Urgent – Save Our Outdoors

To Save Our Outdoors, Do This Before Christmas, or lose them!

Green Space Designation Needed Here, Now

Protect Harrogate & Knaresborough’s Special Spaces (REF: NE6: Local Green Space)

I didn’t intend to write anything until after the New Year but sadly this is so urgent, you need to respond by 23 December, and your help is really, really needed, it’s very important so please help. I have been contacted by many folk concerned about areas which have been refused Green Space Designation (GSD), despite being loved and used by Harrogate and Knaresborough citizens for many years, indeed many kindly folk and much Council money has been spent looking after these spaces for what was expected to be perpetuity. Not any more unless you help now. The National Planning Policy Framework introduced the local GSD. It allows communities, through Local District Plans (LDPs), to identify areas they particularly value to be awarded special protection from new development (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

Toby (aged 10) tells us in his words why the park is so important to him.

‘I go to Jacob Smith Park all the time and started going when I was about two or three weeks old. So it is a massive part of my life.  When I am feeling stressed or annoyed, me and the dog just got there and walk it out and come back a lot happier. ‘I love wildlife and we see bats, birds, bugs, squirrels, frogs, bees, butterflies and countless others, and sometimes when the weather is fine we can see so far that we can see the white horse which is a great way to enjoy the walk in the middle of a walk. This is why I love Jacob Smith Park and all its wildlife’

Why is a ten year old so astute when Harrogate Borough Council is so naive? Save these special places for the future. Please!

There are very few sites in the district to my knowledge which have been designated by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) as Green Spaces. These include:

LGS 25 – Bachelors Field, Bachelor Gardens

LGS 11 – Stonefall Park – the ‘panhandle’ behind the Crematorium

These sites have been refused designation:

LGS 34: Grange Park, behind Pets At Home (conserved by HBC and volunteers since 1986)

LGS 32: Northern Outfall Allotments, Bachelor Gardens (1907 to date). This site is potentially on the Bypass/Relief Road route, making this a green space potentially blogs the inner bypass route. It’s crucial The Northern Outfall Allottments, near the sewerage works, has the protection of a Green Space Designation.

LGS 104: Bilton Fields, Nidd Gorge (43,500 trees planted in Partnership with HBC since 1985). Along each side of The Greenway. This site is potentially on the Bypass/Relief Road route, so it’s crucial it has the protection of a Green Space Designation. No more dog walking, no more cycling, no more wildlife, potentially that’s the outcome if this isn’t designated.

LGS 33: Bilton Triangle (90 acres of so-called Green Lung separating Starbeck and Bilton and stated by successive HBC leaders to be so highly prized as an open space allowing light and air to penetrate these otherwise dense urban areas). This site has been designated for housing and will therefore be serviced by a relief road/bypass.

LGS 28: The Pinewoods Harrogate. Really the Pinewoods are not a green space in the HBC’s blinkered eyes.

LGS22: Harlow Hill Allotments.

For a site be designated a Green Space it needs to fulfil stringent tests of ‘beauty’, ‘tranquillity’, ‘historical value’ and ‘wildlife value.’ The bar has been set very high but achievable because that’s what these places are. So send in your views, clearly listing your reasons and do so en masse because surely public opinion counts.

Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group has some sound advice, “The best I can say is that ‘someone’ from each organisation must put together a dispassionate report covering in the most comprehensive detail possible hard facts supporting ‘beauty’, ‘tranquillity’, ‘history’, ‘uniqueness’, ‘public access/amenity’ etc. Photographs, news reports, wildlife reports (solid detail). All that is the basic minimum – as many letters, and individual comments to the Town Plan as possible will be ‘helpful’ but we have been told repeatedly that the core report submitted for each site will be what matters. I’ve got my head down putting a package together for the Bilton and New Park sites – which is keeping me awake at nights – and I know the Pinewoods Group and Allotments Association are doing the same. Letters of support won’t do any harm, but they need to have at their heart a solid core document which nails their colours to the mast. Remember this: if LGS applications fail, sites are vulnerable to development and the next option the Local Authority has is to declare the site an ACV ‘Asset of Community Value’ – in other words ‘if you want it make a bid for it and take on yourselves £X’ – whether this would mean bidding on the open market against open competition I don’t know. Underpinning all this is the fact that Local Authorities have no legal obligation to maintain parks and open spaces and in these days of national austerity are seeking ways of minimising their overheads as their Central Government funding shrinks and their only recourse is to go for expansion to increase their Council Tax Revenue.”

Your Help Urgently needed To Protect the Pinewoods

Neil Hind of The Pinewoods Conservation Group has made a similar plea, he asks that everyone spends 10 minutes to show their support for Green Space Designation. “As you may be aware, the Pinewoods Conservation Group applied for ‘Local Green Space’ designation as part of the Harrogate Council Local Plan process. Because these sites were rejected you won’t find them on the plan, at least I couldn’t find them but they are threatened and needed fighting for. Unfortunately, this was rejected for a number of reasons but mainly insufficient evidence from users on its special nature to the community. We need local residents to input into the consultation to show that the Pinewoods is special to them and should be protected as a green space.” He asks that you consider the following points but not to repeat them verbatim: Why do you visit and use the Pinewoods. It is with families for recreation, dog walking, tree climbing, orienteering etc.

  1. Do you use with any groups and what benefits does this bring?
  2. Do you have picnics within the woods, especially at the new picnic area on Irongate Field?
  3. Do you watch the wildlife within the woods – birds, squirrels or if lucky stoats, deer etc.
  4. Do you attend and enjoy our events – Easter Egg Hunt, Open Day, Bulb Planting etc.

We especially need responses from resident groups, schools, youth groups and any other group users of the Pinewoods. We will be writing to some well-known users but please encourage any groups you are involved with to also write.”

Knaresborough – Jacob Smith Park

LGS 58 Jacob Smith Park Scriven Knaresborough. Jacob Smith Park has been given a Green Space Designation but they still need your help to make the designation a reality. Jo Smalley of Friends of Jacob Smith Park writes, “Thanks to the tremendous backing of individuals and community groups who sent in evidence to HBC, our precious park has got this far. We now need those same individuals and groups and new ones who value the park to submit further comments to express support for the draft GSD. We need to keep working together as a community to maintain momentum so the decision is adopted in the final plan. Please spread the word. The key five areas of recommendation for GSD are beauty, tranquillity, recreational value, historical and wildlife. I would REALLY appreciate individuals and groups making reference to these areas when submitting comments please. The park certainly ticks all these boxes!”

How To Avert This Crisis

Responses can be:

  1. Made online at the council portal via http://consult.harrogate.gov.uk/portal
  2. Via email to planningpolicy@harrogate.gov.uk
  3. Via letter to Planning and Development, Harrogate Council, PO Box 787, Harrogate HG1 9RW

Comments can be made by registering for HBC’s online portal – http://consult.harrogate.gov.uk/portal or alternatively sending them by post to Planning Policy, Planning and Development, P.O. Box 787, Harrogate, HG1 9RW. Please note very carefully, if submitting by post remember to include your full name and address. HBC will not accept anonymous comments or just a name and email address.

Thanks, Your Help Much Appreciated

I appreciate this is a busy time but if you can take 10 minutes to draft a quick note, or better still take longer to write a comprehensive well supported letter, it will be appreciated and your green spaces will remain green, hopefully for our kids and our special wildlife to enjoy for ever! Thanks ever so much.

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Blog Update

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A number of you kindly folk keep asking me how I am and wished me well so here’s an update. My operation lasted an unbelievable 2.5 hours and afterwards I was in some considerable pain which was of course dealt with by pain killers, sadly I had a none too good experience with the pain killers which it took about a month to discover was a problem. Since changing pain killers I have been making slow but definite improvement and now manage short was each day, during which I have enjoyed kestrel, red kite and buzzard along with redwing, fieldfare and yellowhammer. Anyway I hope to start writing my blog again but this may not be until after the New Year now. Until my operation I have either written my newspaper column or blog every week, without fail, for 21 years so I reckon a break is in order. I hope you agree.

In the mean time please do email me if you have any queries and especially over the holiday period do send in your questions, photos and sightings so I can start again with a bang in the New Year. For those of you who have contacted e and haven’t received a reply, I hope you will accept my apologies. Do contact me again and I will try to reply to everyone from now on.

Finally if I don’t get round to starting my blog again before the holidays, may I wish everyone a great Christmas and especially under the current circumstances, a prosperous New Year.redwing-nigel-heptinstall

Redwing

My apologies if you received this by email and not by blind copy, very sorry.

Problems, Problems, Problems

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Red Kite – Roger Litton

Problem 1: I just had a major disaster with the computer, the hard disk decided to call a stop to pretty much everything, well a go slow really, a very, very go slow and despite having written this week’s blog I was unable to send it out. My apologies therefore to the folk organising the Day of Action for the Climate in Pateley Bridge on Saturday, 8 October, sadly I was too late to give them a deserving mention. My very grateful thanks to Katja at PC Harmony for her help and consideration. All This means that if you have contacted me and received no reply then it may be best to try again in case stuff has gone astray, sorry.

Problem 2. I go into hospital for an operation on Tuesday, nothing sinister, for my sins I have to have an exploratory operation, so for a while my blog may be less frequent, shorter or not at all. Please bear with me and continue reading when I return. In the meantime if anyone wants to drop me an article for inclusion in the blog I will do just that if I feel up to it. Why a red kite photo? Well at least I might be able to see red kite’s from my windows!

URGENT Volunteers Oscars

John Fox has asked me to tell you that nominations for the Volunteer Oscars has been extended until 4.00pm on WEDNESDAY 12 OCTOBER 2016. You can nominate online at www.harcvs.org.uk. Please have a look and nominate a volunteer or group of volunteers or a company. These folk deserve our support and thanks.

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Chicken of the Woods – Pete Hesleden

UK Fungus Day – Sunday, 9 October

No, not a celebration of just how lovely I am but a serious attempt to promote fungi. The objective is to raise awareness about fungi and fungi science, sadly the nearest events to Harrogate are around twenty miles away and can be found on the UK Fungus Day Website. Why is fungi important? Well the website tells us of five reasons why fungi shaped the world but maybe first of all we need to recognise that the mushrooms we find when we are out and about are just the fruiting body of the fungi, just the tip of the fungal iceberg, they are attached to long interconnected threads called mycelium which feed on the medium in which the fungi live. Fungi are separate from both animals and plants and are part of their own kingdom. Fungi perform five functions. 95% of all plant species have an intimate relationship with fungi without which plants could not thrive. These fungi are collectively known as “mycorrhizas” and they form a fundamental partnership with trees and plants with the fungus providing nutrients that the plant root cannot capture, while the plant in return provides the fungus with sugars from photosynthesis. Fungi are the natural garbage clearance organisations of the world and rid our planet of dead substances. Yeasts are a type of fungus and we come into contact with yeasts all the time, for example in bread and alcohol. But fungal products are used to manufacture, ripen and flavour cheese, squash and fizzy drinks, which contain an acidity regulator made by fungi, biological washing powders contain fungal products that help digest fat stains whilst other fungal products are used to boost the weight of pigs and chickens, tenderise meat, peel fruit and vegetables and remove hair from animal hides for leather production. Even chocolate has a stage where fungi play a vital role in imparting flavour. Bizarrely fungi can also cause disease, sometimes fatal, by infecting plants and animals, yet fungi have played a major part in defeating disease as well, and penicillin is the best example of that.

Last week I wrote about a fungus John Stockill wanted identifying and my educated, well not very educated, guess was saffron bolete. I have had an email from Adrian Bennett of The Mid Yorkshire Fungi Group (MYFG) who tells me the fungus is actually “some young ‘Dryad’s Saddle’ or ‘Pheasant Back’ specimens – Polyporus squamosus with its concentrically scaly cap. I’ve been caught out several times by the rather odd appearance of this fungus in its young state. The Leccinum just has a cracked rather than scaly cap. It is said to be edible http://mushroom-collecting.com/mushroomdryad.html particularly when young but I would never personally recommend it – or even identifying fungi from a photograph!” My grateful thanks to Adrian. If you are interested in fungi the MYFG has a regular series of members meetings, especially over the next few months.

Bilton Conservation Group 2017 Calendar

If you are looking for a stocking filler for Christmas, look no further. At £5 Bilton Conservation Group’s (BCG) A4 in full colour 2017 calendar will fit the bill. BCG have been producing one each year since 2013 with the help of all those members and supporters who have sent their favourite images of Nidd Gorge between Harrogate and Knaresborough: its wildlife, the untamed river and the different faces it presents through the seasons. If you live in postal district HG1 it will be delivered to you. If you are farther afield then postage costs will apply. Either way please get in touch if you would like one. Printing will take place in the next couple of weeks and the calendar should be available by 15 October so please place your order early by contacting the Secretary Keith Wilkinson on: Email: niddgorge2016@talktalk.net. Finally if you have a favourite image of Nidd Gorge (minimum size 500Kb) which you would like BCG to consider using in 2018 then again let Keith know.

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Badger

Badger Cull Area Tripled

Did you know that the size of the area where badgers are to be culled has tripled to now include Herefordshire, Devon and Cornwall, all this despite most evidence including the government’s own scientist telling us it won’t work. Rachel Maskell, shadow environment secretary, said: “The decision to extend the badger cull flies in the face of the government’s own evidence that shows the killing of thousands of badgers has not reduced the number of cattle contracting bovine TB. The government promised when they embarked on the cull that it would be an evidence based approach, yet they are failing to take any notice of the facts.” Rachel Maskell has now stated that Labour will stop the cull. The Green Party has said the badger cull is “barbaric and ineffective.” Before the election, Nick Clegg said his party was committed to rolling out a “humane and effective” badger cull if elected.

Laws of Nature Pledge

The environment could soon come under attack from politicians and corporations who want to use Brexit to harm nature. Decades of progress on clean water, clean air, thriving wildlife habitats and climate action could now unravel. Sign up to the Greenpeace campaign to protect the laws of nature, our environment and to stop our climate laws being weakened.

Hospital Bound

Sightings

Steve and Janice Sale have reported what I am fairly certain is a female southern hawker dragonfly (http://www.british-dragonflies.org.uk/species/southern-hawker). Normally seen in the south they have only started been seen more regularly up’t north in recent years, probably as a result of climate change.

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Chipmunk – Dave Roberts

David Roberts has sent me some photos from Canada where he lives, a chickadee and a chipmunk, both of which seem very tame. “We were out for a walk in the woods today and fed some chickadees. A chipmunk muscled in on the action and made off with most of what was on offer.” I guess chickadees are what we might call new world coal tits.

John Wade wrote on 3 September, “Just seen 2 house martins over my house. Are they late? Playing golf at Masham today, so might see more by the river. I went to Harrogate Theatre last night, and at about 7pm there were about 30 flying creatures flying between Jespers and Argos, quick flight, chirping a lot, landing briefly on roofs. The light was poor, and my first thought was pied wagtails. But they seemed a bit quick. The only alternative was bats. What would they be? Definitely not starlings.” House martins late in my view, but not exceptionally late and good(?) weather might encourage them. I reckon John heard some avian species, unless his hearing is exceptionally bats echo locate at a higher frequency than humans can hear especially those older than 21. A bit early maybe for pied wagtails but, like John, I can think of no alternative. Another thought is a winter migratory bird such as redwing but I have had no reports so far; however, they do migrate at night although they probably wouldn’t land on the pedestrian precinct because they would prefer an area where they could feed. I understand some redwing are back so keep an eye and ear open for them. They make a ‘seeep’ call flying over at night.

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

From HDNS’s sightings page, Joe Fryer golden plover at Staveley, Mike Smithson hobby at Farnham and Andy Cameron redwing over Harrogate.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve Complex

Some unusual sightings this week from Nosterfield, whinchat, kingfisher, yellow-browed warbler, pinkfoot geese, ring-necked parakeet, dunlin, kestrel, buzzard, sparrowhawk, peregrine and redwing.

Outdoors Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday 10 October 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Talk by Phil Warren “Black Grouse of the North Pennines”

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 14th October – Spurn

High Batts Nature Reserve

Monday 17th October at 7.30pm at the Golden Lion pub in Allhallowgate, Ripon. Admission £2  “Britain in Focus” Wildlife and Landscapes from around the UK by Whitfield Benson

Shooting Kills Our Vulnerable Wildlife

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Hare – Sylvia Addyman

I was concerned to see that our local butcher is selling hare. The Mammal Society, their motto is “for evidence based conservation” tell us that hare numbers declined substantially since the beginning of this century, though they are still common animals in many parts of the country. The problem is that even if we have plenty of hares – and personally I see fewer and fewer – it is even more important that we hang onto ours because in other places the decline is more emphatic. When I got home I found an email from Carole Turner which asked me to mention that there’s a new petition reference a moratorium on shooting red-listed wading birds, https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/167410. The petition states, “Woodcock, Snipe and Golden Plover are shot in the UK despite serious, ongoing population declines. A moratorium should be imposed to allow the impact of shooting to be established by independent scientific investigation and any necessary regulations introduced to ensure that shooting is sustainable”.

Fungi ID

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Saffron Bolete – John Stockill

John Stockill contacted me recently, “came across these specimens at Studley Royal at the weekend walking with the family on my birthday. Are they edible or would I not see my next birthday if ate them?” I am no expert on anything and especially fungi, so this is more a best guess than anything else. Apparently to ID fungi you need to know what it is growing on and see its spores/underside. It appears that the fungi is growing on wood and most likely oak. Its shape suggests a type of boletes and maybe I ought to stop there; however, there are very many types of boletes and some are considered rare. Another problem is that they can change shape and colour as they grow and may well be very varied in shape and colour anyway. Books therefore tend to describe a typical species rather than the exception and books also tend to picture only the most likely specimen. So after saying all that my best guess – and it is only a guess – is Leccinum crocipodium Saffron Bolete (http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/leccinum-crocipodium.php). I have some reservations because saffron bolete is considered rare and my experience is that we tend to usually only see common stuff. You could try trawling through the First Nature web pages (http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/~id-guide.php) and see what you think is best bet. I’m equally unhelpful on whether it is poisonous or not. Saffron Bolete probably isn’t although the taste is described as ‘not distinctive’. The problem is other boletes are poisonous and we have no positive identification. As I have said to others, my advice is only eat fungi from a supermarket shelf because even non-poisonous ones may be rare and play an important role within our biodiversity, especially because of their symbiotic relationship with other stuff.

Fracking Debate

An opportunity to hear the issues from both sides of the ever increasing divide on this fractious issue. The title actually is, “This House Calls for an Immediate End to Fracking in the UK.” The proposing speaker for this event is John Plummer. John represents Frack Free Harrogate District. He is motivated by concerns for his grandchildren’s futures and by his longstanding enthusiasm for history and the great outdoors.

Opposing is Ken Wilkinson. Ken graduated in Engineering from Manchester University in 1974, and worked in engineering for many years before he became a physics teacher. He is completely independent, both financially and in his views.

The seconders are Lorraine Allanson and Ian Crane. Lorraine is a businesswoman, a former farmer who now owns a complex of accommodation serving the tourist and business markets. Lorraine founded ‘Friends of Ryedale Gas Exploration’ who are in support of the gas industry and try to add balance to the debate on shale gas. Ian R Crane is another experienced engineer. He has witnessed first hand the impact of the Unconventional Gas Industry in the USA and Australia. Ian established his FRACKING AWARENESS CAMPAIGN immediately after the UK Government lifted the moratorium on fracking in December 2012. For more info about the speakers visit here.

The debate is on Thursday, 6 October 2016 from 19:00 – 21:00 at Wesley Chapel, Oxford Street, Harrogate. Entrance is £5 and Harrogate Debate is a non-profit organisation, all money goes towards further debates. Everyone is welcome to attend the event.

Sightings

Hedgehog: June Anstey of Harrogate. “Thank you for the heartwarming picture of their nightly visitor, a friendly hedgehog, sent in by Ann and Les Maxwell. How I wish I had a photograph to send of the two hedgehogs who appeared on our back lawn at 9.15pm one night last year after dark. We watched with such delight as they performed what we assumed to be a courtship dance for 50 minutes. One, who we guessed to be the female, rotated on the spot with her eyes firmly on the male’s face as he tried, unsuccessfully, to get round to reach her rear end. At 9.55pm the female scuttled off into the undergrowth while the male wearily followed. We have entertained high hopes this year that we might be visited by a family of young ones, but so far we have been disappointed. Sadly we have never seen any hedgehogs in our garden since that night. We were saddened to read in the Telegraph recently that hedgehogs are heading quite speedily for extinction. Readers were urged to ensure there is access available through their fences – so often hampered by gravel boards at the base. What a loss they would be to our gardens.” The NFU tells us they haven’t intensified farming over the past 20 years yet it now seems most arable fields are spread with some type of slug deterrent, pellets? Coupled with the amount of the stuff spread on our gardens is it any wonder we have no hedgehogs. Don’t believe the myth that badgers are to blame, nice try but unlikely to be the main cause.

Heron: Clare Watkinson of Ripon visited Nosterfield Nature reserve and reports a grey heron being mobbed by a black-headed gull. A bit of a David and Goliath moment but many small birds are prepared to mob a larger bird to move it away.

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Large Yellow Underwing Moth Laying Eggs – Rex Bradshaw

Yellow Underwing: Rex Bradshaw noticed a strange substance appearing on the badminton net in his garden, “mistook them for lichen until one of the grandchildren pointed out that they were eggs! But of what? Later that day, I took a magnifying glass down and saw that they were hatching! Larvae were miniscule and, after a short while they all dropped off into the grass. If you look closely, you can see them actually dropping off. Posted images on several websites but no one seemed to know what they could be. Then, one evening after dark, I photographed a Large Yellow Underwing (moth) actually laying eggs and the mystery was solved.

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Large Yellow Underwing Moth Eggs – Rex Bradshaw

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Large Yellow Underwing Moth Larvae – Rex Bradshaw

Shirley Dunwell of Bilton, Harrogate writes, “My observations from late July to mid September: The feeding frenzy which I noted in July abated and by August, starlings and blackbirds went to forage elsewhere, possibly harvest bounty? The finches however have remained constant in their use of the feeders. I think my last sighting of a swallow was 12 September. The robin, not seen all summer, returned late August and the starlings (flock of about 30) and blackbirds reappeared early September. Frogs have been calling, unusual at this time of year? Several speckled wood butterflies seen, both in the local fields and my garden 17/18 September, but in my garden only one ladybird, one small tortoiseshell, and one hawker dragonfly – a very poor count considering the warm, sunny and calm weather. Lots of shield bugs though and a few greenfly. Two silver ‘Y’ moths were flitting between my fuchsia and erysimum flowers on a balmy evening.”

PLEASE SUPPORT ME BY SUBMITTING YOUR SIGHTINGS, I try to mention everything

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Landscapes, flora and fauna of the American West, Dr John Mather BEM HDNS. Wednesday, October 5 19:30 – 21:30

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve Complex

Recent sightings, collated from twitter, include; curlew sandpiper, kingfisher, bittern in flight curlew sandpiper, dunlin, ringed plover, curlew sandpiper, dunlin, pochard, whinchat and black swan which apparently doesn’t count, but nice anyway.

‘Our Wonderful Nature is in Serious Trouble’

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sightings

great-tit-nest-peter-thomson

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.

Events

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

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.”

goosander-peter-thomson

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-3

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!”

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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?

Sightings

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..

Events

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.

IMG_1467

Peter The ‘Bilton’ Peacock

Can We Trust the National Newspapers?

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

Wild Flower Verges

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

Your Sightings

Brown Hawker - Steve Kempson

Brown Hawker – Steve Kempson

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

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

Hummingbird Hawkmoth - Rachel Kingdom

Hummingbird Hawkmoth – Rachel Kingdom

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

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

Hedgehog - Ann and Les Maxwell

Hedgehog – Ann & Les Maxwell

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

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

Please Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

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

Curlew Coffee Morning

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

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

RSPB Fairburn Ings

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

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

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

Wild Flower News

Cinnabar Moth and Small Skipper - Robin Hermes

Small Skipper & Cinnabar Moth LarvaeRobin Hermes.

Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

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

France - Jon and Jen Dening

Le Grand Vieil – Jon and Jen Dening

Wild Flowers

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

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

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

Illegal use of Motorbikes

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

Spurn Migration Festival

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

Your Sightings

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

Blackbird – Charles Gibson

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

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

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

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

RSPB Fairburn Ings

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

From Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

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

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

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

Events

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

High Batts Nature Reserve

Saturday 13th August – Balsam Bashing

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 16 August – Alkborough Flats and RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 12th August – Nosterfield Reserve

Monday 15 August – Pateley Bridge Riverside, Evening walk