Red Kites & Fracking

Red Kite - Doug Simpson

Red Kite – Doug Simpson

Any Red Kites Nesting Near You?

At the beginning of March, Red Kites probably started thinking about nests and all that entails. Some will no doubt be intent on some refurbishment prior to settling into a new breeding season. Not all established pairs will stick with the previously used nest, sometimes they get more ambitious as though they have learnt from their previous experience. To pairs which lost their nests in the storms in 2015, perhaps they have consulted the manual and will make a rather better job in their efforts this season. Stick-carrying is the first sign of nest construction, culminating in the addition of the lining material. Ideally this would be sheep wool but, unfortunately, plastic materials often find their way onto the nest, occasionally with dire consequences. Plastic can form a waterproof membrane in the nest, causing pooling of water and failure of eggs or death of the young. Yorkshire Red Kites are particularly interested in sightings of pairs in new locations, particularly where this indicates a widening geographical spread of the population. Please let them know if you suspect that this is happening – the information will be treated confidentially. You can do this via the web site form and provide as much information as possible, including, if you can, date and time, weather conditions, exact location, post code or OS grid reference if known.

Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators

This is a book about pollination and habitat management and is aimed specifically at Farmers and land owners. It’s free and can be downloaded from here. You can also order print copies.

This book, published in April 2016, is an informative and useful practical guide for conserving insect pollinators. It brings together practical skills with an in depth understanding of pollinator ecology providing farmers and other land managers with the best available advice on creating and managing habitats for bees on farmland. The book is the distillation of a 20-year research partnership between Marek Nowakowski – a practitioner with a passion for wildlife conservation on farmland – and applied ecologists working for the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.’ Please forward and share with anyone who you think will find it useful.

“Living with fracking”

A note for your diaries. Joanne and Steve White live in Ryedale and are concerned about the proposed fracking in their area. Having spoken to their MP, who visited Pennsylvania to look at the impact of fracking there, they decided to make their own visit, hoping for reassurance. They bought a video camera and went to meet many of the people that their MP had spoken to. The film, ‘Living with fracking’, is the result of that trip. Steve and Joanne have been invited by Nidderdale Climate + Environment Group to come to Glasshouses to show their film and answer questions about it. Coming with them is Dr Tim Thornton, a retired Ryedale GP, to talk on the health impacts of fracking. This event is on Monday, 23 May at 7pm in the Broadbelt Hall in Glasshouses. All are welcome.”

Wildlife Politics

Shirley Dunwell writes, “My first sighting of orange tips (butterflies) near South Stainley on a glorious sunny day. Re insects, generally: Has anyone researched the effect that traffic has on our insect population? Or am I alone in my concern? Surely the effect of hitting billions of them constantly, particularly on fast motorways, but overall any travelling vehicle is lethal to them. The bumblebee becomes a statistic with just one crack of the windscreen and quite often I come across them on the pavement, a sure indication to me that they have been hit. The smaller insects are difficult to detect but I suspect their numbers are depleted dramatically. I certainly don’t have a problem with ‘fly squash’ on my car as used to be the case.” Shirley raises a very interesting point. I suspect that the answer is no. Did you also realise that according to the Asthma UK 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12). Now in my view much of this is caused by vehicle emissions. If these small particles can affect us then imagine the damage it possibly does to our insects. Combine this with pesticides, herbicides etc. etc., and couple all this with the fact that the oil, car and chemical global conglomerates have huge power over our Government, is it any wonder our wildlife is in such decline? What do you think?

North Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Unit tweeted that there was a Red Kite shot near Harrogate on 26 April and badger baiting near the West Yorkshire border same morning. Do not report incidents or crime on Twitter, ring 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Moorland Myths Exposed

Martin Tither writes, “Interesting views on moor gripping. Research on this topic has been going on for some years – one of the best-selling Chief Scientist’s Division Research Reports from the Nature Conservancy Council was on precisely this topic, and that was late 70s, early 80s. United Utilities (previously North West Water) was on record as saying that water treatment to remove peat etc. from drinking water was costing them, i.e. customers, millions of pounds. Two further points: run-off from moorland is gradually filling reservoirs, reducing their capacity and having detrimental effects on flooding. And let’s not forget that siltation caused by moorland run-off destroys spawning redds for fish.”

Bluebells - Roger Litton

Bluebells – Roger Litton

Your Sightings

Carol Wedgewood reports a Barn Owl “flying low in front of our barn window just before 9pm last night, at twilight. Such beautiful creatures. They fly so effortlessly. What a treat.” There a few birds which everyone enjoys seeing and Barn Owls are up there at the top of the list. Nice to know it’s flying at the appropriate time. This probably suggests it is finding enough food and doesn’t need to fly during the day. They’ll be feeding young soon, if not already so let’s hope there continues to be sufficient food and the weather remains kind to them. Barn Owls can’t hunt in the rain.

Roger Litton tells me, “Having just read your latest blog, I see mention of bluebells. We went for a short walk at Swinsty reservoir this morning. We were very surprised to see that the bluebells there are nearly fully out.”

Dennis Skinner, “On Wetherby Golf Course last week I spotted again, 2 Buzzards being harassed by one Crow. I think the Buzzards are starting to nest across the River Wharfe. Also many Woodpeckers hammering all over the course – but no sightings yet!”

Chris Beard, “Saw our first Swallows in Nidderdale this afternoon (21 April). Also saw Plover/Lapwing with two very young chicks.” It seems early for lapwing chicks but great to see they have at least reached this stage. What chicks or evidence of breeding have you seen?

Osprey - Sue Evison

Osprey – Sue Evison

Sue Evison reports an Osprey at Gouthwaite Reservoir was around for several days around 10 April.

Steve Kempson wrote on 18 April, “We’ve been out to Staveley this morning and saw quite a few Sand Martins skimming over the lake, whereas our House Martins haven’t put in an appearance today; perhaps they’ve retreated south for a bit (sounds like a good idea to me!).” I couldn’t agree more, Steve.

Roger Brownbridge tells me, “the Goldfinches are basically there on the feeder all day with others in the tree waiting their turn, you can almost see the sunflower seed level going down. Interestingly they ignore the nyger seeds in preference for the sunflower seeds. Saw first brood of ducklings of the year on the River Wharfe today (22 April).” Roger also has Greenfinch visiting his feeder, which is nice, let’s hope they are recovering from the Trichomonosis disease.

Andrew Dobby saw his first Swallow of the year in Scotton on 22 April. Sadly they don’t seem to have brought the summer with them, maybe there was only one!

The Cuckoos are Here!

Robin Hermes wrote, “Your report just outstanding, thanks to it was able to identify a bird I saw at Little Alms Cliff yesterday, for the first time ever, a Cuckoo!”

Nature Reserves Sightings

The Steppe Eagle which escaped from Swinton Park has been found and caught at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Apparently she was happy to see her handlers and stepped straight onto the glove. Bird brained or what? A beautiful Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage has also been reported recently, a Marsh Harrier and three more late-leaving Whooper Swans.

Alan Croucher writes on 22 April, “We had a very enjoyable visit at Nosterfield – picking up just over 50 bird species. I forgot to mention that we had our first Swallow last week at Ripley and we saw more today. Other highlights were Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler (which was singing conveniently from a hedge just by the hide – and was visible too). There were a few more Avocets this week and we saw a couple of Orange-tip butterflies (as well as some Peacocks).

On Sunday 24 April, Robert Brown reported a Swift and Osprey at Farnham Gravel Pits, Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society private nature reserve.

Mandarin - Peter Thomson

Mandarin Ducks – Peter Thomson

Through Your Window

Colin and Ann Snelson from Middlesmoor report, “Saturday, 16 April, Middlesmoor, had our first pair of Siskins in the garden. Heard them first! As usual they were squabbling on the nut feeder. Never known them to be so late appearing. Usually it’s February. Walking in Lofthouse on 18 April saw the first pair of Swallows, but so far they haven’t made it up the hill.”

Adrian M Mosley, tells me, The Siskins are showing no desire to leave the garden feeders – they seem to have decided to stay – here we are mid-April. Goldfinches, Long tailed Tits and Nuthatch daily.” Adrian also saw some Whooper Swans at Nosterfield.

Peter Thomson, who sent in the moorhen photo on the feeder, writes, “he has been on his own for a week or two now which makes me think that his mate is sitting on her first clutch of eggs somewhere. At the moment there are no herons about so let’s hope that their efforts are more productive this year. I thought I should send you a photo of this pair of Mandarins which I saw from my bedroom window at 9 o’clock on Thursday morning. They were exploring the garden and when I opened the window to take some photos they saw me and wandered down towards the beck where they stayed for a few minutes for a photo-shoot before jumping into the water and heading off downstream towards the Nidd. The last time I saw one in the beck was a drake in February 2013 so I was particularly pleased to see a pair. They do seem to be rapidly increasing in numbers all over the country.”

Sue and Lawrie Loveless, “Photographed from just inside our glazed front door about 8.00pm, a Sparrowhawk.”

Outdoors Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Thursday 5 May Away Trip to Northumberland. Three nights in Northumberland. Booking essential


The Cuckoos and More, Are Coming!

Cuckoo (3) Michael Smithson

Cuckoo – Michael Smithson

How do we know? Well, they always have done. That’s not to say they always will, sadly cuckoo numbers have declined by half in the past 20 years, and since 2011 the BTO have been tracking them to discover what’s happening to them. Turn to the tracking web page and find out where they are. Of particular interest may be a couple of cuckoos, Coo (don’t shoot the messenger) and Vigilamus (again). These birds were originally given trackers on The North York Moors. Coo was in Ghana, around Lake Volta, on 24 March, where he rested and filled up with fuel for the journey ahead. At moment he seems to be in northern Africa, presumably about to swap continents, no passport control for him. Vigilamus has made a similar journey but is even further north, in northern Spain, probably nobut a spit and a chuck away in cuckoo terms, so keep an eye and ear open for this most iconic of avian summer visitors. If you do hear or see one then there’s some serious citizens science to indulge in. If you are a twit (is that what we call folk on Twitter?) then leave a message on #HeardaCuckoo. Some folk have already done so, but has anyone heard one locally? Let me know and let the BTO know via the Twitter page. This is purely non-scientific but I reckon the reason for the cuckoo’s demise is a lack of insects in this country. Cuckoos are one of the few creatures that like those big hairy caterpillars and how many of those do you see nowadays? Cuckoo numbers are standing up much better in Scotland and the more remote the more likely it is you will see and hear cuckoos, and as anyone who has visited Scotland will know they really do do much better for insects than we do. John Mather saw his first cuckoo of the year at Scar House Reservoir on Wednesday 20 April.

The BTO don’t only track cuckoos, however, they also are watching out, or have tracked Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Nightingales, Swifts and Nightjars. A look at these web pages gives a fascinating look into the lives of these many rare and declining species.

Through Your Window

Anne Richards, who lives some way from the countryside in Bilton reports, We were quite thrilled to see a willow warbler in our Bilton Garden enjoying the sun over the weekend of 9/10 April. Willow warblers may have visited before but we have never seen one.” I reckon it’s a tad unusual for willow warblers and for that matter chiffchaffs to travel so far away from the countryside.

Wildlife Politics

Carole Turner has asked me to publicise this petition to Ban toxic lead ammunition. Carole tells me, “It closes in three weeks and at present is lagging behind the Keep Toxic Lead Ammunition petition which is backed by the shooting industry”. The Government (DEFRA) is also sitting on the Lead Ammunition Group report, which Carole believes will support a ban, presumably hoping it will go away. Lead is a poison. Its continued use in ammunition poisons tens of thousands of birds each year and puts human health at risk. Safe, non-toxic ammunition is used in countries across the world. The UK supports an international agreement to ban lead ammunition. We should ban its use immediately. People eating grouse and pheasant are particularly at risk.

Nature Reserves

YWT Staveley, recent sightings include Blackcap and Whitethroat. Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers seem to be everywhere but the real delight – and it can be enjoyed absolutely anywhere – is the wonderful sounds all the birds are making. Get out and listen to them whilst you can.

Seen at Scar House Reservoir on 20 April, Ring Ouzel, Redstart, House Martin, Common Sandpiper and near the tunnel on Scar Road a Pied Flycatcher.

Recent RSPB Fairburn Ings sightings, Garganey, Bittern, Black-necked Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Arctic Tern, Little Gull, Cuckoo, Peregrine and Lesser Whitethroat.

More unusual, recent sightings at Nosterfield Nature Reserve include, Avocet, Whooper Swan, Black-tailed Godwit and Black-necked Grebe.

Puffin - Wendy Binns

Puffin – Wendy Binns

Your Sightings

Wendy Binns writes, “Lots of activity in the garden pond with frog spawn turning out like this. We had five frogs in the garden and this is the result. Look at all those legs!” Wendy contacted me later to say, “I am enjoying the birdsong in our garden. Absolutely amazing at 6am. We have a Wren nesting in an old box in the back garden and a Blackbird with a very long beak is putting it to good use by constantly sitting in our flower tubs and flicking the soil all over the patio. We have a lot of Goldfinches – up to 12 at a time on the feeders and Chaffinches, Blue Tits etc. The Magpies are very busy and no doubt will produce more. Last year they had young and were a nuisance. We went to RSPB Bempton last week and the Puffins are back

Anne Snelson heard her first chiffchaff at Beningbrough Hall on Sunday, 10 April.

John Mason, “On Sunday last (10 April) I spotted a swallow from the car while being driven along the A61 returning to Harrogate between Nun Monkton and Green Hammerton. Actually next to the roadside woodyard. I know it don’t make a summer but it’s a start.” Any swallow always gives me a lift.

Neil Anderson and Robert Brown recently visited Sir Henry Wood, a place not a person, near Ripley where they saw, Redpoll, Linnets and Brambling.

Cowslip - Alan Croucher

Cowslip – Alan Croucher

Alan Croucher and The Summer Wine trio continue their weekly jaunts and have enjoyed seeing the advancing evidence of spring. Alan writes, “I meant to mail you before to tell you what we’ve seen recently. We saw our first Sand Martins of the year – at Nosterfield, where we also saw some very attractive Ruff and a rather handsome Pintail among many others including Chiffchaffs which were seen as well as heard. Trish and I went for a walk along the Nidderdale Greenway again earlier this week (once more, Chiffchaffs were very much in evidence) where there were lots of Celandine and we noticed that it won’t be long before the Bluebells along there will be glorious as quite a few are already in flower. Bumble Bees were also very busy along there. We saw our first House Martins yesterday – just a couple, flying over Great Ouseburn. Then today (14th) Des and I went for a stroll along the path beside Ripley Castle and saw our first Swallows (as well as more Chiffchaffs). The Cowslips along there are very pretty.”

Wood Pigeons - Roger Litton

Leucistic Woodpigeon – Roger Litton

Roger Litton had a wander around RHS Harlow Carr recently and saw a couple of woodpigeons, one seemed to have a dilution of feather pigment (leucism).

Louise Bird, “I was delighted to see and hear my first Chiffchaffs of the season on 2 April on the Harland Way (footpath between Wetherby and Spofforth). Saw my first Sand Martins flying over the Wharfe in Wetherby on 10 April.”

Steve Kempson writes on 17 April, “I’d been wondering when we’d see some House Martins return to Knaresborough so was delighted to see a couple flying around the house yesterday. But I suspect the current cold weather won’t be suiting them, as I can’t see there being many insects on the wing for them to catch.” You are the first to report House Martins to me (I think). I wouldn’t worry too much, the Sand Martins seem to be doing OK at Staveley, not far from you. Apparently if the weather is bad they just fly further south, only to return when it picks up again. I have no idea how anyone can possibly know this, though!

Anne Brown, Summerbridge, “Nice surprise this morning (15 April), the first swallow has arrived back, hope there are many more to follow.

Moth Trapper Jill Warwick caught a pale pinion moth in her trap in early April, these are unusual moths to trap so far north and usually found mainly in more southerly counties.

Lisa, writes, “whilst out last Sunday with my dad, I spotted this butterfly in a field in Nether Hesleton Farm. It’s looking a bit shabby. Dad searched and found it is a Peacock butterfly.” If Lisa, her Dad or you want to know more about butterflies and help monitor them by recording sightings you can download this app from Butterfly Conservation ( It’s easy to use, helps protect declining butterflies and it’s free.

Peacock - Lisa (cropped)

Lisa’s Peacock Butterfly, notice how worn it is

Colin Harrison writes, “just reading your latest blog made me wonder when I last heard (never mind saw) a Yellowhammer. Have they disappeared?” Yellowhammer are a red data species in the UK but of least concern nationally. Most UK farmland birds are sadly declining, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still see them locally. Yellowhammer visit the bird feeders at Staveley Nature Reserve (, and can be seen in Bilton on the cycleway to Starbeck just before the track splits towards Starbeck and ASDA. Also in Bilton follow the railway track towards Ripley, cross the viaduct and they are found in a cutting just past the wood. Finally, and I haven’t visited this area recently, but the area north of Collingham seen from the footpath to Spofforth. For more info visit: BTO Bird Facts, Common By Nature, BTO Bird Trends.

Outdoors Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Sunday 24 April 11am Outdoor Meeting – Visit to RSPB Leighton Moss Meet at Reserve

Nidderdale Bird Club

Fri to Sun 22nd to 24th AprilWeekend trip to Teesdale

Declining Albatross and Smelly Fulmars

Buller's Albatross - Claire Yarborough

Buller’s Albatross – Claire Yarborough

Claire Yarborough has “just got back from a long trip including the Galapagos and New Zealand. Fantastic wildlife. We saw waved albatross doing their mating dances in Galapagos and Wandering, Royal, Bullers and Salvin’s in New Zealand. I saw you blogged about albatross and thought you might be interested. They are too special to be put in danger and need all the help they can get.” Kaikoura is the albatross capitol of New Zealand, possibly The World, and has up to 10 species there. Kaikoura is important for albatross because the deep canyon there is where cold and warm currents meet which result in plentiful quantities of food and albatrosses being such large birds they need plenty of that. They eat fresh squid, fish and krill which is broken down inside the adult’s tummy and fed to the young, young which need a massive 280 days to fledge. Albatrosses of all species, it seems, are in danger and decline and need all the help we can give them. Claire has sent me a photo of a Buller’s albatross which is endemic to New Zealand. The total breeding population is estimated at a mere 30,500 breeding pairs. Buller’s albatross are frequently observed in Kaikoura throughout the winter months, but are notably absent during the summer months during their breeding season, when they are more likely to forage closer to their breeding colonies. It’s not only Claire who has visited New Zealand recently; I was delighted to also receive a postcard from Josh and Sue Southwell who also went albatross watching and sent us a great postcard of a Northern Royal Albatross this time on a boat trip from Otago.

We don’t have any albatross in the UK, indeed they are absent from the whole of the Northern Atlantic, except as rare vagrants. We do however have fulmars, which belong to the same family. Fulmars are known as ‘tubenose’ and have a gland in their nose which is used to excrete salt. They also have an interesting defence mechanism, they projectile vomit and this can matt the feathers of avian predators and may even lead to their death. Any of you old enough to remember Chris Bonnington and Co climbing up the Old Man of Hoy (Jackie told me about it) will remember that they also used this as a defence against climbers. It apparently smells so vile that for a while afterwards your only friends may be on social media sites. Fulmar have one other interesting fact associated with them. When St Kilda was occupied, the people fed on the birds and their eggs. It is believed that this restricted the number of fulmar on the archipelago. Since St Kilda has been deserted fulmar have expanded and can now be found throughout the coast of the UK. Bempton Cliffs is a good place to find them.

Through Your Window

Moorhen - Peter Thompson

Moorhen – Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson of the Knox area of Harrogate, “thought this one might amuse you. I have had plenty of Goldfinches, Siskins and Redpolls on the nyjer feeder recently but this is a first. The feeder is six feet off the ground and I managed to grab the camera just before he jumped off.” I’ve never seen or heard of one actually on a feeder before, bird tables yes. My collared doves get on my feeders occasionally and perhaps like this moorhen (waterhen was a much better name) they have their back to the food chute and can’t turn round, bird brained or what?”

John Wade writes, “Saw and heard first chiffchaff in Rossett Reserve this evening. Spring is here!” When did you hear your first chiffchaff and or willow warbler?

BTO Big Garden BirdWatch

Chris Gale writes, “I’m really surprised by the comments in your blog that the Garden Bird population has declined this year. I think therefore that must be that they are all in our garden!! We seem to have more birds than ever visiting the feeder and generally hopping about and feeding in the garden, covering a wide range of species – blue tits, great tits, goldfinches galore, a couple of robins, chaffinches, greenfinches, pigeons, doves, often several male blackbirds, sparrows, dunnocks, are all daily visitors to the garden, and recently we have had regular visits from a male bullfinch and a couple of females, and also a tree creeper which we have never seen before. In fact some of the blue tits are now becoming a nuisance – having supplied them with daily sustenance are now rewarding us by stripping our trees of blossom!”

My response has no scientific basis, just my own views, so clearly subjective. The BTO Garden BirdWatch takes place throughout the country and monitors many, many gardens over all of the UK. Their findings are therefore a nationwide view and not a specific garden view. It could well be that in some areas locally birds are increasing and this could be due to a variety of reasons, better weather, less intensive farming, changing land and indeed garden maintenance, to name just a few. Chris’s reports are very encouraging and it would be great if this was true everywhere. Visits from birds not usually seen in your garden may indicate that they have had to resort to your feeders because there is no food elsewhere and this may demonstrate the importance of providing food for birds. It also demonstrates the importance of as many people as possible joining the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme. Mike Brown the local BTO Rep tells me, “GBW needs support, we find that talking to visitors at exhibitions and shows everybody knows about the RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch and they dismiss GBW as either the same thing (so job done annually) or too demanding to get involved with. Unlike the RSPB, the BTO has far fewer supporters and struggles to finance all its many and varied avian projects. Nevertheless I believe there are sufficient GBW supporters to make the results most relevant.” The other issue is best illustrated by a conversation I once had with a local farmer regarding declining hare numbers. He thought that there were plenty of hares on his land. That may be the case but it makes it even more important to look after those hares in places where they are still thriving otherwise they too may go the way of hares nationally. Chris really does have a good number of species visiting the garden, which is great news.

Say No To The Mow

Plantlife, the charity which campaigns for our wild flowers, has started this new project, Say No To Mow. Fancy saving on mowing and discovering what wild flowers you have in your garden? Set aside a sunny patch of lawn and ‘Say No To The Mow’. Let Plantlife know what you find in your mini meadow by posting to Twitter with the hashtag #mynomow. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Your No-Mow Zone can be any size or shape, however for best results try and make it at least a yard-squared.

  • Try placing your No-Mow Zone away from flowerbeds to make it less likely that it is invaded by garden plants.

Bees Buzzing Around Our Gardens

Neil Anderson rescued a female red-tailed bumblebee Bombus lapidarius. He writes, “This queen seemed dead but after sticking her proboscis into the sugary water buzzed off full of energy.” An excellent website for identifying bumblebees is Steven Falk’s Flicker page. Colin Slator has asked me to mention this petition designed to help save our bees. Bees are under threat, yet powerful lobbyists are putting together plans to get the UK ban on bee-killing pesticides lifted. Already 125,000 have signed the petition but the target, to protect our bees, is 200,000. Imagine if 200,000 of us raise our voices together against any attempts to lift the ban. Keep bee killing pesticides off our fields

Nature Reserves

At Nosterfield Nature Reserve a colour ringed ruff has been seen, did you get any good photos of it so that detail on the ring can be clearly seen? If so Tweet them at #nosterfield. Also there are now 42 pairs lapwing currently sitting, with a minimum of four further pairs nest prospecting, plus 13 pairs of redshank and curlew numbers looking good. Also seen a yellow wagtail.

RSPB Fairburn Ings, Sandwich Tern 3, Wheaters 1-2, Pintail 4, Little Gull 1, Common Tern 1 on 11/12 April there were still Whooper Swan and Pink-footed Geese passing through and Brambling on the riverbank, also 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Arctic Tern, 6 Little Gulls, first Whitethroat. First Sedge Warbler Saturday, first Cuckoo Sunday, total 10 Arctic Terns 12 April.

Dipper - Lisa Law

Dipper – Lisa Law

Your Sightings

Gwen Turner writes on 5 April, “Frog spawn at last! Only a small amount, nothing like the usual, appeared today. No sign of the parents though. Fingers crossed.” This is very disappointing, I wonder what your experience of frog spawn is this year, plenty, late, none at all, let me know.

Ian Law reports, “My daughter Lisa spotted a pair of dippers in Hebden Beck on our trip up to the disused lead mines this morning.” Photo of one of them attached. Interestingly I understand Hebden Beck is one of the most polluted streams in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, due to past lead mining activities.

I’ve just been up to How Stean Gorge and can report seeing or hearing these great birds, in or over the Gorge: Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Oystercatcher, Jackdaw, Black-headed Gull, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon, Grey Wagtail, Marsh Tit, Robin and Blue Tit. Flowers include Lesser Celandine, Dog’s Mercury, Saxifrage and the Wild Garlic leaves are getting big, flowers there next. Why not tell me what you have seen in Upper Nidderdale? Stan Beer tells me that at Scar House, the Ring Ouzels are back, Swallows at the tunnel, Sand Martins in the Gouthwaite Wall and an Osprey seen over Gouthwaite. What else is waiting to be discovered, let me know what you see.

Notes For Your Diary

Please reply direct to Sam Walker, Harrogate Countryside Ranger, at if you can volunteer to help on Friday 22nd April – Ure Bank, Ripon. Meeting at the car park at the end of Ure Bank Terrace at 10am to carrying out tree aftercare on the two areas planted last year. Work will be until about 2pm so bring food and a drink. Sam can also pick up in Harrogate or Knaresborough by arrangement.

Black Redstart Female - Brian Scarr

Female Black Redstart – Brian Scarr

Brian Scarr of Adel was lucky enough to find a female black redstart on his lawn.

Outdoors Events

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

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Wednesday April 20 19:30 – 21:30 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday 18th April (Evening)Annual General Meeting

Garden Birds in Trouble – You Can Help!

Great Tit - Julie AddymanGreat Tit – Julie Addyman

To learn more about Chacking Birds and White Bums visit my How Stean blog. Chacking is the onomatopoeic call of the ring ouzel and white bums are sported by wheatears.

2015 Poor Breeding Year for Garden Birds

The British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch results for 2015 are now available, and they reveal the full impact last year’s wet spring on our garden birds. Some of the birds that had a particularly poor year were those that are most familiar to us, such as Blackbird and Blue Tit. Your help is needed to find out if this year we will see common garden bird numbers recover from 2015’s poor breeding season. Many folk have been saying, at least to me, ‘our garden bird numbers are down, maybe because we have had such a mild winter that they are still finding food in the countryside.’ I have always felt this to be a bit dubious because my excursions into the countryside have revealed an equally worrying lack of birds. Even the number of winter migrants seems to me to be well down on previous years. My fears are based on interested observations rather than any scientific evidence; sadly the BTO are able to provide that evidence and it’s not good news.

The BTO tell us the annual results of the BTO Garden BirdWatch show an interesting story for some of our more common garden birds, with Blue Tit, Great Tit and Blackbird numbers all well below average during the second half of 2015. Blackbird numbers were 13% lower than usual between June and December, whilst both Blue Tit and Great Tit were at their lowest numbers on record for June, down 19% and 14% respectively. This is the time of year when the numbers of these species seen in gardens normally rises sharply, as juveniles leave the nest and join their parents at garden feeding stations. It is thought that these results were due to a poor breeding season, which was caused by cold, wet weather in the spring, resulting in fewer juvenile birds. Data collected by BTO Nest Record Scheme volunteers show that the number of chicks fledged per Blackbird nest in 2015 was the lowest since records began in the mid-1960s. Small clutches meant that numbers of young reared by both Blue and Great Tits were also significantly lower than average. For a full report for many of our familiar garden birds visit The BTO Garden BirdWatch web page. The BTO needs your help to discover more about our garden birds. We often enjoy watching ‘our birds’; well why not do it on a weekly basis, collect some simple records and contribute to the welfare of our wildlife. Visit the BTO Big Garden Bird Watch to find our more. Garden BirdWatch is funded through the annual subscription paid by its participants through an annual subscription of £17 and the BTO are extremely grateful for the support that they provide. Remember that the BTO is not well off hence the financial need. Join today and receive a free copy of GardenBirds & Wildlife (cover price £14.99). You’ll also receive four copies of Bird Table (their quarterly magazine), be able to access GBW Online (your very own web-based notebook for recording your garden wildlife) and get expert advice from the BTO to help you identify, understand and look after the wildlife in your garden.

Adder 200316 - Roger Litton

Adder – Roger Litton

Roger Litton writes, “In defiance of the weather forecast, this morning dawned bright and clear with not a cloud in the sky so I decided to set off early in the hope of adder-spotting on the moors above Greenhow. There is a south-east facing bank which (from experience of previous years) seems to be a hibernaculum where the adders hibernate over winter. In the spring the males come out before the females to bask and warm up in the early morning sunshine. This morning I spotted one adder – a male of course although a small one. As the photo shows, he felt me coming so retreated to a small hole where he coiled round (one can just make out his head looking fixedly at me from the top of the coils!). I suspect that we are still a little early in the season but over the next three or four weeks more and more should be visible – but only, of course, if the weather conditions are suitable; if it’s chilly or rainy the adders don’t come out!

Milner's Lane signMilner’s Lane – Keith Wilkinson

Grateful Thanks for a Job Well Done

Folk looking for Milner’s Lane here in Bilton, near the Gardeners Arms, can be grateful to a student from Grove Road Academy. Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group explains, “It’s the latest piece of work by a student from Grove Academy – re-instating the way marker on Milner’s Lane outside the Gardeners Arms. The original succumbed to wind, weather and vandals! These Secondary Students have difficulty coping with mainstream education and spend part of their week doing field craft such as this. Very gratifying to see them respond to a bit of close attention/support, especially when they can see a positive outcome from their efforts.”

Frog Spawn Update

Gwen Turner writes, “Oddly and sadly I have had only two frogs seen in our pond in Duchy Road (Harrogate) so far this year and no frogspawn. Normally the pond would have been churning for weeks and full of spawn. A friend in Starbeck similarly has had no frogs so far. I note from your blog that others have had lots of spawn in Wetherby and elsewhere. I hope that the frog virus has not reached Harrogate or are they just late?” I haven’t heard of any frog disease locally but let me know if you know better. However with all the pollution in the atmosphere it surprises me that even us humans are still alive. In 2010 The Mail Online stated that frog numbers had plummeted by 80%. I doubt that happened here but safeguards such as not moving frogs or spawn between ponds and sterilising all pond equipment after use seem a sensible precaution. Sue Southwell from Brompton near Northallerton tells me, “By the way our froggies were a bit late this year. They only started having fun last Tuesday!! However they have been at it pretty consistently since and we have a pond of frogspawn – much to our grandchildren Noah and Imogen’s delight! Though they had expected to see tadpoles the next day.” The miracle of metamorphosis isn’t that wonderful, but great to hear the grandkids are interested. Philip Woffinden “first noticed Frogspawn in our Mallinson Oval pond on 17 March, which is approximately 13 days later than the average date for the last five years, but only one day later than last year. There seems to be a fairly normal amount of it.” Sadly Gwen Turner still hasn’t had any more frogs visiting by 1st April.

Sam Walker from the Council tells me that someone has kindly volunteered to ‘house’ the goldfish from Bachelor Fields pond so our grateful thanks to that lovely person. Let’s hope the frogs continue to flourish know and no more goldfish are released into the pond.


Alan and Trish Croucher heard their first chiffchaff of the year at Blubberhouses on 20 March.

Neil Anderson followed up my recent notes on grey squirrel with a report he read recently stating that goshawk keep grey squirrel numbers in check. In Derbyshire for instance grey squirrel form 95% of the goshawks’ diet. A spot in Suffolk was reported to have 21 grey squirrel tails under the nest. Apparently goshawk also like rats, so, question to gamekeepers, what’s not to like about goshawks?

Rick and Trisha Brewis have reported the first bluebell flowers out in Nidd Gorge and a pair of barn owls seen daily on their land. Jackie and I saw a single barn owl quartering the Bilton Sewerage farm this week just before dusk.

Through Your Window

Mike Sims, tells me, “A pair of Robins wait for me every morning in my garden at Burnt Yates. When I whistle, they fly down to eat the meal worms I put out. They have now nested in an open fronted nest box and have already laid one egg!”

Sue Turner writes, “Just an update on our wildlife sightings. We now have two lots of frogspawn, the first appeared on 2nd March and the second lot on 25th March but we have still not seen any frogs! This seems to be the usual for our garden pond as we always get several lots of frogspawn but never see any of these lovely creatures at spawning time. We are still getting five or six Siskins daily and on 25th March we saw one male Brambling and two females at the same time. One of the females has been spotted most days pecking round the lawn or sitting in a tree but it does not go on any of the feeders. We have had Bramblings in previous winters but only in very cold weather so it was lovely to see the male in resplendent plumage. We are still getting a regular male Blackcap who visits all the different feeders. We have also had a couple of Redpolls which visited the sunflower hearts this week and heard our first Chiffchaff, but could not spot it anywhere, even with binoculars. We have three Blue Tits around and one has been overnighting in the box for a few weeks but there is no sign of any nesting material in the box. They have cleaned it out immaculately as there were a lot of droppings which had been deposited since we thoroughly cleaned it out in the autumn. We have had one male and one female Greenfinch this week, both looking very healthy together with two male and two female Bullfinches this morning. We have not seen any Long Tailed Tits since mid-February but see two or three Goldfinches daily together with seven or eight Blackbirds, who spend most of their time fighting.” Some great birds visiting Sue’s garden, I guess her frogs must be nocturnal, a bit late probably now but the sound of frogs calling is for me evidence that spring is round the corner and is surely one of nature’s most welcome sounds.

Nature Reserves

An unusual visitor to Nosterfield Nature Reserve recently, an eagle. Years ago we might have thought it was a juvenile from either The Lakes or Cheviots but this one is most likely a steppe eagle escaped from Swinton Park and wearing jessies. The steppe eagle’s diet is largely fresh carrion of all kinds, but it will kill rodents and other small mammals up to the size of a hare, and birds up to the size of partridges. I guess this means your pets and lambs are safe. Also seen recently at the Nosterfield complex were sand martins and a lone house martin, plus six ruff, a black-tailed godwit and a little egret. Also final count of lapwing nests yesterday was 29, so increasing all the time. Shoveler at 61 individuals also looks very promising.

The following are recent highlights at RSPB Fairburn Ings:

Whooper Swan Single on 30th, Pintail Pair throughout, Smew No sightings. Last report was of a redhead on 22nd. Goosander Present daily cut/Village Bay and river in declining numbers. Bittern Single heard booming most days.Little Egret 5+ pairs nest building. Max count 13 birds, Two birds with rings one of these paired up. Grey Heron Record breeding numbers (nearly double previous highest figure). 28+ nests most nests with young. Red Kite 1-3 daily. Marsh Harrier Single female/immature on 30th. The overwintering immature male appears to have departed.Osprey* Two northwest on 30th (1530 hours and 1620 hours). Avocet Present daily – Main bay and Hickson’s max 21. Little Ringed Plover Singles on 28th and 31st. Curlew Daily, max 11. Redshank Single on 26th. Kingfisher Daily. Charlie’s hide and Kingfisher screen at VC best spots. Peregrine Up to 2 daily. Willow tit Currently 8 singing males. Sand Martin Daily. Max count 600+ on 30th migrating northwest. Swallow First on 25th. Subsequently c5 daily. House Martin Single on 29th. Cetti’s Warbler Up to 4 singing males throughout Fieldfare Passage flock of 50 north on 29th..


A humble coot ringed in Pembrokeshire winged its way over to Latvia!

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.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday 11 April 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Ken Hutchinson “Ring Ouzels in Rosedale”