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 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 ( 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.


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

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