Tree Charter, Cranes and What You See

19 February 2016

Ancient Oak Lamb's Close DallowgillAncient Oak – Lamb’s Close, Dallowgill


Way back in 1217, just two years after Magna Carta was signed, Henry III signed The Charter of The Forest. The aim was to protect the rights of people to access and use the Royal Forests. The Charter of the Forest provides a window to a time in history when access to woods was integral to life. Being denied access for grazing livestock, collecting firewood and foraging for food was a real concern for the people of the time. Now The Woodland Trust reckon it’s time for another Charter because trees in all areas of society are more at risk than ever before from natural threats, such as pests and diseases, man-made pollution, infrastructure and political disinterest.

Making history – the call for a Charter

In summer 2015 the Woodland Trust put out an invitation for organisations from across the conservation, environmental, business and social sectors to join a call for a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People. More than 35 organisations answered the call, and have been working with the Woodland Trust to create a national moment for woods and trees. It will establish a legacy of lasting change for the relationship between trees, woods and people. This charter would bring trees and woods back into the centre of public consciousness and political decision-making in the UK. After all, as The Woodland Trust tells us, trees provide “clean air, natural flood defences, a mask for noise, improved physical health and mental well-being, mitigation against the urban heat island effect, pollution absorption, wildlife habitat, recreational spaces in cities, contact with nature in cities and sensory outdoor learning resources. Yet tree numbers are declining and frequently they aren’t being replaced. For example, according to Rotary Clubs – Community and Environment and Sustainablity newsletter, Nidderdale, delightful as it is, has only 5% tree cover. The national average is 8%. Harrogate Rotarians are doing something about it, you can offset your carbon emissions with trees and these guys have a scheme to do just that. But it’s not cheap, it involves a lot of volunteer help and you can get involved too.

Share your tree story

One of the things that worries me is that when hedgerow trees in particular fall over they are never replaced. Yet they provide a superb habitat, excellent aesthetic appeal and suck up all this excess water that will plague us more and more in the future. The Woodland Trust as part of the Appeal want to know your stories about trees. Have you got a treasured memory that wouldn’t have been the same without trees? Please help to create the charter by sharing it with The Woodland Trust. Let’s do more to protect our trees.

Cropped CraneCommon Crane (Grus grus)

The Great Crane Project

Some of you may remember Michael Clegg, a Knaresborough lad who will be respectfully remembered as a broadcaster, journalist and environmentalist. He was involved in making what we now know as RSPB Old Moor into a nature reserve. I recall sharing the Harrogate Naturalist Society’s private hide at Farnham with him. One of his legacies is the annual Michael Clegg Bird Race (the most species seen in 24 hours) which raises money for a Yorkshire bird conservation project. This year the project raised money for the Yorkshire Breeding cranes. Our thanks to the record number of teams which took part on 3 January and raised so far over £1100 for this project. The winning team saw 107 birds. If you would like to donate or find out more about next year’s bird race please email Graham Speight

Dipper - Peter ThomsonDipper by Peter Thompson


Chris Norman writes, “Last April I moved to Dubai, so really miss home. The pictures of the Kite, the Tawny Owl and Gouthwaite tugged at my heartstrings. Very good news regarding the continued success of the Red Kites in our region. Metropolitan Dubai doesn’t offer much in the way of wildlife, but I am thrilled that a laughing dove is nesting in a “potted” olive tree on our balcony. Apparently passerines nest all year round here, but mostly avoid June/July/August, which is understandable as the eggs would almost boil in the ambient temperatures! They would need to sit on them to keep them cool!” Wow! My blog is going international. Thanks Chris.

Steve Whiteley was “watching my resident flock of sparrows on my feeder together with the other various regular visitors (coal tits, blue tits, great tits, collared doves, robin and wood pigeon) this morning, I noted this little chap in action. I believe he is a wood mouse and he has been active all morning and a lot more adventurous than normal. He has been resident under my shed for 3 years now and currently appears intent on chewing his way in at the moment. I thought they were supposed to hibernate during the winter but perhaps not. He may have been confused by the warmer weather.” In fact very few of our mammals hibernate – dormice, hedgehogs and bats. Some of the rest may not venture out quite as much if the weather is really bad. Many get by by caching their food, a well known example is the grey squirrel and perhaps another is the fox, if it gets into a chicken run.

Jim Neary recalls a sighting of a leucistic (all white) crow back in 2012 (in the area of Morrison’s car park, Harrogate where Edna Barker saw hers). I wonder how long they have been around there and does the collared doves still nest in the car wash there?

Roger Graville writes, “Just read the comment about bullfinches in the Hookstone Woods area (Harrogate). We are very near there on Arncliffe Road, and we regularly have a pair of them on our sunflower seed feeder. Usually one at a time, but occasionally there have been both male and female together during the winter.” I find what happens with bullfinches is that the male comes first, looks around for danger, flies down to the feeder and when confident it is safe calls down the female. I believe that they pair for life.

Stuart Ibbotson “thought I would drop you a note around my 2016 sightings. My list for my local patch (Bilton, Harrogate) is, after three weeks, missing song and mistle thrush, also redwing and fieldfare. I hope that due to the lack of berries around that they have moved on in their search for food. Greenfinch is also absent and is worrying if compared to 10 years ago when I considered them to be a pest as approximately 30 would take over my garden feeders. Siskins are plentiful in the garden and as I write a party of eight are present. Also bullfinch numbers are consistent with four pairs being regular visitors. Happy to report that this week I have seen two separate dippers staking out their territories on the Nidd, one of which is by the Scotton weir. Also grey wagtails seem to be returning to their breeding sites. A barn owl was hunting in the daytime around the farmhouse that is adjacent to the Nidderdale Greenway. I suspect that it had been unable to hunt on the previous two days due to the non-stop heavy rain. Today at 8.45am two otters which from their appearance I would say were mother and daughter, were making their way upriver and seen swimming under the viaduct. Shortly after a buzzard flew through the trees and across the river. It all makes you ponder on the changing face of nature. Twenty years ago I would never have dreamed of seeing buzzards on my local patch let alone otters. Greenfinches and thrushes were taken for granted as being omnipresent and were overlooked. Food for thought!” Stuart certainly raises some interesting points, slightly further afield we see little egret, whilst barn owl numbers remain high. Goosander numbers seem to have peaked and then fallen back again but not to the very low numbers of 20 years ago. Out wildlife numbers continue to fluctuate but whilst there are winners and losers don’t ever forget that around 60% of our birds have declined in the past 20 years and butterfly numbers continue to be a worry. We still have a lot of work to do to retain our biodiversity. I just wonder what effect car and industrial emissions are having, after all if our kids are more likely to get asthma how is our wildlife affected?

Lisa Walch wrote, “I saw a barn owl in full flight at 4pm yesterday near Grassington. It was flying across a field. Couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture the memory.” They are great, aren’t they? Keep watching in the same place, camera at the ready, you may see it again.

RSPB Fairburn Ings reports the following interesting birds this week, “three Smew inc one male, Egyptian Goose one.”

Recent birds at Nosterfield Nature Reserve complex include, Red-necked Grebe (Flask Lake), Bar-headed Goose, Little Owl, Grey Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Caspian Gull (Lingham), Goldeneye and both races of white-fronted goose (Carthrope Mires).

It’s always great to hear what you have seen whilst out and about and whilst a photo always helps it’s never essential because I have a good stock and I have some great friends who are happy to share their photos with us.

Notes For Your Diary

RHS Harlow Carr

The East Dales Ringing Group will be ringing and recording birds caught at RHS Harlow Carr this Sunday, 21st February (WEATHER PERMITTING). Normal entry fees to RHS Harlow Carr applies, open 9.30 – 4 with last entry to gardens at 3. An opportunity to get close to and fully appreciate birds normally seen at a distance.

Through Your Window

Judith Fawcett reports a robin on her new, blue, feeder and she has had visits from amongst others long-tailed tits, a sparrowhawk and a very wet redpoll braved the snow showers. I suspect these will be leaving their flocks to start pairing up, prospecting for nest sites and eventually breeding, good luck to these delightful bundle of feathers.

Stan Beer at How Stean Gorge tells me, “Seen goldcrests, great spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers and nuthatches on the feeders at the gorge. They have only just started to come and feed.”

Jen and Jon Dening, tell me, “Lots of activity on our bird feeders currently. Here is a pair of Bullfinches and a Siskin. The latter is staging a welcome return as we haven’t seen any for a while.” Like me and despite national findings Jen and John’s bullfinch numbers are increasing.

Share what you see through your window with me.