Butterflies Saved and Planning Concerns

29 January 2016

IMG_0932Dingy Skipper Butterfly

Butterflies Saved?

It’s not all bad news however, those of you who used to read my column in the local papers may recall last spring I mentioned a site for (the appropriately named) Dingy Skipper butterflies rediscovered in Thruscross on land owned by Yorkshire Water. The Dingy Skipper is a very rare butterfly in our district and urgently needs our help. In fact it’s a Harrogate District Biodiversity priority species under the Magnesian limestone grassland habitat. Well just after the site was rediscovered and before any protective measures could be taken, aggregate was tipped on part of the site for use to reconstruct footpaths. Well after discussion and meetings from those involved (stakeholders, but not the butterflies?) I am pleased to announce from Paul Millard, Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society, “I had a very positive site meeting today with David Bradshaw, the Fountains Forestry contractor, and his team who are repairing the footpaths at Thruscross Reservoir. This was arranged with the help of Geoff Lomas from Yorkshire Water, who are the site owners. You will recall last spring that a colony of Dingy Skipper was discovered on the fishermen’s car park. Later in the year unfortunately, a large amount of aggregate was deposited on part of the site, this was destined for footpath repairs. The repair work has now started. We have agreed to cordon off the best areas to avoid vehicles driving on the over-wintering larvae. We have also devised a plan to utilise unused aggregate to create two areas of future butterfly habitat, scalloped to be south facing in order to trap the spring sun, this will be both where it was deposited and at another suitable location near the old boat launching site. Hopefully in the long term when the Birds-foot Trefoil colonises these new areas there will be a better range of suitable habitat and we can improve the colony’s resilience. I am pleased that we have a chance of improving the long term prospects for the Dingy Skipper, and that both Yorkshire Water and Fountains Forestry have been so receptive to ideas to help conserve this threatened butterfly.” So that’s great news and our gratitude, as well as the butterflies’, should go out to everyone involved, thanks guys.

You Can Also help Butterflies

Butterfly Conservation (BC) tell us that “more than three-quarters of the UK’s butterfly species suffered losses over the last four decades. Ten species, including the Essex Skipper, Marsh Fritillary and Wall, have seen drastic population drops of more than 50%. It’s not all bad news though. Where we have got enough funding to tackle declines head on, our intervention is making a positive difference. Duke of Burgundy butterflies have bounced back with a 67% increase in abundance as a direct result of our targeted conservation work.” Like the RSPB (don’t forget the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend) and BTO, Butterfly Conservation have numerous ways in which you can help by recording butterflies, donating or undertaking conservation work. One way of helping is the Garden Butterfly Survey which all of us with gardens can undertake, another is to download the free irecord butterfly app which helps with identification and records your sightings. Please note if your smart phone is as wrinkly as mine, you may not be able to use it.

S1035983Endangered Embankment – Edna Barker

Trees and Embankment in Danger!

I have had an email from Edna Barker who is concerned about the loss of trees and a wildlife corridor near Morrison’s in Harrogate. Edna writes, “A year ago a woodland tree preservation order was placed on the old railway embankment which runs up the side of Panhandle Park, opposite “Morrisons” roundabout in order to prevent its removal for residential development. The Topseal factory own all the embankment bordering their site and all the way up to the cut through into Stonefall Park. It is an important wildlife corridor in this area with a good diversity of species. Topseal have applied for outline permission to build on their factory site but what is not immediately obvious from their plans is how much they intend to reduce the embankment. They say the development will involve removal of 9% of the trees on the embankment, but when you take into account the total length and that they will only be dealing with the side next to the development, this will in fact be around 50% of the trees in this section. The embankment is at least 15-20 feet high and they intend cutting back to within a few feet of the top and then having a retaining wall. This will have a significant impact on wildlife and visual amenities and may also affect drainage. Comments are to be received by the Planning Department of Harrogate Council by 5 February.” What do you think, this is already a very small and dangerous roundabout and extra traffic will not help. Is nowhere safe for our rapidly diminishing wildlife?

Bilton On TV

Make a note in your diary to watch Country File on 31 January 2016 for a short clip featuring the roe deer, tawny owls, buzzards etc found in the Nidd Gorge in Bilton, Harrogate.


Janice Scott writes, “Another barn owl sighting for your blog. I saw one late afternoon Friday, 22 January, just as I turned off from the Pateley Bridge to Fountains Abbey road, to head down to Brimham Rocks. There is a small plantation of conifers at the junction and the barn owl was sitting on a post at the edge. I drew up and we studied one another for a few minutes before the owl decided to head for pastures new. A lovely sighting at the end of a bleak day.”

Fox - Chris ShoveltonFox – Chris Shovelton

Max Hamilton, “went to the One Stop shop on Crab Lane, Bilton, Harrogate today and apparently, according to a lady standing in the shop, she had just had to avoid a beautiful fox nosing around outside the shop doorway. This would be about 2.30 pm. Very strange.” Very strange, so strange I wouldn’t believe it unless I was able to substantiate it. Foxes are clever enough to realise that humans are not their friends. The only exception would be if it was ill, which may make it dangerous, which seems not to be the case, or very hungry. Can anyone tell me more about this fascinating sighting, please?

Edna Barker also tells me, see top story, that, “In 2014 I heard that there was a white crow around and I saw it on one occasion. At the end of December (2015) I saw it on three occasions close to Morrison’s roundabout. I attach a photo but as it is on full zoom to a tree across the road it is not very good quality.” Interestingly according to the BTO, and they know, the average life span of a crow is four years, so this may well be the same bird, although I recall it being seen before 2014 and wonder if it is the same bird or an offspring. Do you know?

Steve Kempson reports, “It’s taken multiple attempts but I’ve finally got a half-way decent photo of our visiting woodpecker – it’s a bit grainy but at least you can see what it is! Just back from a walk round RHS Harlow Carr Gardens where it was nice to see groups of snowdrops, aconites and the odd narcissus out.”

Thanks for all your questions, sightings and support, much appreciated. Why not visit my other blog at How Stean Gorge? February’s issue is about otters.

2 thoughts on “Butterflies Saved and Planning Concerns

  1. I reported to the “Outdoors” column my sighting of a leucistic (all white) crow back in 2012 (in the area of Morrison’s car park where Edna barker saw hers)


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