I have made yet another visit to Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits, partly because I like driving my new car, partly because I have been able to top the battery up free of charge, but mainly because it was a sunny day and I still want to get a good photo of a flying Brown Hawker – yet to be achieved, but I include a shot here.
The photos above are of things seen within the nature reserve. Again, on this visit, there were lots of what looked like Large White butterflies flitting around but they seldom stayed still.
With the water treatment works across the road on one side and the river with fields on the other there were Cormorant, Oystercatcher and Lapwing easily visible from the more open areas of the reserve.
I spent half an hour at Potter Pits near Shipley Station on Monday. Very few butterflies but I still enjoyed taking a few photos. All the photos are in the one gallery so once viewing an image you should be able to scroll through them all. I find it much better to do this on a computer with a decent sized screen.
I have not captioned many of the photos but it was quite a pleasant half hour walking around snapping at the variety of plants and insects. I was surprised to see the number of Ladybird on a Thistle until I noticed that it was COVERED with Aphids.
I had another trip to Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits on Monday. I am hoping to get some decent shots of flying Brown Hawkers but I only saw one.
On the same day I also spent half an hour at Potter Pits near Shipley Station, click the link to see the results of that visit.
What I did like was that I saw a Wren with a couple of Harvestman “spiders” in its beak, food for a youngster somewhere near. The header image is a similar shot of the Wren.
I also saw several Harvestman on Nettles. There were plenty of other insects too. One of the Bees has quite a collection on its pollen saddlebags.
I didn’t see as many moth and butterfly varieties as I expected, though I did spot a few Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Small Skippers, Green Veined White and lots of other white butterflies that never settled.
I took a few general views on my visit this time with some of the river and others of plant areas but also got up close to some of the plants and fungi. Across the road I managed to get some close shots of rabbits in the field and dozens of Jackdaw in the trees above the water treatment plant.
I have decided I like the slightly open space of the Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits Nature Reserve. It is easy to move off into little side paths for people to pass and maintain sensible (>2m) distance. So I went again on Thursday. I also went on Friday hoping to get better photos of the Brown Hawkers, no luck with that, but I have added a couple of photos from that visit. Hopefully we will get some hot Sun and I will get my eye in.
Clicking on an image should display it larger and allow you to see it full size.
It was exciting, though also a little unnerving, to see a Mink hunting on the far bank of the river. A few years back I watched a Mink hunting along the River Aire at Denso Marston Nature Reserve. It was efficient, skilled and determined. I didn’t see it catch anything. I guess most chicks are big and quick enough to get out of its way now though, again a few years back, I did watch a Mink dive into the River Aire and on numerous occasions come out within seconds with a small fish.
Another nice sighting was this Kingfisher but with this I had no associated concern for anything it might be after.
I spotted the Kingfisher arrive because I was watching a Brown Hawker that seemed to do a quick jink as the Kingfisher flew in near it. These photos are from Thursday and though I am pleased to have actually got them in the frame I still want to get one that is in focus.
Each time I have been up to the bench where I watched the Mink I have spent some time listening to and looking for Chiffchaff. I have not been to other places with the such numbers or with them being so close. At the bench the river bank opens up a bit giving decent views, and this is where I have spotted a Female Mandarin duck pottering about the same place as the Mink earlier. It also gives good views of birds flying past like Greylag Geese and Cormorant.
The reserve has a lovely range of plants. After a visit there I have to spend time quizzing my wife and looking through the books to identify them. Having a list of plants from the nature reserve’s website here has been very useful though I am sure I have got several of them wrong. When looking for wildlife it can be difficult because for the likes of birds and rabbits you need to keep your eyes on the middle distance, for butterflies, and some birds, you need to be looking close, for Grasshoppers, Bees and flying insects you need to look closer and for Spiders and Tiny young Toads creeping about in the grass you need to look where you are putting your feet.
I have to admit to being disappointed in how my website looks on some phones. It can be tricky to select an image and then click on the “View full size” option. If you don’t do that then the images on some phones are quite small. It looks much better on a big computer screen.
On Tuesday I went for a walk around Denso Marston Nature Reserve and along the river. The Nature Reserve itself has space but the paths along the river are a bit narrow in places with limited refuge, especially further towards Shipley, e.g. behind Charlestown Cemetery, so I felt uncomfortable on a couple of occasions.
It was a very dull day with little sunshine while I was down there so I saw no butterflies. The large pond has quite a few Water Lily near the bridge and I am sure it will be spectacular in bright sunshine when they open fully. Quite a few Ladybird Larvae were around. There is even one on the leave next to the Water Lily. The adult Grey Wagtail was with two other wagtails that were probably its young. The head of the wagtail looks a bit frazzled from the effort and stress of feeding the young but I think it a shame that it has to do it amongst the rusty steel, rubber, plastic and, what looks like, a fish ornament. The four Goosander, see header image, look healthy and I heard Kingfisher on several occasions flying along the river and managed to spot one on a couple of occasions.
I heard Blackbird, Jay, Wren, Robin, Wood Pigeon, Long Tailed Tit, Blue Tit and several others but they managed to stay out of sight most of the time. All they have to do is keep still and they will just not be spotted if they are in the trees or undergrowth.
I have been to Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits again – Saturday & Sunday, with camera of course.
On these two trips there seemed to be more butterflies and moths around than on my first visit. The Large Whites seemed the most common but they were always flying, hence no photo of one. One of the first settled butterflies I saw was a very grey looking Small Tortoiseshell. Do they get grey with age? The others I saw, including the pair on a fence on the path across the fields to Ben Rhydding, were much fresher looking. The Red Admiral and Comma were also fresh looking.
I spent some more time listening and looking for birds on these two visits and was pleased to get some photos of juvenile and adult Chiffchaff (header image). Keeping my eyes and ears open meant I got sight of two Cormorant flying over, but only one in the frame, a small flock of Curlew and two Little Egret, again, only one in the frame. I watched Sand Martin and Swallows flying about along the river and when one went into a nest hole in the river bank I waited, with camera at the ready, for it to come out. The House Sparrows were spotted in a garden on Wheatley Lane after my walk through the fields up to Ben Rhydding station.
The warm weather on parts of Saturday favoured insects. There seemed to be many more Damselflies around. This one is an Azure Damselfly. A couple of Brown Hawkers were flying back and forth over the water of the pond. Many Grasshopper could be heard stridulating in the lawns. Several varieties of Bees were feeding on the flowers and spiders could be seen running purposefully across the lawn.
My main interest is birds and butterflies but I also enjoyed taking photos of the wide variety of plants and flowers. Some of the flowers were tiny, like the Mouse-ear Chick weed and the Eyebright. I still need an ID for one of the plants in the small wired off triangular area. Some of the other IDs are best guesses so if anyone knows better please let me know.
Other things spotted were a tiny Toad trying to hide in the grass, a fungus and a ground covering Lichen neither of which have I identified. By coming into the lawn areas quietly and slowly I was able to get some photos of Rabbits. The black Rabbit was in a field with cows across the road from the reserve, on the way to Ben Rhydding station. It was a lot more relaxed about me being seen than the wild ones in the reserve. The lampost on Cheltenham Avenue is an interesting mixture of an old cast lampost and a modern LED light fitting.
Click on the images to see better quality versions.