Trees Need Protection Too

IMG_2457A Veteran Oak Tree in Ripley Park

It always amazes me that ancient woodland and veteran trees have no protection when buildings of far inferior age and frequently to my mind appearance have strong protection, after all a tree might be 800 years old, see the ones in Ripley Park for example. They might have witnessed so many changes, so many historical acts, in Ripley’s case a certain Oliver Cromwell rode by, yet this seems to count for nothing, trees also provide a habitat for so many other creatures and support our wellbeing, make us feel good yet this seemingly counts for nowt or at least very little. Sheffield Council have much to answer for. Well The Woodland Trust is campaigning to change this, to get the Government to give exceptional planning protection to ancient woodland and veteran trees, and you can help. “The Government has proposed adding ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to the current list of policies that restrict development in England. It’s great news! Currently planning permission should be refused if it impacts these precious habitats. But a loophole has led to devastating losses. Now, through the new Housing White Paper – called ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – the Government intends to add ancient woodland aged and veteran trees to a list of the nation’s assets that should be explicitly protected from development. This would raise their status in planning terms to that of National Parks, SSSIs or Green Belt. But… it won’t change their fate – or close the loophole – unless the relevant guidance elsewhere in planning policy is amended accordingly.” Visit the website for more information and whilst they would well appreciate your brass, they are asking you to respond to a planning consultation and they provide help and guidelines, so why not do it?

Buzzard2 - Richard YeomanCommon Buzzard – Richard Yeoman (notice the rounded tail not the forked tail of a red kite)

Buzzard Persecution – Can you Help?

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to a successful prosecution on two injured buzzards found in North Yorkshire. The buzzards had been found shot at East Lutton and near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park. More information can be found at the Raptor Persecution website or at the RSPB website. Beware these two sites are somewhat contradictory so I’ll leave it to you to determine what was shot or illegally trapped and where, but the fact remains our birds of prey are being persecuted here in North Yorkshire and we should all be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t happen. These things can happen nearer to home and only recently a dead buzzard was found on an island in the Nidd near to Scotton Weir. It was taken to the vet who announced that prior to its death it had been in healthy condition. Doug Simpson kindly paid for an x-ray, out of his own money, which showed it hadn’t been shot, so was it poisoned? We may never know but healthy birds don’t just drop out of the sky unless man has had some influence on it!

Police investigation after red kite found dead in Nidderdale

Police are appealing for information after a red kite was found dead in Nidderdale. On the afternoon of Saturday, 11 March a dead red kite was found near Greenhow, in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. An examination revealed the bird’s carcass contained what is believed to be lead shot. PC David Mackay, a Wildlife Crime Officer of North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce, said: “It has taken many years to re-introduce red kites after their near extinction from the UK, and these magnificent birds can now regularly be seen in the skies over North Yorkshire. They are a Schedule 1 bird and have special legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. They feed on carrion and pose no threat to game birds, farmed animals or pets. I would ask anyone who has any information that could assist the investigation to get in touch with me.” North Yorkshire Police are being supported in the investigation by Yorkshire Red Kites. Anyone with information is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for PC 1452 David Mackay, or email You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please quote reference number 12170047155 when passing information.

Sad News

Charlie Winn, the first warden at RSPB Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve, died last week, he was the warden, voluntary from the reserve’s inception in 1957 to the RSPB having a warden in 1978, he continued as Honorary Head Warden until he died. He was very well known and will be greatly missed.

Spring Hots Up

Steve Kempson heard his first skylark of the year as early as 26 February singing over Hay-a-Park Knaresborough.

Roger Graville writes, “In the annual frogspawn competition, one of your correspondents has easily beaten me this year. Although there has been the “plop” of submerging frogs as I approach the pond for a couple of weeks now, the spawn only just arrived today, 5 March. This compares with 24 February last year.” How is the frogspawn competition going in your area?

0194_large_paul brothersBrimstone – Paul Brothers

Jon Burge tells me, “A brimstone (butterfly) visited the garden today, an unusually sunny warm 12 March. It was zig-zagging around through the garden bushes presumably looking for a mate or buckthorn (none in the immediate vicinity). Unmistakable, all yellow top and bottom and much larger than any of the whites with very strong flight. I suppose the orange tips will be next, but I do not see leaves emerging on alliara petiola so perhaps in a week or two.” This is the first brimstone reported this year, at least to me. Alliara petiola or Garlic mustard, or as I call it Jack by the Hedge, is an orange tip butterfly food plant, as is Cardamine pratensis, known locally as milkmaid but also called cuckoo flower or ladies smock. I haven’t seen this plant either yet, but all the different names of plants interest me and confuse me at the same time.

Bob Barker makes an interesting point and one certainly recognised by the bird watching community, “A couple of weeks ago saw large flock of oystercatchers in fields above Gouthwaite reservoir and on my walks in the dales glad to see curlews and lapwings wheeling around the sky-although not in the same numbers as 10 years ago.” It is critical that we do what we can to protect these birds locally because when they are gone they are gone and that is the experience in other parts of the country.

I recently mentioned that Robert Brown had seen some bumblebees in a tree and I suggested that they were probably tree bumblebees. Paul Irving responded, “all emerging bumblebees make a beeline (sorry!) for flowering willow because it is one of the early major food sources so most will be white tailed, possibly buff tailed bumble bees, even some solitary bees. It is a little early for tree bumble bees although I have colleague who has seen one this week. Chiffchaffs, Brimstones, Peacocks and Commas were all reported last Sunday at Nosterfield Quarry. Frog spawn in the garden pond here for at least a fortnight, blackcap is also still here.” I was interested to speak to a volunteer at RSPB Sandy in Bedfordshire recently who tells me that the over-wintering blackcaps there leave and are replaced by the summer migrants but there is a fortnight without blackcaps. Whilst things here can certainly be different to Sandy it does suggest that Paul’s blackcap may be an over-wintering bird, time will tell.

What signs of spring have you seen?

The Great British Bee Count

Join the Friends of The Earth’s (FOE) Great British Bee Count 2017, an easy and fun way to find out how bee populations are doing across Britain. Bees face many dangers including habitat loss, pesticides and climate change so it’s important that as much as possible is discovered about these precious pollinators. Sign up and FOE will provide you with everything you need to count bees in your garden including their free and new Great British Bee Count app. Visit the Bee Count Map to see what was spotted near you in 2016.

Goosander - Richard YeomanGoosander – Richard Yeoman


Richard Yeoman writes, “First some sightings This morning I took our dogs (as usual on a Sunday) down the Nidd Gorge as far as the weir – a few ducks around but not much else but then on the way back a pair of Goosanders flew past going upstream. Found then just above the viaduct! On the way back I passed the little pond on the edge of Bilton Fields – the noise! Lots of Frogs (or Toads?) in the pond. Then this afternoon I went up to the new rugby ground with Julie (my daughter) looking for a dog that had gone missing, it’s a Miniature German Schnauzer called Alfie, a group of dog walkers were out looking for it. Anyway got a photo of a Red Kite and a Buzzard. Second something which may interest you. There is a group of Dog Walkers who call themselves “Harrogate Happy Hounds” (about 30 member,s most of which are professional dog walkers). Last Saturday some of them went up to Hookstone onto the YAS Fields and spent an hour picking up dog poo (left by other people’s dogs) and rubbish. This coming Saturday they are going to repeat the exercise in the Bilton Fields around the viaduct. The point being that generally dog poo left on the ground is not left by Professional Dog Walkers, the vast majority of them do pick up, they adhere to the Council Guidelines.” What do you think?


Saturday, 15 April Pinewoods Conservation Group, Easter Egg Hunt. Meet in Car Park 3, RHS Harlow Carr any time 11 – 12 noon. £2 entry non-members, free to members.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday, 10 April is their last Indoor Meeting of the winter season and sees the long overdue return of an old friend of the Group. Nigel Harcourt-Brown FRCVS is a vet who until his recent retirement practised in Bilton. His talk will be entitled Treating Birds of Prey.

Studfold Adventure Trail

The Great Easter Egg Hunt starts an exciting new season at Studfold… Opening on the Saturday, 8 April and throughout the Easter Holidays until 23 April 2017.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday, 17 April (Evening) Annual General Meeting followed by an update on the proposed Gouthwaite Wildlife Centre. Royal Oak, Dacre Banks.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings from the Nosterfield complex via Twitter @NosterfieldLNR include: whooper swans, swallow, red kite, house martin, willow warbler, Mediterranean gull, jay, common dog violet, osprey (mobbed by crows). Butterflies: orange-tip, brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell.

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

David Postlethwaite Seven species of butterfly at Staveley this afternoon including orange tip and holly blue. Little egret at the West Lagoon. 05-04-2017
Will Rich, At least one male Brimstone passing through my garden yesterday. 04-04-2017
David Gilroy, Blackcap singing outside the Academy Gym in Harrogate 04-04-2017
Mike Metcalfe, Drake Garganey giving superb views in front of hide at West lagoons, Staveley 02-04-2017
Joe Fryer, today in Ripon Spinny Wood I had a tree sparrow and in my garden I had my first swallow of the year 02-04-2017
Peter Thomson, Oak Beck, Knox Mill Lane Pr. of Mandarins in the garden jumped into the Beck at 0815 this morning and continued upstream. This must surely be the same pair that paid a visit on Apr 14 last year. 02-04-2017
David Holmes 24 Waxwings back garden of 65 Jesmond Road in the Guelder Rose, very mobile 02-04-2017

Is This Raptor Justice?


Honey Bee on Himalayan Balsam

Raptor Persecution

I was hoping I might not have to mention raptor persecution again but I’m afraid I have some rather distressing news from Widdle Fell. The RSPB tells us that three illegal pole traps were found on a grouse shooting estate inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Pole traps were outlawed in 1904 and consist of a metal spring trap placed on an exposed post in order to target birds of prey. When triggered they snap shut with considerable force, crushing the legs of the bird. Trapped birds remain present until they succumb to their injuries or are killed by the trap operator. Particularly concerning was that a hen harrier had been sighted the same morning hunting on the fell a short distance away. Bob Elliot, Head of RSPB Investigations, said: “These are dreadful barbaric devices and have no place in the 21st century. North Yorkshire has long held the unenviable reputation of the worst county in England for raptor persecution. The sighting of a Hen Harrier in the immediate area is of particular concern. This species is nearly extinct as a breeding species in England and it last bred successfully in North Yorkshire in 2007 despite huge areas of suitable habitat. Earlier this year Defra launched its Hen Harrier Action Plan, which has been supported by shooting organisations. Yet again, we have seen that there appears to be little sign that birds of prey will be tolerated in our uplands.” The case went to court and according to North Yorkshire Police, “The persecution of birds of prey is a UK wildlife crime priority, and the successful conviction in this case demonstrates the tenacity and strong working relationship that exists between North Yorkshire Police, the RSPB and other rural partners.” The court case, I presume Magistrates Court but may be wrong, decided that the best course of action was to give the perpetrator an adult caution. There’s North Yorkshire Justice for you. In case you are sufficiently incensed may I provide the contact details of the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan. I believe you can ‘Hold the Commissioner To Account by phoning 101 or email her at Let me Know What You Think. David Beeken tells me, “There are 30 breeding pairs of Hen Harriers on Arran; the island has an area of 432 sq.k. The Yorkshire Dales National Park has an area of 1762 sq.k., four times the size of Arran. How many breeding pairs in the National Park? You all know the answer. This is why. For many crimes and misdemeanours the sentences are meant to act as a deterrent to others; why does this not apply to the grouse moor owners? At least in Scotland the landowner is vicariously liable.”

Jennyruth Workshop

Jennyruth is “A productive workshop where adults with learning disabilities gain confidence, work and life skills.” You might find their latest newsletter interesting. The guys there have been getting involved with wildlife in a big way. Laney Birkhead, artist and beekeeper, visited as part of their bee project. Laney has been doing an art installation called ‘Swarm’, about Bees. She is also a beekeeper and helping to let people know that Bees need our help because their population is declining. A bird project has also been undertaken and a goosander nestbox was built. These smashing saw-billed ducks nest in tree holes and one was delivered and erected at High Batts Nature Reserve. Visit High Batt’s Open Day on 3 July when you may be able to see it. More about High Batts Open Day in the next blog, but why not make a note in your diary now, it’s always great with pond dipping, guided walks, displays of bats and moths plus bird ringing interest for all the family, as they say. Anyway back to Jennyruth, a final project mentioned in the newsletter is the hedgehog project and a hedgehog box was built and Krista, founder of the Wildlife Haven Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Thirsk, talked about hedgehogs to the Business Studies Group. Explore their website and learn more. You can also buy wildlife products such as nest-boxes, bird tables, hedgehog boxes and much more from Jennyruth.

Swarm – Laney Birkhead

Laney warmly welcomes everyone to her Swarm of Bees Exhibition at Danby’s ‘Inspired by Gallery’ this summer. Danby is The North York Moors National Park Centre and the Gallery hosts changing exhibitions of work by artists who draw their inspiration from the landscape, life and colour of the North York Moors. Laney’s exhibition is of print making and Laney has been overwhelmed by the support she has received, resulting in a 3D installation, which you can walk inside. It’s a calico printed beehive and inside you will experience being surrounded by 50,000 bees! Hundreds of people have taken part over the last year, to help raise awareness of bee decline and what can be done to help them. Laney tells us, “It has been an amazing experience working around Yorkshire combining my two passions printmaking and beekeeping.” The installation will be complemented by the work of ten artists and craft makers and two film makers, all showing new work inspired by bees and their importance to our ecology. Visit the Swarm of Bees Exhibition for more details and make a note in your diary to visit Danby between Friday, 22 July and Tuesday, 9 August 2016 or visit ‘Meet the Artists Day’ on Saturday, 23 July 12 noon – 3 pm. Please support these folk who do so much to help our wildlife. It’s said that without bees we die!

Kingfisher Male Bringing Fish  - Barry Carter

Kingfisher Male Bringing Fish – Barry Carter

Your Sightings

Judi Needham-Crane reports, “We saw a Kingfisher at Hay a Park lake yesterday (Knaresborough) – I’ve been walking there for 10 years or so and that was the first time I’ve seen one!”

Jon Burge writes, “A couple of weeks ago I heard in Dacre Banks the unmistakeable call of Swifts, but none were to be seen flying around. I finally spotted under the eaves of the north facing side of a house some swift boxes, from which the sounds came. I was going to contact the owner to find out how these are constructed. Thankfully, your articles provided the information. I will construct some and install them by next spring.” Thanks Jon, great news, can other folk also do this please for details visit Swift Conservation.

Claire Yarborough tells me, “We’ve had a camera in one of our nest boxes for at least three years, but nothing has shown any interest in moving in. We were very excited when some nesting material began to appear around 22 April and we watched to find out who our new neighbour was. Tree sparrows! We watched every day, but managed to miss the eggs altogether, which must have been buried under feathers and grass. On 11 May we saw five tiny chicks and parent activity and hours of watching time increased. There are now (24 May) three healthy, hungry chicks, quite well feathered and beginning to exercise their wings. I’m hoping they will fledge this week. Let’s hope this is the first of many years of occupation. It’s certainly more interesting than watching telly.”

Dunnock Nest - Dennis Skinner

Dunnock Nest – Dennis Skinner

Doug Simpson has “recently had a Dunnock, normally a ground-feeder, which has been trying to buck up courage to sample the sunflower hearts in one of my bird feeders. It’s usually been unsuccessful, but yesterday (Wednesday) it finally made it. It grabbed a couple of seeds and flew off. Not seen it back yet, but then I’m not always watching. It would be a good thing if more of them would adapt to bird feeders, so keeping them off the ground where they are vulnerable to cats.”

Carol Moore has some “very exciting news! We have regular sightings of a Heron visiting our pond. Yesterday I commented that I hadn’t seen it recently. Low and behold this morning at 9.25am one circled a number of times and landed by the pond. We didn’t see it fly off. However, at 12.12 we saw not one but two take off from the pond and fly south of Padside Beck into tall trees west of Thornthwaite. How wonderful it would be if a nesting pair were relocating to this area. Has anyone else seen a pair recently between St Saviours Church and Thornthwaite?

Sheila Brown, you may recall, had tadpoles and fish in the same pond, well, “Just to let you know that I split the frog spawn and the fish into two separate ponds as you suggested, all the tadpoles are doing very well, there must be around 1000 of them, some are just getting their back legs, in the same pond we have newts who enjoy eating the odd tadpole. I am feeding the tadpoles flaked goldfish food and they love it, all the natural green algae that sticks to the sides of the pond has all been eaten away. Just waiting to spot some baby newts, any idea when that is likely to be? The goldfish in the new pond are also looking like they could be ready to breed; on the strength of that I have suspended a mop head in the water for the fish fry to hide in – I have noticed from past experience that the adult goldfish do eat their own kind.” I reckon young newts should be around now, look for small fish-like animals. Thanks to Shelia for helping the tadpoles, another creature needing our help. If only folk were like Shelia and not like the folk who put pole traps up?

Nosterfield Nature Reserve recent sightings include two barnacle geese and a short-eared owl. Also yellow wagtail, hobby and two little egret, Flask.


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

Jacob Smith Park Knaresborough, is organising a Balsam Bash on Saturday, 25 June from 10am. Bring a drink, wear long sleeves and most importantly bring gloves. Everyone welcome.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday, 20 June(Evening) Stainburn Forest

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Thursday, 23 June 10:00 – 14:00 Flora and fauna of Scotton Banks and Nidd Gorge