Outdoors2015 Blog: Sightings, Wasps, Peregrines and Much More

News Flash

Climate Talks Solidarity March – Sunday 11.45 Harrogate

Visit How Stean Website for my monthly wildlife blog.

Please do keep sending in your sightings and I will feature them all eventually. What winter visitors have you seen?

Bilton Conservation Group Calendar

The 2016 calendar is now available and it’s available at: Korner Kabin, King Edwards Drive, Bilton – Bilton and Woodfield Library, Woodfield Road or by contacting any committee members. The calendar costs £5 and features pictures, taken by members, of Bilton and its wildlife.

Woodcock - Robert and Diane Ward-CampbellWoodcock – Robert and Diane Ward-Campbell


Judith Fawcett reports a goldcrest “enjoyed a few spiders in the conifers and the fat balls” in her Jennyfields, Harrogate, garden. Trevor Widdison from Stockton on the Forest, north east of York, reports “two notable events observed from my armchair. A Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding her baby nuts from our feeder and a Sparrowhawk devouring a Blackbird in front of our window.” John and Kathleen Pogson report their first brambling of the season in their Harrogate garden on 13 November. Peter Durkan writes, “whilst walking home last night 12pm l saw a flock of what l thought to be woodcock flying south, about 12 in all, in the bright sky over Ripon.” I’m not sure if woodcock migrate in flocks or not. Most birds do, so why not? They travel from eastern Europe and even as far as Russia, as I am sure you probably know. The BTO and the Game and Wildlife Conservation trust are currently tracking woodcock and this can be seen at woodcockwatch. Ann Snelson from Middlesmoor, “Managed a short walk this morning (17-11-15) between 9 and 10.30, saw Nuthatch on feeder, bottom end of Studfold Bank, five partridge on cricket field, Lofthouse. Glad I’m back indoors again now the gloom has come back!” Helen Watkison, writes “Bullfinch and spotted woodpecker on feeders, also about 20 long-tailed tits, two squirrels chasing each other round fence.” Claire Yarborough has a pair of nuthatch on her feeders most days, the Heptinstalls also have a regular nuthatch, maybe more visiting them. I wonder if they have had a good breeding season?

Common Wasp2 - Roger LittonCommon Wasp – Vespula vulgaris – Roger Litton

A Treaty With Wasps

Jon Burge writes from Birstwith, “Having read an article on the general shortage of butterflies this year, I noticed at Daleside Nurseries a table with wallflowers that had simultaneous visits from peacock, tortoiseshell and red admiral in early October. More notable for me, visiting adjacent flowers was a broad bordered bee hawk moth hemaris fuciformis – the first I have seen. Quite similar to the hummingbird clearwing moths Hemaris thysbe of my native Virginia. This year the ivy hedge drew none, or only one, admiral at a time, but is of interest to watch, covered mostly by wasps. The larger queens go for the nectar and pollen and the smaller workers scurry under the leaves looking for aphids. Also bees and bumblebees, and for each type of wasp or bee two or more species of flies that simulate each of them. The net image is quite a commotion, in common with the many thousands of similar ivy-covered hedges in the dale.” One thing everyone can do to encourage insects and that generally means pollinators is to encourage ivy which is invaluable as a late autumn food source, brilliant. Jon continues, “I like wasps, and have a treaty with them – I do not disturb nests and they do not attack. This means I have a no-go zone of about 10 ft radius where I cannot dig, weed, trim hedges or even walk near their burrow. I time the arrival of returning wasps and, when warm, they average about two-second intervals, or 2000/hr or 20000/day. If each contains the chewed up remains of a dozen aphids this adds up to many millions of aphids per year. That seems a fair trade for 10 square meters of unused garden. Once the frost comes I can do a belated weeding and pruning, and they will appear next year somewhere else.” Our archetypical wasps, of the social type, tend to be omnivorous, opportunistic predators and scavengers as well as feeding on pollen and consequently are making an important contribution to the well-being of our native flora. They feed on animal prey such as caterpillars to feed their developing larvae and carbohydrates, such as nectar and sweet fruits, to satisfy their own energy requirements.

IMG_3923_1Harrogate Peregrine Update

Paul Cowham, who has been watching peregrines from his office in Copthall Bridge House, Harrogate, kindly sent me this update, “They were around in spring, then were absent all summer. However, last Friday I saw the pair, flying right outside my office window – over Berwins solicitors on Station Bridge. Then I realised they were hunting! A pigeon flew very close and they were off! Quite low over the bridge, towards the Beales site. I had to go the opposite side of the building to see them. They had raised up in the sky, and missed the pigeon. Then the wings were closed and one was off again – after another. Down over the railway lines, towards the theatre. No-one was aware of what was happening right above their heads. Anyway I lost sight of them, so don’t know if they were successful. Quite a sight though!” Paul is moving office shortly and may not see quite so much of the peregrines (his peregrines?) so if anyone else can also keep us updated it would be very much appreciated.

Volunteers Wanted

Sam Walker, Harrogate’s Countryside Ranger, is looking for volunteers at Rossett Local Nature Reserve – 10am – 1pm Saturday 28th November. “The ponds at Rossett Nature Reserve are a very important habitat for a number of amphibians but especially the Great Crested Newt. Internationally protected the Great Crested Newt is known to breed in a number of the ponds on the reserve. The habitat is threatened by the invasive pond weed Crassula which is choking the ponds of oxygen and also filling up the ponds with vegetation. The task will involve clearing the Crassula from the pond meaning there is plenty of open water to ensure the newts keep coming back to breed year after year. If we are lucky we may get to try out the new board walk that is being installed as we speak!” Meet by the bollards at the junction of Rossett Drive and Richmond Avenue. Sam will provide all the necessary tools, waders, gloves etc but if you could bring suitable footwear and any food or drink you may require. Lifts may be available if required and if you are planning on coming along please let Sam know. Email: sam.walker@harrogate.gov.uk
mob: 07525 988288.