Friday 2 April 2021

Spring Walk - Bramham Park Estate, West Yorkshire

Tuesday and Wednesday this week were warm for the time of year, in fact it was short skirt and summer top weather! We explored a woodland that we've never been to before even though it is a short drive from where we live, part of the Bramham Park Estate with a mixture of public and permissive footpaths around a lake and stream. 

On one of the bankings many Dog Violets (Viola riviniana) were out in bloom.

Having walked through the main part of the woods, listening to chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and watching a nuthatch (Sitta europaea), we walked down through some farmland dotted with beef cattle and came to the stream in a very pleasant woodland glade. A red kite (Milvus milvus) patrolled over the fields. 

Quite a number of these Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) were growing in the shafts of sunlight coming down through the trees. 

We perhaps should have brought a towel with us in order to paddle in the stream, it was warm enough outside to do so, although I expect the water would have been pretty chilly!

The wild garlic (Allium ursinum) along the banks of the stream, whilst not yet flowering, was still quite noticeably pungent. Too early for bluebells but I expect in two or three weeks this area will be carpeted with them.

As we walked back, a chiffchaff popped down onto a branch near me and took off again in surprise - these warblers are back from their African wintering areas although a few do now stay all year round in England. 

Back at the lake we noticed two ducks swimming around and dabbling. Although distant they didn't quite look like Mallard or other 'regular' ducks. Looking through the binoculars we found they were Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata). Although wild living now, ancestors of these ducks were introduced as ornamental ducks from China many years ago and there are now two to three thousand pairs of these ducks living wild in the UK. First time I had ever seen this species though - and I have seen a lot of ducks in my lifetime!

Although the male is the most striking in terms of plumage, both the male and female are very pretty ducks and you can see why they were brought back as decorative ducks for parks and estates. They nest in trees and like the sort of habitat around this lake, with trees dipping into the water and plenty of cover, in fact a couple of minutes later they were nowhere to be seen. 

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