My wildlife highlights of 2013

MAGNIFICENT: New Year special. (S)
MAGNIFICENT: New Year special. (S)
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Another year awaits “Old Father Time” as we recall a truly wonderful English summer and our year of 2013 with our magnificent local flora and fauna here in Pendle’s renowned countryside.

January sees my dear wife Ruth and me setting off on a frosty morning from Roughlee to Barley for an excellent lunch at Mike and Angie’s Tearooms. As we walk along the stream’s path we spy a proud, black, chestnut and white dipper, who bobbing up and down on a large rock, suddenly plunges into the icy water as he walks along the bottom looking for aquatic insects. Our year has begun with an underwater walking marvel.

Now a snowy February day and on a walk through Towneley Woods we see a total of seven splendid pillar-box red-breasted robins with bright black-as-coal eyes forage in the undergrowth for food.

Next up on a windy March afternoon with deep snow all around, we brave the elements to walk up to one of our favourite places “Old Ebbie’s” reservoir. We are rewarded in full as a huge hoary heron flies over us uttering a strange cry as his long sinuous neck and citrine-yellow eyes make him almost pterodactyl-like.

It’s April now and much warmer and on a drive through Laneshaw Bridge to Keighley the moorland sees a truly stunning sight of around half-a-dozen black, white and emerald green lapwings wheeling, diving and tumbling over their nesting grounds, while calling out in unison “Wheeeo-wheep”.

A hot, sunny day in May and grandson Nathan joins us on a canal walk as overhead in a pure blue, azure sky are dozens of blue-black and russet swallows rolling and swooping down as they skim over the water as true aerial acrobats.

Now to June and the first day of this wonderful sun-kissed month to come sees me proudly reach the age of three score years and ten, and a hot June afternoon sees Ruth and myself walking through the splendid Alkincoats Woodland Nature Reserve. Here we see gyrating grey squirrels high above in towering beech trees, dancing meadow brown butterflies flit among the yellow buttercups and in the distance we hear the onomatopoeic call of the curlew.

July sees the sun beaming down as we once more visit “Old Ebbies”. Here we see thousands of tiny frogs emerging from the water’s edge and we both wonder just how many of these diminutive amphibians will survive?

The long, hot summer continues and on a sultry August day Nathan drives Ruth and me over to Gargrave for a meal. On the way, leaving Earby for Thornton-in-Craven, we gaze into a field at a huge, handsome cock pheasant with his stunning plumage of green, metallic brown and scarlet red gleaming in the sunlight.

September now and another sunny day sees a canal walk along the tow-path festooned with tall-stemmed, rosebay willowherb and just by the Wanless water farm Ruth captures on camera two most elegant, snow-white, mute swans.

The days shorten and on a cool October morning, travelling in our car on the M65, we spy just by Brierfield’s Quaker Bridge two racing rabbits with white tails prominent while a little further along on high we see a superb hovering kestrel, his slate grey and black banded tail silhouetted against a mazarine blue sky.

Now to November and for Ruth and me a red letter day as on a “Old Ebbies” visit we see resplendent, great, crested grebes, ancient looking cormorants, statuesque Canadian geese and on our way home, in the field just by the Barrowford Canal Bridge, a rare sighting of a sleek, rust-red roe deer feeding in the frost-touched grass. He looked straight at us both, then lowered his antlers and carried on with his meal, a truly memorable encounter.

December now and a cold morning in Lancaster Street in bonnie Colne sees on the slates opposite our home 11 (yes 11!) chattering, jaunty jackdaws with their shrill “keeeya” calls echoing around.

Now as we say farewell to 2013, a whole new year awaits; we send all our best and indeed a special wish for a most happy and healthy 2014.