Seals, Sightings and Flooding

Visit How Stean Website for my monthly wildlife blog (http://www.howstean.co.uk/).

Please do keep sending in your sightings and I will feature them all eventually. What winter visitors have you seen? (3-12-15)

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A Bull Grey Seal Patrols His Harem

Seal Watching at Donna Nook

Jackie and I were joined by friends Chris and Helen for a visit to Norfolk recently to see the geese and we took a rather tortuous route via Donna Nook to see the seals. It was well worth the detour although I didn’t think so that night as we got lost approaching our destination. Donna Nook National Nature Reserve is run by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust (LWT) and situated around 15 miles south of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. The star turn are the grey seals which haul out on the sand banks to give birth to their pups. There are literally hundreds of them. On Monday 30 November 2015 there were counted: Bulls 650, Cows 1542 and Pups 1754 – some sight. What’s more, some can be seen just over the fence, within touching distance. But don’t – even the pups can give an extremely nasty bite and they are huge, a male is 207cm and 233kg, a female 180cm and 155kg. For older folk like me that’s males are 2.25 yards and 36 stone and females 2 yards and 24 stone. Grey seal are one of two seal species found around our coasts and are bigger than the common seal and have a roman nose, rather than the puppy dog appearance of a common seal, which weighs up to 130kg. That’s not the only way they differ, a grey seal pup, unlike a grey seal pup, can’t swim when born, hence the value of a remote, safe place to haul out such as Donna Nook. Common seals can give birth on sand banks and the young are able to swim and dive after a few hours. Grey seal pups must remain on land for between 18-21 days. The real fascination in a visit is a chance to see for real what normally we only see via David Attenborough and that at home in our own country, brilliant. If you visit, after reading all the instructions on the website, then expect to see rampaging bulls fighting off their competitors, suckling young and cute white pups. I thought it strange because of course we only see seals off our shores, but the results of radio tracking show that these seals feed out to sea and travel to Dogger bank, rather than along our coasts. I did point out to the lovely lady in the LWT shack that ever so rarely they also have been known to visit Masham and Nun Monkton.

image1Bilton Beck Bridge – Bilton Conservation Group

Nidd Gorge Footpath Closed

Keith Wilkinson from Bilton Conservation Group (BCG) has asked me to tell folk that, “essentially there is no safe riverside route through Nidd Gorge downstream below the viaduct on the Bilton side. The Bilton Beck Bridge was demolished by a falling cherry tree on 14/11/15 and the recent floods did the rest with the decking of the bridge left in two pieces and tilted at 45 degrees from the stream bed.” NYCC have formally closed the route from west of the viaduct down to where the Public Right of Way (PROW) meets Milners Lane at Milners Fork. There is a safe, alternative detour along the Greenway – Bilton Lane – Milners Lane, so access to/through Nidd Gorge is still possible (albeit unpopular as it is a 3 km loop for little lateral progress…). BCG are in close discussion with NYCC about a replacement bridge and are hopeful that this may be achieved early in 2016 when weather and ground conditions are more favourable for construction work. The Bilton Conservation Group calendar is still available.

RSPB Fairburn Ings – Important notice 3/12/15

There is no access via Newton Lane from the Allerton Bywater end of the reserve. Access to the car park is via Back Newton Lane or along Newton Lane from Fairburn village. For more information, please call the visitor centre on 01977 628191 Steve Wadsworth, warden, saw a Muntjac deer there last week, a first for the reserve. A Drake Smew and Short-eared Owl have been seen there recently.

Great Spotted Woodpecker2 - Julie AddymanGreat Spotted Woodpecker – Julie Addyman

Sightings

David and Joyce Smith tell me they, “still have lots of starlings in our garden though not quite as many as in summer.” Carol Wedgewood writes, “On last Sunday, 15th November at about 13.25, whilst driving to work, I saw about 1,000 Fieldfare and Redwing in a field on the left hand side, near Menwith Hill, coming from Darley Mill the first crossroads that goes to the main Menwith Hill entrance. The birds on the ground were doing vertical take offs of only about a foot in the air before dropping back down. A great number were also perched on telegraph wires. An amazing sight. Definitely not Starlings.” It sounds like these birds were chasing insects. There seems to be very little of their more usual, early winter, food berries around so I fear we shall see few of these visitors this winter so Carol was very lucky. My blackbirds are already consuming cotoneaster berries, usually they leave them until much later. Shirley Dunwell has reported a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the street telegraph pole right in front of her (Bilton) bungalow. John Wade enjoyed a low flying red kite and great spotted woodpecker at Oakdale, Harrogate recently. John gets up to a dozen goldfinch on his feeders but was a little alarmed recently when one flew into his window and stunned itself. It lay motionless for 10 to 15 minutes whilst his wife Brenda watched carefully in case of cats. “It finally started to move its head, shook itself and flew off. Lovely.”