heron. Everyone in their own world.

Grey Heron

One bird that I have only seen the once along the canal is the Common Tern. I saw three of them one lunchtime this July. They would just be passing through, having a little snack on some of the fish in the canal on there migration.

Terns on the Canal at Robert's Park

I mentioned Aire Scuplture Trail earlier when talking about the Long Tailed Tits. It is things like this that adds a little bit of interest to the river and canal though I have yet to see a submarine actually in the river. The first time I saw the Green Octopus on the end of the canal bridge I went into the Tourist Information centre and asked what the Green Octopus was, even though I told them that is was visible from the window I was asked to sit down while they went away to make a phone call. They came back and picked up a leaflet from the counter that had details of an “Aire Sculpture Trail”. They then looked out of the window again and could now say “Oh! Yes! It is there!”. I then expected one of them to go away again to cancel the request for a padded wagon. I think bad weather intervened and some of the sculptures were not painted in time for the official opening.

Aire Sculpture Trail

Another artistic feature is the Urban Art wall (aka Grafitti Wall) near the skate-board area in Robert’s Park which has changed several times since it was built when the park was re-furbed. You can follow some of the history if you click on the image and visit flickr. I still have some others to add to the sequence. Several of them have been done by locals with the help of local artists – one such being moenipulation. The one below has been done by Pryme and Rota from the TPN ( Trans Pennine Nomads )

Grafitti Wall, Robert's Park. July 2013

As you know there are loads of Ducks around the river and canal. I wonder if the vegetation on the weir is “livelier” than elsewhere and that is why some of the ducks risk being washed over.

Weir, Roberts Park, River Aire

Up above the weir at Hirst Mill the river is a bit quieter and flat. Swallows and House Martins fly along the river and amongst the Rowing Club buildings. This Summer, when it was really hot they were flying very low and occasionally getting a drink. This has given me a couple of ideas for future Summers.

House Martin getting a drink

I had read that Jays eat Acorns but I had never seen it. I saw this on finish off an Acorn and then start trying to get another from the tree. This is in one of the Oak trees along the canal tow path.

Jay with Acorns, Leeds Liverpool Canal

The Weir at Hirst Mill is significantly steeper than the one at Saltaire. I haven’t as yet compared the height. This shot is taken with a 1 second exposure to blur the water flowing over the weir.

Weir, Hirst Mill, River Aire

And this shot of the river above the weir is taken from about the same place. It is taken with a long lens and the stretch of water is about 1/2 a mile long but taken only just above the level of the water.

Just above the Weir, Hirst Mill, River Aire

Lode Pit Beck joins the river just below the weir and I have frequently seen Common Dippers around this area. They like rapidly flowing water and can be seen bobbing on the rocks in the beck and river. They then dip into the water and can actually walk along the reiver bottom looking for Cadisfly Larvae. This one is on the large rocks of the weir.


And this one is where the beck joins the river.

Dipper, Load Pit Beck, River Aire

Grey Wagtails can be seen along the river banks and on the weir, They can also be seen on the roof of Salts Mill but you really need to get a bit higher than the offices to see them and now that all the windows have secondary glazing it is difficult to hear them.

Grey Wagtail, weir at Hirst Mill

The river at the weir in Saltaire often looks surprisingly flat. It’s strange – the water is flowing along with almost a mirror smooth surface, blissfully unaware that any second it going to tumble over the edge. The water often reflects the sky and on this occasion it was reflecting the duck.


Roberts Park also has its fair share of wild life. Squirrels can frequently be seen. Other wild life I have seen in the park is Goldcrest, RedWing, Black Bird, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Magpie, Wood pigeon, Oyster Catcher, Chaffinch. That’s in addition to the ones shown in this posting. The links will take you to photos of them in the Park but not taken this year.

Squirrel, Roberts Park, Baildon

Up beyond the sports ground can be a great place to see butterflies in the Summer. This one is a Small Copper.

Small Copper Butterfly

and this Holly Blue was seen on the stone tops of the river bank in Roberts Park near the cricket pavilion.

Holly Blue Butterfly

This Speckled Wood butterfly was seen by the structure that takes the pipes over the river up beyond the sports ground.

Speckled Wood butterfly

A slightly more interesting and controversial sighting is this Mink crossing the river near the Saltaire footbridge. They are good swimmers and excellent hunters.

Mink by the weir at Robert's Park

I have seen them take Moorhen chicks but hopefully we will continue to see Moorhens on the river.

Moorhen, River Aire, Robberts Park

One of the more colourful and exciting birds along the river is the Kingfisher. I have seen them along most parts of the river I walk along. This one was taken from the place where the pipes go over the river at the far end of the field to the West of Roberts Park. The frequent patches of blue plastic along the river sometimes makes me look for a Kingfisher when you see it out of the corner of your eye.

Kingfisher, River Aire,

I have seen a few Green Woodpeckers in the past but always in the distance. However, this year, along the canal, a juvenile had somehow got down into the grass and small branches in the canal side. It was squawking away and when a barge tootled past it hopped out on to the tow-path. Some walkers barked at it (!!??) presumably to see what a startled Green Woodpecker looks like and then it part hopped, part flew and part climbed into the trees.

Green Woodpecker, Leeds Liverpool Canal

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are often heard along the river but not often seen. They quite cleverly hide round the other side of branches and tree trunks. This one had a different idea though. It was at the top of a tree near the footbridge at the far side of the field to the West of Roberts Park calling away loudly.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Though I often see Grey Herons, sometimes in trees, I don’t often see them on roof tops. This one is sharing the roof of New Mill with some Crows.

Heron atop New Mill

This year is the  first time I have seen a Wren family with the chicks being fed by an adult. I think this is one of the chicks that was soon persuaded to join the others in the undergrowth. It is perched on the railing that is on the top of the rather ornate structure that carries the pipes over the river at the west end of the fields beyond Roberts Park.




As I have mentioned Mistle Thrushes can be seen/heard in Roberts Park. They can sound like a football rattle. This one is on the edge of the roof of the lodge in Roberts Park

Mistle Thrush on the lodge Roberts Park

Saltaire is a World Heritage Site so as you would expect it is often full of tourists and the United Reform Church is one of the things you often see them taking photos of. It is directly opposite the entrance to work. This is a slightly different view of it.

United Reform Church, Saltaire

The normal type of boat on the canal is, as you would expect, the canal narrow boat or barge. There have been others that look more like river or sea going barges with anchors but during the festival one of the mooring areas was taken with what looks more like small cabin cruisers from the Broads.

Busy canal, Saltaire

Under Salts Mill is a 500,000 gallon reservoir that is fed by rainwater that comes off the roof down hollow cast iron pillars. At the North side of the reservoir is an overflow control and I am told that the pipe goes under the canal and under New Mill to the river. When I look at the outside of the mill and work out where the pipe might be it could go along the gap between the front and rear of New Mill to the river. That would mean that this pipe into the river is in about the right place for it. Is this the overflow from Salts Mill?

Overflow from Salts Mill

Swan families are occasional visitors to the canal and this September a family of 2 adults and 1 juvenile have been at Saltaire. They seem to spend hours keeping their beautiful feathers in order.

Swan on the Leeds Liverpool canal, Saltaire

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