Polluted Rivers and Surveys

Red Grouse - Barry Cater

Red Grouse – Barry Carter

Pennine Grouse Moor Survey Erroneous Say BTO!

A bird survey that was reported to have taken place on a managed grouse moor in the Pennines has been widely quoted in the media this week. The report suggested that 800 pairs of Lapwing, 400 pairs of Curlew and 100 pairs of Golden Plover were present, and that 89 species of bird were seen. These results have been used as evidence that moorland managed for grouse shooting is good for birds. These figures have been attributed to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), but this claim is erroneous. This fieldwork was not carried out by the BTO and did not use the rigorous statistical methods employed by the BTO in order to produce accurate estimates of this type. The organisation wishes to make it clear that the quoted figures should not be attributed to the BTO. The BTO is a charity dedicated to providing scientific information to inform decisions about birds and their habitats. Whenever possible the BTO makes its evidence available for use by all stakeholders. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO’s work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations, www.bto.org. It seems, to me, that those who wish to legitimise their annual slaughter of our wild birds and those numerous creatures that prey on them are resorting to tactics which can only serve to make the licensing of grouse moors an urgent necessity. You can’t defend the indefensible!

Alan Croucher asks, “You might be interested in the following petition regarding the culling of buzzards. Suspend Natural England licence to kill buzzards.”

Osprey3 - Barry Carter

Barry Carter sent me some excellent photos of ospreys to share with you.

Oak Beck Pollution

It seems that Oak Beck, which runs from Haverah Park, through Oakdale, Jennyfields and Knox, has some worrying pollution issues with no immediate prospects of a solution. These include foul water/sewage escapes plus ‘solids’ and flash flooding. I was somewhat surprised to learn from Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group that Harrogate have a ‘dual flushing’ system where rainwater from roofs is directed into the sewage system to help keep the foul water/sewage moving. It seems that many, myself included, are unaware of where their roof rainwater goes and just assume it all goes into the sewer system – for those houses where their rainwater is directed to surface water drainage there can be problems when householders put ‘grey water’ down the gullies at the foot of their fall pipes where it emerges later in the local becks and contaminates them – similar to washing cars in the street and flushing the detergent/wax down street drains. Toxins enter Oak Beck at the rear of the Hydro at New Park. This can happen within 45 minutes of rain falling compared within 48 hours where rain permeates naturally through the fields, woods and vegetation. The result is possible localised flooding and maybe worse further downstream whilst the impact on wildlife has not been accurately assessed. Oak Beck is the main drainage channel for the whole of north Harrogate and, as such, is classed by the Environment Agency as ‘River’. Its water quality varies as industry and housing develop apace – but it still sustains brown trout, 3-spined stickleback, bullheads, minnow, stone loach, kingfisher and otter. It seems we have lost the last white-clawed crayfish, which were last sighted for certain in 2007. Hopefully the two New Park councillors can succeed in persuading Yorkshire Water to have a public meeting to let the residents know what plans they have to mitigate/resolve the pollution. You could help by supporting them and our wildlife. For more details search here, and here.

Swifts Update?

Charles Gibson tells me, “There were at least 60 lined up on the power lines at the bottom of the garden at 7am today (16/8/15) in Shaw Mills.” Charles has also seen house martins gathering on wires near his home.

Ann and Colin Snelson report, “Middlesmoor had swifts as usual this year and we enjoyed their screeching parties, which is such a lovely summer sound. There were definitely a few around still on 10 August, which is about a week later than normal. The other thing is the swallows which we hardly ever saw at all are now visiting the village and sometimes as many as 60+ gather on the electricity wires. This is a little earlier than we’re used to so the migrants’ calendar is certainly altered this year.” Pleasing to hear that Middlesmoor have had good numbers of swifts and swallows. Swallows in particular are in short supply elsewhere, locally.

Stephen Root reports, “Greenshank and spotted flycatcher at Hay-a-Park, plus a late swift through.”

Your Sightings

Wood Wasp: Charles Gibson reported one in his kitchen. These ferocious looking insects, which are also called sawflies, are in fact quite harmless, what looks like the world’s biggest stinger sticking out of their backsides is in fact an ovipositor and adults cannot sting. The larvae defend themselves by regurgitating a distasteful liquid from their mouths. They get their name from the saw-like appearance of the ovipositor, which the females use to cut into the plants where they lay their eggs. Sawfly larvae can be an important factor in the diet of a number of birds including partridge and black grouse.

Butterflies: from Jennyfields. Harrogate, Doug Simpson reports, “Had single Painted Lady, Holly Blue and male Brimstone butterflies in the garden on Sunday, 14 August.” All rare this summer and very welcome,

Holly Blue - Claire Yarborough

Holly Blue – Claire Yarborough

Claire Yarborough reckons, “We have had a bad year for butterflies, but had one interesting sighting. This bright blue butterfly was feeding on achillea in my garden this week. It would only pose for a photo with wings closed, but my ID book guided me towards holly blue. My first in the garden. Otherwise, we have seen plenty of whites, but nothing much else. Even the buddlea only attracted one peacock. When is the summer going to arrive!

Painted Lady - Jon Burge

Painted Lady – Jon Burge

Jon Burge, “Like others have noted, we have fewer butterflies than normal. Perhaps fallen apples etc of the season will attract more. We have two or three at a time red admirals, but just one at a time peacock, small tortoiseshell and painted lady. I provide a photo of the last, but unfortunately could not catch the more decorative underside.”

What butterflies have you seen?

Bilton Birds: Keith Wilkinson tells me, “I hope you have seen the Barn Owl that hunts morning and evening over Diamond Jubilee Wood at the back of you. She has raised/is raising two youngsters this year. Also the Tawny Owl in Bilton Beck Wood seems to have raised two this season. Have had reports that the Skylarks nested again but I can’t say I have seen it for myself.”

Wood Pigeon Squabs - Sue Turner

Woodpigeon Squabs – Sue Turner

Squabs: Sue Turner, writes, “Mummy Woodpigeon left the nest because we were doing some pruning in the front garden. I took advantage of taking a photo for everyone who says they’ve never seen a baby pigeon! As I’ve said before I don’t care for Woodpigeons but these are rather cute even though they are right above my front door.” Sorry Sue, but they really don’t look cute to my eye.

Hedgehogs: Delia Wells, “Woodlands Community Garden on Wetherby Road, saw the resident hedgehog, mid morning, 15 August, It was full grown, and not wary of people nearby.”

Reserve Sightings

The wader passage seems to be on it’s way so nows the time to visit your favourite birding location.

Farnham Gravel Pit

This is the private nature reserve of Harrogate Naturalists Society. Robert Brown reports a marsh harrier, osprey, 2 hobbies, spotted flycatcher, greenshank, juvenile cuckoo and redstart last weekend.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Curlew sandpiper, ruff, greenshank, dunlin, osprey, knot, green sandpiper, spotted flycatcher, grey plover, little ringed plover, wheatear, golden plover, redshank, snipe and common sandpiper, I was there on 17/8/16 and saw a whinchat and around 10 yellow wagtails. Sightings taken from @nosterfieldLNR.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan 22nd bird with orange ring ZPA, Shelduck. Wigeon, Gadwall , Garganey, Tufted duck c300 daily, Goosander, Little Egret, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier , Osprey, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Owl, Hobby, Peregrine, Raven, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Grey Wagtail.

Can We Trust the National Newspapers?

Klaus Roggel, Berlin - Wiki Commons Licence

Swift – Klaus Roggel, Berlin

Have Your Swifts Gone Yet?

RSPB Fairburn Ings still has Swifts in double figures, just! They had 11 on 14 August. Chris Tomson counted half a dozen in Bilton on 13 August but it’s hard to say whether they are local breeding birds or birds from further north just passing through on their way south. Swifts tend to arrive from their African wintering grounds later than most birds and leave earlier after only one attempt at breeding and for most birders it’s a sad day when they have finally left. The sound of them hurtling through the skies, especially before they leave, when the adults are joined by recently fledged juveniles, is just wonderful, an iconic sound of summer just as Curlews are a harbinger of spring. Sadly the swift departure indicates that the nights are drawing in, winter round the corner, probably the stimulus that sends them on their way. On Sunday, 7 August, Lisa Walch and Ian Law were coming down from Ingleborough to Chapel Le Dale, “we saw 5 Swift flying close by. There could have been more but I was afraid I would count some twice they were so fast. Then as we entered Chapel Le Dale near Hurtle Pot, I saw my first close up of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. What a privilege to be so close. Unfortunately, too slow with the camera!” Anyway it would be interesting to know on what date you last saw a Swift this year so please let me know.

IMG_1467

Peter The ‘Bilton’ Peacock

Can We Trust the National Newspapers?

Don’t panic Bilton folk, as far as I know Bilton’s most famous and favourite resident isn’t going anywhere despite a national newspaper’s recent report that Peter The Peacock is off to Scotland – can we believe anything they say? It’s seemingly a case of mistaken identity. A report in the Daily Express suggests that Bilton’s most photographed celebrity been transported to Scotland, it had a photo of him in Bilton. If any peacock is going anywhere then it’s the Killinghall one(s). The Local Paper has a Killinghall, not Bilton, flavour to the story. A Killinghall campaign is trying to raise £500 to employ a licensed trapper to transport their peacock. My personal view is that you can’t get a NVQ never mind a degree in peacock trapping so beware of trappers bearing false witness. Probably just a few folk being precious at the expense of the vast majority who really enjoy their peacocks. But I do wonder what else do the papers get wrong? Politics, sport, news in general, the mind boggles, believe nowt! Incidentally have you seen the spur on a peacock’s leg? They use them to defend themselves and I reckon it could inflict a serious wound.

Wild Flower Verges

My latest e-new from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (sign up here) features a How-To Guide for collecting and using pollinator friendly wild flower seed, provided as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This guide shows you how to collect seed from native plants and save them successfully for sowing yourself. It is aimed at anyone who wants to provide more native wildflowers for bees in their garden, school, farm or local area. If you’re trying to create a wildflower meadow, this guide will help you to increase the diversity of flowering plant species WITHOUT purchasing wildflower seed! It’s a little late in the year, especially for some of the species, but what the heck, give it a go and who knows any little helps. In my street there are more folk turning their front drives into car parks than recognising just how much our biodiversity is in decline and how much we as home owners can help. Also in the same e-news are details of free wildflower seeds. Just go online to get your FREE seed packet www.growwilduk.com

Your Sightings

Brown Hawker - Steve Kempson

Brown Hawker – Steve Kempson

Brown Hawker: Steve Kempson was, “Just back from a walk at Staveley nature reserve – lots more geese around than when we were last there a few weeks ago, and plenty of butterflies too. However the highlight was the number of large dragonflies swooping about – I think the attached photo is of a Brown Hawker?” I agree a brown hawker. Also the blue highlights in the eyes apparently indicates it is a male.

Butterflies: Janice and Tim Scott write, “Believe it or not, since I emailed you about butterflies, we have seen one red admiral on a buddleia down by the church at Thornthwaite, and one small tortoiseshell on a wall along Low Lane. It’s very sad when the sight of singletons makes us excited.” Sad and very worrying. The numbers of red admiral and small tortoiseshell seem to be increasing very slowly as summer progresses and they emerge but sadly in nowhere near the numbers we would normally expect.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth - Rachel Kingdom

Hummingbird Hawkmoth – Rachel Kingdom

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Rachel Kingdom took this photo of a humming-bird hawkmoth at Newby Hall.

Alder Moth Caterpillar: Bernice Ferguson spotted a very spottable alder moth caterpillar, easily identified, perhaps, because they are yellow and black. I contacted Jill Warwick the local moth expert about it and learnt, Please click on the following link from the “Yorkshire Moths” website: http://www.yorkshiremoths.info/portal/p/Summary/s/Acronicta+alni/u/61/x/57b2b922 You will see that the greatest concentration is in Vice County 64 (which includes the Harrogate area) – see the explanatory blurb lower down – scarce and thinly distributed. For example, I’ve been moth trapping at home (Sharow) since 1983 and have caught Alder Moth at light trap only 10 times since the first record in 1986. Mostly singles but caught two here on 7 June this year. Considering the moth eats not just Alder but many other species of broadleaved tree, it’s surprisingly uncommon! We have once or twice found the very attractive larva over the years.”

Hedgehog - Ann and Les Maxwell

Hedgehog – Ann & Les Maxwell

Friendly Hedgehog: Ann/Les Maxwell, “Attached a photograph of our friendly hedgehog who visits our garden every evening. As you can see he/she is very friendly and even walks towards me responding to my voice. I am not sure how unusual it is to have a hedgehog this friendly? Interesting to find if anyone else has had a similar experience.” I’ve not heard of this myself, but do you have a friendly hedgehog visiting you? Sue Turner writes, “At least four hedgehogs in the neighbourhood as my neighbour had a small one visit at the same time as my three. The medium ones have been aggressive towards each other and one of them keeps sniffing round the little one! Hope it’s not going to try and mate with it as it’s very small.” I just hope the small one is strong enough to survive hibernation. Hedgehogs are in such decline, probably slug pellets on fields and gardens don’t help, and they need all the help we can give them. A young hedgehog should weigh from 600-700g to hibernate, around 1.5lbs for us wrinklies. An adult animal, depending on its age and size, should weigh between 1000g and 1400g (2.5 to 3 lbs) before hibernation. See http://helpwildlife.co.uk/category/north-yorkshire/

Spuggies and Martins: Karen Weaver writes from Jennyfields, “Just reading your blog about butterflies and pleased to report we had two small tortoisehells on our buddleia last week. One had flown off by the time I got my phone but the other one co-operated, photo attached. We’ve had house martins again in our eaves and I counted a flock of about 15 sparrows around the bird feeder this morning too. We’ve had quite a flock for a few years nesting in hedge over our back fence (top end of Jennyfields) but this is the most I’ve seen, though they don’t hang around for long. Also pleased to have seen a kestrel back over Killinghall Moor, the first time for a while, and a deer feeding in the woodland very close to the road at the top of Jennyfields Drive as we drove past one evening. Too many wood pigeons and magpies though!”

Please Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

Thanks to all those of you who helped increase my readership, it would be great if more of you could also help, please. Just get at least one other person to sign up to my blog and we can double the number of folk who can enjoy reading about nature, support the environment and discuss all the rotten things that so called civilised humans do to our wildlife. It costs nowt, especially appealing to us Yorkshire folk, and maybe, fingers crossed, it’s fun. To get the blog regularly the best and easiest way is to just click the follow button on the blog and follow the instructions. Alternatively email me outdoors@virginmedia.com. Thanks for your support, much appreciated.

Curlew Coffee Morning

Thanks to all who managed to come to Nidderdale Birdwatchers’ last fundraising event which raised £900 towards Curlew research. If you missed out or fancy joining in the fun again (there’s a chance to purchase a unique Curlew doorstop) please come along on Saturday, 20 August from 10-12 at Church House, Grassington.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Some really interesting news regarding two avocet chicks, colour ringed at Nosterfield and now seen at Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire. Also seen over Flask Lake recently peregrine, buzzard and osprey.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan, Shelduck, Red Kite max 5, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Water Rail 2 on Cedric’s on 6th, Spotted Flycatcher.

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

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

Wild Flower News

Cinnabar Moth and Small Skipper - Robin Hermes

Small Skipper & Cinnabar Moth LarvaeRobin Hermes.

Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

It would be great if more folk read this blog and you can help. Just get at least one other person to sign up to my blog and double the number of folk can enjoy reading about nature, support the environment and discuss all the rotten things that so called civilised humans do to our wildlife. It costs nowt, especially appealing to us Yorkshire folk, and maybe, fingers crossed, it’s fun. To get the blog regularly the best and easiest way is to just click the follow button on the blog and follow the instructions. Alternatively email me outdoors@virginmedia.com. Thanks for your support, much appreciated.

France - Jon and Jen Dening

Le Grand Vieil – Jon and Jen Dening

Wild Flowers

Well not quite a wildflower meadow but Chris Beard and Edna Barker of Hookstone and Stonefall Action Group have been monitoring the different species of flowers found in the parks during 2016. What a great way to monitor what’s in your patch and an invaluable tool for determining the health of the park or wherever you choose to monitor if you continue the observations over many years and keep good records. Chris and Edna have found around 100 plants, too many to list and Edna tells me this is just the result of a “cursory glance.” If you regularly visit these areas and have noted any plants, or do so in the future, then please let Edna know on spinninged@hotmail.co.uk. If you don’t visit this area but regularly visit one particular spot why not do the same and include birds, mammals, amphibians and anything else on your list. Citizens science, a great way to check the health of our countryside.

This looks like a French wild flower resource, sent in by Jon and Jen Dening, “I was just reading the blog about the French practice of growing pollinating plants in villages and realised that I photographed one on our recent holiday. This is in the village square outside the local convenience store in Le Grand Vieil on the island of Noirmoutier. Lovely, isn’t it?” It is lovely and surely something we could do. Can you village parishioners give it a thought please and let me know what you think?

Janice Scott writes, “I have read this latest blog with interest, and despair! We too are feeling very worried about the lack of butterflies and agree with Colin Harrison that we really need to do something about this now. After a reasonably promising start to the year with a better number of orange tips than the last few years, our summer sightings are better described as lack of sightings. Usually on our patch in Nidderdale we would expect to see skippers and the odd small copper. There have been none. I have seen one green veined white and a handful of small and large white. We have had ringlet and meadow brown, but in much smaller numbers than previous years. Tortoiseshells, peacocks, red admirals and painted ladies? Not a glimpse. Hard to believe that three years ago we were counting well over 100 peacock on our patch during late August! At Newby Hall (27 July) butterfly numbers were also low – a few whites, including a handful of green veined, plus one meadow brown. Curiously what we did see was a hummingbird hawkmoth and we watched it for quite some time nectaring on the long herbaceous borders there. I tried to get a photo but it is just a blur – sorry! On a more positive note, on 31 July we saw a baby cuckoo being fed by two birds a fraction of its size (not sure what they were as we didn’t have our binoculars) up near the car park at Scar House reservoir – a first for us in the dale. On our walk up dale we saw a much healthier number of swallows than in our neck of the woods. I’m interested by the comments about wildflower verges that people have sent you. Let’s not give up on this. I like to think that if we keep drawing attention to it, something will eventually give, especially when you factor in the cost of all this mowing and the growing awareness of climate change and its effect on our biodiversity.” Janice makes a number of interesting points. Butterflies are doing dreadfully and I wonder if as well as the changing weather patterns, driven by climate change, there are other factors such as farmers using different chemicals, can you tell me if you know? Strange that a migrant like a hummingbird hawkmoth should reach here but not painted ladies and, as for swallows, we were at Levisham recently and there were good numbers of swallows, but like Janice I have seen very few locally, even accounting for the fact that juveniles are now on the wing swelling numbers arriving for breeding. Very worrying, again can I ask is anyone prepared to get involved in a group looking at wildflower verges, meadows, helping pollinators and maybe protecting our birds of prey?

Illegal use of Motorbikes

Under the Illegal Use of Motorcycles Off-road etc. etc. RTA 1972, 1988 and Police Reform Act 2002, a male was charged with driving whilst disqualified, driving with no helmet, without insurance and riding otherwise than on a road. I understand that this is one of the individuals who has been involved in the recent motorbike incidents on the Nidderdale Greenway. Please spread the word and let’s keep our green spaces vehicle free and most importantly safe.

Spurn Migration Festival

Spurn is always a great spot at migration time, although for those who have never visited beware, it takes as long from Hull to Spurn as it does to Hull from Harrogate. During migration time you can never be sure what birds might drop in and you may well see something different and something new. Well the BTO, Spurn Observatory Trust and others have recognised this and in recent years have organised a Migration festival so that in the unlikely event that no rare birds show up you can still enjoy a packed weekend on the Spurn Peninsular. The festival runs from Friday, 9 September to Sunday, 11 September 2016 and includes Ringing Demonstrations, Visible Migration, Walks & Talks, Workshops and an array of stalls. Guests this year include Mike Dilger, Darren Woodhead and Ray Scally. To view more information about this event and to book your tickets please click here

Your Sightings

Nicola Mercer, reporting in the Nidderdale Birders Newsletter, has observed a buzzard twice taking a rabbit in two days. “Surprisingly, it flew around for at least 15 minutes with this in its clutches, ignoring the pesterings of black headed gull, rook, crow, curlew, oystercatcher and lapwing before disappearing off to enjoy its meal.” Makes me wonder why the shooting fraternity want to cull our raptors? Apparently six rabbits can eat as much as one sheep so why do folk want to destroy buzzards who’s main prey is rabbits? These shooters aren’t even a farmer’s friend. Meanwhile Defra have permitted buzzards to be culled to protect pheasant shoots. Please let me know if you have ever seen a buzzard take a pheasant.

Blackbird – Charles Gibson

Charles Gibson has sent these photos of a blackbird. “Strange antics by one of our blackbirds after a bath.” I reckon blackbirds do a lot of this, or maybe I should say more than any other bird, especially in hot weather, maybe sunbathing or anting. I suspect no one really knows why but I am willing to be told otherwise, so if you know why let me know, please.

Robin Hermes, “Enclosed an interesting photo taken in a field near Beckwithshaw. A small Small Skipper with the Orange and black striped larvae of The Cinnabar moth.” This year seems a very good one for ragwort, the cinnabar moth caterpillar food plant, yet I have seen only two cinnabar moth caterpillars and each on a separate plant, more worries.

Sue Turner from Wetherby writes, “Sorry for not updating you with my sightings for a while. The garden is quiet at the moment with not many birds around though we have had a recent influx of adult and young Starlings, which we do not always see. Our Blue Tits failed to fledge any young again – this has happened every year since 2011 and my husband thinks that the camera in the box is a jinx! We had young Bullfinches in July which is earlier than usual and we have also seen several young Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits. An unusual event happened earlier this week when I was watching a Great Tit on the lavender and wondered what it was doing so I looked at it with the binoculars and saw it catch a bee! It flew to a nearby tree, and holding it with its feet started pecking at it – I wonder whether this is unusual behaviour. We have regular visits from hedgehogs and last night had a tiny one, which tucked into the hedgehog food and my own mix of peanuts, sunflowers and raisins. Next door neighbours also feed the hedgehogs and they have easy access between our gardens. I have said before that I do not particularly like Woodpigeons as they hoover up all the food for ground feeding birds and I now have one nesting in the wisteria above my front door with two eggs in it! They have not made any mess underneath yet and it will be interesting to watch the comings and goings when the chicks hatch. I chopped down the flowering stalks of my Cephalaria gigantea (Giant scabious) yesterday which reached over 8 ft tall and were a magnet for the bees. Now they will be put to another use as the stalks are hollow and they will go into my wildlife area for insects to shelter in them.” Always great to hear from you and no need to apologise. Your help for wildlife in your garden is very commendable, I only wish more folk had the same concerns. Especially good to know you have hedgehogs, which I think may have made a slight increase but numbers are still way down. Every arable farm field has so much slug poison spread on it, it’s no wonder hedgehogs are in decline and in my view a myth to blame it on the badgers. I wonder if the reasons the blue tits fail is because they are out of sync with the caterpillar hatch as a further consequence of global warming, either that or there just weren’t enough caterpillars, your other birds seem to have done very well so it might even be down to the specific food tastes of blue tits. Most birds are carnivorous and will take insects, worms etc, although more frequently to feed to their young. I guess bees are not easy to catch and we tend to see blue tits more often eating seed from our feeders but I doubt this behaviour is as unusual as we think. Great use of the stalks for bee homes, let me know how successful it is.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

see https://twitter.com/nosterfieldlnr but apparently still quiet.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Gadwell, Garganey, Shoveller c80, Tufted Duck c300 daily. Hybrid with Red-crested Pochard occasionally reported from Village Bay. Broods still evident. Grey Partridge, Little Egret, 20+ daily, Red Kite, singles occasionally reported, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Osprey (on 3rd), Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Gull, Hobby, Peregrine, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat.

From Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

Mike Smithson 4/8/16 “Tonight at Farnham G.P. we had a Hobby, a Green and a Common Sandpiper and a male Yellow Wagtail. “

Stephen Root, 5/8/16 “Male peregrine hunting over Harrogate town centre this morning, perched briefly on the Exchange Building with its kill before heading off to the east.”

Rob Brown, 5/8/16 “Pure white Sand Martin and Spotted Flycatcher at Farnham Gravel Pit.”

Events

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

High Batts Nature Reserve

Saturday 13th August – Balsam Bashing

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 16 August – Alkborough Flats and RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 12th August – Nosterfield Reserve

Monday 15 August – Pateley Bridge Riverside, Evening walk

Plumpton Rocks to Open! Ilkley Moor to Close?

My How Stean Blog is now available.

Wild Flowers - Judith Fawcett

Mediaeval Carpet at Ripley Castle Gardens – Judith Fawcett

Wild Flower Verges

Judith Fawcett writes, “I am interested in wildflower verges, particularly here in the Saltergate/Jennyfield area. I suggested to our local councillor two or more years ago to either leave the grass to grow or have wild flowers. The reply was that if the grass isn’t cut to within an inch of its life people are on the phone as to why it hasn’t been cut. When the grass is left around the daffodils until July it’s amazing how many wild flowers emerge in the long grass only to be cut down. I would be eager to encourage wild flower growth opposite my bungalow as there were shrubs originally planted then removed and grass laid. I’m not sure however that other residents would share my enthusiasm. I have included a splendid picture of the mediaeval carpet at Ripley Castle Gardens. Very few butterflies, quite a worry in fact.” Judith raises a very important point, we have a lot of work to do to convince folk of the importance of proper wildflower verges and that out Biodiversity is in Danger, our ecosystems linked and disappearing. Not just members of the public but also it seems our elected representatives! What do you think? What would you like to see done to protect our biodiversity? Let me know.

Walk for Wildlife on Ilkley Moor!

Ilkley Moor is both a great place and an iconic place for Yorkshire folk, well at least those who are allowed to sing the county’s national anthem in public, I’m forbidden to indulge in such pleasures both in public and the confines of our bathroom. And me an ex, albeit very poor, choirboy.

Anyway, did you know that Ilkley Moor is owned by Bradford Council and they let the publicly owned grouse moor out to grouse shooters? These folk decimate the local wildlife, damage the environment and have allegedly threatened walkers. If you reckon it’s about time this stopped then why not join the protest ramble and picnic this Saturday, 6 August, just a few days before the annual grouse carnage begins. Please bring cakes, home-made banners, your friends and family. Meet at 11am until 3pm, Cow & Calf Rocks, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, LS29 8BT. Ban Bloodsports on Ilkley Moor. Carole Turner writes, “Don’t forget Hen Harrier protest and ramble on Ilkley Moor. Also Sunday, 7 August at Dunsop Bridge village green, Forest of Bowland at 10.30am.

Plumpton Rocks20

Plumpton Rocks – Andy Marshall

Plumpton Rocks Re-opens

If you have never been to Plumpton Rocks you will not have appreciated what a quiet, delightful place it is. Surrounded by trees and incorporating a delightful lake, it’s an ideal place for contemplation, a place to – in modern day parlance – chill out, a place to enjoy the wildlife, to appreciate its beauty. It’s lovely, but sadly for the past year or more it has been closed for restoration, but now it has re-opened. Restored to its past 18th century glories, it promises to be even better and at £3.50 for adults, £2.50 for concessions, great value for money. Plumpton Rocks is a 35 acre 18th century landscape garden five miles east of Harrogate in North Yorkshire. The grounds have been owned by the Plumpton family since at least the Norman Conquest, with a period of ownership also by the Lascelles family of Harewood House for just under 200 years. The present owner is Robert de Plumpton Hunter. The garden was once a medieval deer park and fish ponds. Tradition has it that Robin Hood poached deer here. The gardens were created by Daniel Lascelles in the 1750s after he bought the estate from the Plumpton family. He enlarged the lake and commissioned John Carr to design the dam and boat house together with many estates buildings and the model village which survive to this day. The garden has been painted by many fine artists including Turner, Girtin and Mellor. It has been open to the public for at least 200 years. It has now re-opened for every day during August and is also open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays until October, from 11am to 6pm. The gardens were once described by Queen Mary as ‘Heaven on Earth,’ whilst for the film buffs among you the gardens are also taking a starring role as Wild Cat Island in the BBC’s new feature length film adaptation of Swallows and Amazons to be released later this month. The three year project achieved the restoration of the parkland, lake, woodland and perhaps most importantly, the magnificent Grade 2 listed dam designed by John Carr of York in the 1760s. Over the last few decades the lake had gradually silted up and the major 18th century vistas, painted by Turner for his first commission in oils in 1797, had been lost. There were concerns that this historically significant landscape would be lost for ever. The situation became critical in 2012 when English Heritage placed the garden on its Historic Landscapes at Risk Register. This catapulted the garden as a priority for funding and enabled a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme to be entered into between the owner, Robert de Plumpton Hunter, and Natural England. Over the next year a major plan of restoration was formulated and work started in 2014 to restore the former parkland. Subsequently, extensive works have been carried out to the woodland, lake and recently the dam. The latter received substantial grant funding from Historic England and The Country Houses Foundation.

Restoration Aspects

The 36 acre former parkland had been ploughed up in 1982 and the original individual specimen parkland trees had been lost. The restoration has allowed for the fields to revert back to grassland with 80 individual parkland trees planted. This reconnects the parkland once again with the Rocks and the remaining John Carr buildings of the Hall, stable block and farm. Over the last 250 years the lake has gradually silted up. This meant a large portion of the northern part of the lake had been lost and had become overgrown with self-seeding trees. The view looking south towards the Dam and Lover’s Leap had been lost. Natural England and Historic England grants allowed for the desilting of the lake, taking it back to its original 18th century proportions. The Creek was dug out with several inlets and two islands were reinstated at the north of the lake.

Your Sightings

Ann and Colin Snelson live in Middlesmoor in Upper Nidderdale. Here is a glimpse of the wildlife they enjoy there: “It’s especially pleasing to see a good number of very healthy-looking Greenfinches and a good crowd of Goldfinches, too. Siskins are still with us as are Great Spotted Woodpeckers but up to press we haven’t seen young ones of these. Besides the day to day joys of seeing the birds, occasionally we get other interesting visitors too. Yesterday we had a gorgeous weasel tearing around the garden, rolling on the grass and jumping up at plants. Don’t know if it was for hunting practice or for fun but it was certainly fun to watch! Thought it would be interesting to tot up how many different bird ‘babies’ we have seen or heard here. Obviously things have been going well for them. We have counted 14 different species so far. Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, House Martin, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Song Thrush, Starling, Wood Pigeon.” Not bad and remember these are just juveniles. How successful have the nesting birds been in your garden this summer? Why not drop me a line and let me know?

Red Admiral Harlow Carr 310716 - Roger Litton

Red Admiral – Roger Litton

Roger and Pauline Litton, “Were in Harlow Carr this morning and saw more butterflies there than we have seen all summer up to now. Having said that, there were still fewer than one would expect – and we saw mainly whites. This photo is our first sighting of a Red Admiral so far this year and we managed to see a Small Tortoiseshell (but only one of each).” Hopefully we may start seeing more butterflies soon, the late flying ones, let’s hope they hatch before all the flowers die, even the late flowering plants seem to be early this year!

Painted Lady - Andrea McKenzie

Painted Lady – Andrea McKenzie

Andrea McKenzie tweeted me a Painted Lady photo with the comment, “Painted Lady grow by my 8 yr old.”

Vapourer Moth - Ian Law (2)

Vapourer Moth Caterpillar – Ian Law

Ian Law spotted this vapourer moth caterpillar on a laurel bush.

Colin Harrison gets about a bit, I wonder if he has a big suitcase? “Following my sighting of Swifts in Poland, I am now reporting a big flock of screaming Swifts spotted at the seaside in Brittany. There must have been 12-15 at least. Also, where I am staying has a fantastic population of butterflies, although nothing to compare with your day out! I have so far seen many Meadow Browns, together with Commas, and Red Admirals. Yesterday I saw an Adonis Blue and a High Brown Fritillary. I also had the pleasure of a brilliant blue damselfly doing its courtship routine to what seemed a particularly uninterested female. Such is life I suppose… France has apparently banned the use of nicotinoids, and could be reaping the benefits already. Keep up the good work, and I would like to be considered for the post of your Foreign Correspondent if it ever comes up!” I do wish here in the UK I was confident that we could ban nicotinoids and other dangerous chemicals for ever but worry that the current limited ban may be repealed. I also rather hoped that it was just us who had very few butterflies, we really do need to do something now.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

10 Little Egret, 3 Black-Tailed Godwit, Snipe, 4 Ringed Plover. A colour-ringed Little Egret found on the reserve on July 23rd was ringed in Cleveland on 27th May!

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan, Garganey, 7 (inc one juvenile), Little Egret, 20+ daily, Red Kite, singles occasionally reported, Marsh Harrier, “Cream crowns”, Ringed Plover, Two occasionally reported, Little Ringed Plover, 3 throughout, Curlew, daily in small numbers, Black-tailed Godwit, maximum 13, Dunlin, two, Green Sandpiper, present daily on pick up (hide) – max 6, Common Sandpiper, 6, Common Gull, max 4, Yellow-legged Gull, Adult, Little Owl, Hobby, Peregrine, at least three throughout, Whinchat, single.

Events

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

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 12th August – Nosterfield Reserve