A walk in Hardcastle Crags

Our bathroom is still being upgraded, so this morning I decided to make myself scarce by visiting Hardcastle Crags and taking a walk along Hebden Water.

Hebden Water, Hardcastle Crags.

Half-way to Gibson Mill, I was delighted to spot a northern hairy wood ants' nest at the side of the path. Believe it or not, this one was very small. I saw one once that so big, from a distance, with all the ants moving across its surface, I mistook it for a woodland pond. Trust me. You had to be there.

Northern hairy wood ants' nest.
Northern hairy wood ants.
Northern hairy wood ants.

There was a grey heron at the side of Gibson Mill's mill pond. It eyed me warily, but didn't take flight, so I managed to take several photos.

Grey heron, Hardcastle Crags
Grey heron, Hardcastle Crags.
Grey heron, Hardcastle Crags.
Gibson Mill.

I carried on up the river, taking a sandwich break in a shaded spot. The water was very low after all the dry weather. No sign of any dippers, which is very unusual.

Sandwich spot, Hebden Water, Hardcastle Crags.
Red campion.
Beech patterns.
Hebden Water, Hardcastle Crags.

I eventually left the river, made my way up to the car track, and heading back along it. After a while, I found a secluded bench, where I had a cup of tea, then continued along the track, past Gibson Mill, back towards my car.

Then came the unexpected highlight of my walk: my first ever spotted flycatchers. There was a pair of them, flitting about after flies.

Spotted flycatcher, perched outside its nest hole.

I watched them for a good 15 minutes. After a while, I noticed that they always seemed to return to the same branch. Then I spotted one disappearing into a hole in the trunk of the tree just below the branch. I thought it was a bit late for them to be feeding chicks, but I now learn that spotted flycatchers are one of our latest spring migrants, so presumably they raise their broods later too (in the height of summer, when there are more flies about—which would make sense).

That's three new bird species in the space of a week!

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