Surrogate Pond Urgently Needed!

Wasp Beetle cropped - Jon BurgeWasp Beetle – Jon Burge

Urgent Requests, Surrogate Pond Needed.

Sam Walker, Countryside Ranger of Harrogate Council, is urgently looking for a pond to rehouse some 20 goldfish in, well some are actually black goldfish. The fish are currently in Bachelor Fields pond which also has a healthy population of frog spawn and the fish will devastate the tadpoles, so Sam will catch the fish and deliver them to you, just let him know if you have a suitable, frog free, pond. Contact Sam on email:sam.walker@harrogate.gov.uk or mob: 07525 988288.

& Email Hassle

My email seems to have been playing up so my apologies if you didn’t get my last blog entitled, “Roe Deer and Wild Life in Danger From Dogs?” If you didn’t get it but got this one please let me know. Sorry to be a pain. Anyway it also means I welcome more than ever your contributions, especially Spring Sightings, migrant birds and butterflies.

Visit How Stean Blog for my April Blog, Ring Ouzels and Wheatears.

The Wasp Beetle

Jon Burge contacted me with some fine photos of the wasp beetle (Clytus arietis). He wrote, “While bumblebees and honeybees are foraging among the crocuses outside, this creature appeared (17 March), menacingly patrolling around the living room. People uniformly find it striking but want to avoid getting anywhere near it. A harmless wasp beetle, appearing a month or two earlier than they normally do, I released it among leaf litter under hardwood shrubs, its normal habitat.” No prizes for guessing how it got its name although it doesn’t fool me. The wasp beetle is a type of longhorn beetle, one of those many orders that it would be great to find out more about if only life wasn’t so short. Anything yellow and black seems to send a warning that it should be treated with the utmost respect. This practice is known as ‘protective-colouration’, mimicking a more aggressive species of animal. This imitation is just confined to colouration, they also mimic the style of walking adopted by wasps. The life cycle of these insects is quite interesting, they feed on the wood of deciduous trees, which have been invaded by a particular species of fungus. The adults emerge in May and feed on the pollen of different species of flowers, the females occasionally taking insects to provide extra protein for egg production. The adult beetles have a short life and most have died by the end of the summer. Despite us rarely seeing such a creature the wasp beetle is common across its extensive range, being found across Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and southwards through Asia Minor.

Can You Help Barn Owls

Richard Simmons, “saw the barn owl at Greenhow Craven/ Harrogate boundary on 27 February in the afternoon. Is there anyone out there able to offer some nesting boxes? Do you think there is enough ground between Stonehouses and Grimwith to hold more than one territory? How much ground do they need? It seems to be only recently they are starting to head for the higher ground, I never saw them in the past.” A lot of questions, I’ll try my best. A couple of years ago we had a vole year (explosion of vole numbers) and as a consequence the numbers of kestrels and barn owls increased and I suspect that we now have as high a population of local barn owls as we have had for probably 50 years. The past two years have not been so good although the snow and ice has kept away and the population could well have remained fairly high. However, barn owls are nocturnal so they should only be out at night, so why are so many local birds being reported and why so many on high ground? Well one reason may be they are struggling to find food and therefore need to be out more during the day and consequently more people are seeing them. I think traditionally on higher ground short-eared owls have ruled the roost, as it were, and the barn owls may be exploiting that gap, especially in winter when short-eared owls descend to lower lying country where they can find food more easily. It may even be that short-eared owls have been persecuted on the moorland thus creating the vacant territory. Barn owls tend to hunt from posts in winter to preserve heat, another worry because they are frequently seen in flight. I am very concerned about all these barn owls being seen during the day. Please be aware that none of this is supported by science and it is mostly my personal opinion. Barn owls are not particularly territorial but have a home range inside which they forage. For males in Scotland this has a radius of about 1km (0.6miles) from the nest site and an average size of about 300 hectares. Female home ranges largely coincide with that of their mates. Outside the breeding season, males and females usually roost separately, each one having about three favoured sites in which to conceal themselves by day, and which are also visited for short periods during the night. Roosting sites include holes in trees, fissures in cliffs, disused buildings, chimneys and barns and are often small in comparison to nesting sites. As the breeding season approaches, the birds move back to the vicinity of the chosen nest to roost. Nest boxes can be purchased commercially but the key is having somewhere to put them. The Barn Owl Trust recommends placing barn owl nest boxes indoors and have produced instructions for building one. They can also be placed on posts like those in Haverah Park on the permissive track to Scargill reservoir. RSPB nest box advice includes external nest boxes. A search of the internet will provide a number of barn owl nest box retailers, unsurprisingly they are expensive. That leaves a few questions: firstly are you or anyone you know prepared to build barn owl nest boxes? If we can find nest box builders does anyone have a suitable place to erect them? Please let me know (outdoors@virginmedia.com) and let’s see if we can help our local barn owls. Remember barn owls may have started nesting for this year but nest boxes need erecting in late autumn ready for the next year and for youngsters to roost in, we need to be ready.

Swallow CroppedHopefully Our Skies Will Soon Be Filled With Swallows

Nature Reserves

LUCT Nosterfield has a new website, visit LUCT (The Lower Ure Conservation Trust). Meanwhile recent visitors to Nosterfield include two swallows, >100 sand martins, ten pintails, four ruff and black tailed godwit. Also look out for the bloody-nosed beetle, so called because of its defence mechanism, when breathed on the beetles secrete a blood-red liquid from the mouth which irritates the mouths of mammals. For more info visit The Wildlife Trusts.

HDNS Farnham has had a further 25 whooper swans over, one swallow, 15 sand martin and nine chiffchaff.

Sightings

Mark Haythorne, tells me, “there’s a pair of tawny owls in the belt of trees surrounding Queen Ethelburga’s (Harrogate) with others that I have heard but not seen further down the road in the woods below the golf course, around Oakdale and Cornwall Bridge. They are quite vocal some evenings! However, having lived here for almost 20 years now, it does seem that the owl population has diminished somewhat in this part of Harrogate.” Like Mark I’m not so sure that I hear as many tawny owls as I used to. The BTO Fact File tells us they are not a conservation worry, globally they have a very large range and can be found on every continent but the cold one in the south.

Jubi Thompson raises a couple of points, “Just thought I’d mention seeing a huge (20-30 birds) flock of curlews flying over John of Gaunt’s Reservoir last Sunday (Mothering Sunday). They were wheeling around not at a very great height and calling. Beautiful sight. Also saw small flock of lapwings.” It is possible that the curlews you saw are not local breeders but birds intending to fly further north to breed, Scotland or even Scandinavia. I say this because at least some of our breeding curlews are already on territory. Lapwings may also be undertaking a similar journey although because there are far fewer of them they could eventually breed here.

Tom Peace writes, “Regarding the sparrowhawk and other predatory birds: Some of them (though they are very beautiful in their own right) prey on other birds. Our Yellow Nape parrot, when it was very young, saw a hawk on television… and she totally freaked out, going berserk and screaming in pure terror. Now, she realizes that things on TV are merely simulations… and doesn’t get afraid in the least. Sometimes beauty, depending on who (or what) you are… can be not so beautiful.” Tom’s right of course but everything has to make a living including raptors.

Jim Brophy says, “You have probably moved on from rabbits, Nigel but just in case some interest remains, I attach a photo taken in Redshaw Gill near Blubberhouses earlier in the week.”

Claire Yarborough reports (14-3-16), “Just seen C200 golden plover flying beyond the Stonehouse near West End turn off. Great view.” This was interesting because I didn’t hear or see the day before at top end of Thruscross Reservoir (Harden Gill). Always nice to see and hear golden plover, especially in tight formation.

Fox - Adrian M Mosley

Foxes Copulating – Adrian Moseley

Adrian M Moseley has some interesting evidence that spring is in the air a pair of foxes copulating and he also sent a pair of mallard similarly occupied.

John Wade reckons that a pair of buzzards may be nesting in the Oakdale area of Harrogate. This is a new breeding bird for John who knows sparrowhawks nest yearly in the area. John writes, “When I was young, you did not get buzzards east of the Pennines, but they are not uncommon now. We saw a pair on Saturday last on Pool Bank.” John’s is absolutely right, I recall when nesting buzzards were a big exciting thing, to be kept secret from the gamekeepers. Now they are here in good numbers and thankfully many of the gamekeepers have realised that they do everyone a favour by keeping down rabbit numbers, probably their principal prey item.

Through Your Window

Sue Turner of Wetherby tells me,We were out all afternoon and evening yesterday and when I looked out of the window this morning saw our first batch of frogspawn in the pond. The siskins are still around but decreasing in numbers so I suspect that they will be gone in a few days. The two male blackcaps and one female are still coming to the sunflower heart feeders.” Over wintering blackcaps are quite unusual locally so Sue and family are very lucky folk.

Shirley Dunwell, Bilton, Harrogate “I still find goldfinch my most numerous visitors to the feeders for the sunflower seed, a lovely pair of bullfinch, two pairs of chaffinches, two siskin and up to six greenfinch. Twenty plus starlings arrive for their suet pellets each morning accompanied by blackbirds, dunnock and of course numerous collared doves and pigeons joining in the feasting.” Starlings seem to be pairing up yet are still found in small foraging groups, it will be interesting to see if they hang around to breed or are winter visitors from further afield. My money’s on the latter, but only threepence!

Max Hamilton lives around half a mile from me further into suburbia on Gordon Avenue and as reported a strange looking cock pheasant with an exceptionally thick white collar and white areas above the eyes. This same bird has visited us, we live on the edge of Bilton next to countryside, and I am surprised that it has chosen to go deeper into suburbia rather than retreating to the countryside. A very sensible bird if you ask me. Do we now have Phillip the Pheasant in Bilton as well as Peter The Peacock, whom incidentally I haven’t seen for a week or two.

Mervyn & Catherine Moorse from Burton Leonard report, “We watched the gruesome spectacle of the sparrowhawk plucking and devouring a blackbird that it had snatched in our garden. We were only about four feet away. Although we have seen sparrowhawks in the garden taking small birds this is the first time we have seen a blackbird get caught. It’s nearly the same size as the sparrowhawk. After about ten minutes the sparrowhawk flew off with what was left of the blackbird. We did notice a few days later that the pile of blackbird feathers was disappearing. Then we saw two long tailed tits picking up the feathers and flying off, presumably they were using them as nesting material.” The sparrowhawk is a small male bird but what also fascinates me is the long-tailed tits making good use of the feathers. Nature recycles much better than us humans.

Notes For Your Diary

See website for full details of these events and to confirm no changes.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 8th April Up t’dale to Scar House Reservoir

Roe Deer and Wild Life in Danger From Dogs?

Roe Deer - Steve Tomlinson.jpgRoe Deer – Steve Tomlinson

All the support I am getting is great news and I am very appreciate of all your emails, etc, you send me and especially all the lovely comments you all make, thanks ever so much. I have however a problem – I am getting more and more stuff to write about and worry about taking up too much space. What do you think is an optimum amount, please. I like to mention everyone who writes in but also reckon three photos and 2000 words are enough. I will try to give a mention for you all but cannot promise to do so, nor to print verbatim everything you say, and it may be a few weeks before I include your message, sorry. Let me know what you think, please.

Important Message

Rich and Trisha Brewis have reported prints of a roe deer and fawn around Bilton and Nidd Gorge. They make the following very important request, “Have just seen prints in the mud of a Roe doe and fawn – little prints that will fit into a normal thumb nail! Thought far too early for this but it has been mild. Please remind all dog owners to keep them on a lead through the woodlands.” Also if you see a dog off the lead in these areas then ask them politely to respect our wildlife. Fawns are particularly vulnerable at this time, a strange scent and the doe will abandon them and of course they don’t run away, or at least to the last minute, so are easy prey for dogs. Ground nesting birds are equally vulnerable, so give them a chance, dogs can run free and wild on that 200 acre wildlife desert Harrogate is famous for.

Dunnock2 - Roger Litton

Dunnock – Roger Litton

Spring Sightings

Malcolm Jones emailed me to say, “Signs of spring! In spite of the two recent snowfalls there are distinct signs of the change in our wildlife. Dunnocks are normally a secretive bird, deep in bushes or on the ground, but in spring they perch high in bushes and pour out their song. This chap was on a bush at Staveley reserve. Like Malcolm I am fascinated by the way these dark, sulking, secretive birds choose to announce spring from the highest vantage point they can find. Well at least the males do. Incidentally some female dunnocks are polyandric, they mate with many males, whilst others are monogamous. Mike Toms of the BTO tells us, “male and female Dunnocks maintain their own, largely independent, territories during the breeding season. Since male territories are larger than those of the females, you might expect a single male to have access to more than one female, giving rise to polygyny (having more than one wife). However, what makes the social complexities all the more interesting is that some male territories are shared by two males. One of the two males (termed the ‘alpha’ male) will be dominant over the other (the ‘beta’ male). The beta male manages to secure his position within the territory of the alpha male through sheer persistence, something which provides him with a degree of access to any females. However, access is not guaranteed, since the alpha male spends a great deal of time guarding his female, especially as she approaches the egg-laying period.” Confused, visit Mike Toms report for more info.

Ann Snelson tells me she “heard a curlew flying over when we opened the bedroom window this morning to feed our blackbirds.” Ann lives in Middlesmoor up t’dale.

Doug Simpson tells me, “I had a walk down the Scargill track this aft (19-3-16). Curlew back on the moor and a kite overhead. Had hoped for an early Wheatear but nothing doing.”

John Wade writes, “I have just made my annual pilgrimage to New Lane near Almscliffe Crag, to see returning curlews. I don’t know when they arrived, but they are back now, 1 March. I saw three, a pair and one in the air. I truly love to see them, knowing that spring is on its way.”

Nature Reserves

RSPB Fairburn Ings, In past few days Avocet 12, ChiffChaff 7, Hen Harrier 1, Marsh Harrier 1-2, Smew 1 still present, Short-eared Owl 1

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, recent sightings include a comma butterfly plus ruff, redshank pintail, goldeneye, little egret, several buzzards, avocets , little owl, red-necked grebe, black-tailed godwit and pintail.

Robert Brown tells me, Farnham Gravel Pits, Harrogate Naturalist Society’s private nature reserve, had a chiffchaff on 19 March and three sand martins on 20 March.

Frog Spawn News

Judith Fawcett‘s sightings, “we had a couple of unusual frogs and spawn sightings this week. A crow eating a frog on a neighbour’s roof. Frog spawn on the doormat and car bumper! I wonder if the two are connected. Haven’t seen a Jay in the Saltergate area for a few weeks. We usually have a few visiting the garden. Has anyone else noticed a decline? A few colourful Siskin on the feeders, a flock of Longtails are now a pair, Redpoll still about. Lots of Blackbirds and Starling, Goldfinches regular visitors and a Greenfinch seen recently too.” Wow, some interesting birds. I agree with Judith, the crow must have caused the frog to abort, hence the frogspawn.

Paul Irving tells me, “spawn appeared in our tiny garden pond a couple of weeks ago but has been frosted since so viability may be an issue. The “White” crow at Morrisons is the same bird that has been around for some years, interestingly it is not really white but very very pale cream and has normal eye colour as far as one can tell so not albino.” Interesting regarding the crow, I thought it must be the same one, but it has lived a long time, I thought white/leucistic creatures were more vulnerable in the wild, although I guess urban crows have few predators.

Janice Scott from Padside writes, “I have read the frogspawn sightings in your blog with interest. You have wondered why frogspawn is late this year, but just to be different, ours has been earlier than usual – the first spotted on 3 March and it carried on coming until 17 March. I think the sudden cold snap and snow interrupted proceedings. Another sign for us that spring is around the corner is the first bee to appear in the garden. This is usually later than lower down the dale (I saw my first bumblebee queen of the year at Daleside Nursery on 3 March). It took until 20 March to spot a bumblebee in our own garden, feasting in the sunshine on helleborus foetidus. We did have a brief visit from some of our neighbours’ honeybees sampling our snowdrops on 17 March, but I haven’t seen them since. I won’t believe it is truly spring until I find my gardening can be accompanied by the reassuring buzz of bees.”

IMG_9458

North York Moors, draining into York!

Moorland – a Drain Into Our Rivers and On Our Pockets

Charles Gibson writes, “Good luck with your campaign Nigel, I agree entirely with your comments. There is too much emphasis laid on the protection of the Grouse. I would like to see more done. Have we had any prosecutions for poisoning of our Raptors too?” There are periodic prosecutions for poisoning of our raptors, rarely a sufficient deterrent and no doubt it continues to go on undetected. Places to look for more information include Raptor Politics and a look here should provide access to other interested groups. I also know that the Yorkshire Red Kite project also looks at the poisoning question. We are also fortunate to have in our area PC Gareth Jones, a Wildlife Crime Officer, and there are others around Yorkshire, visit North Yorkshire Police for more information. Charles later says, “I am our local Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator, Gareth is one of my contacts in Rural Watch Campaign. I get all the crime updates on ringmaster from NY Police almost daily but have not seen any prosecutions for illegal shooting or poisoning, which is a shame because we know it goes on.” I have delved a little further into this and can say that whilst a lot of these crimes may well occur the difficulty is obtaining evidence. Given that it may take two months or more to confirm that a bird has been poisoned and that they are rarely found at the bait anyway, there is little chance of getting anyone into court. If these crimes are taking place it’s probable that as few as a fifth of poisoned carcasses are recovered so it’s difficult. This means we need to be vigilant, so if you do find anything you consider troubling you need to contact the appropriate authority including the Police, RSPCA (Harrogate and District Branch) and if it’s a red kite then the Red Kite folk. Another useful number is the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) and you may wish to add their Freephone number, 0800 321600, to the contacts list on your mobile phone – just in case!

Someone calling themselves NorthernDiver replied via my website to the Moorland Myth issue by saying, “It’s a shame that Harrogate News didn’t post your reply to Amanda Anderson. Such twisted facts put out by Ms Anderson shouldn’t be the last word. Please try again. Do you think you have been blacklisted by Hg News? Is there anyone else who could post your reply? The truth needs to get through to the general public or things will get no better for our persecuted wildlife and damaged moorlands.” Do you agree? What are your views? Can you help spread the word?

Doug Simpson contacted me on the issue of grouse and asked me to mention a petition to protect mountain hares, why is that an issue related to grouse? Well, thousands of mountain hares are shot and snared in Scotland because they allegedly carry a disease which reduces the number of grouse available to be shot for “sport”. In some areas where mountain hares were previously abundant they are now rare or extinct. This is a national scandal. Scottish Natural Heritage is appealing for “voluntary restraint” from the grouse shooting lobby, but they have already had years to put their house in order. The time has now come for robust properly enforced legislation to protect the mountain hare, which is an important part of Scotland’s biodiversity and a revenue earning tourist attraction.

Paul Brothers writes, “I am particularly interested in the moorland debate as I used to work in the Water Industry and have modelled flood risks for land. I strongly believe we should be planting trees and blocking off some drains/build up dams to slow down the egress of water off the land. This is a lot more important in my opinion than dredging rivers which increases the speed of the water and all the solids it is carrying, with the likelihood of creating erosion and more damage to infrastructure. Planting a few trees is a very cost effective and long term solution to the problem that we currently face.” Thanks Paul for this, very interesting, especially from someone who “really knows”. I do wish we could get a proper debate on these issues at a proper level where the right action can be determined. What is best for the country, a few less grouse to kill or homes and lives not wrecked by avoidable flooding?

Carole Turner asked me to mention the Petition For A Ban On Driven Grouse Shooting. Grouse shooting for ‘sport’ depends on intensive habitat management which increases flood risk and greenhouse gas emissions, relies on killing Foxes, Stoats, Mountain Hares etc in large numbers and often leads to the deliberate illegal killing of protected birds of prey including Hen Harriers. Please do sign it.

Outdoors Events

See website for full details of these events and to confirm no changes.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Saturday 26 March Richmond and the River Swale

Moorland Myths Exposed & Spring Arrivals

Wheatear Tom WilsonWheatear – Tom Wilson

Apologies, my computer is misbehaving and I have lost some emails, so if you emailed me recently then please send it again. I believe the problem is now resolved, fingers crossed and sorry for the inconvenience.

First Avian Arrivals of 2016

We ought to be looking out for the first avian arrivals of spring. Already we have lapwing and curlew on territory and our resident passerines are pairing up, marking out territories and maybe even building nests. Birds like rooks are already sat atop their communal tree probably on eggs, perhaps young, whilst in our conifer plantations our few resident crossbill chicks are no doubt nearly ready to leave their home. As birdwatchers what we really look for are the first migrant birds here to breed and it always surprises me that a couple of the earliest arrivals are the ring ouzel and wheatear. Why am I surprised? Well both these birds choose to nest on our often cold and bleak moor tops. Find the ring ouzel around Scar House Reservoir, or maybe around the Barden reservoirs in Wharfedale, whilst the wheatear seems to prefer limestone country, look around Stump Cross caverns and Troller’s Gill. One of the reasons these birds arrive so early may well be because they travel fewer air miles than some of our other summer visitors such as warblers. The ring ouzel for example winters in the Atlas Mountains and northern Africa. Now don’t just go to Scar House and expect to see a ring ouzel, they take some finding, so be patient and vigilant and you may be rewarded. A ring ouzel differs from the blackbird because it is slightly bigger and it sports a white gorget, a crescent shaped area around the throat or upper breast. The female ring ouzel, like its blackbird cousin, is more browny coloured and evidently the gorget can get whiter with age with a juvenile’s barely noticeable. Ring ouzels are sadly in decline, never common, their range size has declined by 43% in last 40 years.

Wheatears, apparently named after the distinctive white rump, white rear, seen as they fly away, are a beautiful bird and unlike the ring ouzel comparatively confiding. Male and female wheatears like the ring ouzel can be distinguished even by humans. The male bird is blue-grey below with black wings with a white forehead, a white eye stripe and a narrow black facial mask. The female is similar, generally browner and duller. The wheatear, or to be precise northern wheatear, winters in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is found across a broad belt that stretches from Mauritania and Mali through northern Nigeria, Central African Republic and Sudan, to Ethiopia and southern Somalia.

Other early migrants include the ubiquitous chiffchaff, it’s always great to hear the first distinctive onomatopoeic chiffchaff call, although by mid-summer the excitement has worn off and the LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) are everywhere. A final early arrival and another we all enjoy seeing is the very much threatened sand martin, now in Nidderdale pretty much confined to breeding in artificial nest sites such as the Nidderdale Birders one at Gouthwaite reservoir, or the one at YWT Staveley Nature Reserve. I was somewhat surprised to look at the BTO fact file for sand martins to find they are not of conservation concern, my guess is this is due to all the sand martin walls built throughout the country which not only provide plenty of nest sites but crucially provide ones which are not prone to flooding. It would be great if you could tell me your first sightings of migrant birds, your first reports of birds nesting and of course eventually how successful they were.

Red Grouse Kat Simmons (cropped)

A Glorious Red Grouse – Kat Simmonds

Moorland Myths

Katie Chabriere of Harrogate, Founder of Harrogate Animals People Planet Initiative, (Katies Letter) wrote to the Harrogate Informer suggesting that burning heather and gripping moorlands could be responsible for Kex Gill, Blubberhouses suffering so many catastrophic landslides, which could cost £33m of taxpayers’ money to resolve. The Moorlands Association spokesperson responded suggesting that they were the solution to the problem not the cause, although they failed to say who burns the heather and grips the moorland. It was however their last sentence which I felt it necessary to query, I have tried three times to respond to this but sadly it seems that Harrogate Informer just aren’t getting my emails for some reason, so this is what I wanted to say, I wonder if you agree?

I am pleased that Amanda Anderson, Director of the The Moorland Association, recognises the importance of moorland and the environment yet she sadly avoids addressing the specific issue of tree planting, gripe blocking and heather burning in Kex Gill, which Kate Chabriere specifically mentioned. Trees are disliked by the shooting fraternity because they get in the way of the line of fire. I trust no one shoots down Kex Gill onto the road below and therefore such planting may well help everyone and harm nothing. The Moorlands Association’s stated commitment to the environment would be confirmed if trees were planted in this area. It is however Ms Anderson’s final paragraph which needs addressing. She says, “Perhaps Ms Chabriere might be interested to know that our moorlands benefit not a ‘tiny minority’, but host internationally recognised habitats and wildlife, boost rural economies to the tune of millions of pounds, are the backbone of our UK lamb industry and are loved by vast numbers of walkers and nature enthusiasts.Nice spin Ms Anderson but please can we address the reality. Our moorlands are a vastly subsidised industry, it has been estimated that £286 per tax payer, per year, is spent on them. The moorlands are subsidised through the Single Farm Payment (more than £17 million in 2012-13) and the Environment Stewardship Scheme (£20 million same year). These payments are supposed to be tied to Government Approved Environment Good Practice, although sadly there seems to be little evidence that this is adequately policed. Shooting grouse and the introduced red-legged partridge and pheasants goes hand in hand with the elimination of all manner of vermin, birds of prey, stoats, weasels, foxes, even apparently domestic pets, pheasants (they become vermin outside the season because they peck grouse eggs) and hedgehogs. The only wildlife the shooters are interested in is there to be killed, it’s as simple as that. The sheep numbers on moors have long been kept low to protect the moors for the grouse and the vast majority of our lamb is obtained from lowland farms. We all know about the hill farmers who struggle to make a living. Moorlands are not natural, left to nature, trees and scrubs would grow in places, land would become more water logged, the wildlife more diverse and the whole environment would benefit, including areas downstream. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that it would be any less loved by walkers and nature enthusiasts as a consequence. It would probably be enjoyed even more.”

Hedgehogs

The British hedgehog population has declined by up to a third over the last 10 years. This petition requests the House of Commons to endorse the practical supporting measures of ‘Hedgehog Street’ and ensure the hedgehog is given better legal protection including adding it to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act by the Government and in particular the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Please sign it.

Nature Reserves

RSPB Fairburn Ings, First Sand Martin 14 March, also two Ravens, Red Kites, Marsh Harrier, three Peregrine, Cetti’s Warbler daily and Firecrest at the weekend.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, 12 March 55 Whooper Swans, Lingham Lake, bumblebee and peacock butterfly 13 March. 16 avocets have been present, may still be, please look for coloured rings. Also there has been a whooper swan movement recently and they have passed over HDNS Farnham, YWT Staveley and the Nosterfield complex.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Susan Turner (cropped)

Great Spotted Woodpecker – Sue Turner

Through Your Window

Sue (& Geoff) Turner, Wetherby, wrote on Thursday, 10 March 2016, “We have seen no signs of any frogs or spawn in our garden pond but last year the first frog spawn appeared on 2 March. We do have plenty of birds at the moment and they are going through a substantial amount of sunflower hearts. This morning I counted 16 Siskins (both male and female) in next door’s tree and on the feeders. They have been regular visitors this year since 3 January 2016 but not in such great numbers, usually only five or six. A few years ago we only used to see them for a couple of weeks in March but recently they have stayed around for a few months. We do the weekly BTO birdcount so have good records of all our visitors and so far this week we have seen Blackcap 2m and 1f, Bullfinch 2m and 1f, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Collared Dove, 11 Blackbird, Greenfinch 1m, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Great Tit, 1 Songthrush, Chaffinch 2m & 1f (quite often with white fungus on their legs), 7 Woodpigeon, 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock and 1 Greater Spotted Woodpecker (very infrequent visitor). We have heard the Song Thrush singing since early January but this week is the first time we have actually seen it, when it came for a bath in the pond. We do not see House or Tree Sparrows any more and it is ages since a Starling visited our garden. I clean the feeders and water bowls regularly and the sick looking birds we see are usually Chaffinches. On the subject of grey squirrels, they might look cute but we are no lovers of them or the many Woodpigeons. Both these species hoover up all the food we put on the lawn for the ground feeding birds and they seem to be thriving. The squirrels dig holes in the lawn, either burying or looking for food, and once they dug tulip bulbs out of a planter and ate them! Our garden backs onto the Harland Way cycle track so there are lots of very tall self-seeded ashes and sycamores, which the squirrels and Woodpigeons love.

Judith Fawcett reports, “haven’t seen a goldfinch in the garden for a while.”

Pat Inman writes, “For the first time I have redpoll in my garden in Shaw Mills. I noticed them two weeks ago and now they come each day to feed with the other finches on the sunflower hearts. Both they and the siskins hold their own against the larger gold and greenfinches.”

Great squirrel Debate

The squirrel issue rages on, Ann White writes, “Regarding the grey squirrels (tree rats). We too find them a menace, as they commandeer the bird feeders. But we fixed ’em! Put a clamp on to the lid of the feeder, and they can’t get in no matter how they try! Amusing to watch them though – they hang about underneath and have to be satisfied with the ‘droppings’. What we do have, and on a daily basis, are Woodpeckers – they are beautiful, and so interesting to watch. This in the Knox area of Bilton backing on to the old railway embankment. Think that the squirrels kill the pigeons if they can, as we woke up one morning to find hundreds of feathers on out lawn plus a skeleton!! Poor thing.” I would think that it was more likely to be either a sparrowhawk or a fox which killed Ann’s pigeon, probably the former. One way to tell if it’s a mammalian or avian predator is to inspect the feathers, if they have been bitten off, it’s most likely a fox. If they have been pulled out, a raptor. A squirrel would tackle a chick including chewing through a nest box to get at the chick, but I doubt it would attempt a full grown pigeon unless it was already ill or injured.

Notes For Your Diary (See website for full details.)

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Wednesday March 23 19:30 – 21:30 lecture ‘RSPB Wetland Reserves – managing for the future’ Graham White RSPB.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Saturday March 19 10am Outdoor Meeting – visit to Saltholme. Meet at Reserve.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday 21st March (Evening) Gouthwaite’s Sand Martin Wall: a presentation reviewing the wall’s development and first year of use.

Your Frogs, Trees & Sparrowhawk.

Sparrowhawk - Raymond RumboldMale Sparrowhawk – Raymond Rumbold

Through Your Window

Pat and Raymond Rumbold have sent me a lovely male sparrowhawk photo taken from the hall window a few weeks ago. “It was on our back hedge looking bemused as all the birds had disappeared – I wonder why?!”

How Stean Blog

This month’s How Stean Blog is available now, I provide some fascinating insights into that common woodland plant Dog’s Mercury.

Frogspawn Bilton - Roger LittonFrog Spawn – Roger Litton

Frog Spawn

Bob Barker writes, “Not trying to enter the competition but frog spawn was in my pond on Monday 22/2, two big lots. There are now about four lots. I don’t think I look like carrion but on Monday I was weeding my veg patch and a red kite swooped down low over my head, but didn’t land. Maybe their eyesight isn’t as good as I thought it was.” I bet the red kite saw a juicy worm or two, a favourite kite delicacy I believe. Bob’s frog spawn was relatively early this year, I can’t understand why most is so late.

Lucky Dennis Skinner from Wetherby, “came back from the Galapagos Islands on 22 February to find one of my small garden ponds (about 3 x 4ft) full of frog spawn, later iced over! Today I counted 21 frogs in them, all very active before the heavy snow fall.”

Dr Roger Litton writes, “This photo is of the pond at Bachelor Fields, Bilton and shows that the frogs are now out in force spawning (7 March). As the photo shows, the pond was affected by a severe frost overnight Sunday into Monday and some of the top layers have been frosted. This will have killed the affected eggs but fortunately the rest of the spawn, under water, will have survived. However, there is a more serious problem. Someone has released goldfish into the pond. When the tadpoles hatch they will be eagerly devoured by the goldfish. This suggests a dire future for the frogs in this area as the future generations will be decimated by the fish. This introduction is completely irresponsible given that frog numbers nationally are in serious decline (partly because of loss of habitat but this introduction is not going to help locally).” Roger makes a valid point about goldfish and frogs, particularly when like much of our wildlife frogs are in decline due to disease and other factors. What do you think? Have you seen any frogspawn?

Oak - Jon BurgeA Seasonal view by Jon Burge of his Favourite Tree

Your Favourite Tree

Jon Burge writes, “My favourite tree is the one I am looking at at the moment; however, here is one of my all-time favourites – 400m north of the Burnt Yates playground (see photo). Not unusually old, it is one of the largest around that, albeit sculptured by the wind shedding small branches, had not yet lost a great branch. A good example of an oak in its prime. Just after I took the fourth photo, a great storm broke off a 2-ton branch, and it is now a typical oak good for another 300 years of rustic shape.” Brilliant to see this wonderful oak in all it’s moods.

Gretchen Hasselbring, “Just wanted to report something cool. I was looking at a huge yew tree near the clock tower in Ripon this morning, one of the warmest days we’ve had in a while, and in a gust of wind the tree shook off a giant cloud of….? Which hung over it and then dispersed. On closer inspection, it appears to be the pollen from the mature flowers of English/common yew (Taxus baccata). I understand that this cloud could indeed be toxic? Very exciting sighting for me.” The red fleshy bit that covers the yew’s berries is the only part of the tree that is not toxic and eating that is very hazardous because the seeds inside are dangerously toxic. The pollen that Gretchen saw which is released by the trees in early spring is cytotoxic. Cytotoxicity is too complicated for me, visit the weblink for more info and it’s probably good to keep well away from it. All parts of a yew plant are toxic to humans with the exception of the yew berries (however, their seeds are toxic); additionally, male and monoecious yews in this genus release cytotoxic pollen, which can cause headaches, lethargy, aching joints, itching, and skin rashes; it is also a trigger for asthma. Male yews bloom and release abundant amounts of pollen in the spring; completely female yews only trap pollen while producing none. Grazing animals, particularly cattle and horses, are also sometimes found dead near yew trees after eating the leaves, though deer are able to break down the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely. In the wild, deer browsing of yews is often so extensive that wild yew trees are commonly restricted to cliffs and other steep slopes inaccessible to deer. The foliage is also eaten by the larvae of some Lepidopteran insects including the moth Willow Beauty (see Wikipedia). It is believed that yew trees were kept in churchyards to protect grazing animals although another explanation is they were grown in churchyards to make into bows, surely peace loving folk don’t need bows!

Dogs and Wildlife

It’s probably a bit late to ask you to keep your dogs on a lead where sheep are concerned because many have already lambed. Please remember however that pregnant sheep are the most vulnerable to dogs because the dogs don’t need to even attack them, just romp around in the same field. The sheep see them as predator, panic and can abort so please consider the farmer’s livelihood by always keeping your dog on a lead in any field with animals in. This is what is meant by worrying sheep, not a physical attack. Wild animals can be just as vulnerable so if you are anywhere this spring with a dog where wild animals and birds could be breeding, for example along the riverside where ducks are living or in a field where lapwings, curlews or sky larks may be breeding, then again please keep your dogs on a lead and thank you all you considerate dog owners for thinking of our wildlife.

Squirrels

I told you grey squirrels were like Marmite and your responses certainly reflect that.

Tom Peace writes, “Squirrels are awesome little creatures that are curious and very agile!” Visit Toms Blog.

David Uffindall writes, “Thanks for the credit re the picture. We have two, sometimes up to four grey squirrels that come to our garden. We never encourage them to come near the house – they are animals after all – but do like to watch their antics from quickly nipping through the foliage to getting on the wire fence and then taking a leap for the bird feeders. We have a couple of supplies of nuts that they are particularly attracted to and occasionally they take a fancy to my fat balls – sorry, I mean the fat balls in the feeder! They are very agile, great fun to watch and a super challenge to get good pictures of, so I tolerate them quite happily. If they came near the house though….!”

Jo Smalley writes, “Hahahahahaha, I’d rather see red! Love the marmite comparison. So true though.”

Dennis Skinner thinks squirrelsare an absolute nuisance in my garden digging up the lawn and borders and taking the bird food. The pigeons are worse! Does anyone else think pigeons are becoming too many? They seem to breed 5-6 times a year and have few enemies.”

Paul Irving writes, “It doesn’t matter how long alien species that have been brought here by us are here they are still alien, that’s what the science says. Yes, our ecology adapts to an extent, but look what we lost in the case of the grey squirrel, the red, which I can just remember seeing in this area. Personally I’d happily forego the pleasure of all the unnatural aliens such as the Grey Squirrel (got rid of quickly in this garden!), Canada Goose, Fallow Deer, Pheasant and Himalayan Balsam, especially if it meant more of some species of native.”

Mark Haythorne, Penny Pot Gardens, views’ on grey squirrels are, “I’m afraid I’m very firmly in the “against” camp. I can see why people like to watch them as they frolic about – they do appeal to the “cuteness” factor, but my reasons for not being a fan are: (i) they are pretty much responsible for demolishing the indigenous and much less harmful red squirrel, because of the virus they carry and competition for habitat, food etc (ii) raiding the bird feeders and damaging them – they can chew through practically anything; (iii) digging up bulbs and corms etc, and damage to trees, which I suffer from a fair bit but (iv) by far my biggest problem with them is that they decimate garden bird populations by devouring eggs and chicks – I have personally seen them do this more than once with blue tit and chaffinch nests in my garden. I even saw one tackling a wood pigeon! The cat problem and loss of habitat for birds is bad enough – we will lose a decent curlew and skylark population when they plonk 680 houses on the fields between Queen Ethelburga’s and the Army College (B6161 at Oaker Bank) but grey squirrels certainly play a big part in garden bird predation. I’m sure a lot of people will take the ‘live and let live’ approach, but like American signal crayfish, we could certainly do without the little beggars!”

Mike Sims of Burnt Yates visited Fountains Abbey recently where he saw “a pair of Wigeon, a pair of Goosander and several Goldeneye, as well as the occasional Cormorant, the usual Coot, Mute Swans and Mallard and sometimes up to 230 Black Headed Gulls, all seen on the Lake at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. There are Little Grebe on the Lake too and up to 15 seen on the Half Moon Reservoir at the Abbey end of the Water Gardens there. The bird hide near the Visitor Centre is brilliant with Great Spotted Woodpecker being a regular visitor for the peanuts.” Sounds well worth a visit, watching the goldeneye courtship display is always fascinating.

Sightings

Tony Brookes, Old Scriven, Knaresborough, “Yesterday p.m. I was in my study and looked out of the window to see a male sparrowhawk swooping towards the bird feeding centre. As is often the case, the small birds escaped bar one that cowered on the bird table whereupon the sparrowhawk circled the table at great speed at least six or seven times before the terrified bird escaped into the nearby bushes. The sparrowhawk alighted on a branch, defecated and flew off over the park. I have never ever seen a sparrowhawk hunt in this way and could find nothing online to suggest other people have reported this activity. No doubt readers of your website might find this behaviour unusual and may wish to comment or even relate similar occurrences.” Tony then says, “I was reminded by this of the stories of foxes walking around trees where pheasants roost to disorient them and, it is said, make them dizzy and fall out of those trees. Fact or an old wives tale?” It does seem like unusual sparrowhawk behaviour, they usually fly in at great speed like a stealth bomber and if they miss keep on flying. At another time of year I would have said the sparrowhawk was a juvenile and new to the hunting game but to survive winter it can’t be. Sorry but I’m afraid like most things wildlife I don’t get it. I have heard the fox and pheasant tale before and always assume it to be an old wives tale. Like you I would love to hear what other folks have to say, on both issues.

Adrian Wetherill, tweeted, Egyptian goose on Nicholson’s lagoon, Ripon racecourse, 24/2/2016.

Joan Howard tells me, “White crow seen this winter in Morrisons car park. Shoppers walk past it…must think it is a seagull.” I wonder if it’s the same one that keeps getting reported or many? The BTO tells us the maximum recorded age for a crow is 17 years. Much older than I expected, although the typical lifespan is 4 years.

Events

Harrogate and District Naturalists Society See website for full details.

Tuesday 15th March 08:00 – 17:00 Mini-bus trip to RSPB Fairburn & Swillington Ings / St Aidans. Mini-bus trip (booking essential).

Harrogate RSPB Group See website for full details including costs and to confirm no changes.

Monday 14th March 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Tom Lawson “Birding in Iceland”

Nidderdale Bird Club See website for full details including costs and to confirm no changes.

Friday 11th March a full day visit to Foulshaw Moss & Dallam Heronry

Saturday 12th March a fundraising event at the Glasshouses Methodist Church, Broadbelt Hall (HG3 5QY) on Saturday 12th March. The Curlew has declined in Britain to such an extent that it is the bird most in need of conservation action and is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation concern. The BTO are hoping to raise £100,000 in the first year to do extensive research into the reasons for the decline of both breeding and wintering Curlew. Nidderdale Bird Club’s fundraising will take several forms, this is the first. As well as providing coffee and tea there will be T-shirts and cards and cakes for sale.

Grey Squirrels – Cute and Cuddly or Vermin?

4 March 2016

Grey squirrel2 - David UffindallGrey Squirrel – David Uffindall

Helen Watkison writes, “last year we had one grey squirrel daily in the garden, we called him Cyril, he had his own monkey nut feeder, though of course he also helped himself to the birds’ too. He liked to cache acorns and beech nuts from our trees. This year he brought along his girlfriend Muriel (any idea how to sex squirrels?) and provided more amusement by chasing along our fence and up and down the leylandii. I wondered if they were a pair, and if and where they might breed, as I gather dreys are both rare and high. Alas, my son found one dead in the road outside our house (I didn’t get to see it); however, another squirrel (yet to be named) has appeared and the antics continue. I know most folk think they are vermin, rats with tails and can do damage to houses, what do you think?” Grey squirrels (greys) certainly divide opinion. I don’t know if squirrels cause damage to your house. I guess they can damage wood and get into your false roof, plastic may prove more difficult for them. Many people despise grey squirrels because they have deposed the reds and because the greys will take young birds from their nests. Reds do exactly the same and each has to survive. They are also, especially the greys, accused of damaging commercial forests. I don’t particularly like grey squirrels because when they visit my feeders they keep all the birds away and eat prodigious amounts of seed, which isn’t cheap. I chase them away for this reason but would never hurt them. So to answer Helen’s question. Grey squirrels are here because someone introduced them to the UK, from the USA, in the late 19th or early 20th century. Probably Sir Henry Courtney Brocklehurst, Bt. They certainly didn’t choose to come here and surely by now should be considered part of our native fauna. I know they displace reds with their pox and better foraging skills (they can eat hazelnuts for example before they are ripe enough for reds to eat). But we ought to embrace them, because reds aren’t coming back, they fill the same niche and who are we humans to say what creatures we shall or shan’t share the earth with. Squirrels do prefer to build their dreys high up, it keeps them and their families well away from predators and I never call them rats with tails, tree rats is my preferred sobriquet. Now I also know that many folk enjoy the antics of squirrels in their gardens, Roger and Pauline Litton are a couple who enjoy the greys visiting them and I guess many others do also so let’s live and let live. What do you think?

First Frogspawn of the Year

Roger Graville writes, “Your various correspondents have had a race for a few years now for sightings of the first frogspawn. Well here’s my entry for 2016. Today, 24 February, two lots of spawn in our garden pond.” Great, Roger is 2016’s champion unless of course you know better. I checked out the pond on Bachelor Gardens, Bilton, Harrogate recently and was dismayed to find a shoal of goldfish had taken it over. I fear for the tadpoles and spawn, when it arrives. Roger Litton saw his “first (and only!) batch of frogspawn – but no frogs (26 February). This was in their usual pool – the one above the boating pool where the pool is created behind the metal plate.”Neil Anderson, Bilton, had his first spawn arrive on Wednesday 2 March, the day of the snow. Bad timing there then on the frog’s behalf. I reckon frogspawn is very late this year. Have you seen any? When did it arrive, What do you think?

Funny Coloured Rabbit Update

Paul Brothers, “Spotted quite a few black ones at the top of Swinsty Reservoir near to the dam wall with Fewston Reservoir here in Yorkshire. There were at least three or probably four of them sunning themselves a couple of years back”.

Congratulations to Oatlands Junior School

They have made it to the Shortlist of 20 for the 2016 Saatchi Gallery/Deutsche Bank Art Prize for Schools with their art work ‘Conserving our Biodiversity’. The inscription to the artwork says:

“Conserving Our Biodiversity is a whole school inclusive art project inspired by artist Ai Weiwei, and looking at climate change and its effects on our biodiversity. All children have each created a clay sculpture from their individual illustrations of a study of a plant or flower, which is on the Red Data List for the British Isles, focusing on their form and details, which could be lost forever. Clay sculpture installation measures approx. 5 m x 2m.”

Wildlife Politics

Have you signed the petition, “Make planting trees a priority to reduce flooding by improving soil and drainage”. If you haven’t please do so now. I won’t provide the whole Government response I received, if you sign I imagine you will receive the same response. Here are a few selected Government comments however. “Trees can slow the flow of water down and reduce the impacts of floods; we are currently exploring the increased role that this could play in flood risk management.” That seems pretty unequivocal to me. They say later, “Defra continues to support a number of leading research and demonstration projects to better understand the role that land management changes in our landscapes and catchments, such as tree planting, peatland restoration and habitat creation, could have in reducing flood risk. These include the Forest Research led ‘Slowing the Flow Partnership’ in Pickering, North Yorkshire … These projects indicate that woodlands can slow the flow of water through smaller catchments and reduce the impacts of some floods. We will continue to support such investigations, gathering further evidence into the potential benefits that land management changes, such as tree planting in catchments, could have on reducing flood risk, in addition to the wider environmental and economic benefits that they could provide.” Sign the petition and maybe public opinion will make a difference!

Signs of Spring

Barn Owl - Nigel HeptinstallBarn Owl (Tyto alba)

Janice Scott from Padside/Thornthwaite wrote, “We thought you would like these signs of spring for your blog: Our first curlew calling was heard at Padside on 17 February and has been heard several times since. Travelling to Parceval Hall late morning Wednesday 24 February we saw several large flocks of peewit between The Stone House and Greenhow, then none once we were over into Wharfedale. On our return mid afternoon it was the reverse – large flocks around Wharfedale and none after Greenhow. We couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same birds heading out to breeding grounds during the course of the day. At Parcevall Hall we heard our first drumming great spotted woodpecker of the year. We also surprised four mandarin ducks over the lake. The previous evening I had been reading that they are threatened in their home country of China and their best chance of survival is with feral populations in Europe. I wonder how they are doing in our area? From our window at home we have seen blackbirds busily collecting nesting materials and tree sparrows investigating nest boxes and staking their claim. We have also had a nuthatch visiting a peanut feeder right outside our kitchen window on several occasions recently – what a beautiful bird! On the barn owl front, we saw one near The Stone House pub last Thursday (18 February) and friends have reported recent sightings at Heyshaw, Dacre, Clint, Heathfield and Huby.” It’s good news regarding the curlew and barn owl. I saw a barn owl on 26 February hunting around Grimwith reservoir. I’m getting worried because they are out during the day, it may suggest there is no food. Some peewit 26 February probably on territory between Greenhow and Grimwith, no large flocks. I would suggest large flocks are returning to their breeding grounds, which could be in Scandinavia or Northern Russia. Mandarin can be found locally mainly on the river at Bolton Abbey, Strid Woods, (in fair numbers 10/20) but certainly as far upstream as Burnsall. They first nested in Harrogate District some probably 10 years ago near Beckwithshaw. They have been seen in the Nidd Gorge occasionally. They are tree hole nesters. Mandarin status is increasing slowly I would say.

Wendy Binns wrote, “This morning (25 February) as I stepped out of the car at Tadcaster Grammar School a woodpecker was drumming away in the woods surrounding the school and the sound echoed all round. Is this a little early to hear this? I actually ‘spotted’ the woodpecker but it was far away and couldn’t quite see what type it was.”

Yes many of our resident birds are forming territories and prospecting for nest sites and partners. I hope they don’t start laying too soon. Have you any reports of Spring, please?

Notes For Your Diary

Harrogate and District Biodiversity Action Group are holding their AGM on Saturday 12 March 2016 13:30 – 15:00 at Horticap, Blue Coat Nurseries, Otley Road, Harrogate, HG3 1QL. After the (usually) very short business meeting there will be a couple of guest speakers, sharing the visions of two newly established groups that are all about community and environment: Chris Beard of Hookstone and Stonefall Action Group (HASAG) and Catherine Baxter from Woodlands Community Garden. HDBAG works actively with the community to maximise the environment for local wildlife It raises awareness of the needs of wildlife affected by growth and change in the Harrogate District. They support and encourage community involvement in maintaining and improving green spaces and enthuse young people through working with schools and community hubs.

Curlew Appeal

IMG_4769

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Nidderdale Bird Group are holding a fundraising event at the Glasshouses Methodist Church, Broadbelt Hall (HG3 5QY) on Saturday 12th March. The Curlew has declined in Britain to such an extent that it is the bird most in need of conservation action and is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation concern. The BTO are hoping to raise £100,000 in the first year to do extensive research into the reasons for the decline of both breeding and wintering Curlew. Nidderdale Bird Club’s fundraising will take several forms, this is the first. As well as providing coffee and tea there will be T-shirts and cards and cakes for sale.

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society See website for full details.

Wednesday March 9 19:30 – 21:30 lecture ‘RED KITES IN YORKSHIRE’ Doug Simpson

Harrogate RSPB Group See website for full details including costs and to confirm no changes.

Monday March 14 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Tom Lawson “Birding in Iceland”

Through Your Window

Doug Simpson, Red Kite Man, “We have a steep embankment behind our house. It faces roughly south-west and there’s quite an updraught when the wind is from that quarter. My daughter came for lunch on Friday and had pride of place at the dining table – looking straight out of the patio window across the garden. Suddenly she asked ‘What’s that?’ Looking up, I saw it was a Common Buzzard which was hanging motionless on the updraught. It was there for several seconds before flying off to the west. Buzzards are by no means unusual here, but we’d never previously seen one at such close quarters. The previous day we’d had a Red Kite over the garden whilst today, Saturday, the big birds in view are Grey Herons, no doubt looking at the pond between us and Saltergate Beck to see if the toads have arrived yet.”