Calling All Young Birders

Common Lizard - Kat Simmons

Common Lizard – Kat Simmons

We all know how critically important it is for the future of our wildlife that young folk take up the cudgels and do whatever they can to help conserve our biodiversity. The BTO has recognised this and invites any birder aged sixteen or under on Saturday, 10 September 2016 who can tell the difference between a Marsh Tit and Willow Tit to enter a competition to find the Spurn Bird Observatory’s Young Birder of The Year. This is part of the Spurn Bird Observatory (SBOT) Migration Festival and is being run by the BTO, SBOT and the Next Generation Birders (NGB). Any young birder is eligible to apply by filling in the competition questionnaire online, answering questions such as whether or not you have a local patch, where you go birding further afield and if you can tell the difference between the songs of Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. The online questionnaire is the first part of the competition. Four entrants will be chosen to take part in the final that will be held on Saturday, 10 September at the Spurn Migration Festival. During that day they will answer questions on bird identification and distribution and be observed doing a visible migration watch and a seawatch, two challenging types of birding. All four finalists will need to be available on 10 September for the final at Spurn Point, and will need to be accompanied by a responsible adult. Entry to the Migration Festival and a camping pitch will be provided free for the finalists. The prizes last year included binoculars, field guides, free membership to SBOT and much more. Think you have what it takes? If you know someone who might be suitable then you know what to do.

Helping Wind in the Willows Theatre Production

Of course encouraging youngsters can take many forms and apply to many age groups and one way is theatre, which is precisely what Jo Smalley and Liz Baxandall are doing in Knaresborough – in collaboration with a professional production team to bring unique, journey-based theatre to Knaresborough’s Castle, Waterside, Wild Woods and Conyngham Hall this August. The community cast are all volunteers, giving their time to put on this exciting show. The show is all about those wonderful wildlife characters Mole, Ratty, Badger and Weasel, yes it’s an ambitious production of Wind in the Willows, the perfect way to get kids introduced to wildlife and to love wildlife. They need your help though, please, can you help by providing some props? The wishlist is a long one and includes items for Ratty and Mole for the Picnic Scene and include vintage picnic rugs, a flask, enamel white plates with blue rims, other suitable picnic items. Badger’s House needs his kitchen/lounge dressing and real vintage is needed, preferably not shabby chic or replica. Typical items required include logs for the fire, old dark wood furniture – anything considered for but including a dresser, old armchair, chairs, kitchen paraphernalia, 40 new enamel cups for the audience to drink out of, pictures, painting, fabric to hang from the ceiling, rugs and much more. Then there’s the Weasel’s Lunch Banquet, white table cloths, tankards and flip charts. Loads of stuff and it’s sure to be well used, encouraging kids to love wildlife so if you can help please send a photo of the item to Jo Smalley on email, I believe all goods will be returned but please check that out with Jo. The Group’s Facebook page is @knaresboroughwindinthewillows.

Your Sightings

David Mason is a self-employed gardener. For some time he had been feeding a robin worms in a garden on Yew Tree Lane. It recently brought him three chicks to join the feast.

Grey Heron - Andrew Dobby

Grey Heron – Andrew Dobby

Andrew Dobby,writes, “I do a bit of fishing and have seen plenty of Herons at fairly close range over the years but found an über friendly one in a park in Dublin. On our daily visit to the park and lake the Heron flew over to us each morning, just fantastic to see such a majestic bird at close range.”

Guillemot - Adrian MosleyGannet - Adrian Mosley

Guillemot & Gannet- Adrian Mosley


A number of you have been to RSPB Bempton Cliffs recently, including Roger Litton and Adrian M Mosley, sadly I can’t use everyone’s photos although I do try to include all your messages. Adrian writes “How we are blessed with such a location as RSPB Bempton Cliffs. My wife and I checked in yesterday to see how the season was progressing and sadly the decline in numbers does appear to be continuing according to RSPB staff. Having said that the cliffs were teeming with life (a few photos attached). What made it more impressive was the number of visitors, overflowing the car parks into adjacent fields. Spoke with a number of first timers – they were in awe of the spectacle – prompting a goodly number to join the RSPB on the spot. Perhaps there is some future as people appreciate the need to share our planet, with wildlife that also calls it home.” I do hope that more and more folk start to realise that we should share our planet with wildlife and not exploit it.

Carole Turner writes, “A bit of publicity about this in your newsletter would be much appreciated. For details see:- I have a Collared Dove nesting on two eggs in a bush by our back door. Also a Mallard has brought her newly hatched 12 ducklings into our garden today. Alas, this is her second brood as the first brood of eleven didn’t survive, not sure why – herons or rats maybe?” Many creatures prey on mallard chicks, which is why they have so many, they seem to be well down the food chain. How much this affects Mallard numbers I don’t know but suspect that nowadays, especially on bigger waterways, we see more and more Gadwell and less and less mallards. What do you think?

Tawny Owlet2 - Stuart Ibbotson

Tawny Owlet- Stuart Ibbotson

Nice photo of a Tawny Owl chick from Stuart Ibbotson, taken somewhere in the Nidd Gorge.

Jackdaw - Judith Fawcett

Leucistic Jackdaw – Judith Fawcett

Judith Fawcett writes, “sending you a photograph of a leucistic Jackdaw which visited our garden this week. Has anyone else seen it? Saltergate Drive, Jennyfields, Harrogate.

John Stockill was “walking down to Filey Brig as the tide went out and found two seal pups trapped in the rocks. Unfortunately one was injured so informed the RSPCA and monitored them till they came.” The pups look like they are Common Seal pups, please let me know if you think otherwise, I’m not sure, which is interesting because Common Seal pups can swim as soon as they are born, which means birth can take place on sand banks. Grey Seals on the other hand need a while before they can swim and must haul out on dry(ish) land such as Donna Nook whilst they learn to swim. Common Seals, despite their name, are much rarer than Grey Seals and I reckon the majority of seals we see are of the grey variety. Congratulations to John for doing his bit for wildlife.

Tom, from America, I think, writes, “Very interesting article (re swifts). I hope the Swifts do well in the future. It seems there are not as many Barn Swallows in our area as there used to be, even though the small insect and overall mosquito population (that they feed upon) has remained at a high level. Jill Warwick writes (14 May), “There are fewer Swallows (and House Martins) at the moment probably because of the colder weather in the Mediterranean, which is not conducive to northward migration. More will come through when the winds turn back to a southerly direction. With our House Martin cote (which Simon designed back in 1992), we’ve noticed two waves of arrivals – the first in late April, the next in early June. Happens every year but can’t explain why! Perhaps with the BTO’s current House Martin Survey (do encourage your readers to participate), we may answer this question.” I have also been told that swallows may nest further south on the continent and move further north as the weather and possible insect life improves, so the birds may already have had one brood before we see them.

Roger Graville, “Heard my first Cuckoo of the year today (15 May) near Silver Hill on the Pateley/Wath road. During seven decades I have only ever seen one cuckoo, despite having heard quite a lot. Maybe I should have read your comment earlier about them often being much closer than you think! Also saw numerous swifts in the same area.

Richard and Kat Simmons, “heard a Cuckoo at Guisecliff Woods on 14 May and again on the 15th. Also saw a Common Lizard (minus tail) on the same crags on the 15th warming itself on the timber stile, and two Swallows at Blazefield on the 17th.” Are there a few more cuckoos around this year? What do you think?

Seen at Parceval Hall on Monday, Spotted Flycatcher, a beautiful male Redstart, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Early Purple Orchids, heard Cuckoo.

Lower Ure Conservation Trust recent sightings include two peregrines seen in territory dispute over Flask Lake. First Redshank chicks out and a Reed Warbler on the Old Silt Lagoons today. Sanderling and Hobby at Lingham. Butterflies, Dingy Skippers, Brimstone, Peacock, Green-veined White, Large White, Wall and Small White. A very good selection of butterflies if I may say so.

RSPB Fairburn Ings some of the recent sightings included Bittern, Black-Necked Grebe, Garganey, Whimbrel, Ruff, Little and Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Black Tern, Arctic Tern, Cuckoo, Hobby and Peregrine.

2 thoughts on “Calling All Young Birders

    • Hi Tom, I’m sure you know corvids are generally more prone to leucism than many species and I have seen a completely white but not albino carrion crow but this is my first knowledge of such a jackdaw.


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