I am given to understand via the usual non-traceable grapevine that the Harrogate Council portal for receiving consultations regarding the Local Green Spaces was so overwhelmed that it couldn’t cope for a period. So my grateful thanks for all you who responded as a consequence of reading about it in my blog. Let’s hope it works. Someone who particularly deserves credit for raising encouraging folk to respond is John Jackson of the newly formed Nidd Gorge Community Action (NGCA), which has recently formed as an umbrella group representing all organisations and individuals along the whole length of the road who are concerned. Make a note in your diaries to come along to the Open Day at Fountains Avenue Scout Hut on 28 January, all day, where you will be able to find out more and see how you can get involved, people with all skills and none are invited but if you have any specialist knowledge you think might be useful then contact me. Wildlife Knowledge is of course one of these skills. This is NGCA’s website, currently under construction and Facebook site.
Big Garden Bird Watch
If we are to save Nidd Gorge, Starbeck and Calcutt from this destructive road then we need as many volunteers as possible, as much help as possible. I therefore would like volunteers to help with a RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch in Bilton fields and Nidd Gorge on Sunday, 29 January at 10am. If that doesn’t fit in with your plans we will do another big garden bird watch at 2pm. We will meet at the junction of The Greenway and Bilton Lane at the scheduled times. The walk should take an hour only and it’s a wonderful way to discover the delights and pleasures of our local wildlife areas and a chance as citizen scientists to help the RSPB monitor the status of birds found nationally. Looking forward to meeting you then. Usual precautions, kids under parental supervision and you are responsible for your own liability. Sorry but we have to watch our backs in these litigious days. Drop me an email or whatever to let me know you are joining us and when.
Proposed Inner Relief Road Route(s)
Nothing has yet to be decided and there is a do nothing option but the routes of most concern to NGCA run roughly from The Sulphur Well/Four Lane Ends roundabout on Skipton Road, south of Killinghall, taking a corridor north of Knox village, through the Bilton Outfall Allotments, through or north of Willow Woods, across Bilton fields and along The Greenway beyond the junction with Bilton Lane before veering off left in an easterly direction parallel to Bogs Lane, behind Henshaws to somewhere near Harrogate Golf Course where effectively The Empress Roundabout will be repositioned, it will then cross the Golf Course area, over the railway line and across the fields to Calcutt and the Southern Bypass, no doubt knocking a few houses down on the way and blighting many people’s lives and wrecking many people’s much loved recreational areas. For what? It won’t reduce the traffic, just move the misery maybe and the feeder roads such as Bilton Lane, Woodfield Road, Claro Road, Bogs Lane, Forest Lane, Calcutt, Briggate and many more will just become congested rat runs, whilst the dangers to our children will in the numerous schools alongside these roads will become dangerous death traps, very, very, worrying. Oh! Then there’s the wildlife issues, pollution issues, need I say more?
Some of these are somewhat out of date but interesting nevertheless. Clare Watkinson reports a little egret on the ponds near her mum Liz Watkinson’s home at North Stainley in early October, just before I went out of circulation, a really unusual sighting in such a busy place. Little egrets are slowly colonising our area. Strangely seen frequently in South Yorkshire and Middlesbrough but not so much locally.
Large Yellow Underwing Caterpillar – Rex Bradshaw
Do you remember the strange saga of the eggs and subsequent tiny larva of the large yellow underwing moth found in Rex Bradshaw’s Spofforth garden, well the larva eventually grew into this caterpillar, well one of them at least did.
Steve Whiteley wrote at the beginning of December, “I have a query over a (brief) sighting yesterday. I was driving back to Harrogate from Ripon and a caught a glimpse of what I thought was a buzzard perched in the trees near the Mountgarret estate. The thing that caught my eye was that it had what could best be described as a dirty white head (as though someone had tipped a pot of yoghurt over its head.) I have not seen a buzzard with a white head and the other option, a red kite, is much greyer than the bird I saw. Having looked it up, could it have been a Marsh Harrier. I have not seen one before and, as I said, it was a passing glimpse but quite distinct markings. I have had some decent sightings recently up and down Nidderdale. About a week ago I was passing Menwith Hill and saw a huge mixed flock of Golden Plover and Lapwings in the field opposite the base. In addition I have seen Buzzards as far apart as Birstwith and Ramsgill, together with Red Kites scattered throughout the dale. My garden is attracting a nice variety now around the feeder and there is a regular pecking order (forgive the pun). The woodpigeons get the first go, followed by a pair of collared doves. The flock of house sparrows come next and can become impatient. I have seen one sparrow actually land on the back of the woodpigeon which was quite amusing. There is a pair of intrepid coal tits which flit in and out together with some blue tits and the occasional great tit. There is a robin patrolling the trees and sheds and a dunnock clearing up below the feeder. There are also two wrens to be seen in the brambles and occasionally on the shed. Starlings, magpies and blackbirds make periodic appearances. I was recently treated to a sighting of a goldfinch on the feeder and there was also a couple of visits from a great spotted woodpecker.” A difficult one this. Some but not all marsh harriers migrate and leave around October, this could be a late leaver from Scotland en route for warmer climes. The cautionary bit – there’s always a cautionary bit – is that buzzards whilst generally displaying the typical buzzard appearance of fairly uniform colouration can and do also have interesting aberrations and a light coloured head could easily fall into this category. So it’s never clear cut, but whilst it is possible that marsh harriers are around during summer and may even be considering breeding locally it is much rarer to see them in winter and I therefore lean towards it being a buzzard. If you regularly make the journey then it may be possible, if it is a buzzard, that it may be seen again, so keep an eye open but drive safely! Obviously if you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s a marsh harrier either. I believe marsh harriers do however continue to be seen locally even this week.
Roger Litton’s White Pigeons
In mid December Roger Litton contacted me to say, “In the meantime, we have developed a small flock of white pigeons. We started with one a couple of years ago. Then there were two and we now have five. We have always been afflicted with pigeons which is one of the reasons we stopped putting loose food on the bird table – the pigeons always cleared it before anyone else had a look in! That move did reduce their numbers somewhat from the 35 or so we used to be plagued with down to around 10 (of which half are now these white ones).”
Recent sightings from Twitter include hundreds of golden plover, lapwing, linnet and pintail.
Gadwall x Mallard hybrid Male regularly along the cut.
Pink-footed Goose Four on flashes often in field behind owl box.
White-fronted Goose 20 present with Grey Lags. Often in field at moat with temporary metal security fence by pylon.
Shelduck Up to 8 present.
Pintail At least eight throughout
Smew Redhead on Village Bay throughout.
Great-crested Grebe Still unprecedented numbers wintering (<20)
Great White Egret Single throughout. Often giving excellent views on Cedric’s
Red Kite 1-2 on most dates – usually seen around Newfield.
Marsh Harrier Single seen almost daily.
Hen Harrier Ringtail from Pickup hide on 1st.
Water Rail 8+ throughout. One showing well from Kingfisher screen.
Golden Plover 30 overhead on 3rd.
Curlew Three on flashes.
Common Snipe 30 max. Showing well on cut spit throughout.
Kingfisher Regular all week at viewing screen.
Peregrine Two reported most dates from flashes.
Bearded Tit Six on south lagoon from loop path on 2nd.
Cetti’s Warbler One infrequently heard by concrete bridge.
Nuthatch 1-2 regular on feeders.
Treecreeper Pairs regularly at VC and down cut lane.
Starling c10000 in roost on lagoons.
Lesser Redpoll Up to 40 in VC alders.
Yellowhammer c25 in stubble by Ledsham beck,
Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page
Common Scoter, Farnham Gravel Pits, Rob Brown 10-1-17.
50 Waxwings Park House Green 11am. Will Rich 9-1-17.
Marsh Harrier (cream crown) also three otters at Farnham Gravel Pits, Rob Brown 6-1-17.
Black mink on the bank of the Oak Beck, Knox, Peter Thomson 5-1-17