Outdoors2015 Blog: Sightings, Wasps, Peregrines and Much More

News Flash

Climate Talks Solidarity March – Sunday 11.45 Harrogate

Visit How Stean Website for my monthly wildlife blog.

Please do keep sending in your sightings and I will feature them all eventually. What winter visitors have you seen?

Bilton Conservation Group Calendar

The 2016 calendar is now available and it’s available at: Korner Kabin, King Edwards Drive, Bilton – Bilton and Woodfield Library, Woodfield Road or by contacting any committee members. The calendar costs £5 and features pictures, taken by members, of Bilton and its wildlife.

Woodcock - Robert and Diane Ward-CampbellWoodcock – Robert and Diane Ward-Campbell


Judith Fawcett reports a goldcrest “enjoyed a few spiders in the conifers and the fat balls” in her Jennyfields, Harrogate, garden. Trevor Widdison from Stockton on the Forest, north east of York, reports “two notable events observed from my armchair. A Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding her baby nuts from our feeder and a Sparrowhawk devouring a Blackbird in front of our window.” John and Kathleen Pogson report their first brambling of the season in their Harrogate garden on 13 November. Peter Durkan writes, “whilst walking home last night 12pm l saw a flock of what l thought to be woodcock flying south, about 12 in all, in the bright sky over Ripon.” I’m not sure if woodcock migrate in flocks or not. Most birds do, so why not? They travel from eastern Europe and even as far as Russia, as I am sure you probably know. The BTO and the Game and Wildlife Conservation trust are currently tracking woodcock and this can be seen at woodcockwatch. Ann Snelson from Middlesmoor, “Managed a short walk this morning (17-11-15) between 9 and 10.30, saw Nuthatch on feeder, bottom end of Studfold Bank, five partridge on cricket field, Lofthouse. Glad I’m back indoors again now the gloom has come back!” Helen Watkison, writes “Bullfinch and spotted woodpecker on feeders, also about 20 long-tailed tits, two squirrels chasing each other round fence.” Claire Yarborough has a pair of nuthatch on her feeders most days, the Heptinstalls also have a regular nuthatch, maybe more visiting them. I wonder if they have had a good breeding season?

Common Wasp2 - Roger LittonCommon Wasp – Vespula vulgaris – Roger Litton

A Treaty With Wasps

Jon Burge writes from Birstwith, “Having read an article on the general shortage of butterflies this year, I noticed at Daleside Nurseries a table with wallflowers that had simultaneous visits from peacock, tortoiseshell and red admiral in early October. More notable for me, visiting adjacent flowers was a broad bordered bee hawk moth hemaris fuciformis – the first I have seen. Quite similar to the hummingbird clearwing moths Hemaris thysbe of my native Virginia. This year the ivy hedge drew none, or only one, admiral at a time, but is of interest to watch, covered mostly by wasps. The larger queens go for the nectar and pollen and the smaller workers scurry under the leaves looking for aphids. Also bees and bumblebees, and for each type of wasp or bee two or more species of flies that simulate each of them. The net image is quite a commotion, in common with the many thousands of similar ivy-covered hedges in the dale.” One thing everyone can do to encourage insects and that generally means pollinators is to encourage ivy which is invaluable as a late autumn food source, brilliant. Jon continues, “I like wasps, and have a treaty with them – I do not disturb nests and they do not attack. This means I have a no-go zone of about 10 ft radius where I cannot dig, weed, trim hedges or even walk near their burrow. I time the arrival of returning wasps and, when warm, they average about two-second intervals, or 2000/hr or 20000/day. If each contains the chewed up remains of a dozen aphids this adds up to many millions of aphids per year. That seems a fair trade for 10 square meters of unused garden. Once the frost comes I can do a belated weeding and pruning, and they will appear next year somewhere else.” Our archetypical wasps, of the social type, tend to be omnivorous, opportunistic predators and scavengers as well as feeding on pollen and consequently are making an important contribution to the well-being of our native flora. They feed on animal prey such as caterpillars to feed their developing larvae and carbohydrates, such as nectar and sweet fruits, to satisfy their own energy requirements.

IMG_3923_1Harrogate Peregrine Update

Paul Cowham, who has been watching peregrines from his office in Copthall Bridge House, Harrogate, kindly sent me this update, “They were around in spring, then were absent all summer. However, last Friday I saw the pair, flying right outside my office window – over Berwins solicitors on Station Bridge. Then I realised they were hunting! A pigeon flew very close and they were off! Quite low over the bridge, towards the Beales site. I had to go the opposite side of the building to see them. They had raised up in the sky, and missed the pigeon. Then the wings were closed and one was off again – after another. Down over the railway lines, towards the theatre. No-one was aware of what was happening right above their heads. Anyway I lost sight of them, so don’t know if they were successful. Quite a sight though!” Paul is moving office shortly and may not see quite so much of the peregrines (his peregrines?) so if anyone else can also keep us updated it would be very much appreciated.

Volunteers Wanted

Sam Walker, Harrogate’s Countryside Ranger, is looking for volunteers at Rossett Local Nature Reserve – 10am – 1pm Saturday 28th November. “The ponds at Rossett Nature Reserve are a very important habitat for a number of amphibians but especially the Great Crested Newt. Internationally protected the Great Crested Newt is known to breed in a number of the ponds on the reserve. The habitat is threatened by the invasive pond weed Crassula which is choking the ponds of oxygen and also filling up the ponds with vegetation. The task will involve clearing the Crassula from the pond meaning there is plenty of open water to ensure the newts keep coming back to breed year after year. If we are lucky we may get to try out the new board walk that is being installed as we speak!” Meet by the bollards at the junction of Rossett Drive and Richmond Avenue. Sam will provide all the necessary tools, waders, gloves etc but if you could bring suitable footwear and any food or drink you may require. Lifts may be available if required and if you are planning on coming along please let Sam know. Email: sam.walker@harrogate.gov.uk
mob: 07525 988288.


Salmon, Kites, Trees and Defend Nature

Outdoors Again – 19 November 2015

Visit How Stean Website for my monthly wildlife blog (http://www.howstean.co.uk/).

Let me know if you find any problems and do keep sending in your sightings and I will feature them all eventually. Also do share this blog with as many folk as possible.

Salmon - Stephen Tomlinson

photo by Stephen Tomlinson

Salmon Jumping

Judith Fawcett from Jennyfields in Harrogate writes (22 October), “Enjoyed a few hours watching the salmon leaping up the weir on the Swale at Topcliffe Mill yesterday. There were some very large fish and apparently have been leaping most of the week. It was a first for me and saved a long drive to the Ribble near Settle. Not many birds on the feeders yet. Three Kite and a buzzard over Saltergate early week. My neighbour regularly sees deer near her bungalow. Had a Red Admiral in the house last week, it enjoyed feasting on half a pear and stayed until the sun came out then was out of the window and away. Not looking forward to the clocks going back so am making the most of the wonderful colours at the moment before the wind blows them off the trees.” Judith writes again on 11 November that she saw more salmon at Linton Weir and one at the weir in Otley. Clearly impressed, Judith enjoyed the sight so much she wrote this poem, ‘The long journey.’

Judith Fawcett - The Long Journey

It fascinates me that salmon breed in our waters and spend much of their life in the sea whilst eels and lampreys, (river and sea) breed in the sea and swim up our rivers as juveniles (ammocoetes) growing up in the mud of our rivers before returning to the sea to breed. Brook lampreys spend all their lives in our rivers. A totally opposite life cycle. Danny, my son, reckons this may be because eels and lampreys are very ancient creatures, a bit like I feel, and originally formed in the sea before there was any land. What do you think?

Red Kite - John Herrington

Red Kite – John Herrington

What A Lot of Kites

Alan Croucher asked me if I knew why there were so many red kites in the Woodlands area of Harrogate and Doug Simpson the ‘Red Kite Man’ reckons that as many as 51 have been seen near the Great Yorkshire Show Ground, probably roosting there.

Trees To Plant

Terry Knowles of Harrogate Rotary Club raises money for trees and then finds places to plant them in the Nidderdale AONB, as part of a carbon offset scheme. If you have a site in Nidderdale and want trees planting, British hardwoods, then let Terry know on teruna2@aol.co. If you want to help fund this wonderful initiative then again please support Terry. Terry has around 800 trees at the moment so this is a very generous opportunity.

State of Nature

The Critical State of Our Nature

In 2013 for the first time ever, 25 of the UK’s wildlife organisations have joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories. To quote Sir David Attenborough, “all is not well.” The key findings of the State of Nature report are:

  • 60% of the 3,148 species that were assessed had declined in the last 50 years, and 31% had declined strongly.

  • A new Watchlist Indicator assessing the state of 155 priority species showed that they had declined by 77% in the last 40 years. One in ten of the 6,000 species assessed using modern Red List criteria are thought to be at risk of extinction in the UK.

  • We know less about some taxonomic groups, such as non-insect invertebrates, fungi and many marine species. But if they are following the trends we know about, they are also likely to be suffering significant declines.

In October 2015 a further response was published entitled ‘The Response for Nature report for England.’ which outlines specific asks for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help save UK nature. To ensure its recovery, nature needs the UK Government, or devolved Government’s to undertake a number of important actions including halting species extinction, Deliver a network of special places for nature on land and at sea, connect with young people, provide incentives (or other financial measures) that work for nature and Fully implement and defend the laws that conserve nature – our most important laws that safeguard species and special places, including the European, Birds and Habitats Directives, which is under threat. We must resist attempts from Europe to weaken these directives and ensure their full implementation, thus helping to reduce pressures on nature.

Defend Nature?

This latter point needs Action now. In December European Governments will be discussing the Nature Directives and our Government is not one of the nine Governments committed to keeping the laws. This is despite Rory Stewart, our Environment Minister, saying the UK can lead the world in nature conservation. So can you write to Rory and your local MP seeking their support for the full, current Nature Directives. For more info, including appropriate addresses search Defend Nature and do it today before we suffer even more catastrophic losses to our wildlife, please.

Week 2 November 2015

Visit How Stean Website for my monthly wildlife blog (http://www.howstean.co.uk/)

This is my first attempt at a blog to replace my weekly column in the local paper, as such it may fail because frankly social media remains mostly a mystery to me, so your help and advice would be appreciated, as would your sightings, questions and photos. Experience will hopefully show me how to deal with everything so please be patient.
Nigel Heptinstall
email outdoors@virginmedia.com
Twitter follow at @outdoors2015
Facebook Community outdoors2015
IMG_2281Mild Enough For Insects, Wow!

During the all too brief periods of sunny weather have you enjoyed the last of the butterflies and other insects? Spent the weekend with friends Josh and Sue and visited a massive defensive hillfort, Stanwick Camp (http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=21862) set in a valley bottom near Forcett in North Yorkshire. There we saw some ivy covered in hoverflies, possible the drone fly Eristalis tenax, which will fly until December if the weather suits. You can tell the hoverflies from the bees because flies, to which hoverflies belong, have two wings and almost all other insects, including the bees, of which there were also many, some laden with pollen, have four wings. The most spectacular insect however were the pair of red admiral butterflies, albeit looking somewhat tatty, but what a sighting on 8 November. Red admirals are migratory butterflies which can’t over winter in this country, although climate change may change all that. These insects may be a second brood, although they looked decidedly scruffy or worn, as lepidopterists call the situation. This indicates that they may well have flown a long way either from abroad, they originate in Mediterranean countries, or after hatching in this country. Recent research suggests migratory butterflies may actually return to their place of origin so who knows what will happen to these lovely creatures. What insects have you seen this November?

Red Admiral - Nigel HeptinstallThe Tail Of A Butterfly
Butterfly Conservation have reported a new butterfly in Britain, well sort of new to Britain. The Long-tailed Blue butterfly, a Mediterranean species, it was first spotted on our shores in 1859. Since then they have re-appeared in very small numbers. Things changed this summer with over 60 butterflies being spotted, although sadly on the South Coast, not here in North Yorkshire. The eggs they laid have been hatching this month. Sightings of any of our native blue species are extremely unusual in November, so if you do spot a blue butterfly then the chance of it being a Long-tailed Blue is high. The males are a pretty lilac-blue and the females a more muted blue and brown. The giveaway is the wispy ‘tails’ on the trailing edge of its hindwings. Please let Butterfly Conservation (and me) know if you are lucky enough to spot one. Visit (http://butterfly-conservation-news.org/DGT-3SEB8-0CFWJFUX34/cr.aspx) for more butterfly news.

Reporting Wildlife Crime
I just discovered a website devoted to wildlife crime, it was ‘tweeted’ to me. A benefit of social media I (reluctantly) guess. It’s called WildLifeCrimeAware the lack of justice for wildlife criminals. So what do you do if you think you have found a wildlife crime, well the acronym OPLR may help you remember, Observe Photograph Log Report. The next question is who do you report to (http://www.wildlifecrimeaware.org/)? Well sources include, The Police, RSPB, RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and Wildlife Crimewatch. North Yorkshire has a number of the local Wildlife Crime Officers (http://www.northyorkshire.police.uk/wildlifecrime), they can be contacted via the 101 telephone number.

Brambling Arriving Here, Now!


Brambling, the ‘mountain chaffinch’ is one of birders favourite birds. A winter visitor, they don’t even visit every winter, it often depends upon the beech mast crop, no beech mast, no brambling. I spotted a small flock at Scar House Reservoir, in Upper Nidderdale, recently feeding amongst the conifers. They seem however to prefer the beech mast and with reports of loads of finches now arriving for winter they could be in your patch soon. To ensure you don’t miss them keep an eye out for flocks of birds around beech trees, if they are chaffinches check every bird for the distinctive orange livery and keep your camera handy, a photograph is always great.