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.
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. Continue reading A walk in Hardcastle Crags→
Plumbers, a joiner and an electrician are wreaking havoc in what was once our bathroom and will, in ‘a good week and a half at least’ (plumber's promise), be our superb new bathroom. Radio 2 and power tools have been on at full blast. The house has been filled with alarming banging. I have been exiled to the dining room. So, on Tuesday, for a bit of peace and quiet, I left for Dad's much earlier than usual, and paid my first ever visit to the RSPB reserve at Burton Marshes.
As I entered the new visitor centre, I was surprised to see my friend Carolyn's teenage son greeting visitors. He explained that he was on work experience. I embarrassed him something rotten by insisting I take our photo and text it to his mum.
I've always loved Burton Marshes. They're effectively man-made, exploited by farmers and the military, yet they feel utterly wild and remote. And, most important of all, you tend not to bump into too many other people there.
I can't remember seeing the Dee Marshes in snow before. They had a somewhat Siberian air to them.
The birds were keeping their heads low. I can't say I blamed them. I was eventually rewarded with a (very distant) view of a short-eared owl on the hunt. It was the long, flappy wings that gave it away. Other than that, I only spotted a few gulls and a couple of grey herons. I'm guessing there were also little egrets about, but they will have been uncharacteristically camouflaged.
Took an afternoon walk with Jen from Blake Dean through the woods and along Hebden Water to Gibson Mill in the Hardcastle Crags. We couldn't believe how quiet it was. We saw almost nobody until we reached the mill, whereupon we immediately turned around and headed back.
There were still plenty of bluebells about, although they're getting past their best now. No sign of any dippers, though, which is very unusual for the Hardcastle Crags.
We did, however, spot a heron flying through the trees and landing 100 yards ahead of us. Using the trees as cover, we managed to sneak to within photographing distance as it started to fish in the river.
The heron must have known that we were there, but it was so intent on its fishing that we were able to get very close while the bird remained utterly motionless. I had never realised before how well the dark, vertical stripes on a heron's neck help to camouflage it, breaking up the bird's outline, allowing it to blend into the surrounding trees. Presumably, this works even more effectively amongst reeds.
Then, with a flailing lunge, the heron pounced into the water, emerged empty-beaked, and flew off through the trees.
More photos from our walk here, or as a slideshow here.