A VOLERY OF WAGTAILS ON THE RIVER WHARFE
On Friday it was forecast to be a bright, hot sunny day with temperatures potentially reaching twenty degrees, so I headed off to the Yorkshire Dales with my first stop being Barden Bridge. The River Wharfe from Bolton Abbey through Strid Woods, Barden Bridge, Burnsall and Grassington has always been a great place to walk and spot wildlife. Strid Woods is especially good for seeing Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and Pied Flycatchers in Spring and early Summer. It was a few weeks early for a visit to Strid Woods so I parked at Barden Bridge to walk the mile long stretch of river from Barden Bridge to just north of Strid Woods, crossing over an aqueduct / bridge to make the return journey along the opposite side of the river.
In the trees just next to the car I spotted a Robin, male Chaffinch and, squatted down on a branch, a Collared Dove. I walked across to the bridge and headed down the eastern bank of the River Wharfe and I hadn’t gone more than fifty yards when I spotted a male and female Goosander on the far side of the river with the female perched on a rock and the male diving under the surface of the water. Eventually the female Goosander moved off the rock and joined the male diving under the water looking for food before they both began to swim up river.
I had only walked a few yards further when I saw Pied Wagtails flying over the river and then perched on rocks a few feet into the river a pair of Grey Wagtails. The further along the riverbank I walked the more Grey & Pied Wagtails there were, perched on rocks or flying along the river. In the fields to the left of the path were several Greylag Geese with Crows on the hillside beyond. About half way along this stretch of the river there is a dry stone wall that runs off at right angles from the path eastwards across the field and up the hillside. About two thirds of the way across the field there is a gap in the wall and a small pond extending out to both sides of the wall.
On the edges of the water were a trio of Redshanks as well as Moorhens and Black Headed Gulls. Back on the river there were yet more Grey and Pied Wagtails with several Mallards also present and an Oystercatcher flying overhead. Along this stretch of river there was a stretch of narrow water running about fifty yards to the east of the path and the Redshanks had made their way along this water creating a crystal-clear reflection as they waded through the shallow water. In the fields and on the hillside were around half a dozen Oystercatchers, a lone Curlew and more Greylag Geese.
Near the end of the stretch of narrow water a male Teal was busy making its way along the water, dipping the end of its beak just under the surface of the water. I had now reached the aqueduct / bridge and as I reached the other side, I could hear Chaffinches calling from amongst the trees. As I walked along the western bank of the River Wharfe I saw Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds and a pair of Nuthatches in the trees that lined this side of the river. As I walked along five Oystercatchers flew over the river, calling as they went, and landed on the top of a farm building on the hillside to my left.
Back on the river there were yet again numerous Grey and Pied Wagtails, landing on moss covered rocks, flitting about and then flying up or down river to the next rock, all the time searching for food. About half way along, the trees clear and there is a steep field in which were Pheasants, Curlews and Rooks. Just before I reached an area of woodland the Oystercatchers flew overhead and singing from the trees, I could hear Nuthatches and Chiffchaffs. On the river a pair of Greylag Geese were swimming up river, occasionally turning to face each other before moving on.
As I neared Barden Bridge, just to my right, on the river very near to the riverbank were the male and female Goosander. The female was again perched on a rock whilst the male swam with its head submerged under the water as it swam along looking for food. The female stood up several times only to sit back down before eventually stepping off the rock and joining the male and slowly swimming up river. I returned to the car and drove along the road as it weaved along the hillside before dropping down to the village of Burnsall where I parked up and walked across to the River Wharfe as it wound its way under the bridge to the east of the village.
On the river I could see Mallards, Black Headed Gulls and Grey Wagtails and as I began to walk towards the Red Lion pub for lunch a Grey Wagtail flew overhead and perched in a tree above me. It sat there for a good few minutes before flying off and I continued on to the pub for lunch where I sat out in the beer garden which is right next to the river. Whilst I was sat eating my lunch there were Mallards on the river and Robins, Grey and Pied Wagtails flying over to and from the riverside. After lunch I walked a short distance along the river bank northwards to see if there were any more Wagtails or a Dipper present before returning unsuccessful to the car and driving a couple of miles further along the valley to Linton Falls where I parked.
I walked the short distance round some houses to the falls where the water was calm either side but was rushing through the falls in between. I walked over the bridge above the falls and turned to the right through a very narrow gap in a dry stone wall and walked through the fields, close to the river edge. As I turned to head back, I saw a couple of Grey Wagtails and flying low over the river very fast was a Dipper. I returned to the path which to the right led up a steep hill to Grassington and to the left back over the bridge. I walked over the path and through a wooden gate and followed the river bank where there were a couple of people stood waist deep in the river fly fishing.
This part of the river was quiet with just a couple of Mallards so I returned to the bridge and walked over and back to the car where on a moss-covered wall, I saw a pair of Dunnocks and a Robin. I made a brief visit to Grassington which is currently being used for the fictional town of Darrowby in Channel 5’s production of All Creatures Great & Small with the exteriors of Skeldale House and the Drovers Arms being in the main square. It was now late afternoon so I began to head home but not before spotting a Grey Heron, Little Egret and Curlew in a narrow stream close to the road and in a field further along at least twenty more Curlews.
I have attached a few photos from my walk by the River Wharfe in the Yorkshire Dales.