Crossing the Market Street bridge over Hebden Water just before its confluence with the River Calder this afternoon, I spotted a pair of dippers bobbing amongst the rocks below. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me. After about a minute, they headed off together upstream. You never see dippers flying over dry land; they always keep to their water course.
Dippers would certainly be on my list of all-time favourite birds. Although they are wonderful animals in their own right, one reason I love them so much is because of the places I associate them with: the Yorkshire Dales, Clwyd, Hardcastle Crags. If you ever see a dipper, I guarantee you're somewhere very beautiful.
This was only the second time I have seen dippers in the centre of Hebden Bridge, though. Must make a point of bringing my camera next time I pop down to the book shop!
First stop, Malham. We walked from the village up to Malham Cove, climbed to the top (where Harry Potter once made camp), then returned to the village down the other side. Glorious weather. There were dozens of swifts screaming above the cove like fighter jets. No sign of the local peregrines, unfortunately. I'm always amazed at how much plan life thrives in the grykes of the limestone pavement on top of the cove. Lots of hart's tongue ferns.
Spotted a juvenile wheatear at the top of the cove, and several more on our way down. Undoubtedly one of my favourite birds. The adults are one of the most dapper birds going—but not these scruffy juveniles.
I saw my first wheatear on Thurstaston cliffs when I was little. Mum explained that they were so named because the light stripe above their eyes made them look as if they had an ear of wheat tucked behind their ear. It wasn't until many years later that I learnt that wheatear is actually a corruption of the Norse for white arse, on account of the bird's distinctive backside. I don't think mum ever accepted my etymology.
After the biggest plates of fish and chips we had ever eaten at the Lister Arms, we drove across the tops to Arncliffe, then via Kettlewell and Upper Wharfedale to Malham, returning home via Ribblehead and Settle. The lane verges were covered in meadowsweet. I have never seen so much. One of mum's favourite flowers—if only for the name.