Problems, Problems, Problems


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 Please have a look and nominate a volunteer or group of volunteers or a company. These folk deserve our support and thanks.


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 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: 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.



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


Steve and Janice Sale have reported what I am fairly certain is a female southern hawker dragonfly ( 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.


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.


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


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, 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


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 ( 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 ( 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.


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.


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.


Large Yellow Underwing Moth Eggs – Rex Bradshaw


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.”



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.