I’ve been asked to write an article for our Kirkheaton village newsletter, ‘Yetton News’, in January next year and to submit a blog each month for the website. Here is the first web blog submitted end of November 2020 –
At this time last year, I was in Arctic Norway on the 3-mast schooner ‘Rembrandt Van Rijen’, looking to photograph orca and humpback whales as they hunted herring in and around the fjords. This was not an easy task because first the crew had to find the herring. Given that we had only a sort of twilight between 10am and 1pm, time was of the essence. Add into the mix sub-zero temperatures, wind chill and the occasional snow flurries – well, need I say more.
This November, even here in Kirkheaton, you could be forgiven for staying indoors because it’s beginning to get cold and it’s dark by 5pm. It’s tempting just to get out a book or switch the telly on and put your feet up in front of the fire. But on our daily walks we keep meeting others who, since the Covid lockdown, have got into the habit of walking in the countryside around our village. Kirkheaton is blessed with miles of footpaths and beautiful countryside and while there are no orca or humpbacks around here, there’s still a host of interesting animals to watch if you keep your eyes peeled.
A week or two ago, we counted five buzzards above Laneside and around the same time we had a flypast from a red kite. Watch the skies for hovering kestrels hunting for unsuspecting field voles and, in the field down by Ox Field beck, look out for the resident grey heron standing perfectly still as he waits for a tasty morsel to present itself. It’s been a great year for goldfinches, this small and beautiful finch with a red face and yellow wing patch. And where better to see them than on a teasel. Teasels are tall spiky plants which often grow on rough ground and they are abundant in Kirkheaton. At this time of year, the flower has died back but the conical seed heads remain and are a great winter food source for these birds, whose beaks are perfectly shaped to extract the seeds from the seed head. And now is the time to watch for fieldfare and redwing, members of the thrush family, as they arrive from Northern Europe to winter here in Yorkshire!
Each summer there are a couple of pairs of lapwing which breed around the quarry. Lapwings, sometimes called peewits after their call, have declined considerably in recent years and are now on the red list of endangered species. Yesterday, as we were returning from Lepton, we spotted a huge ‘deceit’ of around 160 accompanied by a smattering of black-headed gulls and around 100 starlings in a field off Botany Lane. They are a fabulous sight when they lift off together to stretch their wings.
And, finally, let’s not forget the more common birds which can give us equal pleasure. Yesterday on our walk, we heard the ‘click click’ of a robin and found him sitting in the sunlight in a nearby bush, a pied wagtail sitting on a gate, a flock of noisy house sparrows in a hawthorn hedge and a grey wagtail flitting on a rooftop. We always have a good selection in the garden but today, we saw our first mistle thrush here for a few years and, down the field, an elusive green woodpecker was calling.
Some of you might have seen my wildlife presentation ‘Yorkshire Mixture’ at the community centre or some other venue. This is a celebration of some of the birds and mammals photographed in our county but most of the images are from right here in this village. Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire – wildlife village!