Tuesday, 21 July 2009


The Strid, River Wharfe
Giant Bellfower

Yellow Loosestrife

Enchanters Nightshade

Hairy St John's Wort

Butterfly on Hairy St John's Wort

19th July. Unavailability of coaches meant the Local Group fieldtrip was on a Sunday this month and we set of under blue skies and sunshine heading for Wharfedale. Blues skies had been absent recently so it was good to see them return. Unfortunately they had left us by the time we drove past Bolton Abbey and the start of our river walk past the famous Strid was met by a heavy downpour, from which on the whole we were protected from by the woodland trees. Birds on the journey had included Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Lapwing, Curlew and a large flock of Starlings.

Initially I thought we were going to see few birds in what appeared a quiet woodland. There were countless Mallard on the River Wharfe and the Dipper put in a short appearance and it flew down river. We never did find the Mandarin Ducks the area is known for. I decided to concentrate on the plants and when the sun did come out, on the butterflies. Plants included some interesting species in Hairy St john’s Wort Hypericum hirsutum, Yellow Loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris, Enchanters Nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Giant Bellflower Campanula latifolia, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis, Butterbur Petasites hybridus and good numbers of Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii. Butterflies seen were Small White, Ringlet (in numbers), Meadow Brown and Small Skipper.

The Strid is a narrow area of the river through which the water tumbles through at speed. I’ve read that people have attempted to jump over it (there are idiots everywhere) at its narrowest point, but that no one who has fallen in has been known to survive. It seems that the current pulls one below into underground caves. I can assure you that I didn’t get to close to the edge. I found I got a better vista of the Strid on the return walk from higher ground above, but by that time my camera battery had died. I was mindful of Spike Milligans old saying of ‘don’t fall into the canal’ and I repeated to our members the phrase ‘don’t fall into the Strid.’ I didn’t get much of a laugh so I’m not sure many were aufait with Spike Milligan. Perhaps they just think I’m best ignored!

We had some good views from the woods both up and down river and it certainly is a very pleasant walk. Eventually we did pick up some decent bird sightings. First of all we had three young Redstarts being fed by the adult female on the opposite side of the river. This brought everyone to a standstill for 10 to 15 minutes. Nearby there was Moorhen, Robin and Wrens. Swifts, Swallow and House Martin had been seen and as we walked on a number of Sand Martin were found flying to and from their river bank nesting site. We stopped near here for lunch during which there was another heavy downpour, but we were very well protected by the tree canopy above our well chosen stopping point. Just as the raindrops managed to find a route through to us the rain stopped again, the sun shone and we were off again.

It was on the walk back that I and a few others had our best sighting of the day. Whilst trying to find the family of Grey Wagtails I got my eye on a Kingfisher. Instead of the usual flash past the bird flew in circles across the river right in front of us rather like a bike rider on the wall of death. It seemed to be performing for us and kept perching nearby. We watched it for several minutes before it decided to fly off down river. Certainly one of the best views several members have had of Kingfisher. I broke the news ‘gentlyish’ to those who had gone off at speed and missed it. We did also find one of the juvenile Grey Wagtails perched on the rocks waiting to be fed.

By now we were high above the river on a narrow path and I just thought that if you were really unlucky you could easily fall off this path, roll down and drop into the Strid never to be seen again. Thankfully when a count was done on the coach before leaving everyone was present. I was sadly aware of the father and child who had died just the day before in Wales, near one of the waterfalls.

Everyone on the walk I think managed to see the Nuthatches and Treecreeper. In the same patch were Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren and Chaffinch. I did remark on the lack of Blackbirds as only one or two had been seen all day.
When I did the bird list I found that one member has seen Garden Warbler. I wish he had told me! We had never expected a large bird list in woodland at this time of year but came away with a respectable 43 species for the day. The sun was at its best as we drove past Bolton Priory on our return journey. The trip had been a good one as usual and given me my first Ringlet Butterflies of the year.

PS. I'm a little confused by the butterfly pictured as to me it doesn't seem to have either the markings of Meadow Brown or Ringlet! I thought it was a Ringlet at the time and I'm sure it didn't have the under markings of a Meadow Brown.