By Denis O’Connor

Wharfedale Naturalists Society

EARLY on the sunny morning of 2nd May I walked down through Wharfemeadows Park to Otley Wetland Nature Reserve, hoping to see summer visitors flown in from afar to complement the chiffchaffs and blackcaps singing from the woods behind our house.

I was not to be disappointed and at the bottom of Otley weir, with little water spilling over, a common sandpiper, an arrival to our rivers from much further south, was picking its way along with characteristic bobbing action.

Below the weir a resident male goosander was fishing, at times dipping its head below the surface for a better look, its mate probably in a nest hole in a tree further along the river.

Over the first lake at the wetlands was a single swallow, still only my third of the year. Even better, six swifts wheeled back and forth, their presence in line with their usual arrival date at their nesting sites in the eaves of the town’s terrace houses.

On the shingle island in the lake was a pair of common terns, elegant seabirds more common round the coast and again summer visitors from the far south. This is a species that has occasionally bred at Otley Wetland, probably the only site in Wharfedale.

I was surprised to see two other migrants which should already have left for the far north, a pair of goldeneye (pictured, drake on the right), ducks with a small breeding population in Scotland but with most spread across northeast Europe. The number wintering here is falling for, with global heating, their main wintering grounds around the Baltic Sea are now relatively ice free so there is less need for them to cross to the more equable climate of Britain.

It would be nice to think that this pair had taken the decision to save their energy and stay behind in Yorkshire. Like the goosanders they are tree-hole nesters and the lower reaches of the Wharfe would give them lots of nesting possibilities.

Around the reed beds more summer visitors, reed warblers, gave their churring discordant songs from cover. Alongside them were the resident reed buntings, much more obvious with the singing males resplendent in breeding plumage of black and white heads.

A calling cuckoo would have rounded off my morning but, even with less traffic and aircraft noise, I could not pick one out. By way of compensation a kingfisher, my favourite wetland bird, zipped past.