26th August 2020
In response to our appeal for content relating to the River Hull and Humber, Carol Osgerby writes about her morning walks along the river from North Bridge to the pier and the sightings along the way.
Our thanks go out to Carol for sending in her diary and photos.
Carol is particularly interested in the movements of redshank, cormorant and curlew on the Hull.
22.1 Fog this morning, so I pick up the camera to get some views. A female blackbird flies down in front of me, and settles in a tree. Gulls making that grumpy single shout as they mill about above the water. Make it to the pier before the sun comes quickly out of the mist and for a few brief minutes reflects gold on buildings before burning off the fog. 2 men in orange suits going downriver in a red dinghy, not little red. North End dock being pumped out, water falling onto the mud, creating a small waterfall.
30.1 Out earlier than usual, so it's dark and murky. Sarah D is dredging again. It's high tide, and no sign of redshanks anywhere, just the usual gulls, a single curlew, pigeons, crows and starlings. I hear pigeons cooing in Streetlife Museum every time I pass, but no sign of where they are: no droppings, no obvious entrance place. At least they sound happy. A welder at Blackfriargate sends up huge showers of bright orange sparks. Lights inside the minster give an orange glow. Orange-clad workers. It's an orange day.
22.2 I saw a dead seal this morning. On the mud, near the pedestrian bridge. Then it stretched its long neck, and revealed it was just resting. Away from the Humber tide, strong, choppy and noisy, going out, but trying to find its way in to the Hull. In 200 metres, the Hull's strong outgoing tide wins. The seal is half grown, could be one of those pups born at Donna Nook earlier in the winter. On High Street, I see an arm reach out from the shadows to grab a toddler by the hood before it went into the road. Giggles. A black dog behind a fence watching the pair walk away down the street, and stop outside Maister House to play with the railings. Daffodils blooming, pink flowers of flowering currant bobbing in the wind. I bob in, out of the wind.
28.2 On this morning's walk, it's in-your-face cold; wish I'd taken a scarf cold. A flotilla of mallard on the river, with a noisy corona of gulls above and around them. It's high tide. 14 redshank are lined up by the buoy shed, piping their song. On Bishop Lane Staith, the area by the bins has finally been cleaned up. The layers of overspilled rubbish attracted feeding gulls, and presumably rats too. Wind behind me, I'm not so cold, and I'm very pleased to be back in the warm. Did somebody say there's a storm coming?
27.4 On my walk this morning, I am serenaded from a fence by a blue tit and 2 dunnocks, making an unlikely choir. The only bird in the water is one black-backed gull, just sitting on the barely moving water. As I head for the river mouth, I hear a bridge alarm start, then stop, 3 times. Testing, perhaps. Nothing coming downriver, and a square yellow platform with a shed on it sitting off the river entrance with the boat and crane I saw before. A circuit of Humber Street and Queen Street, and I realise the traffic is stopping on Myton Bridge.
The bridge people seem to have got their timing wrong. 3 bridges are open, and only now is the yellow platform, pushed by the blue boat, a tug called Pushette, moving slowly up the river, slower than walking pace. Little Red with its crew of 2 is waiting by the bank as the yellow renewable energy platform moves to the exact spot near the museum where the gull was; the gull flies off.
29.4. On my walk this morning, it's quite cold, and the sky to the south and west is dark and threatening. Was just thinking how long it is since I saw a curlew, and how few redshank are around on the river now, when a cormorant flew past and landed on the river. Yesterday, I was disappointed not to see the 3 ducklings on the pond, and feared the worst. But today the adult had 6 small ones, and another duckling was nearby, clearly a few days older. A new regime this morning - my walks have been getting slower and longer, so it's brisk today, and I can combine the walk with shopping. The little shops don't have all I want, so I'll have to manage with what I need. What I really need right now is a holiday, so I'm planning a short break somewhere nice.
Blossom is pink, the wallflowers are yellow, and the hostas and heucheras are coming green, and red, and rust. And the birdsong feeds the soul.
22.5 It's cool and damp on my walk this morning. The temperature is perfect for me, after a couple of days overheating. White campions in the verge, and brambles in bloom. The water is high, and rising, waves gently lapping. The grass on the mud which is becoming land is getting long, and other plants are starting to colonise the area. Nearer the river mouth, the waves are larger and persistent. Still no access to the pier, and I cross the road near the tumble of planted and wild growth, bright green ivy and rambling roses, two shades of pink.
No mass of workers crossing Scale Lane, it is still a quiet rush hour, the biggest rush from the gusts of wind in the Queens Gardens trees. A moorhen seems to stand on the water. Stoggies quarter the lawn, a blackbird runs, upright, and hops; a thrush hops and flies, hops and flies, up into one of the high trees standing sentry over the central path. 3 small ducklings are escorted by their parents, still fluffy, still piping, not yet learnt to quack. Yellow flag surrounds all of the ponds, and water lilies get ready to bloom.
28.5 The air is clear and fresh, the river has painterly splashes of ochre in water the colour of the reflected buildings, the colour of shadow, of sunlight. It is cool enough to walk briskly. The sky is blue, the clouds wispy, and two are not clouds but long con trails, not the route of the usual tourist jets. The water is very calm, a pigeon stands by the edge, looking pensive. She is joined by a male, who turns in circles, puffs out his chest and coos; she moves away, he follows, determined. In the High Street, I hear odd calls coming from the yard behind Traenerhus - a gull is struggling with some big item of food.
The gull gags and gurgles, trying to eat head first - it is a pigeon, and it is alive. The struggle is mammoth, the gull relaxes its grasp, the pigeon is free, flies off. The gull follows. A little later, I am passed by a gull with a beak full of feathers, no sign of blood. In the gardens, a plane is creating a new con trail, high above, unseen. Blue tit in a cherry tree, blue tit in a willow tree, wagtail on the grass. By the pond, a gull is eating a goldfish, pink scales littering the flag stones. Kill or be killed? No, kill or escape, evade, avoid. Lock down, dive, or fly.
29.5 A beautiful day for a walk today. I said hello to my friend the Harbour Master, I watched the workers, the birds, the textures. A day for disengaging the brain, and just looking.
31.5 It's warm and calm today, a peaceful Sunday, clear blue, Mediterranean blue sky, clouds far away to the North. Goldfinch, blackbirds and sparrows sing near the river. I count 21 gulls near North End, quietly washing in the river, and searching the banks for food. Nothing to see here. It's quiet but not silent. Walkers and runners chatter, and Wellington Street is a green oasis, full of bird chatter.
The sparrows on Dagger Lane are quiet, though - a single magpie lurks on a rooftop. Pyracanthas droop with heavy white blossom, the white, lacy caps of elderflower nod their heads. In the gardens, as everywhere, the grass is cut too short, is brown and dry, the ground beneath hard and unyielding. A man puts a bag on a bench; the pigeons gather excitedly. He goes behind a tree, thinking himself invisible. Nothing to see here. The pigeons disperse. Huge carp gape at the surface of the pond. The moorhen keeps her chicks close. Fat white buds of waterlily are opening slowly in the sun. Sun day. Nothing to see here.
22.7 It's a bright but cloudy day. There is work today at North End - they are pumping out the small dry dock; perhaps there will be visible progress soon. The harbourmaster is in his office, so there will be movement on the river today. The tide is high, so only a few birds on the river. Pigeons, as ever, are everywhere. Flying over the river and displaying that v-shaped glide, wings high above their backs.
Singly, they peck on the pavement, and rest on the rooftops. They are in a large flock on the grass outside the museum, and I do a double-take - there are so many I think they are stoggies, but they are ordinary feral pigeons. Back on the river, 6 ducks are hiding in the grasses by the water's edge. Crossing Lowgate, a cormorant crosses in the opposite direction, high above me, heading to the river.
Herring gulls' calls are loud and prolonged and on Whitefriargate I see a single swan, flying just above roof level, towards the river, the shush of wind in its wing feathers. I think I am the only person who sees it; so few people look up, and half are looking down at their devices, the others just gazing blankly ahead. The gulls in town are mixed: herring, black-backed and black-headed.
Already, one or two of the BHGs are starting to lose their distinctive feature, the black turning paler. Pigeons in Queen's Gardens peck listlessly on the pavers, or sit on the grass. A few isolated stoggies and a single crow feed on the lawns. A moorhen pecks around the base of a tree. In the top pond, the larger moorhen chick stands on the metal platform, and the 2 smaller ones stay around the lily pads. They are growing, and have lost their fluffy chick shape. A female blackbird scurries under the shrubs in front of the college and 2 magpies fly into a tree.