Water Your Nettles!


Kingfisher – Peter Thomson

Oak Beck Wildlife

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


Goosanders – Peter Thomson

Anti-Fracking Needs Your Support

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

A Must Watch Video

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

Tortoiseshell Numbers Decimated

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

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

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

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


Small Copper – Alan Croucher

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

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

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

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

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

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


Red Admiral – Doug Simpson

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

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

Water Your Nettles

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

Reserve Sightings

Farnham, Harrogate Naturalists’ Societies private nature reserve

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

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Whooper Swan 2 throughout,

Wigeon Daily up to 10.

Pintail At least 4 throughout.

Garganey Single on 4th

Gadwall c500 on 7th.

Tufted Duck c400 on 7th.

Bittern Single on 4th

Red Kite At least 3 throughout.

Marsh Harrier At least 4 different birds.

Osprey Single on 4th and8th

Water Rail Small numbers daily.

Curlew 3 on 7th

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

Ruff Max 5 on 7th and 8th.

Green Sandpiper 3 on 7th.

Common Sandpiper. Single throughout.

Greenshank Seen daily on Spoonbill flash – upto 4.

Snipe Daily max 10

Common Tern 2 on 3rd.

Hobby Singles occasionally.

Peregrine At least three throughout

Raven 2 on 4th and 5th.

Redstart 2 on 4th and 1 on 5th.


Butterfly Haven, Perhaps Heaven!

Six-belted Clearwing - Rex Bradshaw

Six-belted Clearwing – Rex Bradshaw

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


A Gathering of Green-veined Whites

Hen Harrier Plan Fails

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

Barn Owl2 - Steve Tomlinson

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

Biodiversity in Unsafe Decline

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

Campaigns – Woodland Trust, “Enough is Enough”

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

Free Seeds

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

Your Sightings

'Feed me! - Ian Willson'

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

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

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

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

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

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

RSPB Fairburn Ings

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

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

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

Red Kites, Hen Harriers and Nidderdale

19 January 2016

Red Kite - John Herrington2Red Kite – John Herrington

Red Kites

Richard Wells, responding to my blog on 10 December regarding kamikaze red kites writes, “The best red kite players of “chicken” I have come across were above the M1 near its junction with the A63 south-east of Leeds. Two took it turns to swoop down on the middle lane. I was doing 70 (honest) on the inside lane and heaven knows what the guy on the outer was doing. But the red kites didn’t bat an eyelid. At the third time of asking one got its morsel and they both flew off unscathed.” Talking of red kites Doug Simpson sent me the latest red kite newsletter (17) with the following breeding figures for 2015, 2014 in brackets.






West Yorkshire

65 (63)

61 (61)

54 (53)

102 (93)

North Yorkshire

44 (40)

40 (37)

36 (31)

68 (63)

East Yorkshire

14 (9)

11 (8)

9 (7)

16 (15)


123 (112)

112 (106)

99 (91)

186 (171)

Average young raised per successful pair = 1.88 (1.86).

Doug tells me, “Red Kites are renowned for their habit of collecting a wide variety of items to decorate their nests. Our first Yorkshire nest in 2000 had a tea-towel and a teddy bear’s head in it. Since then, soft toys have featured regularly. An England flag was found in a nest in 1996, a Football World Cup year, together with a map showing the location of the G-Mex Centre in Manchester. More recently, an East Yorkshire pair had collected an order of service for a funeral at the nearby village church. Doug also says that sightings of kites seen to be regularly frequenting new areas are particularly welcome. This helps to confirm new breeding pairs and monitor the progress of the expanding population. They can be reported through the website or to one of the following contacts:

Doug Simpson MBE. Email: doug@milvus.me.uk
Nigel Puckrin (East Yorkshire). Email: n.puckrin@btinternet.com
Simon Bassindale (North York Moors). Email: s.bassindale@northyorkmoors.org.uk

Tawny Owl - Raymond RumboldTawny Owl – Raymond Rumbold

Your Sightings

Contact me with your questions and Sightings

Phil Roberts contacted me, “Idly looking out of the bathroom window recently upon another gloomy day when a small flock of Feral Pigeons flew across my line of sight above the houses on Woodlands Avenue, Harrogate, about 300 metres away. Then, at twice their speed, an unidentified bird flew into the back of the Pigeon flock then dropped down out of the flock and landed out of my sight. The only bird that I can think of that has the speed and interest in Pigeons is the Peregrine Falcon. What do you think! If it was a Peregrine, then it’s the first sighting for me in Harrogate. However, I’ve seen many of them on the big coal-fired power stations, particularly in the Midlands, where they are encouraged. Crude nests built from welding wire and bits of electrical cable in niches in the cooling towers or on high points on the boiler house.” It seems that Phil encountered this bird at a height, certainly not sparrowhawk behaviour, which are sneaky hunters relying upon stealth rather than speed, so I reckon peregrine is the most likely culprit, especially as peregrines are seen in Harrogate town centre and reasonably regularly at local nature reserves such as Harrogate Naturalist Society’s private Farnham Reserve.

Gwen Turner tells me that she has recently heard owls hooting late evening and early morning on Duchy Road, Harrogate and asks, “Is this normal for this time of the year or is the warmth suggesting spring? I am used to hearing them but usually around midnight.” The BTO tells us, “Tawny Owls are very early nesters and are busy establishing breeding territories from November onwards.” I reckon that these birds are establishing territory and courting and responding to more direct urges than the weather.

More owls and Richard Simmons spotted a barn owl flying across the road at Keld Houses on the Greenhow to Stump Cross road. Richard writes, “I wouldn’t expect them so high up.” I reckon they’ll go anywhere where food is available. I am a little concerned however because it probably isn’t their preferred hunting ground and may indicate a lack of food, forcing them to roam further. The BTO suggest that the summer weather has hit barn owls hard, I suspect locally they are still faring reasonably well but would love to know for sure. There have also been numerous sightings of barn owls in Upper Nidderdale according to Stan Beer, the proprietor of How Stean Gorge.

The East Dales Ringing Group on January 13 have ringed 290 redpoll over autumn 2015 and of these they have already recovered three. The birds have moved to Suffolk, West Yorkshire and Surrey. You can follow EDRG on Twitter at @EDRInging.

RSPB Fairburn Ings – recent sightings include male red-crested pochard daily and little egret, whilst at Nosterfield marsh harrier, peregrine and white-fronted geese have been reported.

Gouthwaite ReservoirGouthwaite Reservoir – Nidderdale

Reconnecting Nature and People in Nidderdale

As Nidderdale folk we all know how great the valley is in both aesthetic and historical terms. Well now The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a new project called Reconnecting Nature and People in Nidderdale. This means that Nidderdale folk will have the chance to reconnect with the natural heritage on their doorstep, and to make a more meaningful and more useful contribution to conserving the world around them, thanks to National Lottery players. This will be a citizen science project and data will be gathered relating to the habitats and wildlife of Nidderdale, engaging people with nature, and creating natural heritage action plans for nationally threatened wildlife species, flora and fauna. The data collected will help the team to understand how they can take targeted conservation action to best effect, and help protect the future of much-loved species, once a common sight but now increasingly threatened and rare. The Nidderdale AONB contact is Sarah Kettlewell on: sarah.kettlewell@harrogate.gov.uk.

Hen Harrier Action Plan

A joint plan has been launched to try to save the hen harrier from extinction. The aim or at least success criteria are:

1. The hen harrier has a self-sustaining and well dispersed breeding population in England across a range of habitats including a viable population present in the Special Protected Areas designated for hen harrier.
2. The harrier population coexists with local business interests and its presence contributes to a thriving rural economy.

This will be achieved by the following six actions:

1. Monitoring of hen harrier populations in England and the UK.
2. Diversionary feeding of hen harriers on grouse moors.
3. Analyse monitoring data and build intelligence picture.
4. Nest and winter roost site protection.
5. Reintroduce hen harriers to southern England.
6. Trial a brood management scheme.

I have always argued that there are too many folk on both sides with entrenched views which has failed the hen harrier, perhaps even contributed to their demise so some dialogue has long been needed and hopefully this is the first stage. This plan has been realised by Defra, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Moorland Association, National Gamekeepers Organisation, National Parks UK, Natural England and the RSPB. An unholy alliance you may say, especially as no place was found for Raptor Protection Groups. Last year there were six successful harrier nests fledging 18 new chicks (Natural England). A seventh nest was very close to fledging, but failed due to natural causes. Rob Cooke, Natural England’s Director of Terrestrial Biodiversity, said: “Six nests is a small number, but it is actually more than we have seen in total over the past three years, which is a significant and positive step forward. Obviously we need to see many more pairs of these iconic birds nesting successfully and we are actively looking at how we and our partners can build on this positive outcome in the future.” To put this in context the RSPB claim, “There is enough habitat for 300 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England.” The reason we haven’t got so many hen harriers is persecution, probably by or encouraged by some folk who are members of the organisations responsible for the action plan. But surely this must help the hen harriers although no account is made for the other birds of prey which disappear each year especially on our moorlands. I have always believed that what is needed to protect our raptor heritage is licensing of grouse and pheasant shoots. To get and keep a licence those taking part must demonstrate they are protecting and encouraging our wildlife and that means ensuring we have a viable population of raptor species on the shooting grounds.