Sunday, 28 August 2011

The River Wharfe - Yorkshire

Had a wonderful weekend visiting family in Yorkshire. At the bottom of their garden, in Ilkley, the River Wharfe flows past through the trees with the level and pace of the water determined by the amount of rainfall on the moorland above the valley. Fishing with nets in the golden peat stained water with the children soon turned up a number of species of fish including the Bullhead (Cottus gobio), the only UK member of the cottidae family. (*The Miller's Thumb), many minnows and a few sticklebacks. The minnows and sticklebacks were easy to net as they could be reliably scooped out of the water downstream of your feet as they tried to find things to eat in the disturbed silt. The Bullheads were harder to catch as they stayed on the riverbed and had to be sought out under stones and, with the aid of a snorkel and mask, I could carefully chase them into my net.
Taking pond dipping to new depths I snorkelled into the deep hollows under the far bank and enjoyed swimming at speed over the river bed moving with the flow of the river and trying to spot hidden fish with my diving torch. Under water the light was considerably restricted by the clear but peat stained water and in the atmospheric gloom I was able to briefly chase a rather surprized brown trout but failed to uncover any of the elusive crayfish I was primarily hunting for.

Other creatures found included: Dragonfly and caddis fly larvae and several species of birds. It was wonderful to watch the wildlife from the level of the water surface out in the river and in particular to observe the bobbing and swimming of a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) as it sprang from rock to rock above the fast moving shallow water. Also watched an iridescent kingfisher flying fast along the river bank, an urgent blue jewel speeding past the dark shoreline foliage. Such a beautiful part of the country.

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