Butterflies Still Tumbling

Wall Brown - Nigel HeptinstallWall Butterfly

You may well have noticed the national news, “Butterflies crash in fourth worst year on record in 2016.” It makes worrying and uneasy reading. Butterfly Conservation tells us some 40 of the 57 species studied recorded a decline compared with 2015, many of those species suffering are inevitably the rarest species and ones we aren’t often privileged to see, especially locally. One species which is suffering and can, or perhaps was, seen locally is the wall butterfly which is widespread but rapidly declining; it is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species. I don’t recall seeing one last year and I always keep an eye open for butterflies. It’s not however only the rare species that are suffering, our more common and most welcome species are also in decline. The Gatekeeper is down 48% and Meadow Brown falling by 31% compared with 2015. It’s not all bad news, however; the widespread and migratory Red Admiral recorded a rise of 86% compared to 2015, but beware don’t forget 2015 was a really bad year as well. It’s a bit like a 1% pay rise for low paid workers, a little bit of nothing is bugger all.

Red Admiral - Nigel HeptinstallRed Admiral

Local Butterfly Situation

Paul Millard is the butterfly recorder for this area of Yorkshire. He has kindly given me permission to reuse his local butterfly news. The first snippet of interest is that a “Red Admiral was seen on 25 March at Ainderby Steeple, this is so early that it could easily have been an overwintering adult. It is only a few years ago that it became accepted that Red Admirals overwintered in southern England.” Another sign of global warming? Paul tells us, “The list of butterflies flying now has expanded, it also includes; Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock and Brimstone. They all share the same habit of hibernating in the adult stage. I have also had reports of Holly Blue, Orange Tip, and Green-veined White.” So weather permitting some butterflies are flying earlier, that creates problems because they need access to food and are appropriate plants always available? Not necessarily.

SPECIES

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

SMALL SKIPPER

368

48

115

304

594

306

397

LARGE SKIPPER

101

42

112

23

112

69

81

DINGY SKIPPER

0

0

3

13

9

14

9

CLOUDED YELLOW

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

BRIMSTONE

33

9

48

38

58

64

71

LARGE WHITE

380

24

187

469

546

246

858

SMALL WHITE

545

127

88

704

805

287

698

GREEN-VEINED WHITE

1488

297

399

595

1522

423

844

ORANGE-TIP

162

96

169

200

259

161

262

GREEN HAIRSTREAK

241

284

318

96

239

35

124

PURPLE HAIRSTREAK

17

11

1

8

1

0

14

WHITE-LETTER HAIRSTREAK

9

1

1

37

20

8

60

SMALL COPPER

87

34

8

107

31

34

44

BROWN ARGUS

4

4

0

3

11

2

13

NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS

36

2

0

1

4

3

8

COMMON BLUE

438

112

150

88

215

126

199

HOLLY BLUE

15

13

45

9

12

15

20

RED ADMIRAL

470

204

156

150

580

253

737

PAINTED LADY

25

4

12

32

40

91

302

SMALL TORTOISESHELL

276

275

488

631

1324

941

449

PEACOCK

1021

152

825

950

1880

618

672

COMMA

185

26

37

240

102

102

48

DARK GREEN FRITILLARY

22

17

5

5

39

30

40

SPB FRITILLARY

0

0

0

9

0

0

1

SPECKLED WOOD

492

138

519

264

609

330

705

WALL BROWN

220

76

39

131

165

16

133

GATEKEEPER

1

6

16

17

4

12

13

MARBLED WHITE

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

MEADOW BROWN

377

146

777

999

1830

1779

1611

RINGLET

608

156

1502

1751

3699

2562

1997

SMALL HEATH

89

277

135

99

448

219

273

TOTAL BUTTERFLIES

7710

2581

6155

7973

15162

8746

10683

KEY

INCREASE

NO CHANGE

DECREASE

NO RECORDS

These records need to be taken in the knowledge that folk are now using mobile phone apps and similar to record their sightings and the improved numbers seen last year may reflect an increase in recorder activity. Interestingly Paul tells us, “The Small Tortoiseshell is a cause for concern as the numbers are trending downward again, however they are flying again now as they emerge from hibernation after a less challenging winter. Recent research has confirmed what we always suspected, that butterflies in general do better the year after a cold hard winter. Last winter was hardly that but at least it was not so wet.”

Please Help

My experience, which unlike Paul’s has no scientific basis, is that with the probable exception of brimstone all butterflies did very poorly last year. Cold wet summers don’t help butterflies and when we did start to see butterflies in autumn food plants were again scarce, so you can help and here’s how.

  1. Join Butterfly Conservation.

  2. Donate. In the UK we have lost 25% of our widespread butterflies in just 40 years. Iconic species are struggling to survive.

  3. Identify a butterfly.

  4. Report your sighting, get the Big Butterfly Count App. It’s fun and easy to use and helps you identify the butterflies. It’s also free.

  5. Make your Garden Wildlife Friendly. Remember butterflies and most wildlife need a source of food and places to nest all summer. The fields are full of pesticides, make sure your garden helps wildlife.

Spring Hots Up

Comma - Roger LittonComma – Roger Litton

Peter Durkin reports “whilst working on Quarry Moor Lane, Ripon on Wednesday, 22 March a flock of redwings about 200 flew over at a height l have never seen them fly before heading north. Today, Thursday, a swallow came by heading same way.” When did you see your first swallow of the summer? Indeed have you seen one at all this year yet?

John Stockill writesSince being off work due to an operation my wife and I have been enjoying the lovely weather and taken full advantage and walked nearly every day visiting Whitby at low tide, the Farndale daffodils, a scorching Scarborough and a raging Janet’s Foss at Malham and best of all being a loyal ‘Cragrat’ Knaresborough. It reminds me that in a modern technology fuelled world that a good pair of walking boots and a packed lunch which costs next t’nowt the British countryside is all ours to explore and enjoy. Here are a few pictures of our treks including a comma butterfly. You can’t disagree with that and John was also lucky to see a comma butterfly, see the above.

What signs of spring have you seen?

Tree Aftercare Event

What, I asked myself, is a Tree After Care Event? Well it’s an opportunity to come and help The Friends of Jacob Smith Park clear the ground around the park’s young trees. This enables the roots to receive more nutrients, meaning the trees can grow nice and strong. Everyone is welcome! So have some fun together whilst caring for the park. You’ll need suitable footwear, your waterproofs and a pair of gardening gloves. Please also bring forks and spades. Come for as long as you can! Meet at the noticeboard, main entrance, 10am Sunday, 30 April. Email Jo at Jacob.smith.park@gmail.com if you need more info or visit the website. It’s free, it’s outdoors, what else do you want?

Rossett Nature Reserve

If like Roger Litton you went to Rossett Nature Reserve and was a little horrified with what you found, cleared ponds, all the vegetation stripped away and completely bare ponds, then don’t worry. It has all had to be done. Sam Walker from the Council explains, “There has been an intensive programme of work at Rossett over the last 15 months so that it was necessary to bring the site up to scratch. This work has included a new dipping platform, noticeboard, footpath improvements, litter picks and a variety of habitat enhancements. The major work carried out this winter was a programme to clear the ponds of Crassula Helmsii – an invasive non-native species that was choking the ponds and limiting them as a suitable habitat for the Great Crested Newts (GCN). In fact it had reached the point where you could walk across a number of the ponds on a Crassula carpet! For a number of years the friends group and HBC had been carrying out this work manually but the impact we could have was limited. It was decided that the best way to ensure the continued suitability of the site for Great Crested Newts was to bring a digger on site to clear the ponds. This work was all agreed with the Harrogate Borough Council’s ecologist and we ensured that the work was done in January when the newts wouldn’t be in the ponds. This work was always going to have a significant initial impact as you can’t just selectively remove the crassula. However, over time, the site will make a full and complete recovery. The works have certainly had the desired effect and the ponds are now suitable for breeding Great Crested Newts. In fact we have already had reports of both Great Crested Newts and Smooth Newts in the ponds already this year. The vegetation will of course grow back, especially now that it’s starting to warm up. The Crassula will return as it is impossible to eradicate. I would anticipate we would have to do something similar again in the next 5-10 years. These works are essential to ensure we maintain a network of ponds suitable for breeding Great Crested Newts.”

Red Line Against Fracking

Frack Free Ryedale has sent out an appeal for knitted/crocheted 15cm red squares, to be sent to them by the end of May. These will be stitched together by the Frack Free Yarnbombers to make a RED LINE AGAINST FRACKING. In a joint project with fellow activists in Portugal and Germany the piece will be displayed on 11 June, before travelling to Bonn for the COP23 conference in November; a literal representation of the flourishing campaign for a clean energy future. If you complete any squares than let Janice Scott know email timscot@hotmail.com and she will collect them and pass them on.

Sightings

Grey Squirrel - Roger LittonGrey Squirrel – Roger Litton

Roger Litton, “I thought you might like to see the attached photo – a fairly common sight in our garden!”

Events

Please check the website or contact the organisation to confirm events are still running.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Sunday, 30 April, Visit to Rosedale Watching Ring Ouzels in Rosedale. Time: 10.30, meet there or 9am at Trinity for car share

Nidderdale Bird Club

Saturday, 22 April, Ripon – where two rivers meet (Skell & Laver): a morning walk to Hellwath and Whitcliffe Wood nature reserve.

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society GOUTHWAITE RESERVOIR, SCAR HOUSE and ANGRAM

Meet at Gouthwaite Reservoir main car park at 9.30 a.m. (in cars). Looking for waders and spring migrants. Continue to Scar House, stopping en route for raptors, Pied Flycatcher, Dipper. Scar House car park for lunch, looking for Ring Ouzel, Wheatear etc. A walk then to Angram for those who so wish. When: Tuesday, 25 April, 09:30 – 17:30

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings, from the Nosterfield complex via twitter @NosterfieldLNR include; butterflies – orangetip, speckled wood and small white. Birds – avocets, ruff, little ringed plover, ringed plover, wheatear, little egret, greenshank, redshank, harris hawk, kestrel, sparrowhawk, stock dove,

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

Joe Fryer mealy redpoll at High Batts 15-04-2017. Brambling and yellowhammer 14-04-17
Pat Rumbold First fledglings of the year yesterday – young robins along the River Skell in Ripon. 15-04-2017
Joe Fryer Dallowgill moor lots of red grouse, wheatear, golden plover and a stonechat 13-04-2017
Ian Webster Scar House Road. Pied Flycatcher, Nuthatch, Treecreeper. 3-04-2017
Alan Tremethick Scarhouse Ring ouzel, Wheatear, Osprey, Gouthwaite Oystercatchers, Ring plover, Dunlin. 13-04-2017
David Gilroy Common Redstart at John O’ Gaunt’s Reservoir. 13-04-2017
Joe Fryer at Fountains Abbey. Red kites, mistle thrush, great spotted woodpecker, greenfinch, goldfinch, bullfinch 12-04-2017
Paul V Irving An adult White Tailed Eagle was photographed as it flew south over Hay a Park 11-04-2017
Tony Snowden Mandarin, on R. Nidd at Waterside car park, nr. Castle Mills. 11-04-2017
Paul V Irving 10/04/17 Colsterdale area Hen Harrier (reported immediately to RSPB on 0845 460 0121 or henharriers@rspb.org.uk vital if we are to save this species in England. Displaying male Merlin. Peregrines, Buzzard, Stonechat, Ring Ouzel, Swallow, Tree Pipit.
Also Green Tiger Beetle and Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola), Red Grouse.
RSPB Fairburn Ings, latest sightings,

Pintail 1-2 still hanging on. Red-crested Pochard Spectacular drake from 5th on western lagoon. Bittern. Booming males from three locations. Little Egret Three pairs nest building Great White Egret. Spoonbill Single from 3rd to at least 6th. Grey Partridge Pair on coal tips.Red Kite 1-3 Daily. Common Buzzard 20+ on 2nd most likely included passage birds. Grey Heron Viewable nests now with well grown young. Avocet Certainly 14, perhaps 18. Oystercatcher Up to 12. Little Ringed Plover Three throughout. Curlew Max 27. Snipe <10 now reported daily. Redshank Single occasionally. Peregrine Pair. Goldcrest Unusual  but 4 singing males at the moment. Willow Tit Seven singing males. Bearded Tit Reported on 4th and 6th. Cetti’s Warbler Six singing males located. Sedge Warbler Single on Parker’s on 1st. White Wagtail Singles on 1st and 7th.

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Trees Need Protection Too

IMG_2457A Veteran Oak Tree in Ripley Park

It always amazes me that ancient woodland and veteran trees have no protection when buildings of far inferior age and frequently to my mind appearance have strong protection, after all a tree might be 800 years old, see the ones in Ripley Park for example. They might have witnessed so many changes, so many historical acts, in Ripley’s case a certain Oliver Cromwell rode by, yet this seems to count for nothing, trees also provide a habitat for so many other creatures and support our wellbeing, make us feel good yet this seemingly counts for nowt or at least very little. Sheffield Council have much to answer for. Well The Woodland Trust is campaigning to change this, to get the Government to give exceptional planning protection to ancient woodland and veteran trees, and you can help. “The Government has proposed adding ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to the current list of policies that restrict development in England. It’s great news! Currently planning permission should be refused if it impacts these precious habitats. But a loophole has led to devastating losses. Now, through the new Housing White Paper – called ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – the Government intends to add ancient woodland aged and veteran trees to a list of the nation’s assets that should be explicitly protected from development. This would raise their status in planning terms to that of National Parks, SSSIs or Green Belt. But… it won’t change their fate – or close the loophole – unless the relevant guidance elsewhere in planning policy is amended accordingly.” Visit the website for more information and whilst they would well appreciate your brass, they are asking you to respond to a planning consultation and they provide help and guidelines, so why not do it?

Buzzard2 - Richard YeomanCommon Buzzard – Richard Yeoman (notice the rounded tail not the forked tail of a red kite)

Buzzard Persecution – Can you Help?

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to a successful prosecution on two injured buzzards found in North Yorkshire. The buzzards had been found shot at East Lutton and near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park. More information can be found at the Raptor Persecution website or at the RSPB website. Beware these two sites are somewhat contradictory so I’ll leave it to you to determine what was shot or illegally trapped and where, but the fact remains our birds of prey are being persecuted here in North Yorkshire and we should all be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t happen. These things can happen nearer to home and only recently a dead buzzard was found on an island in the Nidd near to Scotton Weir. It was taken to the vet who announced that prior to its death it had been in healthy condition. Doug Simpson kindly paid for an x-ray, out of his own money, which showed it hadn’t been shot, so was it poisoned? We may never know but healthy birds don’t just drop out of the sky unless man has had some influence on it!

Police investigation after red kite found dead in Nidderdale

Police are appealing for information after a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. On the afternoon of Saturday, 11 March a dead red kite was found near Greenhow, in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. An examination revealed the bird’s carcass contained what is believed to be lead shot. PC David Mackay, a Wildlife Crime Officer of North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce, said: “It has taken many years to re-introduce red kites after their near extinction from the UK, and these magnificent birds can now regularly be seen in the skies over North Yorkshire. They are a Schedule 1 bird and have special legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They feed on carrion and pose no threat to game birds, farmed animals or pets. I would ask anyone who has any information that could assist the investigation to get in touch with me.” North Yorkshire Police are being supported in the investigation by Yorkshire Red Kites. Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for PC 1452 David Mackay, or email david.mackay@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170047155 when passing information.

Sad News

Charlie Winn, the first warden at RSPB Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve, died last week, he was the warden, voluntary from the reserve’s inception in 1957 to the RSPB having a warden in 1978, he continued as Honorary Head Warden until he died. He was very well known and will be greatly missed.

Spring Hots Up

Steve Kempson heard his first skylark of the year as early as 26 February singing over Hay-a-Park Knaresborough.

Roger Graville writes, “In the annual frogspawn competition, one of your correspondents has easily beaten me this year. Although there has been the “plop” of submerging frogs as I approach the pond for a couple of weeks now, the spawn only just arrived today, 5 March. This compares with 24 February last year.” How is the frogspawn competition going in your area?

0194_large_paul brothersBrimstone – Paul Brothers

Jon Burge tells me, “A brimstone (butterfly) visited the garden today, an unusually sunny warm 12 March. It was zig-zagging around through the garden bushes presumably looking for a mate or buckthorn (none in the immediate vicinity). Unmistakable, all yellow top and bottom and much larger than any of the whites with very strong flight. I suppose the orange tips will be next, but I do not see leaves emerging on alliara petiola so perhaps in a week or two.” This is the first brimstone reported this year, at least to me. Alliara petiola or Garlic mustard, or as I call it Jack by the Hedge, is an orange tip butterfly food plant, as is Cardamine pratensis, known locally as milkmaid but also called cuckoo flower or ladies smock. I haven’t seen this plant either yet, but all the different names of plants interest me and confuse me at the same time.

Bob Barker makes an interesting point and one certainly recognised by the bird watching community, “A couple of weeks ago saw large flock of oystercatchers in fields above Gouthwaite reservoir and on my walks in the dales glad to see curlews and lapwings wheeling around the sky-although not in the same numbers as 10 years ago.” It is critical that we do what we can to protect these birds locally because when they are gone they are gone and that is the experience in other parts of the country.

I recently mentioned that Robert Brown had seen some bumblebees in a tree and I suggested that they were probably tree bumblebees. Paul Irving responded, “all emerging bumblebees make a beeline (sorry!) for flowering willow because it is one of the early major food sources so most will be white tailed, possibly buff tailed bumble bees, even some solitary bees. It is a little early for tree bumble bees although I have colleague who has seen one this week. Chiffchaffs, Brimstones, Peacocks and Commas were all reported last Sunday at Nosterfield Quarry. Frog spawn in the garden pond here for at least a fortnight, blackcap is also still here.” I was interested to speak to a volunteer at RSPB Sandy in Bedfordshire recently who tells me that the over-wintering blackcaps there leave and are replaced by the summer migrants but there is a fortnight without blackcaps. Whilst things here can certainly be different to Sandy it does suggest that Paul’s blackcap may be an over-wintering bird, time will tell.

What signs of spring have you seen?

The Great British Bee Count

Join the Friends of The Earth’s (FOE) Great British Bee Count 2017, an easy and fun way to find out how bee populations are doing across Britain. Bees face many dangers including habitat loss, pesticides and climate change so it’s important that as much as possible is discovered about these precious pollinators. Sign up and FOE will provide you with everything you need to count bees in your garden including their free and new Great British Bee Count app. Visit the Bee Count Map to see what was spotted near you in 2016.

Goosander - Richard YeomanGoosander – Richard Yeoman

Sightings

Richard Yeoman writes, “First some sightings This morning I took our dogs (as usual on a Sunday) down the Nidd Gorge as far as the weir – a few ducks around but not much else but then on the way back a pair of Goosanders flew past going upstream. Found then just above the viaduct! On the way back I passed the little pond on the edge of Bilton Fields – the noise! Lots of Frogs (or Toads?) in the pond. Then this afternoon I went up to the new rugby ground with Julie (my daughter) looking for a dog that had gone missing, it’s a Miniature German Schnauzer called Alfie, a group of dog walkers were out looking for it. Anyway got a photo of a Red Kite and a Buzzard. Second something which may interest you. There is a group of Dog Walkers who call themselves “Harrogate Happy Hounds” (about 30 member,s most of which are professional dog walkers). Last Saturday some of them went up to Hookstone onto the YAS Fields and spent an hour picking up dog poo (left by other people’s dogs) and rubbish. This coming Saturday they are going to repeat the exercise in the Bilton Fields around the viaduct. The point being that generally dog poo left on the ground is not left by Professional Dog Walkers, the vast majority of them do pick up, they adhere to the Council Guidelines.” What do you think?

Events

Saturday, 15 April Pinewoods Conservation Group, Easter Egg Hunt. Meet in Car Park 3, RHS Harlow Carr any time 11 – 12 noon. £2 entry non-members, free to members.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday, 10 April is their last Indoor Meeting of the winter season and sees the long overdue return of an old friend of the Group. Nigel Harcourt-Brown FRCVS is a vet who until his recent retirement practised in Bilton. His talk will be entitled Treating Birds of Prey.

Studfold Adventure Trail

The Great Easter Egg Hunt starts an exciting new season at Studfold… Opening on the Saturday, 8 April and throughout the Easter Holidays until 23 April 2017.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday, 17 April (Evening) Annual General Meeting followed by an update on the proposed Gouthwaite Wildlife Centre. Royal Oak, Dacre Banks.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings from the Nosterfield complex via Twitter @NosterfieldLNR include: whooper swans, swallow, red kite, house martin, willow warbler, Mediterranean gull, jay, common dog violet, osprey (mobbed by crows). Butterflies: orange-tip, brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell.

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

David Postlethwaite Seven species of butterfly at Staveley this afternoon including orange tip and holly blue. Little egret at the West Lagoon. 05-04-2017
Will Rich, At least one male Brimstone passing through my garden yesterday. 04-04-2017
David Gilroy, Blackcap singing outside the Academy Gym in Harrogate 04-04-2017
Mike Metcalfe, Drake Garganey giving superb views in front of hide at West lagoons, Staveley 02-04-2017
Joe Fryer, today in Ripon Spinny Wood I had a tree sparrow and in my garden I had my first swallow of the year 02-04-2017
Peter Thomson, Oak Beck, Knox Mill Lane Pr. of Mandarins in the garden jumped into the Beck at 0815 this morning and continued upstream. This must surely be the same pair that paid a visit on Apr 14 last year. 02-04-2017
David Holmes 24 Waxwings back garden of 65 Jesmond Road in the Guelder Rose, very mobile 02-04-2017