Storks at the Strands

Wednesday, 21st April 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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man with bagThree Bags Full

Waiting in the car for Barbara as she delivers an order of books to Ottakar's in the Ridings Centre, Wakefield, I'm stuck for something that grabs me to draw. This is the back yard of the shopping mall and there's not a tree in sight. The only bit of sky visible is almost uniformly grey.

So much for nature. What about man-made stuff? - The wheeled bins behind one of the shops? The roof top? The car facing me?

At that moment a man with a bag strides past. As I sketch him I'm surprised how quickly his figure disappears into the perspective. Within seconds he's gone but I scribble a note of the colour of his coat, trousers and bag then crayon him in before the image of the colours fades from my mind. Without that hasty note the colours would have faded from my mind even more quickly.

another man with a  bagI've hardly finished that when another man goes by at a brisker pace than the first.

At least his colours are easier to remember: black with a white bag. I'd love to animate this drawing but you can probably get an impression of his brisk, springy, not to say mincing, gait.

woman with a bagAnother mainly black and white figure, a woman this time.

Then another woman appears in the distance, ah ha! A chance to draw a figure coming towards me for a change: now she looks very drawable . . . err, oh, it's Barbara, on her way back already. Better pack up my art materials.


A quick update on the pair of storks that turned up on our home patch, at the weekend. It was a magical experience to see these storybook birds in the familiar setting of the valley. They've been back (yesterday morning), to the same power line post by a canal bridge, near Horbury Wyke.

I e-mailed the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) asking if there was any chance the Society would give their backing not just to the protection of the birds themselves, should they nest, but also asking if they could do anything to protect the marshy, rushy pastures in the valley here: a habitat that I feel is undervalued.

The Strands which is a marshy field a hundred yards from the storks' power line post is due to be dug for sand and gravel. The mineral extraction company, Lafarge, are going to restore the site as a lake, with reedbed and woodland which will be great for wildfowl but the storks are a timely reminder that there are other birds that actually prefer the marshy area just as it is: notably snipe and lapwing.

But just how wild are these storks? Here's what Ian Peters, Wildlife Adviser to the RSPB tells me:

The storks are free-flying captives from Harewood House and are not genuinely wild birds. The female has an interesting background having been a welfare recovery from a house in Glasgow. She has been at liberty for a number of years but a male has joined her over the last year. The captive origin of these birds means that successful breeding is unlikely and it would be almost impossible to predict where they will settle due to their mobility.

Wouldn't it be great if they did nest here?! Unlike the ruddy duck, which has escaped from captivity and bred in the wild, endangering a closely related species in Spain, the stork would surely be welcome here - as much as the spoonbill and the white egret.

UPDATE: They weren't escaped birds! - Return of the Stork, 9th June 2008 Next Page

storks storks stork

Richard Bell,

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