DOUBLE DIPPERS ON THE RIVER SKELL @ RIPON
On Sunday afternoon I headed north to Ripon and the River Skell which is one of three rivers that flow through Ripon with the Ure and Laver being the other two. Ripon is the third smallest city in England and is 1,300 years old having being founded as Inhrypum by Saint Wilfred and currently has a population of just under 17,000. I was making this visit to an area of the River Skell to see if I could see Dippers and Grey Wagtails.
After driving through the centre of Ripon I headed out along the B6265 towards Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. Just after passing Malorie Park on my right, which is the home of Ripon City FC, I turned left and parked on a side street called "High Cleugh". I walked across the small grassy area to banks of the River Laver and followed it down to where it joined the River Skell and walked across the wooden bridge over the river.
From here I turned right and headed along the west bank of the River Skell as the path takes you into woodland. After a few hundred yards the path takes you up some stone steps and turns to the right and after a short distance opens out onto a grassy meadow to my left. Over on the far side at the top of a tree I spotted a lone Great Spotted Woodpecker calling and as I continued along the river bank I could hear a couple of Wrens in the bushes.
I had now been walking alongside the river for about half a mile when I came to an opening in the trees, where at the far side of the river I could see a Grey Wagtail. This was the spot where I was also hoping to see Dippers but for the time I was there the only bird that I saw was the solitary Grey Wagtail. I now re-traced the path I had taken all the way back to the wooden bridge but, instead of walking back over, I continued on past the bridge towards Ripon.
I had only walked about one hundred yards past the bridge when I saw a Dipper at the far side of the river. It was sat on a small rock doing its trademark dipping before diving and walking into the water searching for food. It did this for a few minutes before it was chased off down river by another Dipper before returning a minute or so later and then flying off up river and out of sight.
As the Dipper had disappeared a Grey Wagtail flew down river, briefly perching on some small stones at the edge before flying off. I continued walking down river and eventually came to a gap in the trees where I spotted both Dippers at the other side. I slowly and quietly made my way down the bank to the edge of the river where I managed to get within ten feet of the Dipper.
Sadly it was not good for photography as it was cloudy and the trees were blocking out what light there was. I hadn't wanted to use the flash on my camera but with the poor light I had to use it and I managed to get a couple of photos before they both flew off. In the trees above me there was a Nuthatch calling and over the wall behind me there were Jackdaws, Crows and Wood Pigeons in a field. I walked back to the wooden bridge and crossed over and returned to the car and drove down closer to the centre of Ripon, a short distance from Ripon Cathedral.
I now walked to a road bridge over the River Skell and looking down to the left I could see moving from rock to rock was a Grey Wagtail. I moved round to the side of the river where the Wagtail was moving along the rocks and it spent the next ten minutes moving back and forth along the rocks before disappearing down river. From the other side of the river I could hear several Sparrows amongst the bushes and under the bridge which I had recently crossed I could see a Mallard asleep.
I followed the river side path for about five hundred feet where, under a road bridge, I could see a pair of Black Headed Gulls and several Mallards. I crossed the road and continued on the riverside path and on this stretch of the river were several more Mallards and another Black Headed Gull at a small weir. The path now went underneath a stone bridge and emerged on the other side where on the rocks there was a pair of Grey Wagtails.
A little further along is another wooden bridge and a larger weir where I saw several more Grey Wagtails amongst the rocks and small bushes in the middle of the river. I returned to the path and walked back up the riverside to the stone bridge where one of the Grey Wagtails had now moved a lot closer giving great views about a dozen feet away.
I continued along the path to where I had parked and before I headed back to the car I walked a little further on and saw more Mallards and a single Grey Wagtail flying along the river. In total I had seen at seen at least ten Grey Wagtails and two Dippers achieving my aim to see these birds and I now headed back to my car and drove home.
I have attached a few photos and a full sightings list from my visit to the River Skell at Ripon.