Why Not Croak & Coot Tag Team Competition!

Open Gardens

Open Gardens

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

Why Not Croak?

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

Coot - Alan CroucherCoot Tag Team Competition – Alan Croucher

All Your Sightings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mandarin Duck - Richard YeomanMandarin Duck – Richard Yeoman

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

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

Bombylius Major - Max HamiltonBombylius Major – Max Hamilton

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

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

Heron - Ian LawGrey Heron – Ian Law

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

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

Illegal Slaughter of Migrating Songbirds

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

Hen Harrier Shooting

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

Events

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

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

Red Kites & Fracking

Red Kite - Doug Simpson

Red Kite – Doug Simpson

Any Red Kites Nesting Near You?

At the beginning of March, Red Kites probably started thinking about nests and all that entails. Some will no doubt be intent on some refurbishment prior to settling into a new breeding season. Not all established pairs will stick with the previously used nest, sometimes they get more ambitious as though they have learnt from their previous experience. To pairs which lost their nests in the storms in 2015, perhaps they have consulted the manual and will make a rather better job in their efforts this season. Stick-carrying is the first sign of nest construction, culminating in the addition of the lining material. Ideally this would be sheep wool but, unfortunately, plastic materials often find their way onto the nest, occasionally with dire consequences. Plastic can form a waterproof membrane in the nest, causing pooling of water and failure of eggs or death of the young. Yorkshire Red Kites are particularly interested in sightings of pairs in new locations, particularly where this indicates a widening geographical spread of the population. Please let them know if you suspect that this is happening – the information will be treated confidentially. You can do this via the web site form and provide as much information as possible, including, if you can, date and time, weather conditions, exact location, post code or OS grid reference if known.

Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators

This is a book about pollination and habitat management and is aimed specifically at Farmers and land owners. It’s free and can be downloaded from here. You can also order print copies.

This book, published in April 2016, is an informative and useful practical guide for conserving insect pollinators. It brings together practical skills with an in depth understanding of pollinator ecology providing farmers and other land managers with the best available advice on creating and managing habitats for bees on farmland. The book is the distillation of a 20-year research partnership between Marek Nowakowski – a practitioner with a passion for wildlife conservation on farmland – and applied ecologists working for the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.’ Please forward and share with anyone who you think will find it useful.

“Living with fracking”

A note for your diaries. Joanne and Steve White live in Ryedale and are concerned about the proposed fracking in their area. Having spoken to their MP, who visited Pennsylvania to look at the impact of fracking there, they decided to make their own visit, hoping for reassurance. They bought a video camera and went to meet many of the people that their MP had spoken to. The film, ‘Living with fracking’, is the result of that trip. Steve and Joanne have been invited by Nidderdale Climate + Environment Group to come to Glasshouses to show their film and answer questions about it. Coming with them is Dr Tim Thornton, a retired Ryedale GP, to talk on the health impacts of fracking. This event is on Monday, 23 May at 7pm in the Broadbelt Hall in Glasshouses. All are welcome.”

Wildlife Politics

Shirley Dunwell writes, “My first sighting of orange tips (butterflies) near South Stainley on a glorious sunny day. Re insects, generally: Has anyone researched the effect that traffic has on our insect population? Or am I alone in my concern? Surely the effect of hitting billions of them constantly, particularly on fast motorways, but overall any travelling vehicle is lethal to them. The bumblebee becomes a statistic with just one crack of the windscreen and quite often I come across them on the pavement, a sure indication to me that they have been hit. The smaller insects are difficult to detect but I suspect their numbers are depleted dramatically. I certainly don’t have a problem with ‘fly squash’ on my car as used to be the case.” Shirley raises a very interesting point. I suspect that the answer is no. Did you also realise that according to the Asthma UK 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12). Now in my view much of this is caused by vehicle emissions. If these small particles can affect us then imagine the damage it possibly does to our insects. Combine this with pesticides, herbicides etc. etc., and couple all this with the fact that the oil, car and chemical global conglomerates have huge power over our Government, is it any wonder our wildlife is in such decline? What do you think?

North Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Unit tweeted that there was a Red Kite shot near Harrogate on 26 April and badger baiting near the West Yorkshire border same morning. Do not report incidents or crime on Twitter, ring 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Moorland Myths Exposed

Martin Tither writes, “Interesting views on moor gripping. Research on this topic has been going on for some years – one of the best-selling Chief Scientist’s Division Research Reports from the Nature Conservancy Council was on precisely this topic, and that was late 70s, early 80s. United Utilities (previously North West Water) was on record as saying that water treatment to remove peat etc. from drinking water was costing them, i.e. customers, millions of pounds. Two further points: run-off from moorland is gradually filling reservoirs, reducing their capacity and having detrimental effects on flooding. And let’s not forget that siltation caused by moorland run-off destroys spawning redds for fish.”

Bluebells - Roger Litton

Bluebells – Roger Litton

Your Sightings

Carol Wedgewood reports a Barn Owl “flying low in front of our barn window just before 9pm last night, at twilight. Such beautiful creatures. They fly so effortlessly. What a treat.” There a few birds which everyone enjoys seeing and Barn Owls are up there at the top of the list. Nice to know it’s flying at the appropriate time. This probably suggests it is finding enough food and doesn’t need to fly during the day. They’ll be feeding young soon, if not already so let’s hope there continues to be sufficient food and the weather remains kind to them. Barn Owls can’t hunt in the rain.

Roger Litton tells me, “Having just read your latest blog, I see mention of bluebells. We went for a short walk at Swinsty reservoir this morning. We were very surprised to see that the bluebells there are nearly fully out.”

Dennis Skinner, “On Wetherby Golf Course last week I spotted again, 2 Buzzards being harassed by one Crow. I think the Buzzards are starting to nest across the River Wharfe. Also many Woodpeckers hammering all over the course – but no sightings yet!”

Chris Beard, “Saw our first Swallows in Nidderdale this afternoon (21 April). Also saw Plover/Lapwing with two very young chicks.” It seems early for lapwing chicks but great to see they have at least reached this stage. What chicks or evidence of breeding have you seen?

Osprey - Sue Evison

Osprey – Sue Evison

Sue Evison reports an Osprey at Gouthwaite Reservoir was around for several days around 10 April.

Steve Kempson wrote on 18 April, “We’ve been out to Staveley this morning and saw quite a few Sand Martins skimming over the lake, whereas our House Martins haven’t put in an appearance today; perhaps they’ve retreated south for a bit (sounds like a good idea to me!).” I couldn’t agree more, Steve.

Roger Brownbridge tells me, “the Goldfinches are basically there on the feeder all day with others in the tree waiting their turn, you can almost see the sunflower seed level going down. Interestingly they ignore the nyger seeds in preference for the sunflower seeds. Saw first brood of ducklings of the year on the River Wharfe today (22 April).” Roger also has Greenfinch visiting his feeder, which is nice, let’s hope they are recovering from the Trichomonosis disease.

Andrew Dobby saw his first Swallow of the year in Scotton on 22 April. Sadly they don’t seem to have brought the summer with them, maybe there was only one!

The Cuckoos are Here!

Robin Hermes wrote, “Your report just outstanding, thanks to it was able to identify a bird I saw at Little Alms Cliff yesterday, for the first time ever, a Cuckoo!”

Nature Reserves Sightings

The Steppe Eagle which escaped from Swinton Park has been found and caught at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Apparently she was happy to see her handlers and stepped straight onto the glove. Bird brained or what? A beautiful Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage has also been reported recently, a Marsh Harrier and three more late-leaving Whooper Swans.

Alan Croucher writes on 22 April, “We had a very enjoyable visit at Nosterfield – picking up just over 50 bird species. I forgot to mention that we had our first Swallow last week at Ripley and we saw more today. Other highlights were Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler (which was singing conveniently from a hedge just by the hide – and was visible too). There were a few more Avocets this week and we saw a couple of Orange-tip butterflies (as well as some Peacocks).

On Sunday 24 April, Robert Brown reported a Swift and Osprey at Farnham Gravel Pits, Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society private nature reserve.

Mandarin - Peter Thomson

Mandarin Ducks – Peter Thomson

Through Your Window

Colin and Ann Snelson from Middlesmoor report, “Saturday, 16 April, Middlesmoor, had our first pair of Siskins in the garden. Heard them first! As usual they were squabbling on the nut feeder. Never known them to be so late appearing. Usually it’s February. Walking in Lofthouse on 18 April saw the first pair of Swallows, but so far they haven’t made it up the hill.”

Adrian M Mosley, tells me, The Siskins are showing no desire to leave the garden feeders – they seem to have decided to stay – here we are mid-April. Goldfinches, Long tailed Tits and Nuthatch daily.” Adrian also saw some Whooper Swans at Nosterfield.

Peter Thomson, who sent in the moorhen photo on the feeder, writes, “he has been on his own for a week or two now which makes me think that his mate is sitting on her first clutch of eggs somewhere. At the moment there are no herons about so let’s hope that their efforts are more productive this year. I thought I should send you a photo of this pair of Mandarins which I saw from my bedroom window at 9 o’clock on Thursday morning. They were exploring the garden and when I opened the window to take some photos they saw me and wandered down towards the beck where they stayed for a few minutes for a photo-shoot before jumping into the water and heading off downstream towards the Nidd. The last time I saw one in the beck was a drake in February 2013 so I was particularly pleased to see a pair. They do seem to be rapidly increasing in numbers all over the country.”

Sue and Lawrie Loveless, “Photographed from just inside our glazed front door about 8.00pm, a Sparrowhawk.”

Outdoors Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Thursday 5 May Away Trip to Northumberland. Three nights in Northumberland. Booking essential