‘Our Wonderful Nature is in Serious Trouble’


Yellowhammer – a Red Listed, Farmland, Species

Not my words but Sir David Attenborough’s in his introduction to the State of Nature Report 2016. In fact Sir David says, “The news, however, is mixed. Escalating pressures, such as climate change and modern land management, mean that we continue to lose the precious wildlife that enriches our lives and is essential to the health and well-being of those who live in the UK, and also in its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. Our wonderful nature is in serious trouble and it needs our help as never before. But the State of Nature 2016 report gives us cause for hope too. The rallying call issued in 2013 has been met with a myriad of exciting and innovative conservation projects. Landscapes are being restored, special places defended, and struggling species are being saved and brought back. Such successes demonstrate that if conservationists, governments, businesses and individuals all pull together, we can provide a brighter future for nature and for people.”

The State of Nature Report 2016 follows on from the 2103 report but this time has even more conservation organisations contributing to it. A magnificent 50 organisations in fact, in realistic terms it is all the organisations in the UK’s which truly care about biodiversity and wildlife telling us what’s what, no more no less and what’s more they are doing it honestly and openly. So what are the headline statements? Well I’ve been selective as you might expect, after all there are 85 pages, but you can link to the document for a fuller interpretation.

  • Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of species declined, with 40% showing strong or moderate declines. 44% of species increased, with 29% showing strong or moderate increases. Between 2002 and 2013, 53% of species declined and 47% increased. These measures were based on quantitative trends for almost 4,000 terrestrial and freshwater species in the UK.

  • Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern Red List criteria, 15% are extinct or threatened with extinction from Great Britain. An index describing the population trends of species of special conservation concern in the UK has fallen by 67% since 1970, and by 12% between 2002 and 2013. This is based on trend information for 213 priority species.

  • A new measure that assesses how intact a country’s biodiversity is, suggests that the UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the global average. The index suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

The Report tells us, “Many factors have resulted in changes to the UK’s wildlife over recent decades, but policy-driven agricultural change was by far the most significant driver of declines. Climate change has had a significant impact too, although its impact has been mixed, with both beneficial and detrimental effects on species. Nevertheless, we know that climate change is one of the greatest long-term threats to nature globally.”

In a nutshell species numbers are declining and some are critically declining and the main reasons are agricultural change and climate change. How therefore would you expect the farming community to respond? Bearing in mind that we all contribute to the farming subsidies you might expect farmers to say OK we recognise that there’s a big problem so let’s work alongside the 50 Conservation Organisations which added their names to this report and let’s do something about it. Well they didn’t they say it’s not us. Wouldn’t it be far better, especially when farmers receive such vast subsidies from the public purse (sorry have I said that before) wouldn’t it be better if they said OK we have problems but let’s talk with the Conservationists, let’s see what more can be done and let’s recognise the public’s concern let’s stop been so selfish and let’s start recognising the debt we owe the UK Public. For the full NFU response see here. Meanwhile we can all lobby post Brexit that any subsidies paid to farmers contain properly policed measures designed to enhance our wildlife and biodiversity, surely that’s not too much to ask. There are proven schemes were agriculture has enhanced wildlife and farmers continue to make a profit and we have food on our tables, after all have you seen a poor farmer?

Caterpillar ID


Buff Ermine Caterpillar – Sue Turner

Sue Turner from Wetherby contacted me to ask for an ID of a caterpillar she had found and I couldn’t, sorry but despite consulting various books and websites the answer it eluded me. Not surprising really as there are around 1000 moths and 50 odd butterflies and I’m no expert on anything. Anyway I tried tweeting, not a method of attracting our avian friends but social media and Mark Memory responded via Facebook and suggested it was a brown-tail moth. He then suggested contacting Wildlife Insight a photography website and I contacted Steve Ogden there. I thought I would share with you his excellent website, wonderful photos and most importantly is excellent response. Steve tells me, it’s most likely a buff ermine caterpillar. And here is the beautiful moth” Although I was unable to get a side on view so Steve could confirm it. He also refereed me to more hairy caterpillars. The excellent Wildlife Insight website deals with moths, butterflies and birds and is well worth a visit.


Buff Ermine Moth – Steve Ogden – Wildlife Insight

Ladybirds in Decline?

Another guy with a keen interest in bugs is Paul Brothers who writes, “To be fair I have seen Small Tortoiseshells, just not in any large numbers. Small Coppers have been very low. Holly Blues are doing okay. Red Admirals are feeding up in my garden on the buddleia at the moment. Only seen one Painted Lady in the garden though. Speckled Woods are doing very well, with a late brood on the wing at the moment. I’d say I have seen 20 plus individuals. Even Common Blue numbers have been relatively low this year. I have spotted loads of micromoths. See the link below for images.


22 Spot Ladybird – Paul Brothers

On another note, 2-spots, 10-spots and 7-spot ladybirds have been very poor of late. I wonder if the Harlequins have impacted on them as Harlequins are to be seen again in very large numbers, in most of their phases. Orange and 22-spot ladybirds are doing well again, but mildew on the plants has probably been good to them. I have seen some good mirid bugs and leafhoppers this year. Always chance finds, often in singles or low numbers. Just as a point, you may be interested in https://www.viewbug.com/member/PaulBrothers where I have some of my photos online.”

The last week or so with the warm weather has improved the lot somewhat of butterflies and whilst still below expectations there have been more of the common species and this demonstrates the importance of late flowering plants, for example don’t prune your buddleia until March so it flowers later. I have also seen precious few ladybirds and would be interested to know what you views are. Mirid bugs, plant/leaf bugs, Miridae are small, terrestrial insects, usually oval-shaped or elongated and measuring less than 12 millimetres (0.5 in) in length. Many of them have a hunched look, with the head bent down. They are usually brownish. For more info see BugGuide. Leafhoppers feed by sucking the sap from plants and have modified hind legs used for jumping.



Great Tit Nest & Tennis Ball ‘Fluff’ – Peter Thomson

Have you ever wondered what happened to your tennis balls after the dog lost them? Well Peter Thomson may have the answer, He has sent me this photo of a nest box which “had been successfully occupied by Great Tits and I was puzzled as to how they had managed to add some interior decor to match their plumage until I found a tennis ball under a nearby bush which they had obviously been plucking.”

John Wade reports seeing great crested grebes recently at Nosterfield.


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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday 24 September – Filey Dams and Brigg Country Park

Nidderdale Bird Club

Sunday 25th September – Blubberhouses to Thruscross Reservoir

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include; Cream crowned marsh harrier high over flask /Lingham, 60+ curlews, greenshank, green sandpiper, black-tailed godwit.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

A corncrake was seen at Fairburn, on the 18/9/16, although I doubt it is still there.

Whooper Swan 2 throughout. One rung has adult (female) in Iceland in 2014

Wigeon Slow build up 35 max

Pintail At least 4 throughout.

Red Kite Max 6 on 12th.

Common Buzzard 15+ on 12th.

Marsh Harrier At least 4 different birds.

Osprey Single on 11th.

Water Rail Small numbers daily.

Black-tailed Godwit 1-2 throughout.

Ruff 2 throughout

Little Stint Single on 15th.

Green Sandpiper 1 on 14th.

Common Sandpiper Single throughout.

Greenshank Seen daily on Spoonbill Flash – upto 4.

Barn Owl Singles on 10th and 14th.

Little Owl Single on most dates.

Swift Single on 12th.

Ring-necked Parakeet Single on 15th.

Peregrine At least three throughout

Cetti’s Warbler Singles on 11th and 15th.

Whinchat Single on 12th and 13th.

Water Your Nettles!


Kingfisher – Peter Thomson

Oak Beck Wildlife

Peter Thomson lives by the side of Oak Beck at Knox, but before I reveal his fascinating sightings there and excellent photos an apology for misspelling his name in the past. “At 8 am last Saturday morning I saw something swimming very fast just below the surface of the beck and didn’t know what it was until a pair of Goosanders appeared swimming upstream, followed by five more. The strange thing was that they all appeared to be females. They then all submerged and started swimming up and down the beck in formation at great speed before carrying on upstream; a truly remarkable sight. I thought this must have been a girls day out until I looked up Goosanders in my 90 year old copy of Birds of our Country where it said ‘young males and old ones in summer undress look very like females’. The book also says ‘Though not equal to the ordinary ducks as food, the Goosander is edible if skinned and stewed with onions and Worcester sauce; the idea that fish-eating birds are unfit to eat is quite incorrect, but they need special treatment’. I saw them again at 8 am on Wednesday morning, but this time there were 12 and I managed to catch a photo of them before they carried on upstream. I would also like to report that this has been a very successful year for Kingfishers which are flying up and down the beck very regularly and I have seen at least four different ones, of which at least two were juveniles. This one stopped to do a bit of preening.”


Goosanders – Peter Thomson

Anti-Fracking Needs Your Support

Are you in Harrogate this weekend? If so then find time to visit Lush, the fresh handmade cosmetics shop on Cambridge Street. This weekend you can buy a Charity Pot (of handmade, environmentally responsible body lotions) there and support the Anti-Fracking Campaign. At the same time why not have a word with one of the Frack Free Harrogate District campaigners and discover just why Fracking is so bad for our environment. Don’t think Harrogate and the surrounding area is immune from fracking, far from it, we might be the next area for exploitation, and exploitation it is. For example, our drinking water could be polluted, our health seriously compromised, our roads jam packed with heavy lorries and hundreds of well sites may be built. This isn’t fantasy, it’s what’s happened elsewhere in the world, so why not visit the website, call in to the support the campaigners at Lush this weekend and show your opposition to these insidious developments.

A Must Watch Video

Paul Irving is a local birder, ringer and wildlife enthusiast who also just happens to be chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum. I know Paul has spent many dedicated hours monitoring raptors in general and hen harriers in particular on the Nidderdale grouse moors, indeed I have occasionally joined him, as has Danny, our lad. Well, Paul has released a YouTube video interviewing Chris Packham, you know the one about the decline of hen harriers in England. It’s called The Real Price of Grouse: A Black Hole For Hen Harriers. It makes interesting viewing and I commend it to you, you may even wish to search for more of Chris Packham’s videos and discover the reality regarding our moorlands!

Tortoiseshell Numbers Decimated

A few years ago, in fact for ever, I considered small tortoiseshell butterflies were our most commonest butterfly, so some of your reports are worrying, very worrying. One of the best places to see butterflies locally, in my view, is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Harlow Carr Gardens, where there is a fantastic array of flowers and grown with a knowledge and concern for our biodiversity which exceeds that of most gardeners, a truly special place. Andrew Willocks, a concerned and very knowledgeable gardener there, told me last week “Not seen a single Small Tortoiseshell this year in the gardens, plenty of Peacocks, Red Admirals and a recent arrival of Painted Lady Butterflies. We have left in place plenty of drifts of stinging nettles for the larvae with hope that some may appear as caterpillars. Comma also seem to be missing as well.” To be absolutely accurate Andrew contacted me again a couple of days later, “As if by magic we found two Small Tortoiseshell butterflies in the gardens yesterday; however, we are still well down on the previous years’ counts on the Harlow Carr butterfly survey. Even the most commonly recorded butterfly in 2016, the Peacock, is well down on last year’s numbers. Yesterday’s butterfly count on the Buddleia included 2 Brimstone, 20 Red Admirals, 2 Peacock, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Small White, Common Blue, Small Copper and Skipper. A healthy population of 10+ Purple Hairstreaks was also recorded in the gardens in June along with Orange Tip and Holly Blue.” Well, intrigued at the lack of butterflies in what I believe to be one of our district’s best places for butterflies, I met Andrew on Monday this week for a look round. The weather was warm with a strongish breeze and it seems that I timed my visit with a hatch of small tortoiseshell butterflies, we saw between 10 and 20. You try counting them. In fact we also saw painted lady butterflies, whites, and a single brimstone and peacock. Good numbers perhaps for 2016 but considering where we were and how few we saw compared to previous years still worrying. Harlow Carr’s experience was in no way unique, a number of you kindly sent me your butterfly experiences this year and it doesn’t make easy reading:

Via twitter ‘gib‘ writes,”a worry this year, no comma, red admiral or small tortoiseshell on my buddleia this year and only 2 Peacock.” Gib did see one tortoiseshell after that tweet, one only though.

Another tweet from Trevor Brown, “Only seen one Small Tortoiseshell all year, Nigel, usually have quite a few during the summer but not this year.”

Alan Hood tweeted, “12 small Tortoiseshell in garden, Flamborough Head.” Sounds like another small hatch!


Small Copper – Alan Croucher

From the much more understandable media of email Alan Croucher writes: “Butterfly numbers do seem to be low this year. Although I have seen several species, there has never been very many individuals. We had Peacocks, a few Orange Tips and a Blue (couldn’t see which) in the garden earlier in the year but for the most part there have been Speckled Wood (many) and Large Whites plus recently an odd Red Admiral and there has even been an occasional Painted Lady. On walks the main sightings have been Meadow Browns and a few Ringlets. I did see a Small Tortoiseshell (just one) up at Coldstones Quarry on 10 August. As far as Small Copper is concerned – I saw 3 or 4 at Hatfield Moor, near Doncaster on August 4th – though none more locally.”

June Sharp writes, “have seen 1 red admiral. 1 blue and a fair number of coloured butterflies on a Buddleia at Grantley Village Hall about a week ago, so exciting!”

Bernice Ferguson tells me, “We have seen only two or three small tortoiseshells this year – one or two in the early spring and two or three in the summer – not as many as usual. Fewer peacocks as well but loads of red admirals, especially on the buddleia. There were a few painted ladies as well. There seemed to be a dearth of coloured butterflies until the late warm weather.”

Paul Brothers from east Leeds also contacted me, “To be fair I have seen Small Tortoiseshells, just not in any large numbers. Small Coppers have been very low. Holly Blues are doing okay. Red Admirals are feeding up in my garden on the buddleia at the moment. Only seen one Painted Lady in the garden though. Speckled Woods are doing very well, with a late brood on the wing at the moment. I’d say I have seen 20 plus individuals. Even Common Blue numbers have been relatively low this year.” Paul has a website called ViewBug that you may be interested in. Like others Paul’s butterfly count improved ecently with 4 red admiral in his garden. He also does regular insect surveys for various places including Middleton Park were he recently recorded, “very good numbers of Speckled Wood with 78 being counted, though only 1 Small White and 1 very late Common Blue, even though the weather was fine and warm. No sign of any Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells which is a bit surprising. 

Tessa Mobbs tells me, “It has been a very strange year for butterflies at Felliscliffe, Harrogate. We have a lot of buddleias in the garden, but had only seen a few whites this summer up until about three weeks ago. Then, over the course of a few days, we saw nothing but red admirals – I counted 15 of them on one of our buddleias. Two weeks ago, we saw several peacocks, as well as the red admirals – and 2 painted ladies. But we haven’t seen any butterflies since – and we have seen hardly any small tortoiseshells. Last year, there was a considerable number of small tortoiseshells on the buddleias.” The reason Tessa saw so many red admirals is most likely because there had just been an hatch, I believe butterflies all hatch at once as a defence against predation.

Phil Roberts writes, “Missing Tortoiseshells? – missing everything! They have existed this year, but not in South-side Harrogate gardens. Try Menorca, it’s all happening there! Wonderful displays of butterflies, dragonflies, damsels etc rising before you as you walk!”


Red Admiral – Doug Simpson

Doug Simpson: “Haven’t seen a Small Tortoiseshell or Comma in the garden (Jennyfields) for weeks. Brimstones are the most numerous of the non-white butterflies, having had three together during the week. Attached is a photo of our sole Red Admiral in recent weeks, this being the first time we’ve had one on our Clerodendron. I think it found it a suitable place to bask in the sun. It was certainly very obliging. It looks as though it’s had a minor mishap involving the rear of its left wing. No more Painted Ladies but a Speckled Wood called by today.”

Carol Wedgewood from Thornthwaite, “We saw 2 Peacock butterflies in the garden on Thursday but not at the same time. Only 1 Small Tortoiseshell.”

Water Your Nettles

Hopefully this week we will all see more butterflies but all tortoiseshells have declined by a staggering 73% since the 1970s, our biodiversity really is in danger we need to protect it, urgently. Reasons for the small tortoiseshell’s decline are unknown but speculation includes climate change, pollution and parasitic flies that kill the butterfly’s caterpillars, but Butterfly Conservation needs more information, so please send them your sightings. Even drought conditions affecting nettles, the butterflies’ caterpillar food plant, has been blamed and certainly we have had a dry if gloomy summer. Also butterfly numbers can and do bounce back but a drop of 73% in 40 years indicates something more sinister at work than mere seasonal setbacks.

Reserve Sightings

Farnham, Harrogate Naturalists’ Societies private nature reserve

Robert Brown reports, Greenshank, redstart and the sixth osprey of the year on Sunday

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include: osprey, little stint, kingfisher, brown argus butterfly, caspian gull, turnstone, green sandpiper, whinchat, sparrowhawk, greenshank, black-tailed godwit, ruff, ringed plover, common sandpiper, little egret, barn owl, dunlin, little ringed plover.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Whooper Swan 2 throughout,

Wigeon Daily up to 10.

Pintail At least 4 throughout.

Garganey Single on 4th

Gadwall c500 on 7th.

Tufted Duck c400 on 7th.

Bittern Single on 4th

Red Kite At least 3 throughout.

Marsh Harrier At least 4 different birds.

Osprey Single on 4th and8th

Water Rail Small numbers daily.

Curlew 3 on 7th

Black-tailed Godwit 7 on 6th. Single from 8th.

Ruff Max 5 on 7th and 8th.

Green Sandpiper 3 on 7th.

Common Sandpiper. Single throughout.

Greenshank Seen daily on Spoonbill flash – upto 4.

Snipe Daily max 10

Common Tern 2 on 3rd.

Hobby Singles occasionally.

Peregrine At least three throughout

Raven 2 on 4th and 5th.

Redstart 2 on 4th and 1 on 5th.

Missing Tortoiseshell, Have You Seen One?

Small tortoiseshell - Roger Litton

Small Tortoiseshell – Roger Litton

Butterflies have such a short lifetime, especially as adults, and even this is limited by the weather, most preferring to fly on hot, sunny days and whilst it has been mostly dry this year the sunny days have been few and far between. The flight periods differ for each species and whilst some are quite long others are short or restricted by only one or sometimes two broods. 23 July was a great day for butterflies and this is reflected in the sightings seen at Farnham Gravel Pits, the private reserve of Harrogate Naturalists Society. Robert Brown reports small skipper(59), large white(15), small white(13), green-veined white(12), red admiral(2), painted lady(1), peacock(3), small tortoiseshell(8), comma(1), speckled wood(1), gatekeeper(164), meadow brown(159), ringlet(74). This contrasts with 9 August with brimstone(1), large white, small white, green-veined white(all recorded) common blue(6), red admiral(2), painted lady(3), peacock(3), comma(1), wall(1), gatekeeper(40), meadow brown(recorded), ringlet(2) holly blue(1). Now bearing in mind if I was a politician I could make these figures read whatever I wanted, however, I’m not so I’ll try to be objective. Let’s take the migrant butterflies, red admiral and painted ladies, clearly they just haven’t arrived this year. More worrying, some of the so called common butterflies – peacock, small tortoiseshell and whites – have all been recorded but even the whites are in numbers we would consider low a few years ago. The coloured ones are no doubt responding to a series of cold, damp wet summers and warm winters. Apparently cold winters may help over wintering butterflies survive. Gatekeeper and small skippers have done remarkable well as have ringlet and we can assume the ringlet’s flight period was over for the second count. Comma and speckled wood are relatively recent incomers as they have expanded their range northwards, perhaps circumstances mean they are now contracting their ranges, but especially worrying is the speckled wood, which a few years ago were seen in huge numbers, a very rapid decline indeed. Holly and common blues are in very small numbers, especially common blues, which could be seen in triple figures on occasions in some places, although not necessary Farnham. Wall is perhaps the most worrying because only one has been seen and they are now considered very, very rare. The biggest worry, however, doesn’t even occur on either list – what has happened to the small copper? These are just my views and have no scientific significance, but be worried, very worried that our biodiversity is in real danger.

Wall - Robin Hermes

Wall – Robin Hermes

These sightings compare with observations made by other folk and my concern just grows. Robin Hermes photographed a wall butterfly recently at Farnham and writes, “it will be a second brood, for some reason or other very few have been seen this year. Keith Wilkinson tells me he hasn’t seen a small tortoiseshell butterfly all year and encourages you to visit the Butterfly Conservation website (BC) to help them by recording any small tortoiseshells you have seen this year. BC asks, “Concern is growing as sightings of this previously common butterfly are significantly down across the UK. The small tortoiseshell is an easy species to identify. The butterfly’s uniquely patterned orange and black wings are framed with a border of small blue crescents. If you spot one of these pretty little butterflies in your garden before the end of the season, please submit your sightings.” Butterflies do have specific flight periods and many, including the small tortoiseshell, are around now, weather permitting. Another such butterfly is the migrant red admiral and Red Admiral - Roger Brownbridge

Red Admiral – Roger Brownbridge

Roger Brownbridge writes, “Having spent the summer saying how few butterflies we had seen, particularly red admirals, lo and behold walking near Grassington on Bank Holiday Monday we passed a white buddleia upon which we counted 15 red admirals – you wait for a bus and then two come along!” These will be recently hatched butterflies, offspring from an earlier migration from the Mediterranean, and whilst it’s great to see so many sadly it’s not sufficient to make up for the lack of red admirals seen this year. Roger Litton writes, “At long last we’ve seen a red admiral in the garden (on the buddleia). As we’ve all been saying it is amazing – and depressing – how few butterflies there are; however, not to have seen a red admiral before now with our three buddleias almost over is staggering.

Nidderdale’s New Pollinator Project

Some great news from The Friends of Nidderdale AONB. They have secured £42,000 of funding from Biffa Award to provide new and improved pollinator habitat in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and at Otley Wetland Nature Reserve. The plan is to create a new ‘pollinator pathway’ to link fragments of habitat together along a 10km corridor and connect into Buglife’s B-Line network. This flower rich pathway will support Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species of conservation concern. The two year project will restore 43.5 hectares of BAP lowland meadow at carefully selected locations using seed and hay collected from local donor sites wherever possible.

Taking about pollinators, Jackie and I have recently returned from a week’s holiday at Kinlochard in Scotland. Kin means head so we were at the head of Loch Ard, west of near Aberfoyle. We visited the Wee Blether tearooms and apart from some great food we were pestered by wasps and that made me think, why are there so many wasps here and so few locally. Well Kinlochard has very little farming around, no arable and very few cattle or sheep, and this coupled with the lack of cars made me wonder just how big an impact agricultural chemicals and car fumes have on our biodiversity. This view was supported by the good numbers of swallows and house martins around, birds which depend on insects. To my mind it’s a no brainer, what do you think?

Pinewoods Conservation Group’s Open Day

This Saturday, 10 September on the Recreation area between Harlow Moor Road and Crag Lane, from 12 noon to 3pm. It’s free and includes a dog agility demo, drive a digger and tree climbing, plus refreshments by the 20th Harrogate Scout Group, fun activities, ice cream and picnic and games area.

Macmillan Cancer Support Appeal

Paul Cowham who used to report about the peregrines on Harrogate’s Copthall Towers – it may have another name now – has run 100 miles during August and will follow that with The Great North Run for Macmillan Cancer Support, because he wants to help make a difference. Why not visit his Just Giving web page and support him, so far he has reached £400, surely we can do better than that?


House Martins - Charles Gibson

House Martins – Charles Gibson

Apology: My apologies to Charles Gibson. In my last blog I mention Charles had reported swifts congregating on power lines, they were of course swallows and the mistake was all mine, sorry. He also took this photo of house martins in Shaw Mills.

Green Woodpecker3 - Dennis Skinner

Green Woodpecker – Dennis Skinner

Sparrowhawk: Dennis Skinner of Wetherby reports a sparrowhawk taking a wood pigeon in his garden. The size of the prey means that the sparrowhawk must have been a female as it was far too big for a male sparrowhawk to take. The next day Dennis was visited by a juvenile green woodpecker, let’s hope it keeps a wary eye out.

Moorland Raptors: Barry Carter tells me, “I have been on the moor three mornings and late afternoons to last light and I have seen up to three red kites and similar in buzzards. I actually saw a buzzard in the tree being bombed by a kite on the top road to Wath just before the two seats looking over Gouthwaite, and also four, yes four kestrels hovering in the same field where the buzzard was! Parents teaching juveniles?” Maybe I shouldn’t tar every moorland owner with the raptor killer brush, is this an exception? What do you think?

Buzzards: Alan Croucher thought you may wish to sign this petition opposing the buzzard cull, “https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/163483

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include: Greenshank, little stint, osprey, hobby, little egret, avocet, kingfisher, little ringed plover, ruff, black tailed godwit, dunlin, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, ruff, ringed plover and avocet.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Whooper Swan 2 throughout, Shelduck 2 Juvenile throughout, Wigeon Daily up to 10, Pintail Single throughout on New flash, Garganey Daily. 10 at start down to 4 at end of week, Red-crested Pochard hybrid 1 on 28th, Bittern Single on 1st, Red Kite At least 3 throughout, Marsh Harrier At least 2 throughout, Osprey 1 west over flashes at 1pm on 29th after which spent few hours at Swillington Park before being seen again in the early evening from Pickup hide. Probably the same bird (an adult, presumed male) out southwest over the moat early morning the next day, Water Rail Small numbers daily, Ringed Plover Single on 1st, Curlew 1 on 31st, Green Sandpiper Present daily in small numbers, Common Sandpiper Present daily in small numbers, Greenshank Seen daily on Spoonbill Flash – up to 4, Snipe Daily max 7, Hobby Single on 1st, Peregrine At least three throughout, Sand Martin 500+ on 29th, Redstart 2 at moat from stile by bungalow on 29th, Wheatear Single on coal tips trail on 29th..


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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday 12 September 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Steve Race entitled “Wild Shetland”

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 9th September – RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 13th September – YWT Spurn NNR

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.


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.


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.”


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.


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

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 12th August – Nosterfield Reserve

Butterfly Haven, Perhaps Heaven!

Six-belted Clearwing - Rex Bradshaw

Six-belted Clearwing – Rex Bradshaw

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


A Gathering of Green-veined Whites

Hen Harrier Plan Fails

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

Barn Owl2 - Steve Tomlinson

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

Biodiversity in Unsafe Decline

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

Campaigns – Woodland Trust, “Enough is Enough”

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

Free Seeds

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

Your Sightings

'Feed me! - Ian Willson'

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

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

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

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

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

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

RSPB Fairburn Ings

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

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

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

Is Austerity Saving Our Grass Verges?


Wrexham Wild Flower Verge – Ian Humphreys of Ian Humphreys Photography

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

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

Little Owl - Robin Hermes

Little Owl – Robin Hermes

Your Sightings

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

Blackcap - Christine Dodsworth

Juvenile Blackcap – Christine Dodsworth

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

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

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

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

Mullein Moth Caterpillat - Max Hamilton

Mullein Moth Caterpillar – Max Hamilton

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

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

Thruscross reservoir - Stephen Tomlinson

Thruscross Reservoir – Stephen Tomlinson (Nidd Gorge Photography)

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

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

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

Reserve Sightings

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Turtle Doves Population in Tailspin

Please keep sending those sightings, photos and questions.

Turtle Dove - Jill Pakenham BTO

Turtle Dove – Jill Pakenham/BTO

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

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

Painted Lady - Robin Hermes

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

Big Butterfly Count

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


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

Your Sightings

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

Green Shieldbug - Steve Whiteley

Green Shieldbug – Steve Whiteley

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

Large Bee Fly - Steve Whiteley

Large Bee Fly – Steve Whiteley

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough

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


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

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough

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

Nidderdale Bird Club

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