Why Not Croak & Coot Tag Team Competition!

Open Gardens

Open Gardens

I promised Jen Dening I would give a mention to the Open Garden event taking place this weekend at Stone Rings Close, Harrogate, so here it is. The kindly folk there are opening their gardens on Saturday, 13 May and Sunday, 14 May from 12pm to 5pm in aid of horticultural charity Perennial, local charity Carers’ Resource and the Harrogate Samaritans. Four gardens in Stone Rings Close will be open for you to wander round, taking in the Hobbit hut and some alterations at No. 9; further development to the cutting garden at No. 10; lovely tulips at No. 14; and the beautiful bluebell bank seen from No. 16 and No. 14, continuing along into No. 10. Where is Stone Rings Close? Well from Pannal, along Leeds Road towards Harrogate. At the top of Almsford Bank take the first left into Stone Rings Lane. Stone Rings Close is on the left after approx 100m. For Satnav users, the postcode is HG2 9HZ. Public transport: approximately 1.1 miles (a 25 minute walk) from both Pannal station and Hornbeam Park station. It can be reached via various bus routes; the bus stop is sited just a few minutes away on the A61 Leeds Road. Parking: You are welcome to park in Stone Rings Close and Lane. Please park thoughtfully. Entry is £5.00, Children under 16 are free and there are a plant stall and refreshments available.

Why Not Croak?

Croak is the online newsletter of Froglife, a national wildlife conservation charity concerned with the conservation of the UK’s amphibian and reptile species and their associated habitats. It’s free to subscribe to and in my view well worthy of your support.

Coot - Alan CroucherCoot Tag Team Competition – Alan Croucher

All Your Sightings

Alan Croucher sent me this photo of a coot tag team competition. It always surprises me just how combative, indeed vicious, coots are.

John Howard asked, “Do we have a small resident population of Siskins here. On Friday, 21 April there was one solitary male adult siskin in full breeding plumage on our bird feeder in the Woodlands area. I don’t recall seeing any this late in the year before. Is it unusual?” I am sure there are small, and over the years slowly increasing, numbers of breeding siskins locally. They like to nest in the top of conifers, the nests are difficult to see because the birds are so small. I have no scientific evidence for this but some years it seems over wintering siskins may like it here so much they stay over to breed. And as I have said it is possible that these birds increase in number slightly each year coupled with them slowly becoming resident.

Bill and Liz Shaw tell me, “We have had bird feeders in our garden for over 15 years yet today to our great joy a male bullfinch visited them for the first time, fab.” Mine seem to be disappearing, I hope not due to that horrible disease greenfinch mainly get.

Graham Sigsworth, see his blog, “A quick stop off at Nosterfield early evening (4 May) and 2 Arctic Terns were on the Main Reserve. 4 Avocets, 3 Ringed Plovers and 2 Dunlin were also present. Earlier this morning I witnessed a ♀ Merlin attack a Starling and she was unable to carry the bird off, so the Starling had a very lucky escape.

Mike and Brenda Wheatley recently wrote, “We walked along the Wharfe to Newton Kyme today (fantastic weather and so still!). We were pleased to see many Sand Martins (at least 50, maybe 100) swirling around by the Tadcaster Old Railway Viaduct across the Wharfe. Then very surprised to see them keep landing on the side of the viaduct and inspecting the holes in the masonry as though they were considering them as nest sites! Definitely Sand Martins as we viewed them with binoculars as they perched on the viaduct. Will be interesting to see if they do nest there – at least no chance of young being washed out by the river flooding (a disaster that unseasonally happened in June many years ago). We later met a wildlife photographer who said that Swifts regularly nested in the viaduct in previous years. So Swifts arriving in May might be surprised if Sand Martins are already in occupation…Several butterflies also spotted – including Yellow Brimstones. Also pleased to report that Lawn Bees are again making their little soil heaps on our lawn this week – have been doing this for several years now. Suspect they appreciate the nearby Flowering Currant bush… I try to mow round their little soil-castles – but it’s not easy!” I’m not sure swift and sand martins compete for the same nest sites although a hole is a hole is a hole. I wonder if the sand martins were landing on the viaduct to catch insects or genuinely prospecting for nest sites. I would be interested to find out and whether the swifts also continue to breed there, let’s hope it’s good for both. If you visit here regularly please let me know what happens. Thanks for thinking about the mining bees, normally I would suggest leaving off the mowing but I suspect the short grass is important for the bees.

Some first sighting dates for swallows in Pateley Bridge via Stan Beer of How Stean cafe, 11 April. Andrew Dobby saw one on the 9 April. Anne Brown of Summerbridge “had three swallows arrive on Thursday, 13 April, always good to see them return.”

Carol Moore writes, “Sightings from our garden/fields near Padside Beck. We were lucky to see a male Orange tipped butterfly at lunchtime today, 18 April. Didn’t notice if a female was around. Also seen in our garden, over the Easter weekend, we caught sight of a Peacock butterfly. Cabbage whites also around. A Peregrine perched on a fence in our field one morning. A Buzzard swooping near a Crow’s nest, on two occasions but seen off by a protective Crow. Spring has definitely arrived! Roe deer grazing, either single doe or group of three, including a buck with the usual velvety, small antlers. Sadly, a young spotted fawn which obviously had met an untimely end at the side of the road along Dacre Lane. Dreadful to see the large length of hedgerow and trees removed, as reported in the Harrogate Advertiser. 600! Houses to be built by Persimmon Homes. The worst time of year to destroy hedging, during the nesting season. Pair of Curlews visiting in our field but no rings visible. Not nearly as many lapwing around on the Dacre Lane fields.” How lucky Carol is to see all this wonderful wildlife around her home.

Roger Newman tells me that he has had a song thrush in his garden at the old Queen Ethelburgers on Penny Pot Lane, for the first time ever. Could this be because of the demise of the ill-fated hedgerow mentioned above by Carol?

Anne Richards reports, “We saw a small tortoiseshell butterfly at Ripley Castle and a few days later a Holly Blue at Pine Street Allotments, Bilton. (It could have been a common but I’m fairly certain it was holly). A first blue butterfly for me in that location.” At this time of year I tend to think of all blue butterflies as being holly, especially when it’s actually on holly. Common blue’s food plant is birds foot trefoil and similar.

Mandarin Duck - Richard YeomanMandarin Duck – Richard Yeoman

Richard Yeoman writes, “Over the last couple of weekends I have had a few sightings down the Nidd Gorge which I thought might be worth sharing. In no particular order, a Tawny Owl down towards the weir. A Dipper – down at the weir. Seen a few recently. A Treecreeper, Kingfisher – no photo as all I saw was a flash of blue. Mandarin Ducks – now I’ve heard people mentioning these many times but never ever seen one on the Nidd (or come to that anywhere in the Gorge). Now I’ve broken that duck (if you’ll pardon the pun). Also down at Hookstone Red Kites – two together.” The proposed inner relief road may well put paid to all this wildlife, beware!

John Wade rightly says, “I have commented several times about how much wildlife you see by simply looking around you. Recently, sitting on Hookstone Station, we were entertained by a song thrush, saw woodpigeons, wren, robin, great tit, chiffchaff and great spotted woodpecker. On train to London saw a buzzard. On return from London yesterday, a hare. On road to Bradford on Good Friday, at Riffa Bank, four roe deer. Simple as that.” Good things come to them that waits and looks.

Bombylius Major - Max HamiltonBombylius Major – Max Hamilton

Max Hamilton, “Thought this was a bit different, Bombylius Major (bee fly) sunning itself on the brickwork.”

An interesting observation from Claire Yarborough, “I knew that crows were clever, but I’ve never seen this behaviour before. It repeatedly picked up bread from the grass and then dunked it in the bird bath before eating it. Clearly, it likes moist food.” Something at the back of my mind tells me I have heard this behaviour before or even seen it but when it comes to crows don’t be surprised by their achievements.

Heron - Ian LawGrey Heron – Ian Law

Susan Hockey, “I thought I would let you know that the cuckoo has returned to Upper Nidderdale. My husband first heard him on 30 April, early this year.” Another cuckoo was reported from Thruscross reservoir on 26 April and as I reported earlier by Peter Bowman at Great Ouseburn, not many really so can you report any more? Ian Law with his daughter Lisa heard one “in fields above Barney Beck, Healaugh, in Swaledale on Sunday, 7 May.” Ian also writes, “This heron was spotted on trees at the back of my garden. You can’t blame it for trying but it won’t get a free meal from my pond as the otters took all my fish earlier in the year. Anyway how many people can say that otters and herons have visited them in their gardens. However, I have taken your advice and secured the pond with a high metal fence. I have also covered the pond with netting and will restock later in the year.”

Excellent news from RHA Harlow Carr, Andrew Willocks tells me, “1-3 May we have had a Wood Warbler calling along the streamside at Harlow Carr, this is the first Woody I have seen for many years. Good Orange Tip, Holly Blue butterfly numbers have also been recorded.” This is all great stuff, good numbers of butterflies and a rare bird making an appearance, let’s hope it stays around and finds a mate.It seems this is the first wood warbler at Harlow Carr for 12 years!

Illegal Slaughter of Migrating Songbirds

Alan Croucher has asked me to circulate this website petition asking HMG to Stop the Illegal Slaughter of Migrating Songbirds on MoD land in Cyprus.

Hen Harrier Shooting

The RSPB have released video footage of an alleged hen harrier shooting on the Cabrach estate in Scotland, for some reason the Crown Office have decided not to prosecute. Have a look on the Raptor Persecution UK website and make your own decision on this case, personally I find it both damning and unbelievable in equal measure, what do you think? If that one seems somewhat remote then this about Nidderdale may be more interesting. Any thoughts on what should be done?

Events

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

If you were planning to visit Plumpton Rocks this May then check the website first before doing so. Plumpton Rocks will now not open until June at the earliest, due to emergency repair works.

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A Confusion of LBJs

Visit The How Stean Cafe blog for flycatcher info.

IMG_5452Blackcap

A recent walk around Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Staveley Nature Reserve was a good opportunity to re-familiarise myself with those LBJs, Little Brown Jobs, that seem to appear from nowhere at this time of year determined to confuse my senses with their sight and sounds. Sight because as LBJs they all, at least superficially, look the same, as the name says small and brown. That is they usually are dressed for concealment, all wear camouflage gear, ideal for hiding in reeds, skulking in dead grass, nesting in the undergrowth. Each has its particular attire which reveals its true identification, provided that is you get a good enough view of it – you rarely do and consequently need to rely on sound for a positive identification. Well as some of you can confirm the older you get the worse your hearing becomes (I’m waiting for hearing aids) and this is compounded when almost all LBJs are summer migrants, all arriving at approximately the same time and all flitting around nonstop singing from their place of concealment. We can roughly call all LBJs warblers because all fit the bill although there are some confusing resident species which are small brown and tiny. Now however is the time for the warblers to arrive, indeed at a place like Staveley with reeds and water they are everywhere.

The first warbler to arrive is the chiffchaff which can be identified by that onomatopoeic song which literally does sound exactly like its name, chiffchaff, chiffchaff. By now they are everywhere and easy to identify provided they sing, from a sighting they can easily be confused with the very similar willow warbler, fortunately the BTO provides some identification help on their website. In the meantime familiarise yourself with the willow warbler’s song, best described as a repeated soft descending whistle, another song heard everywhere provided the habitat is right. In evolutionary terms it’s clearly not wrong since chiffchaff and willow warbler went their separate ways.

Locally we just don’t get nightingales and whilst deprived of their song one of the best songsters around, especially in the LBJ category, is the blackcap and it kindly helps us identify it because the male does sport a blackcap – I wonder how it gets its name? The female has a brown cap. The song is a delight, Collins describes it as “one of the finest – an irresolute chattering turning into clear, slightly melancholic flute-like notes at the end.” Collins also says it begins like a garden warbler, as if the garden warbler song is easily recognised by everyone. In practice many birders of increasing years struggle to distinguish between the two so turn again to the BTO website for more help. The garden warbler isn’t as easily recognised as the blackcap because frankly it’s the archetypical LBJ. Its only distinguishing feature is its dark eye which from the depths of a bush on a dull day is ….. well you know where I’m going! The basic difference in call is the garden warbler has a longer more fluty song. Maybe you should listen to the BTO video.

Sedge Warbler4Sedge Warbler

We should finish with the reed and sedge warbler. These denizens of the reed beds are skulking, secretive creatures, both struggle with the challenges of keeping their nesting sites private whilst at the same time attracting a mate and protecting their territories, no easy feat. You might argue with some justification that a reed warbler even takes the garden warbler’s position as archetypical LBJ, it lacks even the dark eye as means of identifying it, it won’t matter however because you rarely see it and when you do it is just a flitting glance, no more. The sedge warbler is at least recognisable if it does show itself because it has a thick white(ish) eye stripe and streaked back. It sometimes it will briefly rise above the reeds before parachuting down into cover. The reed warbler has no such distinguishing features and maybe it’s best to again rely upon the excellent BTO videos for help. Maybe I’ll mention whitethroat and lesser whitethroat another time, if that’s OK?

Butterfly Still Tumbling

Orangetip - Alan CroucherOrangetip – Alan Croucher

My last bit about butterflies – really it belonged to Butterfly Conservation – led to some of you kindly contacting me about these fascinating insects. Alan Croucher writes, “I thought you might like photos of Orange Tips. (I quite like the this one as you can see a bit of its underwing). We saw four at Lingham today when we visited. There were quite a lot of Sand Martins and Swallows around as well as three Blackcaps (two males and a female). Altogether we had around 50 species at Nosterfield and Lingham.”

Meanwhile Paul Irving writes, “Yes, butterflies had a pretty awful year last year but to suggest it was anything other than weather related would be rather premature. Some particularly those with short flight periods can be very severely affected in this way. The best way to look at butterfly trends is to look at five-year averages, that gives a much better picture of the long term. Yes, observer effort affects it too, remember in bad weather years there will be fewer of us out in the weather so annual fluctuations may be exaggerated.”

From Padside Janice Scott tells me, “I sent you my message about missing migrants last Saturday and couldn’t believe it when later that same day we saw our very own male swallow fly in. We know he is ‘ours’ as he made straight for the tiny hole that Tim has cut in the garage door as a ‘swallow door’, the main door being closed at the time. Since the weekend he has been inside every night, perched in last year’s half completed nest. We’re fingers crossed he has a mate this year, as we think something happened to his mate last year as she disappeared fairly quickly, but he stayed with us all summer, trying to attract someone else, without success. We have also now heard willow warblers around us, so there was obviously a small window for migrants last weekend although still thin on the ground. On the butterfly front, we have seen a single male orange tip around several times this week – very early for us. As you say, nectar plants are a problem when they are so early. Our garlic mustard and ladies’ smock are not yet flowering and the sweet rocket is only just beginning to open out. However this orange tip has been favouring a perennial honesty (lunaria rediviva) which is in full flower. I would heartily recommend this as a plant for wildlife gardeners – good for bees, butterflies and humans to enjoy.” What signs of spring have you seen?

Hedgehog Awareness Week

Hedgehog1 Chris HendersonHedgehog – Chris Henderson

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and takes place every year. This year it takes place from 30 April to 6 May 2017. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them. “There is concern at the moment about the introduction into this country from New Zealand of a trap used to kill hedgehogs, rats and stoats, which are all non-native pests in that country.  However, hedgehogs are a protected species here and anyone using the A24 trap would need to make sure they did not kill a hedgehog or they can be prosecuted. This year efforts are focussed on our strimmer campaign. We have produced waterproof stickers that we are sending to councils, tool hire companies, grounds maintenance teams etc free of charge on request (email info@britishhedgehogs.org.uk). The stickers remind operatives to check areas for hedgehogs before using any machinery. Once the group have received the stickers and sent us a pic of them in action, we can add them to our Hedgehog Heroes Roll of Honour!” See http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/hedgehog-heroes-roll-honour/

As well as checking areas before cutting there are other things we can do to help too:

  • Ensure there is hedgehog access in your garden – a 13cm x 13cm gap in boundary fences and walls.

  • Move piles of rubbish to a new site before burning them.

  • Ensure netting is kept at a safe height.

  • Check compost heaps before digging the fork in.

  • Stop or reduce the amount of pesticides and poisons used.

  • Cover drains or deep holes.

  • Ensure there is an easy route out of ponds and pools.

Events

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

Nidd Gorge Community Action

May 6, 4am to 6:30am Dawn Chorus Walk, Guided walk to experience the Springtime dawn chorus in the Nidd Gorge. Tickets are limited and cost £4 ring 07753 691219 to book your place.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Black Grouse Lek Visit to Langdon Beck at 5am on Saturday, 6 May. Location: Staying overnight the previous night perhaps, at the Langdon Beck Hotel. Postcode: DL12 0XP. Time: 5am Price: £25 Booking essential

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings, from the Nosterfield complex via twitter @NosterfieldLNR include: Flora – Yellow figwort, Birds – Avocets, Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Little Gull, Sedge Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Arctic tern, possible Turtle Dove, Little Ringed Plovers, Black Terns.

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

Mike Metcalfe 26-04-2017 Two Hobby at Staveley today, both flying together over East Lagoon, other highlights today included two Little Egrets, first Common Tern of the year and Garden Warbler.
Mike Metcalfe 24-04-2017 Hobby at Staveley today, flushed Sand Martins on east lagoon at 16.40, also present yesterday on West lagoons
Jess Bradley-Smith 24-04-2017 4 calling redstarts round Beaver Dyke reservoir earlier.
Peter Bowman 23-04-2017 Fri 21 April Cuckoo still present behind Great Ouseburn Church
Sat 22 April, Roecliffe Moor, Lesser Whitethroat heard on its usual territory with a Yellow Wagtail as a flyover and a Grasshopper Warbler then heard and seen in a roadside hedge (a bird on passage)
Today a Redstart singing near Ripon
Andy Cameron 23-04-2017 A male Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat both in the same area along the Nidderdale Way near Ripley today.