Butterfly Haven, Perhaps Heaven!

Six-belted Clearwing - Rex Bradshaw

Six-belted Clearwing – Rex Bradshaw

I was recently kindly invited by Rex Bradshaw to join him and his mate Alan on a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife’s Trust Brockadale Nature Reserve. Brockadale is roughly situated just east of the A1 a few miles south of Ferrybridge. The date was set and somehow Rex had chosen one of the year’s best day’s for butterflies. Now I have never seen marbled white butterflies before so I was rather hoping we might see one. In fact my luck was in, spectacularly in. We were still in sight of the parked car when we saw our first marbled white and I kid you not we must have seen over 100 by the end of the adventure. The reserve is of course managed for its flora and fauna and there are fields full of wild flowers including, in places, carpets of the superb clustered bellflower, a tall strikingly blue flower. These weren’t the only flowers, we also saw field scabious, greater knapweed and much much more. Similarly we didn’t just see marbled white butterflies but also enjoyed excellent views of ringlets, meadow browns, gatekeepers and skippers. The star butterfly was perhaps the dark green fritillary but it wasn’t the butterflies which stole the show but the six-belted clearwing moth. This unusual moth is mainly a specialist of southern Britain and it lives on calcareous soils. Brockadale is such a great nature reserve because of the magnesium limestone which outcrops there and because it is in a valley too steep for ploughing. We have around 15 species of clearwing moths in the UK, so called – and no surprises here – because you can see through the wings, simple? This gives them the appearance of a wasp or hornet and no doubt offers them the protection they desire. These fascinating insects are very difficult to see, indeed, certainly in the past, folk looked for their frass (droppings) and exit holes of their caterpillars to find them. Nowadays it seems that pheromone lures are the best way to see them. Their wings aren’t entirely clear and this offers one way of distinguishing them from wasps. Incidentally why do folk consider wasps a pest and feel the urge to dispose of them. They are important pollinators and provide important services in our gardens, just ignore them and you should be fine. The six-belted clearwing feeds on common bird’s-foot trefoil and the larvae feed within the stems of this delightful flower. If you fancy going to Brockadale and it really is worth a visit then pick a sunny day and go soon before the butterflies disappear.


A Gathering of Green-veined Whites

Hen Harrier Plan Fails

The RSPB have announced that they have pulled out of the Hen Harrier Action Plan. The reason they cite is “The voluntary approach of the Hen Harrier Action Plan has failed, leaving licensing as the only viable option.” Illegal killing of hen harriers remains, in 2015 before the agreement there being just six successful hen harrier nests from 12 attempts in England. In 2016 and despite the agreement and the shooting industry’s promises even these lamentable figures have not been achieved. There are apparently only three hen harrier nests in England and none of these are on moorland. The conclusion therefore is that legislation is the only way to achieve protection for our hen harriers and all the other birds of prey which fail to survive life on grouse moors. The law continues to be broken, it needs strengthening. What the RSPB believe needs doing is to introduce a Licensing Scheme, “not to tar everyone with the same brush, or blaming a whole community for the actions of the few. Quite the opposite: it is effectively a targeted ban that will stamp out illegal activity and drive up the environmental standards of shooting.” Maybe such a license can also protect our moorlands from illegal and inappropriate burning, mountainside dredging which forces water into people’s homes as well as allowing predators of all descriptions to survive and enhance the ecosystem. In the interests of fairness, although perhaps not accuracy, read The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s views here.

Barn Owl2 - Steve Tomlinson

Another great photo from Steve Tomlinson, this time a superb barn owl.

Biodiversity in Unsafe Decline

I know I keep mentioning it but sadly these subjects don’t seem to be important to the decision makers and we need to act now to reverse the situation, we need the decision makers to take action. An international team of scientists has issued a warning that biodiversity is dropping below safe levels for the support and wellbeing of human societies. Our local ecosystems affects such things as crop pollination, waste decomposition and regulation of the carbon cycle. These ecosystems depend on the biological diversity within them to function. This is the conclusions of an Internationsl Group of Scientists in a peer reviewed report in a recent copy of Science magazine. You need to subscribe for the full article which can be found here.

Campaigns – Woodland Trust, “Enough is Enough”

The ancient woodland habitats of the UK are our earliest native woods and priority wood pasture, and our oldest and most impressive trees. They are our richest land-based habitats; there’s still so much we can learn from these natural wonders. They are defenceless. Despite being such treasures our ancient woodland habitats are not fully protected. Many people are surprised to learn they have no legal status, and they have very little (sometimes no) real protection from development, climate change, tree pests and disease, inappropriate management, intensive land use and more. Enough is enough. These ancient habitats need proper protection now, before we lose them forever. With your help, we can change their fate. Visit here for more details.

Free Seeds

Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and they have 100,000 FREE wild flower seed packets to give away to people all over the UK. Any space can be transformed – from balconies to old boots, streets to shared spaces, boxes to buckets. Anyone can sow and grow wild flowers – it’s quick, easy and fun. Each seed packet contains country specific native wild flower seeds – and autumn is a great time to get sowing. Just go online to get your FREE seed packet

Your Sightings

'Feed me! - Ian Willson'

Ian Willson has sent this photo of an adult song thrush feeding its young and it perfectly encapsulates that situation where we humans think, “why can’t the damn thing feed itself?”

Shirley Dunwell, from Bilton, wrote on 19 July, “My observations recently have been restricted (not through choice) to my own garden but in some ways it has focused my attention as to how busy my patch is. The dunnock is very busy and with signs of nest building early June, I am hopeful of finding evidence of their nest later on. There was at least one success – for the sparrow hawk – in its panic a goldfinch hit my window and was immediately taken. A greater spotted woodpecker has visited at least twice, around 6-7am, tempted by the fat balls and then checking out the trunk of my large juniper tree. This was lovely to see and has actually made me rethink my plan to have this ‘not very attractive’ conifer removed. NB mature trees are more useful to wildlife. I am surprised that during these summer months of ‘plenty’ how hungry the birds are. I only regularly put out three types of food: fat balls are beloved by the quarrelsome starlings (particularly this year’s brood) and also house sparrows. Sunflower hearts in the feeders attract goldfinch, greenfinch, bullfinch, chaffinch. (I used to regard chaffinch as ground feeders, but they certainly seem to have mastered the feeder balancing act). Mealworms are the blackbirds’ absolute favourite, one female with still demanding adult-sized young has become very bold, flying onto windowsill to demand more and even coming inside when door is open. I must mention the other regulars: magpie, wood and feral pigeons, jackdaw, rooks and collared dove. Sadly no identifiable butterfly sightings as yet – just a few cabbage whites and one harlequin ladybird”. Some lovely birds, what birds do you get in your garden and are your birds hungry?

Doug Simpson writes, “Should 2016 go down as the year of the chiffchaff? I’ve never previously heard so many calling as I have this year. Just about everywhere I go there’s one singing away. I don’t know about their actual breeding success – others will be better informed than I am on this point. I’m hoping it’s not a case of lots of males and no females – hence all the calling.” I have certainly heard plenty of these birds calling but like Doug don’t really know the answer, are there more chiffchaffs, are there just more males, have you any ideas?

June Sharp, “Wild flower verges would be brilliant! Yellands wild flower meadow is my favourite! As an elderly gardener my cottage garden is my meadow as I can no longer travel the open countryside. Insects are plentiful but have only seen three butterflies this week. I live in the beautiful village of Galphay on the edge of Nidderdale.”

Val Rogers, Bilton, “I have been walking the dog a bit earlier than usual over the last three days, mainly in the field at the back of Tennyson. Each day I have seen the barn owl flying low over the field from the Nidd end down to Willow Woods, then over the track to the other side. I have only seen it once before about four weeks ago when walking in the evening with Keith Wilkinson and members of the Nidd Gorge Advisory Group. I was very lucky this morning (24/7/16), I spotted it as soon as I entered the field, quartering from one side to the other swooping now and then, when it reached Willow Woods it turned and came halfway back up the field, before flying over the track to the other field. That’s it for today I thought, but no after about 20 minutes it was back. What a privilege!” Val’s right, it’s always a privilege to be able to enjoy our wildlife and beyond me why so many feel compelled to destroy it.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include common redstart, redshank, common sandpiper, little ringed plover, little egret and yellow wagtail. The barnacle geese have been joined by a black swan, colour ringed little egret, common darter dragonfly, ringlet, meadow brown, small white & gatekeeper butterflies. A little grebe with young travelling on its back and the last juvenile avocet has been ringed.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Highlights include whooper swan, as many as six garganey, little egret, spoonbill, red kite, marsh harrier, golden plover, ringed plover, little ringed plover, curlew, black-tailed godwit, dunlin, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, common gull, yellow-legged gull, hobby, peregrine, whinchat.

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

Mike Smithson reports, Seven mandarin ducks flew into the farmer’s pond on Midgeley Lane, Goldsborough on 24/7/16.”


Is Austerity Saving Our Grass Verges?


Wrexham Wild Flower Verge – Ian Humphreys of Ian Humphreys Photography

There’s probably not much to be grateful to austerity for but it seems to have stopped North Yorkshire cutting their grass verges and as a consequence they are now blooming with wild flowers and that’s great news for our insects. It may of course be a deliberate North Yorkshire policy to help and enhance our wildlife, whatever, let’s be grateful. There are a few maverick grass verge cutters, boys on toys riding amok on our country lanes on seated lawn mowers and in places the verges have a thinnish safety strip cut along the road side. Mainly however we have umbellifers and cranesbill adding colour and insect food and habitat to our roadsides. According to The Independent The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed less than one per cent of the 1.4m named species of invertebrates, yet of those studied about 40 per cent are considered threatened. Invertebrates constitute 80 per cent of the world’s species yet one in five could be at risk of extinction, scientists found. A word of warning here, strangely this report has a photo of a monarch butterfly attached, surely everyone knows monarch butterflies are American? Makes me wonder about the credibility of the article, but let’s assume the figures are correct. This depressing news is confirmed, however, out by Butterfly Conservation’s The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report which states, “The new analyses provide further evidence of the serious, long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies, with 70% of species declining in occurrence and 57% declining in abundance since 1976.” Perhaps naively, I tend to trust wildlife organisations’ claims more than I do those of politicians. Flowers and insects are of course near the bottom of the food chain and maybe soon we shall be seeing more kestrels and barn owls hunting our verges for the voles which this long vegetation will provide homes for. Mostly the flowers I see blooming are members of the umbellifers family, mainly white with a flat top consisting of numerous smaller flowers, umbellifers, such as cow parsley, which is great for insects and it’s rare to find them without something enjoying them. What’s more, the insects aren’t just restricted to bees, they attract all kinds of beetles and flies, look for some splendid longhorn beetles for example. The other flowers we are seeing at the moment on the verges are cranesbill, the blue variety meadow cranesbill, which many folk grow in their gardens especially to attract insects and which often teem with bees of various types, bumble, honey and hoverflies, there are lots of other flowers but these are the most prominent when viewed from your car.

Ian Humphreys, of Ian Humphreys Photography, has tweeted a photo of wild flowers planted, for bees, on a road verge near Wrexham and it looks ‘absolutely fabulous’, Chris Packham’s words not mine. Lovely attractive bright colours and excellent pollinator plants and as best I can see from the photo, consisting predominately of indigenous plants. The bees must be loving it. I also believe that in France many villages grow small plots of pollinating plants for the insects and these again are not only good for the insects, they help the farmers and add a delightful bright aspect to any village. Well my question is why don’t we try to do the same in Nidderdale and Harrogate? I envisage small flower plots planted with plants which flower throughout the ‘insect season’ in every village and around Harrogate. Surely something relatively easy to do, which would enhance the corner of any village whilst at the same time doing something positive for our countryside. Contact me by email if you are interested in starting something locally and let’s start planning for next year.

Little Owl - Robin Hermes

Little Owl – Robin Hermes

Your Sightings

Robin Hermes, took, this little owl photo near Beckwithshaw.

Blackcap - Christine Dodsworth

Juvenile Blackcap – Christine Dodsworth

My apologies to Christine Dodsworth for the late inclusion of this email, “I took these photos this morning out of our front window of a baby blackcap. The parents were flitting about and I saw the male blackcap land nearby. We live in Earley in Berkshire now but it is interesting to hear about the wildlife where we grew up in Harrogate, and still sometimes visit. The goldfinches have been feeding on the centaureas in our garden so I have not cut the plants back so that the birds can get the seeds. We live in an urban area but do get lots of birds visiting the garden. We have many red kites around here and I am sure they whistle when they see somebody below as if to say ‘feed me’ as people (including us) put out their leftover chicken carcasses to see the red kites swoop down to take them. A few weeks ago we were in Sicily and there were lots of swifts there. I read your blog about swifts. We used to have house martin nests under the apex in the eaves and the house martins came back every year but eventually stopped altogether and we hardly see any house martins now. I’m not sure leaving leftover chicken carcasses is good for juvenile kites, kites eat raw meat and cooked meat may well affect the development of youngsters.

Tony Rogerson writes, “I totally agree with John Wade’s recommendation of a visit to Long Nanny. I was fortunate enough to be one of the National Trust’s wardens at this site in 2007. Camping in the middle of 3,000 Arctic terns for 3 1/2 months was an awesome experience! There were many ups and downs during the season, ranging from nightly encounters with a grasshopper warbler in a lone hawthorn in the sand dunes, to being helpless as spring tides decimated the tern colony in the middle of the night (when some eggs were ‘rescued’ and kept in a warm oven until the tides receded AND went on to hatch!). I can provide some photos if this would be of interest.”

A delighted Bernard Atkinson tells me, “My wife and I were looking out of our cottage window near Bickerton, Wetherby today during the torrential rain, and were absolutely amazed and delighted to see a kingfisher sitting on our washing line – it looked around for a few minutes before flying onto the top of a garden archway and then flew away but we were able to glimpse its beautiful blue plumage. The nearest water to us is some disused brick ponds about 100 yards away and this is the first time we have spotted a kingfisher near our home – we usually have to travel miles to spot one (and even then it’s only for a fleeting moment).”

Gwen Turner, “I am delighted to report that I saw my first goldcrest in about 25 years in the ivy in the front garden in Duchy Road. Some days later a tiny nest was found on the terrace at the back of the house which I think is a goldcrest’s. I can only hope that if there was a brood that they had fledged before their home suffered a catastrophe.”

Mullein Moth Caterpillat - Max Hamilton

Mullein Moth Caterpillar – Max Hamilton

Max Hamilton stood and watched “a field mouse jump from my hawthorn hedge to my peanut bird feeder today, never seen that before.” Rodents are often attracted to feeders, especially wood mouse, the ones with the big ears. Max has also sent me a photo of a mullein moth caterpillar.

Joan Hill asks, “Where are all the ladybirds this year? I don’t think I have seen a single one in the garden and usually there are quite a few around. Hopefully the butterflies will arrive once the sunshine decides to come out and stay out (if it ever does). The buddleia is covered in flower buds but not open yet.” You should never answer a question with another but where are all the insects, per se? I suspect it’s a combination of wet summers and perhaps mild winters caused by climate change coupled with our relentless use of chemicals on the farm and in the garden and home. Another issue is the early flowering of plants and your buddleia seems to be around a month early. It doesn’t coincide with the insects’ lifestyle and therefore food plants aren’t available for the insects to survive on.

Thruscross reservoir - Stephen Tomlinson

Thruscross Reservoir – Stephen Tomlinson (Nidd Gorge Photography)

Stephen Tomlinson sent a lovely photo of Thruscross reservoir in tranquil mood.

An interesting photo from Ian Wilson, “I thought you might like to see how resourceful those damned squirrels can be when faced with a supposedly ‘squirrel-proof’ seed feeder!” Brilliant.

Steve Whiteley, “Just a few sightings on my rambles this week. I had occasion to be in Glasshouses this week so took the time to stop off at the bridge at the bottom of the village. This has been a good spot to see dippers and grey wagtails in the past. I have also seen treecreeper, nuthatch and blackcaps in this area in the past. Alas, none of these were present this time. However, I was treated to the blue flash of a kingfisher flying under the bridge and along the line of the river. I was also treated to a good view of a spotted flycatcher which conveniently used the tree next to the bridge as its staging post for its regular hunting trips. More locally, I have had a hummingbird hawkmoth visit the plant in my front garden in Starbeck which was good to see.” Strangely I was also at Glasshouses recently and also saw very little, less than you in fact. Hummingbird Hawkmoth is, I think, the first I have heard of this year. Spotted flycatchers seem to be here in slightly better numbers than recent years, is that your observation?

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve: Some of the flora and fauna reported from Nosterfield: Common redstart, Yellow wort and dog rose,

RSPB Fairburn Ings: Just a few birds seen recently at Fairburn Ings, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. Maybe the autumn wader passage has started? Also Little Gull, Hobby, Peregrine, Cetti’s warbler, Grasshopper Warbler.

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings. Dr Jim Irving and possibly David Gilroy report the sighting of a turtle dove on the telephone wires alongside the road, just outside Minskip on the Minskip-Ferrensby road. Very good news, especially as I had declared our area’s turtle doves extinct.


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

Bilton Conservation Group have organised a Balsam Bash at Grange Quarry on Saturday, 23 July. Meeting at 9.30 in Pets at Home car park. “We have been removing balsam for a couple of years now and have made a difference! If we can remove all the balsam from a couple of open areas Sam Walker the HBC county ranger plans to spread the hay from the wild flower meadow later this year.”

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough: Saturday 23rd July from 10am. Balsam Bash, Meet at the entrance. Bring some gloves, a drink and wear long sleeves. Everyone Welcome.

Harrogate RSPB Group: Wednesday 24 August 7:00pm Outdoor Meeting – YWT Staveley

Turtle Doves Population in Tailspin

Please keep sending those sightings, photos and questions.

Turtle Dove - Jill Pakenham BTO

Turtle Dove – Jill Pakenham/BTO

Published this month the latest Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report has some very sad news regarding the beautiful Turtle Dove, declining by 93% since 1994. This trend is mirrored across Europe, with a decline of 78% between 1980 and 2013. Many of you will recall seeing Turtle Dove in the Harrogate District. I have a particularly vivid memory of visiting a turtle dove site near Nosterfield with June Atkinson and Robert Brown some years ago and encountering a very angry swarm of bees, so angry world land speed records, on foot, were broken and painful stings extracted. Oh! No Turtle Dove either, or probably since, at that site. Another site for Turtle Doves locally was near Roecliffe, again to my knowledge sadly no longer. Turtle Doves are our only migrating dove, which sadly, as they travel from West Africa brings them into conflict those nasty southern Europeans who take pleasure from hunting them. Avoid Malta for your holidays.

Turtle Dove also need loads of seed to feed their young and open water and mature scrubby areas to live in and such areas are declining in this country. They are also believed to suffer from the trichomonosis parasite, that’s the one that has also devastated greenfinch numbers, so another worry. One cause for this decline is thought to be the lack of seed from arable plants, which historically formed the bulk of Turtle Dove diet during the breeding season, resulting in a much shorter breeding season with fewer nesting attempts. Other factors include climate change and changing land use in their African wintering grounds, which has affected food availability. You can still see Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire, if you are lucky. Likely spots include the top of Sutton Bank, last year they even used the feeding station at the visitor centre, it may be however that they has stopped providing food because of the risk of transmitting disease. Also Dalby and Wykeham forest are both possible places. I don’t know where to look in Dalby but in Wykeham try near the raptor viewpoint. Listen out for the soporific purring call. ‘Turtle’ has no connection to the reptile but is a corruption of the French word tourterelle which according to ‘Birds Britannia’ is closely onomatopoeic of the song. The Turtle Dove is our fastest declining bird and sadly is declining equally across Europe. Fortunately farmers are helping with Operation Turtle Dove and there is thankfully some hope for this delightful little dove.

Painted Lady - Robin Hermes

Painted Lady – Robin Hermes. Look out for these migrant butterflies there may be an influx soon

Big Butterfly Count

Starting this Friday, 15 July and running until 7 August, this is another example of citizen science, and it’s your chance to join in and monitor how well our butterflies are faring. You may already have a feel for the result and therefore can I implore you to take part and send your results, because there seems to be very few butterflies around this year and it really is important to highlight this so the powers that be can take appropriate action. The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 52,000 people took part in 2015, counting over 580,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK. It seems that most of these folk were from Down South because the sightings page shows no returns from the Nidderdale AONB or Harrogate, so let’s change that this year. You can download an app to submit your returns or just complete an online form. The online form even allows you to send in nil returns and I suspect these are as important as actual sightings. If your butterfly identification skills are not so good, no need to worry, you can download an identification chart. The website with all the info is Big Butterfly Count and it seems fairly straightforward I think, even I can manage it, so give it a go and also if you have time let me know what you see and where.


Firstly there is some news regarding the pole trap incident on Widdale Fell. North Yorkshire Police have reviewed the investigation and concluded that if the correct guidelines had been used, it is likely that the man would have been charged, rather than cautioned. I have received the following reply from Paul Irving regarding last week’s worry about raptors been deliberately culled locally. Paul writes, “of course our birds of prey are being culled and not just Red Kites, how do you think that our grouse moors are kept breeding Peregrine free, Hen Harrier free, why Short Eared Owls have become incredibly scarce in the last 20 years or why on many shooting estates breeding Buzzards do very poorly. If people want to put a stop to this they need to be very vigilant as Doug (Simpson) says but also to sign the petition the ban driven grouse shooting easily reached through Mark Avery’s blog. This week in a small way I have helped Mark, Chris Packham and Raptor Persecution UK make series of short films on local moors which will soon appear on YouTube. The first is about Marks and Spencer’s plans to sell shot red grouse. Just put Chris Packham into a YouTube search. The others should follow shortly and will be quite informative.” Please note this petition is Mark Avery’s third attempt at getting sufficient signatures and therefore please ensure you have signed this one as well as previous ones. Andy Hanby writes, “This seems highly likely – it’s the Wild West up here with not enough sheriffs.” Charles Gibson says, “We should have the same law as Scotland. The land owner is prosecuted for a dead bird.”

Your Sightings

Lisa Walch wrote: “Last week in woodland near Roseberry Topping I spotted a juvenile bird on the ground as yet unidentified. It was crouched so I couldn’t tell its height but it was about seven inches head to tail. It had a curved long beak similar to a Curlew. Its body colour was tan and it had rows of black spots on its back. Unfortunately it flew off before I could get my camera ready. Wondered if it could be a Whimbrel?” Thanks for your kind comments and question. Whimbrel (look at the images) are flying through on early passage now, but are much more likely to be seen on the coast or at a gravel pit or area of open water, they are also very rare so sadly unlikely. I’m tempted to suggest it was a Woodcock although they have a long straight beak and if you got a good view of the beak woodcock is eliminated. The habitat is a typical woodcock place. It may also be Snipe but the beak suggests most likely Curlew. Sorry not sufficient information to go on. Did it call when it flew away, both Whimbrel and Curlew probably would, Woodcock and Snipe less likely.

Green Shieldbug - Steve Whiteley

Green Shieldbug – Steve Whiteley

Steve Whiteley kindly writes, “Still really enjoying your blogs which I find very informative. I envy some of your contributors who sound as though they have their own nature reserve in their back garden! My little patch of Starbeck is very tame in comparison. I normally keep an eye on any visitors to my garden and have had a good selection of moths over the years although so far this year they have been conspicuous by their absence. However, following your comments about bugs, I did spot the ‘bug’ in the enclosed photo which I believe is a winter version of the Green Shield Bug, although if any of your experts have a different view I would be pleased to hear what it actually is. I have also enclosed a photo of a Bee Fly which I have previously seen in my garden. A curious looking creature. I was really pleased to see a female Bullfinch on my bird feeder this morning which is a first. It is normally confined to a greedy woodpigeon, a gang of house sparrows and a few intrepid Great, Blue and Coal Tits who dodge the Woodpigeon.

Large Bee Fly - Steve Whiteley

Large Bee Fly – Steve Whiteley

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Main lake 5 Ringed Plover, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Little Egret, 1 juvenile Redshank

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough

Jo Smalley tells me she found loads “and I mean loads of Peacock caterpillars on the nettles tonight with the kids. Mark Hunter has photographed some beautiful dragonflies there, including a Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker and Emperor Dragonfly.


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

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough

Sunday, 17 July from 10am and Saturday, 23 July from 10am. Himalyan Balsam Bashing. Meet at the entrance, Bring some gloves, a drink and wear long sleeves. Everyone Welcome.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday 18th July (Evening) – Bouthwaite Moor and the Sand Martin Wall

Are Raptors Deliberately Being Culled?

IMG_3788 (2)Banded Demoiselle Damselfly on Yellow Water Lily at High Batts Open Day

Some very worrying observations from Jon Burge, “In 2009 I saw my first red kite in Birstwith, as the introduced population expanded from Harewood; and appearances gradually increased over the years. In the last two years, seeing three red kites at once and three buzzards at once has been commonplace, even daily; and on rare occasions all six were visible at once. This has been very good news for people who enjoy the sight of these birds. This was the population that patrolled the Nidderdale area that I can see – bounded roughly by Burnt Yates, Hampsthwaite, Darley, Thornthwaite. Of course these particular birds range farther away and I see them when sunlight and the prevailing winds provide an updraft on the north side of the river towards Burnt Yates and they get a free ride. Such sights are very bad news for the shooting industry. The buzzards do not exclusively dine on live rabbits, and the kites dead ones. They pose a real danger to the young of game birds and waders. As the game birds are worth scores or hundreds of pounds each to hunting estates, the sight of large raptors sailing around in unprecedented numbers has to be worrisome. I have not seen a single buzzard or red kite in Birstwith for the last two months. The nearest red kites I have seen recently are the population that flies between the Bilton side of Harrogate and Killinghall/Hampsthwaite. The population that patrolled the Hampsthwaite-Darley area has vanished, but given the news of systematic shooting of raptors in the area, they have been wiped out. Of course the incidence of raptor shooting/trapping/poisoning is many times the reported cases because a great many dead birds are undiscovered for each one that has been found and reported. The shooting industry is the prime suspect. While I have some sympathy with the shooting industry and their land management, it is shameful that they are denying me, and the public in general, the sight of these splendid raptors. Hunting should be prohibited in the estates near where killed raptors are found for a year or two. This will put economic pressure on the estate managers to protect the raptors. In the likely event that this cannot be made possible legally, activists should disrupt hunting on these estates.”

Illegal Activites

Doug Simpson, the ‘Red Kite’ man is better able to respond to this than I am. “The concerns you have expressed regarding missing kites are also reflected in some other areas which I monitor. I agree entirely with you that there are bound to be more shot kites out there than the six so far discovered. This has been a factor of great concern for many years in relation to illegal poisoning, we having long suspected that those found undoubtedly represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However, it would appear that the perpetrators are now becoming more brazen in their illegal activities by not only shooting kites, but leaving them to be found when I’m sure that some of them, at least, could have been retrieved and disposed of without anyone knowing. This suggests that they are seeking to make a point – that kites are not welcome. The Police and the RSPB are fully aware of these shooting incidents and of the further three kites which are currently being tested for traces of poisons which could have been responsible for their deaths. I’m increasingly coming across people who tell me that there are too many kites. I ask them what they mean by ‘too many’, only to have the same thing repeated. The truth is that they have no answer. There is a further factor at play here, though, and this relates to the overall food supply, year round, which is essential to maintain a significant population of raptors, particularly the bigger ones such as kites and buzzards. I am aware that there is currently a shortage of rabbits in some areas due to disease and this is bound to have a knock-on effect on species for which they form part of their regular diet. Ultimately the populations of kites and buzzards will find their own sustainable levels based on the regularly available amount of food. There is no easy answer. During the 35+ years in which I have been involved in bird of prey monitoring and protection in Yorkshire, I have only twice been directly involved in cases which have resulted in successful prosecutions. Both involved peregrine falcons in the Dales and were results of lucky breaks. Realistically, I feel that we need more of the same if we are to catch whoever the people are who consider themselves above the law in this respect. People out and about in the countryside can play a major role here. I keep a breakdown of figures showing the means by which illegally killed kites have been discovered. Top of the list are walkers who have reported suspicious findings, resulting in confirmation of the causes of death.”

Be Vigilant

Can I appeal to anyone out and about, ramblers, bird watchers, dog walkers, anyone who sees anything suspicious such as a bird that has been poisoned or shot or that its nest has been illegally destroyed then please contact the Police on the new nationwide non-emergency number immediately, where you will connected to your local force: Police 101. To report sick or injured birds, please contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234999. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

Lime Hawk Moth - Roger Litton

Lime Hawk Moth at High Batts Open Day – Roger Litton

High Batts Open Day

Roger Litton “went to the High Batts Nature Reserve open day on Sunday, 3 July. The many volunteers were welcoming and informative. I spent some time in the smaller bird hide which overlooks the river and was delighted to have four or five sightings of kingfishers. The river was quite high and I and the volunteer manning the hide saw them both flying and diving for fish. The reserve had two mist nets rigged which enabled them to undertake bird ringing and there was also a moth enthusiast present who was showing the results of the previous night’s moth trapping (fewer than he would have hoped as the night and morning were chilly but still an impressive selection). At the far end of the reserve two volunteers were organising pond dipping; there were damselflies around the ponds but few dragonflies were around – mainly by the paths rather than by the ponds. The reserve was offering free refreshments and had organised a portaloo! There were displays by various natural history organisations plus another volunteer making bird boxes. This was an excellent day out, particularly as the weather was good.” Tony Knowles tells me “it was the best attended Open day ever”. I have just discovered that High Batts have a web site, so visit to find out more and maybe even consider joining. It’s a great place to chill out amongst nature.

Pond Dipping – Open to Public

On Saturday 9th July 2016 you are invited to attend a pond dipping session at the Rossett Local Nature Reserve. Come along and see if you can find some of the amazing wildlife inhabiting your local ponds. The session will be running from 10am to 11am. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Equipment will be provided. Please note, this event is free and you do not need to book but depending on the popularity of the event there may be a short wait to get on to the dipping platform.


Pond Dipping is only available at one of our public events organised by people licensed to deal with Great Crested Newts. Please do not pond dip on your own. If you are a group or organisation and wish to pond dip then please get in touch with us using our contact form.

Biodiversity in Danger – Our Declining Flora and Fauna

I have been invited to give a talk on the above subject to Nidderdale Climate and Environment Group at the Broadbelt Hall, Glasshouses on Monday, 11 July at 7:30pm. It would be great if you could come and support me and our biodiversity. Just a quick taster, The 2013 State of Nature report tells us that 60% of species have declined over the past 50 years, 35% have declined strongly. Find out why and let’s see what we can do about it.

Email Problems

I don’t understand why but I am getting a number of rejected emails and would request that if you wanted to ensure receipt of my blog that you consider following me by clicking the follow button on the blog, inserting your email address and responding to the subsequent email asking for confirmation. Alternatively if you are sick of the blog then just email me asking to unsubscribe.

Ringlet - Roger Litton

Ringlet Butterfly at High Batts Open Day – Roger Litton

Your Sightings

Morrison’s White Crow

Edna Barker writes, “I do not know much about crow behaviour but they generally seem to be pretty solitary. I have never seen the white crow, which lives near Morrisons, when there have been any other crows to be seen. Last night (beginning of June) the white crow sat on a tree on the old railway embankment for a considerable time on the branch immediately above a black one. They then sat side by side – I think it was the black one that moved – for an even longer time until the white one flew to a tree 20/30 yards away. The black one flew nearer to the white one but did not rejoin it. As far as I could see they did nothing apart from sit fairly motionless, turn round occasionally or do a bit of preening.” Is this crow love life in the raw?

Rare Butterfly

Mike Barnham, our local butterfly expert tells me, “The most interesting finding in the district so far this season has been a perfect male Silver-washed Fritillary flying and settling at High Batts NR on 3 June by Brian Morland. This is very early in the flight season for the species, and I know that several of my colleagues are of the view that specimens seen this far north are generally to be considered as unofficial releases by breeders. We have had occasional individual records of the species – a Yorkshire resident back in Victorian days – in several of the last few years within the district. I had one in my own garden in Knaresborough on buddleia in August 2013. It is a strong flyer and seems to be moving northwards in England over the last few years; this latest record came during a time with strong immigration of Painted Ladies (I have seen 20-30 of those already myself around here) and of Diamond-back moths, so the butterfly might possibly have come in from the Continent with them.”

Anne Smith writes, “One (if one can say good) thing about this weather (16 June) is the number of birds we have in the garden. All plants growing like mad. Apple tree enormous. We have always had a good number of wrens but more this year and also tree creepers. We used to have starlings but I have not seen one for many years. We also used to have a number of bats but sadly do not see any now. We back onto a quarry and have a lot of pigeons and pheasants visiting. I will not say where we live as a while ago we had a wounded (gunshot in the head) badger in the garden which was crying in agony. This was in the middle of the night. We found it and it did not suffer long as it died as we got to it. It is a long time (thank goodness) since we have seen anyone with spades and a dog. I have reported them in the past. Sadly I have no butterflies to report but the buddleias are not out yet so here’s hoping.”

Swallows Back

Bernice Ferguson, “Just to say that since the 70s we have had swallows nesting every year – until the last three years when they came for a quick look and then flew elsewhere. However, much to our joy a pair have come to nest. We thought they would never come again. We have had more orange tips than usual this year and several thrushes. Last year we had fencing put up around where the ragged robin naturally grow, to avoid being eaten and trampled by the sheep. It’s paid off as they’re flourishing now unmolested and they can now also seed and spread. So pretty good news here!”

Red necked phalarope Greenhow 2-6-2016 (3 of 23)

Red-necked Phalarope – Tony Knowles

I recently mentioned the red-necked phalarope at Greenhow, on 2 June. Tony Knowles writes, “Remarkable little bird!” and sent this great photo.

Visit my monthly How Stean Wildlife Blog for July


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

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday, 12 July Thorne Moors NNR

Harrogate RSPB Group

Wednesday, 13 July 11:00am Trip to Bempton Cliffs