Why Not Croak & Coot Tag Team Competition!

Open Gardens

Open Gardens

I promised Jen Dening I would give a mention to the Open Garden event taking place this weekend at Stone Rings Close, Harrogate, so here it is. The kindly folk there are opening their gardens on Saturday, 13 May and Sunday, 14 May from 12pm to 5pm in aid of horticultural charity Perennial, local charity Carers’ Resource and the Harrogate Samaritans. Four gardens in Stone Rings Close will be open for you to wander round, taking in the Hobbit hut and some alterations at No. 9; further development to the cutting garden at No. 10; lovely tulips at No. 14; and the beautiful bluebell bank seen from No. 16 and No. 14, continuing along into No. 10. Where is Stone Rings Close? Well from Pannal, along Leeds Road towards Harrogate. At the top of Almsford Bank take the first left into Stone Rings Lane. Stone Rings Close is on the left after approx 100m. For Satnav users, the postcode is HG2 9HZ. Public transport: approximately 1.1 miles (a 25 minute walk) from both Pannal station and Hornbeam Park station. It can be reached via various bus routes; the bus stop is sited just a few minutes away on the A61 Leeds Road. Parking: You are welcome to park in Stone Rings Close and Lane. Please park thoughtfully. Entry is £5.00, Children under 16 are free and there are a plant stall and refreshments available.

Why Not Croak?

Croak is the online newsletter of Froglife, a national wildlife conservation charity concerned with the conservation of the UK’s amphibian and reptile species and their associated habitats. It’s free to subscribe to and in my view well worthy of your support.

Coot - Alan CroucherCoot Tag Team Competition – Alan Croucher

All Your Sightings

Alan Croucher sent me this photo of a coot tag team competition. It always surprises me just how combative, indeed vicious, coots are.

John Howard asked, “Do we have a small resident population of Siskins here. On Friday, 21 April there was one solitary male adult siskin in full breeding plumage on our bird feeder in the Woodlands area. I don’t recall seeing any this late in the year before. Is it unusual?” I am sure there are small, and over the years slowly increasing, numbers of breeding siskins locally. They like to nest in the top of conifers, the nests are difficult to see because the birds are so small. I have no scientific evidence for this but some years it seems over wintering siskins may like it here so much they stay over to breed. And as I have said it is possible that these birds increase in number slightly each year coupled with them slowly becoming resident.

Bill and Liz Shaw tell me, “We have had bird feeders in our garden for over 15 years yet today to our great joy a male bullfinch visited them for the first time, fab.” Mine seem to be disappearing, I hope not due to that horrible disease greenfinch mainly get.

Graham Sigsworth, see his blog, “A quick stop off at Nosterfield early evening (4 May) and 2 Arctic Terns were on the Main Reserve. 4 Avocets, 3 Ringed Plovers and 2 Dunlin were also present. Earlier this morning I witnessed a ♀ Merlin attack a Starling and she was unable to carry the bird off, so the Starling had a very lucky escape.

Mike and Brenda Wheatley recently wrote, “We walked along the Wharfe to Newton Kyme today (fantastic weather and so still!). We were pleased to see many Sand Martins (at least 50, maybe 100) swirling around by the Tadcaster Old Railway Viaduct across the Wharfe. Then very surprised to see them keep landing on the side of the viaduct and inspecting the holes in the masonry as though they were considering them as nest sites! Definitely Sand Martins as we viewed them with binoculars as they perched on the viaduct. Will be interesting to see if they do nest there – at least no chance of young being washed out by the river flooding (a disaster that unseasonally happened in June many years ago). We later met a wildlife photographer who said that Swifts regularly nested in the viaduct in previous years. So Swifts arriving in May might be surprised if Sand Martins are already in occupation…Several butterflies also spotted – including Yellow Brimstones. Also pleased to report that Lawn Bees are again making their little soil heaps on our lawn this week – have been doing this for several years now. Suspect they appreciate the nearby Flowering Currant bush… I try to mow round their little soil-castles – but it’s not easy!” I’m not sure swift and sand martins compete for the same nest sites although a hole is a hole is a hole. I wonder if the sand martins were landing on the viaduct to catch insects or genuinely prospecting for nest sites. I would be interested to find out and whether the swifts also continue to breed there, let’s hope it’s good for both. If you visit here regularly please let me know what happens. Thanks for thinking about the mining bees, normally I would suggest leaving off the mowing but I suspect the short grass is important for the bees.

Some first sighting dates for swallows in Pateley Bridge via Stan Beer of How Stean cafe, 11 April. Andrew Dobby saw one on the 9 April. Anne Brown of Summerbridge “had three swallows arrive on Thursday, 13 April, always good to see them return.”

Carol Moore writes, “Sightings from our garden/fields near Padside Beck. We were lucky to see a male Orange tipped butterfly at lunchtime today, 18 April. Didn’t notice if a female was around. Also seen in our garden, over the Easter weekend, we caught sight of a Peacock butterfly. Cabbage whites also around. A Peregrine perched on a fence in our field one morning. A Buzzard swooping near a Crow’s nest, on two occasions but seen off by a protective Crow. Spring has definitely arrived! Roe deer grazing, either single doe or group of three, including a buck with the usual velvety, small antlers. Sadly, a young spotted fawn which obviously had met an untimely end at the side of the road along Dacre Lane. Dreadful to see the large length of hedgerow and trees removed, as reported in the Harrogate Advertiser. 600! Houses to be built by Persimmon Homes. The worst time of year to destroy hedging, during the nesting season. Pair of Curlews visiting in our field but no rings visible. Not nearly as many lapwing around on the Dacre Lane fields.” How lucky Carol is to see all this wonderful wildlife around her home.

Roger Newman tells me that he has had a song thrush in his garden at the old Queen Ethelburgers on Penny Pot Lane, for the first time ever. Could this be because of the demise of the ill-fated hedgerow mentioned above by Carol?

Anne Richards reports, “We saw a small tortoiseshell butterfly at Ripley Castle and a few days later a Holly Blue at Pine Street Allotments, Bilton. (It could have been a common but I’m fairly certain it was holly). A first blue butterfly for me in that location.” At this time of year I tend to think of all blue butterflies as being holly, especially when it’s actually on holly. Common blue’s food plant is birds foot trefoil and similar.

Mandarin Duck - Richard YeomanMandarin Duck – Richard Yeoman

Richard Yeoman writes, “Over the last couple of weekends I have had a few sightings down the Nidd Gorge which I thought might be worth sharing. In no particular order, a Tawny Owl down towards the weir. A Dipper – down at the weir. Seen a few recently. A Treecreeper, Kingfisher – no photo as all I saw was a flash of blue. Mandarin Ducks – now I’ve heard people mentioning these many times but never ever seen one on the Nidd (or come to that anywhere in the Gorge). Now I’ve broken that duck (if you’ll pardon the pun). Also down at Hookstone Red Kites – two together.” The proposed inner relief road may well put paid to all this wildlife, beware!

John Wade rightly says, “I have commented several times about how much wildlife you see by simply looking around you. Recently, sitting on Hookstone Station, we were entertained by a song thrush, saw woodpigeons, wren, robin, great tit, chiffchaff and great spotted woodpecker. On train to London saw a buzzard. On return from London yesterday, a hare. On road to Bradford on Good Friday, at Riffa Bank, four roe deer. Simple as that.” Good things come to them that waits and looks.

Bombylius Major - Max HamiltonBombylius Major – Max Hamilton

Max Hamilton, “Thought this was a bit different, Bombylius Major (bee fly) sunning itself on the brickwork.”

An interesting observation from Claire Yarborough, “I knew that crows were clever, but I’ve never seen this behaviour before. It repeatedly picked up bread from the grass and then dunked it in the bird bath before eating it. Clearly, it likes moist food.” Something at the back of my mind tells me I have heard this behaviour before or even seen it but when it comes to crows don’t be surprised by their achievements.

Heron - Ian LawGrey Heron – Ian Law

Susan Hockey, “I thought I would let you know that the cuckoo has returned to Upper Nidderdale. My husband first heard him on 30 April, early this year.” Another cuckoo was reported from Thruscross reservoir on 26 April and as I reported earlier by Peter Bowman at Great Ouseburn, not many really so can you report any more? Ian Law with his daughter Lisa heard one “in fields above Barney Beck, Healaugh, in Swaledale on Sunday, 7 May.” Ian also writes, “This heron was spotted on trees at the back of my garden. You can’t blame it for trying but it won’t get a free meal from my pond as the otters took all my fish earlier in the year. Anyway how many people can say that otters and herons have visited them in their gardens. However, I have taken your advice and secured the pond with a high metal fence. I have also covered the pond with netting and will restock later in the year.”

Excellent news from RHA Harlow Carr, Andrew Willocks tells me, “1-3 May we have had a Wood Warbler calling along the streamside at Harlow Carr, this is the first Woody I have seen for many years. Good Orange Tip, Holly Blue butterfly numbers have also been recorded.” This is all great stuff, good numbers of butterflies and a rare bird making an appearance, let’s hope it stays around and finds a mate.It seems this is the first wood warbler at Harlow Carr for 12 years!

Illegal Slaughter of Migrating Songbirds

Alan Croucher has asked me to circulate this website petition asking HMG to Stop the Illegal Slaughter of Migrating Songbirds on MoD land in Cyprus.

Hen Harrier Shooting

The RSPB have released video footage of an alleged hen harrier shooting on the Cabrach estate in Scotland, for some reason the Crown Office have decided not to prosecute. Have a look on the Raptor Persecution UK website and make your own decision on this case, personally I find it both damning and unbelievable in equal measure, what do you think? If that one seems somewhat remote then this about Nidderdale may be more interesting. Any thoughts on what should be done?

Events

Please check the website or contact the organisation to confirm events are still running.

If you were planning to visit Plumpton Rocks this May then check the website first before doing so. Plumpton Rocks will now not open until June at the earliest, due to emergency repair works.

A Confusion of LBJs

Visit The How Stean Cafe blog for flycatcher info.

IMG_5452Blackcap

A recent walk around Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Staveley Nature Reserve was a good opportunity to re-familiarise myself with those LBJs, Little Brown Jobs, that seem to appear from nowhere at this time of year determined to confuse my senses with their sight and sounds. Sight because as LBJs they all, at least superficially, look the same, as the name says small and brown. That is they usually are dressed for concealment, all wear camouflage gear, ideal for hiding in reeds, skulking in dead grass, nesting in the undergrowth. Each has its particular attire which reveals its true identification, provided that is you get a good enough view of it – you rarely do and consequently need to rely on sound for a positive identification. Well as some of you can confirm the older you get the worse your hearing becomes (I’m waiting for hearing aids) and this is compounded when almost all LBJs are summer migrants, all arriving at approximately the same time and all flitting around nonstop singing from their place of concealment. We can roughly call all LBJs warblers because all fit the bill although there are some confusing resident species which are small brown and tiny. Now however is the time for the warblers to arrive, indeed at a place like Staveley with reeds and water they are everywhere.

The first warbler to arrive is the chiffchaff which can be identified by that onomatopoeic song which literally does sound exactly like its name, chiffchaff, chiffchaff. By now they are everywhere and easy to identify provided they sing, from a sighting they can easily be confused with the very similar willow warbler, fortunately the BTO provides some identification help on their website. In the meantime familiarise yourself with the willow warbler’s song, best described as a repeated soft descending whistle, another song heard everywhere provided the habitat is right. In evolutionary terms it’s clearly not wrong since chiffchaff and willow warbler went their separate ways.

Locally we just don’t get nightingales and whilst deprived of their song one of the best songsters around, especially in the LBJ category, is the blackcap and it kindly helps us identify it because the male does sport a blackcap – I wonder how it gets its name? The female has a brown cap. The song is a delight, Collins describes it as “one of the finest – an irresolute chattering turning into clear, slightly melancholic flute-like notes at the end.” Collins also says it begins like a garden warbler, as if the garden warbler song is easily recognised by everyone. In practice many birders of increasing years struggle to distinguish between the two so turn again to the BTO website for more help. The garden warbler isn’t as easily recognised as the blackcap because frankly it’s the archetypical LBJ. Its only distinguishing feature is its dark eye which from the depths of a bush on a dull day is ….. well you know where I’m going! The basic difference in call is the garden warbler has a longer more fluty song. Maybe you should listen to the BTO video.

Sedge Warbler4Sedge Warbler

We should finish with the reed and sedge warbler. These denizens of the reed beds are skulking, secretive creatures, both struggle with the challenges of keeping their nesting sites private whilst at the same time attracting a mate and protecting their territories, no easy feat. You might argue with some justification that a reed warbler even takes the garden warbler’s position as archetypical LBJ, it lacks even the dark eye as means of identifying it, it won’t matter however because you rarely see it and when you do it is just a flitting glance, no more. The sedge warbler is at least recognisable if it does show itself because it has a thick white(ish) eye stripe and streaked back. It sometimes it will briefly rise above the reeds before parachuting down into cover. The reed warbler has no such distinguishing features and maybe it’s best to again rely upon the excellent BTO videos for help. Maybe I’ll mention whitethroat and lesser whitethroat another time, if that’s OK?

Butterfly Still Tumbling

Orangetip - Alan CroucherOrangetip – Alan Croucher

My last bit about butterflies – really it belonged to Butterfly Conservation – led to some of you kindly contacting me about these fascinating insects. Alan Croucher writes, “I thought you might like photos of Orange Tips. (I quite like the this one as you can see a bit of its underwing). We saw four at Lingham today when we visited. There were quite a lot of Sand Martins and Swallows around as well as three Blackcaps (two males and a female). Altogether we had around 50 species at Nosterfield and Lingham.”

Meanwhile Paul Irving writes, “Yes, butterflies had a pretty awful year last year but to suggest it was anything other than weather related would be rather premature. Some particularly those with short flight periods can be very severely affected in this way. The best way to look at butterfly trends is to look at five-year averages, that gives a much better picture of the long term. Yes, observer effort affects it too, remember in bad weather years there will be fewer of us out in the weather so annual fluctuations may be exaggerated.”

From Padside Janice Scott tells me, “I sent you my message about missing migrants last Saturday and couldn’t believe it when later that same day we saw our very own male swallow fly in. We know he is ‘ours’ as he made straight for the tiny hole that Tim has cut in the garage door as a ‘swallow door’, the main door being closed at the time. Since the weekend he has been inside every night, perched in last year’s half completed nest. We’re fingers crossed he has a mate this year, as we think something happened to his mate last year as she disappeared fairly quickly, but he stayed with us all summer, trying to attract someone else, without success. We have also now heard willow warblers around us, so there was obviously a small window for migrants last weekend although still thin on the ground. On the butterfly front, we have seen a single male orange tip around several times this week – very early for us. As you say, nectar plants are a problem when they are so early. Our garlic mustard and ladies’ smock are not yet flowering and the sweet rocket is only just beginning to open out. However this orange tip has been favouring a perennial honesty (lunaria rediviva) which is in full flower. I would heartily recommend this as a plant for wildlife gardeners – good for bees, butterflies and humans to enjoy.” What signs of spring have you seen?

Hedgehog Awareness Week

Hedgehog1 Chris HendersonHedgehog – Chris Henderson

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and takes place every year. This year it takes place from 30 April to 6 May 2017. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them. “There is concern at the moment about the introduction into this country from New Zealand of a trap used to kill hedgehogs, rats and stoats, which are all non-native pests in that country.  However, hedgehogs are a protected species here and anyone using the A24 trap would need to make sure they did not kill a hedgehog or they can be prosecuted. This year efforts are focussed on our strimmer campaign. We have produced waterproof stickers that we are sending to councils, tool hire companies, grounds maintenance teams etc free of charge on request (email info@britishhedgehogs.org.uk). The stickers remind operatives to check areas for hedgehogs before using any machinery. Once the group have received the stickers and sent us a pic of them in action, we can add them to our Hedgehog Heroes Roll of Honour!” See http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/hedgehog-heroes-roll-honour/

As well as checking areas before cutting there are other things we can do to help too:

  • Ensure there is hedgehog access in your garden – a 13cm x 13cm gap in boundary fences and walls.

  • Move piles of rubbish to a new site before burning them.

  • Ensure netting is kept at a safe height.

  • Check compost heaps before digging the fork in.

  • Stop or reduce the amount of pesticides and poisons used.

  • Cover drains or deep holes.

  • Ensure there is an easy route out of ponds and pools.

Events

Please check the website or contact the organisation to confirm events are still running.

Nidd Gorge Community Action

May 6, 4am to 6:30am Dawn Chorus Walk, Guided walk to experience the Springtime dawn chorus in the Nidd Gorge. Tickets are limited and cost £4 ring 07753 691219 to book your place.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Black Grouse Lek Visit to Langdon Beck at 5am on Saturday, 6 May. Location: Staying overnight the previous night perhaps, at the Langdon Beck Hotel. Postcode: DL12 0XP. Time: 5am Price: £25 Booking essential

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings, from the Nosterfield complex via twitter @NosterfieldLNR include: Flora – Yellow figwort, Birds – Avocets, Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpiper, Little Gull, Sedge Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Arctic tern, possible Turtle Dove, Little Ringed Plovers, Black Terns.

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

Mike Metcalfe 26-04-2017 Two Hobby at Staveley today, both flying together over East Lagoon, other highlights today included two Little Egrets, first Common Tern of the year and Garden Warbler.
Mike Metcalfe 24-04-2017 Hobby at Staveley today, flushed Sand Martins on east lagoon at 16.40, also present yesterday on West lagoons
Jess Bradley-Smith 24-04-2017 4 calling redstarts round Beaver Dyke reservoir earlier.
Peter Bowman 23-04-2017 Fri 21 April Cuckoo still present behind Great Ouseburn Church
Sat 22 April, Roecliffe Moor, Lesser Whitethroat heard on its usual territory with a Yellow Wagtail as a flyover and a Grasshopper Warbler then heard and seen in a roadside hedge (a bird on passage)
Today a Redstart singing near Ripon
Andy Cameron 23-04-2017 A male Redstart and a Lesser Whitethroat both in the same area along the Nidderdale Way near Ripley today.

Butterflies Still Tumbling

Wall Brown - Nigel HeptinstallWall Butterfly

You may well have noticed the national news, “Butterflies crash in fourth worst year on record in 2016.” It makes worrying and uneasy reading. Butterfly Conservation tells us some 40 of the 57 species studied recorded a decline compared with 2015, many of those species suffering are inevitably the rarest species and ones we aren’t often privileged to see, especially locally. One species which is suffering and can, or perhaps was, seen locally is the wall butterfly which is widespread but rapidly declining; it is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species. I don’t recall seeing one last year and I always keep an eye open for butterflies. It’s not however only the rare species that are suffering, our more common and most welcome species are also in decline. The Gatekeeper is down 48% and Meadow Brown falling by 31% compared with 2015. It’s not all bad news, however; the widespread and migratory Red Admiral recorded a rise of 86% compared to 2015, but beware don’t forget 2015 was a really bad year as well. It’s a bit like a 1% pay rise for low paid workers, a little bit of nothing is bugger all.

Red Admiral - Nigel HeptinstallRed Admiral

Local Butterfly Situation

Paul Millard is the butterfly recorder for this area of Yorkshire. He has kindly given me permission to reuse his local butterfly news. The first snippet of interest is that a “Red Admiral was seen on 25 March at Ainderby Steeple, this is so early that it could easily have been an overwintering adult. It is only a few years ago that it became accepted that Red Admirals overwintered in southern England.” Another sign of global warming? Paul tells us, “The list of butterflies flying now has expanded, it also includes; Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock and Brimstone. They all share the same habit of hibernating in the adult stage. I have also had reports of Holly Blue, Orange Tip, and Green-veined White.” So weather permitting some butterflies are flying earlier, that creates problems because they need access to food and are appropriate plants always available? Not necessarily.

SPECIES

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

SMALL SKIPPER

368

48

115

304

594

306

397

LARGE SKIPPER

101

42

112

23

112

69

81

DINGY SKIPPER

0

0

3

13

9

14

9

CLOUDED YELLOW

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

BRIMSTONE

33

9

48

38

58

64

71

LARGE WHITE

380

24

187

469

546

246

858

SMALL WHITE

545

127

88

704

805

287

698

GREEN-VEINED WHITE

1488

297

399

595

1522

423

844

ORANGE-TIP

162

96

169

200

259

161

262

GREEN HAIRSTREAK

241

284

318

96

239

35

124

PURPLE HAIRSTREAK

17

11

1

8

1

0

14

WHITE-LETTER HAIRSTREAK

9

1

1

37

20

8

60

SMALL COPPER

87

34

8

107

31

34

44

BROWN ARGUS

4

4

0

3

11

2

13

NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS

36

2

0

1

4

3

8

COMMON BLUE

438

112

150

88

215

126

199

HOLLY BLUE

15

13

45

9

12

15

20

RED ADMIRAL

470

204

156

150

580

253

737

PAINTED LADY

25

4

12

32

40

91

302

SMALL TORTOISESHELL

276

275

488

631

1324

941

449

PEACOCK

1021

152

825

950

1880

618

672

COMMA

185

26

37

240

102

102

48

DARK GREEN FRITILLARY

22

17

5

5

39

30

40

SPB FRITILLARY

0

0

0

9

0

0

1

SPECKLED WOOD

492

138

519

264

609

330

705

WALL BROWN

220

76

39

131

165

16

133

GATEKEEPER

1

6

16

17

4

12

13

MARBLED WHITE

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

MEADOW BROWN

377

146

777

999

1830

1779

1611

RINGLET

608

156

1502

1751

3699

2562

1997

SMALL HEATH

89

277

135

99

448

219

273

TOTAL BUTTERFLIES

7710

2581

6155

7973

15162

8746

10683

KEY

INCREASE

NO CHANGE

DECREASE

NO RECORDS

These records need to be taken in the knowledge that folk are now using mobile phone apps and similar to record their sightings and the improved numbers seen last year may reflect an increase in recorder activity. Interestingly Paul tells us, “The Small Tortoiseshell is a cause for concern as the numbers are trending downward again, however they are flying again now as they emerge from hibernation after a less challenging winter. Recent research has confirmed what we always suspected, that butterflies in general do better the year after a cold hard winter. Last winter was hardly that but at least it was not so wet.”

Please Help

My experience, which unlike Paul’s has no scientific basis, is that with the probable exception of brimstone all butterflies did very poorly last year. Cold wet summers don’t help butterflies and when we did start to see butterflies in autumn food plants were again scarce, so you can help and here’s how.

  1. Join Butterfly Conservation.

  2. Donate. In the UK we have lost 25% of our widespread butterflies in just 40 years. Iconic species are struggling to survive.

  3. Identify a butterfly.

  4. Report your sighting, get the Big Butterfly Count App. It’s fun and easy to use and helps you identify the butterflies. It’s also free.

  5. Make your Garden Wildlife Friendly. Remember butterflies and most wildlife need a source of food and places to nest all summer. The fields are full of pesticides, make sure your garden helps wildlife.

Spring Hots Up

Comma - Roger LittonComma – Roger Litton

Peter Durkin reports “whilst working on Quarry Moor Lane, Ripon on Wednesday, 22 March a flock of redwings about 200 flew over at a height l have never seen them fly before heading north. Today, Thursday, a swallow came by heading same way.” When did you see your first swallow of the summer? Indeed have you seen one at all this year yet?

John Stockill writesSince being off work due to an operation my wife and I have been enjoying the lovely weather and taken full advantage and walked nearly every day visiting Whitby at low tide, the Farndale daffodils, a scorching Scarborough and a raging Janet’s Foss at Malham and best of all being a loyal ‘Cragrat’ Knaresborough. It reminds me that in a modern technology fuelled world that a good pair of walking boots and a packed lunch which costs next t’nowt the British countryside is all ours to explore and enjoy. Here are a few pictures of our treks including a comma butterfly. You can’t disagree with that and John was also lucky to see a comma butterfly, see the above.

What signs of spring have you seen?

Tree Aftercare Event

What, I asked myself, is a Tree After Care Event? Well it’s an opportunity to come and help The Friends of Jacob Smith Park clear the ground around the park’s young trees. This enables the roots to receive more nutrients, meaning the trees can grow nice and strong. Everyone is welcome! So have some fun together whilst caring for the park. You’ll need suitable footwear, your waterproofs and a pair of gardening gloves. Please also bring forks and spades. Come for as long as you can! Meet at the noticeboard, main entrance, 10am Sunday, 30 April. Email Jo at Jacob.smith.park@gmail.com if you need more info or visit the website. It’s free, it’s outdoors, what else do you want?

Rossett Nature Reserve

If like Roger Litton you went to Rossett Nature Reserve and was a little horrified with what you found, cleared ponds, all the vegetation stripped away and completely bare ponds, then don’t worry. It has all had to be done. Sam Walker from the Council explains, “There has been an intensive programme of work at Rossett over the last 15 months so that it was necessary to bring the site up to scratch. This work has included a new dipping platform, noticeboard, footpath improvements, litter picks and a variety of habitat enhancements. The major work carried out this winter was a programme to clear the ponds of Crassula Helmsii – an invasive non-native species that was choking the ponds and limiting them as a suitable habitat for the Great Crested Newts (GCN). In fact it had reached the point where you could walk across a number of the ponds on a Crassula carpet! For a number of years the friends group and HBC had been carrying out this work manually but the impact we could have was limited. It was decided that the best way to ensure the continued suitability of the site for Great Crested Newts was to bring a digger on site to clear the ponds. This work was all agreed with the Harrogate Borough Council’s ecologist and we ensured that the work was done in January when the newts wouldn’t be in the ponds. This work was always going to have a significant initial impact as you can’t just selectively remove the crassula. However, over time, the site will make a full and complete recovery. The works have certainly had the desired effect and the ponds are now suitable for breeding Great Crested Newts. In fact we have already had reports of both Great Crested Newts and Smooth Newts in the ponds already this year. The vegetation will of course grow back, especially now that it’s starting to warm up. The Crassula will return as it is impossible to eradicate. I would anticipate we would have to do something similar again in the next 5-10 years. These works are essential to ensure we maintain a network of ponds suitable for breeding Great Crested Newts.”

Red Line Against Fracking

Frack Free Ryedale has sent out an appeal for knitted/crocheted 15cm red squares, to be sent to them by the end of May. These will be stitched together by the Frack Free Yarnbombers to make a RED LINE AGAINST FRACKING. In a joint project with fellow activists in Portugal and Germany the piece will be displayed on 11 June, before travelling to Bonn for the COP23 conference in November; a literal representation of the flourishing campaign for a clean energy future. If you complete any squares than let Janice Scott know email timscot@hotmail.com and she will collect them and pass them on.

Sightings

Grey Squirrel - Roger LittonGrey Squirrel – Roger Litton

Roger Litton, “I thought you might like to see the attached photo – a fairly common sight in our garden!”

Events

Please check the website or contact the organisation to confirm events are still running.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Sunday, 30 April, Visit to Rosedale Watching Ring Ouzels in Rosedale. Time: 10.30, meet there or 9am at Trinity for car share

Nidderdale Bird Club

Saturday, 22 April, Ripon – where two rivers meet (Skell & Laver): a morning walk to Hellwath and Whitcliffe Wood nature reserve.

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society GOUTHWAITE RESERVOIR, SCAR HOUSE and ANGRAM

Meet at Gouthwaite Reservoir main car park at 9.30 a.m. (in cars). Looking for waders and spring migrants. Continue to Scar House, stopping en route for raptors, Pied Flycatcher, Dipper. Scar House car park for lunch, looking for Ring Ouzel, Wheatear etc. A walk then to Angram for those who so wish. When: Tuesday, 25 April, 09:30 – 17:30

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings, from the Nosterfield complex via twitter @NosterfieldLNR include; butterflies – orangetip, speckled wood and small white. Birds – avocets, ruff, little ringed plover, ringed plover, wheatear, little egret, greenshank, redshank, harris hawk, kestrel, sparrowhawk, stock dove,

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

Joe Fryer mealy redpoll at High Batts 15-04-2017. Brambling and yellowhammer 14-04-17
Pat Rumbold First fledglings of the year yesterday – young robins along the River Skell in Ripon. 15-04-2017
Joe Fryer Dallowgill moor lots of red grouse, wheatear, golden plover and a stonechat 13-04-2017
Ian Webster Scar House Road. Pied Flycatcher, Nuthatch, Treecreeper. 3-04-2017
Alan Tremethick Scarhouse Ring ouzel, Wheatear, Osprey, Gouthwaite Oystercatchers, Ring plover, Dunlin. 13-04-2017
David Gilroy Common Redstart at John O’ Gaunt’s Reservoir. 13-04-2017
Joe Fryer at Fountains Abbey. Red kites, mistle thrush, great spotted woodpecker, greenfinch, goldfinch, bullfinch 12-04-2017
Paul V Irving An adult White Tailed Eagle was photographed as it flew south over Hay a Park 11-04-2017
Tony Snowden Mandarin, on R. Nidd at Waterside car park, nr. Castle Mills. 11-04-2017
Paul V Irving 10/04/17 Colsterdale area Hen Harrier (reported immediately to RSPB on 0845 460 0121 or henharriers@rspb.org.uk vital if we are to save this species in England. Displaying male Merlin. Peregrines, Buzzard, Stonechat, Ring Ouzel, Swallow, Tree Pipit.
Also Green Tiger Beetle and Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola), Red Grouse.
RSPB Fairburn Ings, latest sightings,

Pintail 1-2 still hanging on. Red-crested Pochard Spectacular drake from 5th on western lagoon. Bittern. Booming males from three locations. Little Egret Three pairs nest building Great White Egret. Spoonbill Single from 3rd to at least 6th. Grey Partridge Pair on coal tips.Red Kite 1-3 Daily. Common Buzzard 20+ on 2nd most likely included passage birds. Grey Heron Viewable nests now with well grown young. Avocet Certainly 14, perhaps 18. Oystercatcher Up to 12. Little Ringed Plover Three throughout. Curlew Max 27. Snipe <10 now reported daily. Redshank Single occasionally. Peregrine Pair. Goldcrest Unusual  but 4 singing males at the moment. Willow Tit Seven singing males. Bearded Tit Reported on 4th and 6th. Cetti’s Warbler Six singing males located. Sedge Warbler Single on Parker’s on 1st. White Wagtail Singles on 1st and 7th.

Shooting Kills Our Vulnerable Wildlife

hare-sylvia-addyman

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, https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/167410. 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

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 (http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/leccinum-crocipodium.php). 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 (http://www.first-nature.com/fungi/~id-guide.php) 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.

Sightings

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

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.

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Large Yellow Underwing Moth Eggs – Rex Bradshaw

large-yellow-underwing-larvae-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.”

PLEASE SUPPORT ME BY SUBMITTING YOUR SIGHTINGS, I try to mention everything

Events

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.

Missing Tortoiseshell, Have You Seen One?

Small tortoiseshell - Roger Litton

Small Tortoiseshell – Roger Litton

Butterflies have such a short lifetime, especially as adults, and even this is limited by the weather, most preferring to fly on hot, sunny days and whilst it has been mostly dry this year the sunny days have been few and far between. The flight periods differ for each species and whilst some are quite long others are short or restricted by only one or sometimes two broods. 23 July was a great day for butterflies and this is reflected in the sightings seen at Farnham Gravel Pits, the private reserve of Harrogate Naturalists Society. Robert Brown reports small skipper(59), large white(15), small white(13), green-veined white(12), red admiral(2), painted lady(1), peacock(3), small tortoiseshell(8), comma(1), speckled wood(1), gatekeeper(164), meadow brown(159), ringlet(74). This contrasts with 9 August with brimstone(1), large white, small white, green-veined white(all recorded) common blue(6), red admiral(2), painted lady(3), peacock(3), comma(1), wall(1), gatekeeper(40), meadow brown(recorded), ringlet(2) holly blue(1). Now bearing in mind if I was a politician I could make these figures read whatever I wanted, however, I’m not so I’ll try to be objective. Let’s take the migrant butterflies, red admiral and painted ladies, clearly they just haven’t arrived this year. More worrying, some of the so called common butterflies – peacock, small tortoiseshell and whites – have all been recorded but even the whites are in numbers we would consider low a few years ago. The coloured ones are no doubt responding to a series of cold, damp wet summers and warm winters. Apparently cold winters may help over wintering butterflies survive. Gatekeeper and small skippers have done remarkable well as have ringlet and we can assume the ringlet’s flight period was over for the second count. Comma and speckled wood are relatively recent incomers as they have expanded their range northwards, perhaps circumstances mean they are now contracting their ranges, but especially worrying is the speckled wood, which a few years ago were seen in huge numbers, a very rapid decline indeed. Holly and common blues are in very small numbers, especially common blues, which could be seen in triple figures on occasions in some places, although not necessary Farnham. Wall is perhaps the most worrying because only one has been seen and they are now considered very, very rare. The biggest worry, however, doesn’t even occur on either list – what has happened to the small copper? These are just my views and have no scientific significance, but be worried, very worried that our biodiversity is in real danger.

Wall - Robin Hermes

Wall – Robin Hermes

These sightings compare with observations made by other folk and my concern just grows. Robin Hermes photographed a wall butterfly recently at Farnham and writes, “it will be a second brood, for some reason or other very few have been seen this year. Keith Wilkinson tells me he hasn’t seen a small tortoiseshell butterfly all year and encourages you to visit the Butterfly Conservation website (BC) to help them by recording any small tortoiseshells you have seen this year. BC asks, “Concern is growing as sightings of this previously common butterfly are significantly down across the UK. The small tortoiseshell is an easy species to identify. The butterfly’s uniquely patterned orange and black wings are framed with a border of small blue crescents. If you spot one of these pretty little butterflies in your garden before the end of the season, please submit your sightings.” Butterflies do have specific flight periods and many, including the small tortoiseshell, are around now, weather permitting. Another such butterfly is the migrant red admiral and Red Admiral - Roger Brownbridge

Red Admiral – Roger Brownbridge

Roger Brownbridge writes, “Having spent the summer saying how few butterflies we had seen, particularly red admirals, lo and behold walking near Grassington on Bank Holiday Monday we passed a white buddleia upon which we counted 15 red admirals – you wait for a bus and then two come along!” These will be recently hatched butterflies, offspring from an earlier migration from the Mediterranean, and whilst it’s great to see so many sadly it’s not sufficient to make up for the lack of red admirals seen this year. Roger Litton writes, “At long last we’ve seen a red admiral in the garden (on the buddleia). As we’ve all been saying it is amazing – and depressing – how few butterflies there are; however, not to have seen a red admiral before now with our three buddleias almost over is staggering.

Nidderdale’s New Pollinator Project

Some great news from The Friends of Nidderdale AONB. They have secured £42,000 of funding from Biffa Award to provide new and improved pollinator habitat in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and at Otley Wetland Nature Reserve. The plan is to create a new ‘pollinator pathway’ to link fragments of habitat together along a 10km corridor and connect into Buglife’s B-Line network. This flower rich pathway will support Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species of conservation concern. The two year project will restore 43.5 hectares of BAP lowland meadow at carefully selected locations using seed and hay collected from local donor sites wherever possible.

Taking about pollinators, Jackie and I have recently returned from a week’s holiday at Kinlochard in Scotland. Kin means head so we were at the head of Loch Ard, west of near Aberfoyle. We visited the Wee Blether tearooms and apart from some great food we were pestered by wasps and that made me think, why are there so many wasps here and so few locally. Well Kinlochard has very little farming around, no arable and very few cattle or sheep, and this coupled with the lack of cars made me wonder just how big an impact agricultural chemicals and car fumes have on our biodiversity. This view was supported by the good numbers of swallows and house martins around, birds which depend on insects. To my mind it’s a no brainer, what do you think?

Pinewoods Conservation Group’s Open Day

This Saturday, 10 September on the Recreation area between Harlow Moor Road and Crag Lane, from 12 noon to 3pm. It’s free and includes a dog agility demo, drive a digger and tree climbing, plus refreshments by the 20th Harrogate Scout Group, fun activities, ice cream and picnic and games area.

Macmillan Cancer Support Appeal

Paul Cowham who used to report about the peregrines on Harrogate’s Copthall Towers – it may have another name now – has run 100 miles during August and will follow that with The Great North Run for Macmillan Cancer Support, because he wants to help make a difference. Why not visit his Just Giving web page and support him, so far he has reached £400, surely we can do better than that?

Sightings

House Martins - Charles Gibson

House Martins – Charles Gibson

Apology: My apologies to Charles Gibson. In my last blog I mention Charles had reported swifts congregating on power lines, they were of course swallows and the mistake was all mine, sorry. He also took this photo of house martins in Shaw Mills.

Green Woodpecker3 - Dennis Skinner

Green Woodpecker – Dennis Skinner

Sparrowhawk: Dennis Skinner of Wetherby reports a sparrowhawk taking a wood pigeon in his garden. The size of the prey means that the sparrowhawk must have been a female as it was far too big for a male sparrowhawk to take. The next day Dennis was visited by a juvenile green woodpecker, let’s hope it keeps a wary eye out.

Moorland Raptors: Barry Carter tells me, “I have been on the moor three mornings and late afternoons to last light and I have seen up to three red kites and similar in buzzards. I actually saw a buzzard in the tree being bombed by a kite on the top road to Wath just before the two seats looking over Gouthwaite, and also four, yes four kestrels hovering in the same field where the buzzard was! Parents teaching juveniles?” Maybe I shouldn’t tar every moorland owner with the raptor killer brush, is this an exception? What do you think?

Buzzards: Alan Croucher thought you may wish to sign this petition opposing the buzzard cull, “https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/163483

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include: Greenshank, little stint, osprey, hobby, little egret, avocet, kingfisher, little ringed plover, ruff, black tailed godwit, dunlin, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, ruff, ringed plover and avocet.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Whooper Swan 2 throughout, Shelduck 2 Juvenile throughout, Wigeon Daily up to 10, Pintail Single throughout on New flash, Garganey Daily. 10 at start down to 4 at end of week, Red-crested Pochard hybrid 1 on 28th, Bittern Single on 1st, Red Kite At least 3 throughout, Marsh Harrier At least 2 throughout, Osprey 1 west over flashes at 1pm on 29th after which spent few hours at Swillington Park before being seen again in the early evening from Pickup hide. Probably the same bird (an adult, presumed male) out southwest over the moat early morning the next day, Water Rail Small numbers daily, Ringed Plover Single on 1st, Curlew 1 on 31st, Green Sandpiper Present daily in small numbers, Common Sandpiper Present daily in small numbers, Greenshank Seen daily on Spoonbill Flash – up to 4, Snipe Daily max 7, Hobby Single on 1st, Peregrine At least three throughout, Sand Martin 500+ on 29th, Redstart 2 at moat from stile by bungalow on 29th, Wheatear Single on coal tips trail on 29th..

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Monday 12 September 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Steve Race entitled “Wild Shetland”

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 9th September – RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 13th September – YWT Spurn NNR

Polluted Rivers and Surveys

Red Grouse - Barry Cater

Red Grouse – Barry Carter

Pennine Grouse Moor Survey Erroneous Say BTO!

A bird survey that was reported to have taken place on a managed grouse moor in the Pennines has been widely quoted in the media this week. The report suggested that 800 pairs of Lapwing, 400 pairs of Curlew and 100 pairs of Golden Plover were present, and that 89 species of bird were seen. These results have been used as evidence that moorland managed for grouse shooting is good for birds. These figures have been attributed to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), but this claim is erroneous. This fieldwork was not carried out by the BTO and did not use the rigorous statistical methods employed by the BTO in order to produce accurate estimates of this type. The organisation wishes to make it clear that the quoted figures should not be attributed to the BTO. The BTO is a charity dedicated to providing scientific information to inform decisions about birds and their habitats. Whenever possible the BTO makes its evidence available for use by all stakeholders. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO’s work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations, www.bto.org. It seems, to me, that those who wish to legitimise their annual slaughter of our wild birds and those numerous creatures that prey on them are resorting to tactics which can only serve to make the licensing of grouse moors an urgent necessity. You can’t defend the indefensible!

Alan Croucher asks, “You might be interested in the following petition regarding the culling of buzzards. Suspend Natural England licence to kill buzzards.”

Osprey3 - Barry Carter

Barry Carter sent me some excellent photos of ospreys to share with you.

Oak Beck Pollution

It seems that Oak Beck, which runs from Haverah Park, through Oakdale, Jennyfields and Knox, has some worrying pollution issues with no immediate prospects of a solution. These include foul water/sewage escapes plus ‘solids’ and flash flooding. I was somewhat surprised to learn from Keith Wilkinson of Bilton Conservation Group that Harrogate have a ‘dual flushing’ system where rainwater from roofs is directed into the sewage system to help keep the foul water/sewage moving. It seems that many, myself included, are unaware of where their roof rainwater goes and just assume it all goes into the sewer system – for those houses where their rainwater is directed to surface water drainage there can be problems when householders put ‘grey water’ down the gullies at the foot of their fall pipes where it emerges later in the local becks and contaminates them – similar to washing cars in the street and flushing the detergent/wax down street drains. Toxins enter Oak Beck at the rear of the Hydro at New Park. This can happen within 45 minutes of rain falling compared within 48 hours where rain permeates naturally through the fields, woods and vegetation. The result is possible localised flooding and maybe worse further downstream whilst the impact on wildlife has not been accurately assessed. Oak Beck is the main drainage channel for the whole of north Harrogate and, as such, is classed by the Environment Agency as ‘River’. Its water quality varies as industry and housing develop apace – but it still sustains brown trout, 3-spined stickleback, bullheads, minnow, stone loach, kingfisher and otter. It seems we have lost the last white-clawed crayfish, which were last sighted for certain in 2007. Hopefully the two New Park councillors can succeed in persuading Yorkshire Water to have a public meeting to let the residents know what plans they have to mitigate/resolve the pollution. You could help by supporting them and our wildlife. For more details search here, and here.

Swifts Update?

Charles Gibson tells me, “There were at least 60 lined up on the power lines at the bottom of the garden at 7am today (16/8/15) in Shaw Mills.” Charles has also seen house martins gathering on wires near his home.

Ann and Colin Snelson report, “Middlesmoor had swifts as usual this year and we enjoyed their screeching parties, which is such a lovely summer sound. There were definitely a few around still on 10 August, which is about a week later than normal. The other thing is the swallows which we hardly ever saw at all are now visiting the village and sometimes as many as 60+ gather on the electricity wires. This is a little earlier than we’re used to so the migrants’ calendar is certainly altered this year.” Pleasing to hear that Middlesmoor have had good numbers of swifts and swallows. Swallows in particular are in short supply elsewhere, locally.

Stephen Root reports, “Greenshank and spotted flycatcher at Hay-a-Park, plus a late swift through.”

Your Sightings

Wood Wasp: Charles Gibson reported one in his kitchen. These ferocious looking insects, which are also called sawflies, are in fact quite harmless, what looks like the world’s biggest stinger sticking out of their backsides is in fact an ovipositor and adults cannot sting. The larvae defend themselves by regurgitating a distasteful liquid from their mouths. They get their name from the saw-like appearance of the ovipositor, which the females use to cut into the plants where they lay their eggs. Sawfly larvae can be an important factor in the diet of a number of birds including partridge and black grouse.

Butterflies: from Jennyfields. Harrogate, Doug Simpson reports, “Had single Painted Lady, Holly Blue and male Brimstone butterflies in the garden on Sunday, 14 August.” All rare this summer and very welcome,

Holly Blue - Claire Yarborough

Holly Blue – Claire Yarborough

Claire Yarborough reckons, “We have had a bad year for butterflies, but had one interesting sighting. This bright blue butterfly was feeding on achillea in my garden this week. It would only pose for a photo with wings closed, but my ID book guided me towards holly blue. My first in the garden. Otherwise, we have seen plenty of whites, but nothing much else. Even the buddlea only attracted one peacock. When is the summer going to arrive!

Painted Lady - Jon Burge

Painted Lady – Jon Burge

Jon Burge, “Like others have noted, we have fewer butterflies than normal. Perhaps fallen apples etc of the season will attract more. We have two or three at a time red admirals, but just one at a time peacock, small tortoiseshell and painted lady. I provide a photo of the last, but unfortunately could not catch the more decorative underside.”

What butterflies have you seen?

Bilton Birds: Keith Wilkinson tells me, “I hope you have seen the Barn Owl that hunts morning and evening over Diamond Jubilee Wood at the back of you. She has raised/is raising two youngsters this year. Also the Tawny Owl in Bilton Beck Wood seems to have raised two this season. Have had reports that the Skylarks nested again but I can’t say I have seen it for myself.”

Wood Pigeon Squabs - Sue Turner

Woodpigeon Squabs – Sue Turner

Squabs: Sue Turner, writes, “Mummy Woodpigeon left the nest because we were doing some pruning in the front garden. I took advantage of taking a photo for everyone who says they’ve never seen a baby pigeon! As I’ve said before I don’t care for Woodpigeons but these are rather cute even though they are right above my front door.” Sorry Sue, but they really don’t look cute to my eye.

Hedgehogs: Delia Wells, “Woodlands Community Garden on Wetherby Road, saw the resident hedgehog, mid morning, 15 August, It was full grown, and not wary of people nearby.”

Reserve Sightings

The wader passage seems to be on it’s way so nows the time to visit your favourite birding location.

Farnham Gravel Pit

This is the private nature reserve of Harrogate Naturalists Society. Robert Brown reports a marsh harrier, osprey, 2 hobbies, spotted flycatcher, greenshank, juvenile cuckoo and redstart last weekend.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Curlew sandpiper, ruff, greenshank, dunlin, osprey, knot, green sandpiper, spotted flycatcher, grey plover, little ringed plover, wheatear, golden plover, redshank, snipe and common sandpiper, I was there on 17/8/16 and saw a whinchat and around 10 yellow wagtails. Sightings taken from @nosterfieldLNR.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan 22nd bird with orange ring ZPA, Shelduck. Wigeon, Gadwall , Garganey, Tufted duck c300 daily, Goosander, Little Egret, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier , Osprey, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Little Owl, Hobby, Peregrine, Raven, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Grey Wagtail.

Can We Trust the National Newspapers?

Klaus Roggel, Berlin - Wiki Commons Licence

Swift – Klaus Roggel, Berlin

Have Your Swifts Gone Yet?

RSPB Fairburn Ings still has Swifts in double figures, just! They had 11 on 14 August. Chris Tomson counted half a dozen in Bilton on 13 August but it’s hard to say whether they are local breeding birds or birds from further north just passing through on their way south. Swifts tend to arrive from their African wintering grounds later than most birds and leave earlier after only one attempt at breeding and for most birders it’s a sad day when they have finally left. The sound of them hurtling through the skies, especially before they leave, when the adults are joined by recently fledged juveniles, is just wonderful, an iconic sound of summer just as Curlews are a harbinger of spring. Sadly the swift departure indicates that the nights are drawing in, winter round the corner, probably the stimulus that sends them on their way. On Sunday, 7 August, Lisa Walch and Ian Law were coming down from Ingleborough to Chapel Le Dale, “we saw 5 Swift flying close by. There could have been more but I was afraid I would count some twice they were so fast. Then as we entered Chapel Le Dale near Hurtle Pot, I saw my first close up of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. What a privilege to be so close. Unfortunately, too slow with the camera!” Anyway it would be interesting to know on what date you last saw a Swift this year so please let me know.

IMG_1467

Peter The ‘Bilton’ Peacock

Can We Trust the National Newspapers?

Don’t panic Bilton folk, as far as I know Bilton’s most famous and favourite resident isn’t going anywhere despite a national newspaper’s recent report that Peter The Peacock is off to Scotland – can we believe anything they say? It’s seemingly a case of mistaken identity. A report in the Daily Express suggests that Bilton’s most photographed celebrity been transported to Scotland, it had a photo of him in Bilton. If any peacock is going anywhere then it’s the Killinghall one(s). The Local Paper has a Killinghall, not Bilton, flavour to the story. A Killinghall campaign is trying to raise £500 to employ a licensed trapper to transport their peacock. My personal view is that you can’t get a NVQ never mind a degree in peacock trapping so beware of trappers bearing false witness. Probably just a few folk being precious at the expense of the vast majority who really enjoy their peacocks. But I do wonder what else do the papers get wrong? Politics, sport, news in general, the mind boggles, believe nowt! Incidentally have you seen the spur on a peacock’s leg? They use them to defend themselves and I reckon it could inflict a serious wound.

Wild Flower Verges

My latest e-new from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (sign up here) features a How-To Guide for collecting and using pollinator friendly wild flower seed, provided as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This guide shows you how to collect seed from native plants and save them successfully for sowing yourself. It is aimed at anyone who wants to provide more native wildflowers for bees in their garden, school, farm or local area. If you’re trying to create a wildflower meadow, this guide will help you to increase the diversity of flowering plant species WITHOUT purchasing wildflower seed! It’s a little late in the year, especially for some of the species, but what the heck, give it a go and who knows any little helps. In my street there are more folk turning their front drives into car parks than recognising just how much our biodiversity is in decline and how much we as home owners can help. Also in the same e-news are details of free wildflower seeds. Just go online to get your FREE seed packet www.growwilduk.com

Your Sightings

Brown Hawker - Steve Kempson

Brown Hawker – Steve Kempson

Brown Hawker: Steve Kempson was, “Just back from a walk at Staveley nature reserve – lots more geese around than when we were last there a few weeks ago, and plenty of butterflies too. However the highlight was the number of large dragonflies swooping about – I think the attached photo is of a Brown Hawker?” I agree a brown hawker. Also the blue highlights in the eyes apparently indicates it is a male.

Butterflies: Janice and Tim Scott write, “Believe it or not, since I emailed you about butterflies, we have seen one red admiral on a buddleia down by the church at Thornthwaite, and one small tortoiseshell on a wall along Low Lane. It’s very sad when the sight of singletons makes us excited.” Sad and very worrying. The numbers of red admiral and small tortoiseshell seem to be increasing very slowly as summer progresses and they emerge but sadly in nowhere near the numbers we would normally expect.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth - Rachel Kingdom

Hummingbird Hawkmoth – Rachel Kingdom

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Rachel Kingdom took this photo of a humming-bird hawkmoth at Newby Hall.

Alder Moth Caterpillar: Bernice Ferguson spotted a very spottable alder moth caterpillar, easily identified, perhaps, because they are yellow and black. I contacted Jill Warwick the local moth expert about it and learnt, Please click on the following link from the “Yorkshire Moths” website: http://www.yorkshiremoths.info/portal/p/Summary/s/Acronicta+alni/u/61/x/57b2b922 You will see that the greatest concentration is in Vice County 64 (which includes the Harrogate area) – see the explanatory blurb lower down – scarce and thinly distributed. For example, I’ve been moth trapping at home (Sharow) since 1983 and have caught Alder Moth at light trap only 10 times since the first record in 1986. Mostly singles but caught two here on 7 June this year. Considering the moth eats not just Alder but many other species of broadleaved tree, it’s surprisingly uncommon! We have once or twice found the very attractive larva over the years.”

Hedgehog - Ann and Les Maxwell

Hedgehog – Ann & Les Maxwell

Friendly Hedgehog: Ann/Les Maxwell, “Attached a photograph of our friendly hedgehog who visits our garden every evening. As you can see he/she is very friendly and even walks towards me responding to my voice. I am not sure how unusual it is to have a hedgehog this friendly? Interesting to find if anyone else has had a similar experience.” I’ve not heard of this myself, but do you have a friendly hedgehog visiting you? Sue Turner writes, “At least four hedgehogs in the neighbourhood as my neighbour had a small one visit at the same time as my three. The medium ones have been aggressive towards each other and one of them keeps sniffing round the little one! Hope it’s not going to try and mate with it as it’s very small.” I just hope the small one is strong enough to survive hibernation. Hedgehogs are in such decline, probably slug pellets on fields and gardens don’t help, and they need all the help we can give them. A young hedgehog should weigh from 600-700g to hibernate, around 1.5lbs for us wrinklies. An adult animal, depending on its age and size, should weigh between 1000g and 1400g (2.5 to 3 lbs) before hibernation. See http://helpwildlife.co.uk/category/north-yorkshire/

Spuggies and Martins: Karen Weaver writes from Jennyfields, “Just reading your blog about butterflies and pleased to report we had two small tortoisehells on our buddleia last week. One had flown off by the time I got my phone but the other one co-operated, photo attached. We’ve had house martins again in our eaves and I counted a flock of about 15 sparrows around the bird feeder this morning too. We’ve had quite a flock for a few years nesting in hedge over our back fence (top end of Jennyfields) but this is the most I’ve seen, though they don’t hang around for long. Also pleased to have seen a kestrel back over Killinghall Moor, the first time for a while, and a deer feeding in the woodland very close to the road at the top of Jennyfields Drive as we drove past one evening. Too many wood pigeons and magpies though!”

Please Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

Thanks to all those of you who helped increase my readership, it would be great if more of you could also help, please. Just get at least one other person to sign up to my blog and we can double the number of folk who can enjoy reading about nature, support the environment and discuss all the rotten things that so called civilised humans do to our wildlife. It costs nowt, especially appealing to us Yorkshire folk, and maybe, fingers crossed, it’s fun. To get the blog regularly the best and easiest way is to just click the follow button on the blog and follow the instructions. Alternatively email me outdoors@virginmedia.com. Thanks for your support, much appreciated.

Curlew Coffee Morning

Thanks to all who managed to come to Nidderdale Birdwatchers’ last fundraising event which raised £900 towards Curlew research. If you missed out or fancy joining in the fun again (there’s a chance to purchase a unique Curlew doorstop) please come along on Saturday, 20 August from 10-12 at Church House, Grassington.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Some really interesting news regarding two avocet chicks, colour ringed at Nosterfield and now seen at Alkborough Flats in Lincolnshire. Also seen over Flask Lake recently peregrine, buzzard and osprey.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan, Shelduck, Red Kite max 5, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Water Rail 2 on Cedric’s on 6th, Spotted Flycatcher.

Events

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

Harrogate RSPB Group

Wednesday 24 August 7:00pm Outdoor Meeting – YWT Staveley

Wild Flower News

Cinnabar Moth and Small Skipper - Robin Hermes

Small Skipper & Cinnabar Moth LarvaeRobin Hermes.

Help Me Double My Blog Readership?

It would be great if more folk read this blog and you can help. Just get at least one other person to sign up to my blog and double the number of folk can enjoy reading about nature, support the environment and discuss all the rotten things that so called civilised humans do to our wildlife. It costs nowt, especially appealing to us Yorkshire folk, and maybe, fingers crossed, it’s fun. To get the blog regularly the best and easiest way is to just click the follow button on the blog and follow the instructions. Alternatively email me outdoors@virginmedia.com. Thanks for your support, much appreciated.

France - Jon and Jen Dening

Le Grand Vieil – Jon and Jen Dening

Wild Flowers

Well not quite a wildflower meadow but Chris Beard and Edna Barker of Hookstone and Stonefall Action Group have been monitoring the different species of flowers found in the parks during 2016. What a great way to monitor what’s in your patch and an invaluable tool for determining the health of the park or wherever you choose to monitor if you continue the observations over many years and keep good records. Chris and Edna have found around 100 plants, too many to list and Edna tells me this is just the result of a “cursory glance.” If you regularly visit these areas and have noted any plants, or do so in the future, then please let Edna know on spinninged@hotmail.co.uk. If you don’t visit this area but regularly visit one particular spot why not do the same and include birds, mammals, amphibians and anything else on your list. Citizens science, a great way to check the health of our countryside.

This looks like a French wild flower resource, sent in by Jon and Jen Dening, “I was just reading the blog about the French practice of growing pollinating plants in villages and realised that I photographed one on our recent holiday. This is in the village square outside the local convenience store in Le Grand Vieil on the island of Noirmoutier. Lovely, isn’t it?” It is lovely and surely something we could do. Can you village parishioners give it a thought please and let me know what you think?

Janice Scott writes, “I have read this latest blog with interest, and despair! We too are feeling very worried about the lack of butterflies and agree with Colin Harrison that we really need to do something about this now. After a reasonably promising start to the year with a better number of orange tips than the last few years, our summer sightings are better described as lack of sightings. Usually on our patch in Nidderdale we would expect to see skippers and the odd small copper. There have been none. I have seen one green veined white and a handful of small and large white. We have had ringlet and meadow brown, but in much smaller numbers than previous years. Tortoiseshells, peacocks, red admirals and painted ladies? Not a glimpse. Hard to believe that three years ago we were counting well over 100 peacock on our patch during late August! At Newby Hall (27 July) butterfly numbers were also low – a few whites, including a handful of green veined, plus one meadow brown. Curiously what we did see was a hummingbird hawkmoth and we watched it for quite some time nectaring on the long herbaceous borders there. I tried to get a photo but it is just a blur – sorry! On a more positive note, on 31 July we saw a baby cuckoo being fed by two birds a fraction of its size (not sure what they were as we didn’t have our binoculars) up near the car park at Scar House reservoir – a first for us in the dale. On our walk up dale we saw a much healthier number of swallows than in our neck of the woods. I’m interested by the comments about wildflower verges that people have sent you. Let’s not give up on this. I like to think that if we keep drawing attention to it, something will eventually give, especially when you factor in the cost of all this mowing and the growing awareness of climate change and its effect on our biodiversity.” Janice makes a number of interesting points. Butterflies are doing dreadfully and I wonder if as well as the changing weather patterns, driven by climate change, there are other factors such as farmers using different chemicals, can you tell me if you know? Strange that a migrant like a hummingbird hawkmoth should reach here but not painted ladies and, as for swallows, we were at Levisham recently and there were good numbers of swallows, but like Janice I have seen very few locally, even accounting for the fact that juveniles are now on the wing swelling numbers arriving for breeding. Very worrying, again can I ask is anyone prepared to get involved in a group looking at wildflower verges, meadows, helping pollinators and maybe protecting our birds of prey?

Illegal use of Motorbikes

Under the Illegal Use of Motorcycles Off-road etc. etc. RTA 1972, 1988 and Police Reform Act 2002, a male was charged with driving whilst disqualified, driving with no helmet, without insurance and riding otherwise than on a road. I understand that this is one of the individuals who has been involved in the recent motorbike incidents on the Nidderdale Greenway. Please spread the word and let’s keep our green spaces vehicle free and most importantly safe.

Spurn Migration Festival

Spurn is always a great spot at migration time, although for those who have never visited beware, it takes as long from Hull to Spurn as it does to Hull from Harrogate. During migration time you can never be sure what birds might drop in and you may well see something different and something new. Well the BTO, Spurn Observatory Trust and others have recognised this and in recent years have organised a Migration festival so that in the unlikely event that no rare birds show up you can still enjoy a packed weekend on the Spurn Peninsular. The festival runs from Friday, 9 September to Sunday, 11 September 2016 and includes Ringing Demonstrations, Visible Migration, Walks & Talks, Workshops and an array of stalls. Guests this year include Mike Dilger, Darren Woodhead and Ray Scally. To view more information about this event and to book your tickets please click here

Your Sightings

Nicola Mercer, reporting in the Nidderdale Birders Newsletter, has observed a buzzard twice taking a rabbit in two days. “Surprisingly, it flew around for at least 15 minutes with this in its clutches, ignoring the pesterings of black headed gull, rook, crow, curlew, oystercatcher and lapwing before disappearing off to enjoy its meal.” Makes me wonder why the shooting fraternity want to cull our raptors? Apparently six rabbits can eat as much as one sheep so why do folk want to destroy buzzards who’s main prey is rabbits? These shooters aren’t even a farmer’s friend. Meanwhile Defra have permitted buzzards to be culled to protect pheasant shoots. Please let me know if you have ever seen a buzzard take a pheasant.

Blackbird – Charles Gibson

Charles Gibson has sent these photos of a blackbird. “Strange antics by one of our blackbirds after a bath.” I reckon blackbirds do a lot of this, or maybe I should say more than any other bird, especially in hot weather, maybe sunbathing or anting. I suspect no one really knows why but I am willing to be told otherwise, so if you know why let me know, please.

Robin Hermes, “Enclosed an interesting photo taken in a field near Beckwithshaw. A small Small Skipper with the Orange and black striped larvae of The Cinnabar moth.” This year seems a very good one for ragwort, the cinnabar moth caterpillar food plant, yet I have seen only two cinnabar moth caterpillars and each on a separate plant, more worries.

Sue Turner from Wetherby writes, “Sorry for not updating you with my sightings for a while. The garden is quiet at the moment with not many birds around though we have had a recent influx of adult and young Starlings, which we do not always see. Our Blue Tits failed to fledge any young again – this has happened every year since 2011 and my husband thinks that the camera in the box is a jinx! We had young Bullfinches in July which is earlier than usual and we have also seen several young Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits. An unusual event happened earlier this week when I was watching a Great Tit on the lavender and wondered what it was doing so I looked at it with the binoculars and saw it catch a bee! It flew to a nearby tree, and holding it with its feet started pecking at it – I wonder whether this is unusual behaviour. We have regular visits from hedgehogs and last night had a tiny one, which tucked into the hedgehog food and my own mix of peanuts, sunflowers and raisins. Next door neighbours also feed the hedgehogs and they have easy access between our gardens. I have said before that I do not particularly like Woodpigeons as they hoover up all the food for ground feeding birds and I now have one nesting in the wisteria above my front door with two eggs in it! They have not made any mess underneath yet and it will be interesting to watch the comings and goings when the chicks hatch. I chopped down the flowering stalks of my Cephalaria gigantea (Giant scabious) yesterday which reached over 8 ft tall and were a magnet for the bees. Now they will be put to another use as the stalks are hollow and they will go into my wildlife area for insects to shelter in them.” Always great to hear from you and no need to apologise. Your help for wildlife in your garden is very commendable, I only wish more folk had the same concerns. Especially good to know you have hedgehogs, which I think may have made a slight increase but numbers are still way down. Every arable farm field has so much slug poison spread on it, it’s no wonder hedgehogs are in decline and in my view a myth to blame it on the badgers. I wonder if the reasons the blue tits fail is because they are out of sync with the caterpillar hatch as a further consequence of global warming, either that or there just weren’t enough caterpillars, your other birds seem to have done very well so it might even be down to the specific food tastes of blue tits. Most birds are carnivorous and will take insects, worms etc, although more frequently to feed to their young. I guess bees are not easy to catch and we tend to see blue tits more often eating seed from our feeders but I doubt this behaviour is as unusual as we think. Great use of the stalks for bee homes, let me know how successful it is.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

see https://twitter.com/nosterfieldlnr but apparently still quiet.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Recent interesting birds seen include, Whooper Swan, Wigeon, Gadwell, Garganey, Shoveller c80, Tufted Duck c300 daily. Hybrid with Red-crested Pochard occasionally reported from Village Bay. Broods still evident. Grey Partridge, Little Egret, 20+ daily, Red Kite, singles occasionally reported, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Osprey (on 3rd), Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Common Gull, Hobby, Peregrine, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat.

From Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

Mike Smithson 4/8/16 “Tonight at Farnham G.P. we had a Hobby, a Green and a Common Sandpiper and a male Yellow Wagtail. “

Stephen Root, 5/8/16 “Male peregrine hunting over Harrogate town centre this morning, perched briefly on the Exchange Building with its kill before heading off to the east.”

Rob Brown, 5/8/16 “Pure white Sand Martin and Spotted Flycatcher at Farnham Gravel Pit.”

Events

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

High Batts Nature Reserve

Saturday 13th August – Balsam Bashing

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 16 August – Alkborough Flats and RSPB Blacktoft Sands

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 12th August – Nosterfield Reserve

Monday 15 August – Pateley Bridge Riverside, Evening walk

Is Austerity Saving Our Grass Verges?

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Wrexham Wild Flower Verge – Ian Humphreys of Ian Humphreys Photography

There’s probably not much to be grateful to austerity for but it seems to have stopped North Yorkshire cutting their grass verges and as a consequence they are now blooming with wild flowers and that’s great news for our insects. It may of course be a deliberate North Yorkshire policy to help and enhance our wildlife, whatever, let’s be grateful. There are a few maverick grass verge cutters, boys on toys riding amok on our country lanes on seated lawn mowers and in places the verges have a thinnish safety strip cut along the road side. Mainly however we have umbellifers and cranesbill adding colour and insect food and habitat to our roadsides. According to The Independent The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed less than one per cent of the 1.4m named species of invertebrates, yet of those studied about 40 per cent are considered threatened. Invertebrates constitute 80 per cent of the world’s species yet one in five could be at risk of extinction, scientists found. A word of warning here, strangely this report has a photo of a monarch butterfly attached, surely everyone knows monarch butterflies are American? Makes me wonder about the credibility of the article, but let’s assume the figures are correct. This depressing news is confirmed, however, out by Butterfly Conservation’s The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report which states, “The new analyses provide further evidence of the serious, long-term and ongoing decline of UK butterflies, with 70% of species declining in occurrence and 57% declining in abundance since 1976.” Perhaps naively, I tend to trust wildlife organisations’ claims more than I do those of politicians. Flowers and insects are of course near the bottom of the food chain and maybe soon we shall be seeing more kestrels and barn owls hunting our verges for the voles which this long vegetation will provide homes for. Mostly the flowers I see blooming are members of the umbellifers family, mainly white with a flat top consisting of numerous smaller flowers, umbellifers, such as cow parsley, which is great for insects and it’s rare to find them without something enjoying them. What’s more, the insects aren’t just restricted to bees, they attract all kinds of beetles and flies, look for some splendid longhorn beetles for example. The other flowers we are seeing at the moment on the verges are cranesbill, the blue variety meadow cranesbill, which many folk grow in their gardens especially to attract insects and which often teem with bees of various types, bumble, honey and hoverflies, there are lots of other flowers but these are the most prominent when viewed from your car.

Ian Humphreys, of Ian Humphreys Photography, has tweeted a photo of wild flowers planted, for bees, on a road verge near Wrexham and it looks ‘absolutely fabulous’, Chris Packham’s words not mine. Lovely attractive bright colours and excellent pollinator plants and as best I can see from the photo, consisting predominately of indigenous plants. The bees must be loving it. I also believe that in France many villages grow small plots of pollinating plants for the insects and these again are not only good for the insects, they help the farmers and add a delightful bright aspect to any village. Well my question is why don’t we try to do the same in Nidderdale and Harrogate? I envisage small flower plots planted with plants which flower throughout the ‘insect season’ in every village and around Harrogate. Surely something relatively easy to do, which would enhance the corner of any village whilst at the same time doing something positive for our countryside. Contact me by email if you are interested in starting something locally and let’s start planning for next year.

Little Owl - Robin Hermes

Little Owl – Robin Hermes

Your Sightings

Robin Hermes, took, this little owl photo near Beckwithshaw.

Blackcap - Christine Dodsworth

Juvenile Blackcap – Christine Dodsworth

My apologies to Christine Dodsworth for the late inclusion of this email, “I took these photos this morning out of our front window of a baby blackcap. The parents were flitting about and I saw the male blackcap land nearby. We live in Earley in Berkshire now but it is interesting to hear about the wildlife where we grew up in Harrogate, and still sometimes visit. The goldfinches have been feeding on the centaureas in our garden so I have not cut the plants back so that the birds can get the seeds. We live in an urban area but do get lots of birds visiting the garden. We have many red kites around here and I am sure they whistle when they see somebody below as if to say ‘feed me’ as people (including us) put out their leftover chicken carcasses to see the red kites swoop down to take them. A few weeks ago we were in Sicily and there were lots of swifts there. I read your blog about swifts. We used to have house martin nests under the apex in the eaves and the house martins came back every year but eventually stopped altogether and we hardly see any house martins now. I’m not sure leaving leftover chicken carcasses is good for juvenile kites, kites eat raw meat and cooked meat may well affect the development of youngsters.

Tony Rogerson writes, “I totally agree with John Wade’s recommendation of a visit to Long Nanny. I was fortunate enough to be one of the National Trust’s wardens at this site in 2007. Camping in the middle of 3,000 Arctic terns for 3 1/2 months was an awesome experience! There were many ups and downs during the season, ranging from nightly encounters with a grasshopper warbler in a lone hawthorn in the sand dunes, to being helpless as spring tides decimated the tern colony in the middle of the night (when some eggs were ‘rescued’ and kept in a warm oven until the tides receded AND went on to hatch!). I can provide some photos if this would be of interest.”

A delighted Bernard Atkinson tells me, “My wife and I were looking out of our cottage window near Bickerton, Wetherby today during the torrential rain, and were absolutely amazed and delighted to see a kingfisher sitting on our washing line – it looked around for a few minutes before flying onto the top of a garden archway and then flew away but we were able to glimpse its beautiful blue plumage. The nearest water to us is some disused brick ponds about 100 yards away and this is the first time we have spotted a kingfisher near our home – we usually have to travel miles to spot one (and even then it’s only for a fleeting moment).”

Gwen Turner, “I am delighted to report that I saw my first goldcrest in about 25 years in the ivy in the front garden in Duchy Road. Some days later a tiny nest was found on the terrace at the back of the house which I think is a goldcrest’s. I can only hope that if there was a brood that they had fledged before their home suffered a catastrophe.”

Mullein Moth Caterpillat - Max Hamilton

Mullein Moth Caterpillar – Max Hamilton

Max Hamilton stood and watched “a field mouse jump from my hawthorn hedge to my peanut bird feeder today, never seen that before.” Rodents are often attracted to feeders, especially wood mouse, the ones with the big ears. Max has also sent me a photo of a mullein moth caterpillar.

Joan Hill asks, “Where are all the ladybirds this year? I don’t think I have seen a single one in the garden and usually there are quite a few around. Hopefully the butterflies will arrive once the sunshine decides to come out and stay out (if it ever does). The buddleia is covered in flower buds but not open yet.” You should never answer a question with another but where are all the insects, per se? I suspect it’s a combination of wet summers and perhaps mild winters caused by climate change coupled with our relentless use of chemicals on the farm and in the garden and home. Another issue is the early flowering of plants and your buddleia seems to be around a month early. It doesn’t coincide with the insects’ lifestyle and therefore food plants aren’t available for the insects to survive on.

Thruscross reservoir - Stephen Tomlinson

Thruscross Reservoir – Stephen Tomlinson (Nidd Gorge Photography)

Stephen Tomlinson sent a lovely photo of Thruscross reservoir in tranquil mood.

An interesting photo from Ian Wilson, “I thought you might like to see how resourceful those damned squirrels can be when faced with a supposedly ‘squirrel-proof’ seed feeder!” Brilliant.

Steve Whiteley, “Just a few sightings on my rambles this week. I had occasion to be in Glasshouses this week so took the time to stop off at the bridge at the bottom of the village. This has been a good spot to see dippers and grey wagtails in the past. I have also seen treecreeper, nuthatch and blackcaps in this area in the past. Alas, none of these were present this time. However, I was treated to the blue flash of a kingfisher flying under the bridge and along the line of the river. I was also treated to a good view of a spotted flycatcher which conveniently used the tree next to the bridge as its staging post for its regular hunting trips. More locally, I have had a hummingbird hawkmoth visit the plant in my front garden in Starbeck which was good to see.” Strangely I was also at Glasshouses recently and also saw very little, less than you in fact. Hummingbird Hawkmoth is, I think, the first I have heard of this year. Spotted flycatchers seem to be here in slightly better numbers than recent years, is that your observation?

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve: Some of the flora and fauna reported from Nosterfield: Common redstart, Yellow wort and dog rose,

RSPB Fairburn Ings: Just a few birds seen recently at Fairburn Ings, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. Maybe the autumn wader passage has started? Also Little Gull, Hobby, Peregrine, Cetti’s warbler, Grasshopper Warbler.

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings. Dr Jim Irving and possibly David Gilroy report the sighting of a turtle dove on the telephone wires alongside the road, just outside Minskip on the Minskip-Ferrensby road. Very good news, especially as I had declared our area’s turtle doves extinct.

Events

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

Bilton Conservation Group have organised a Balsam Bash at Grange Quarry on Saturday, 23 July. Meeting at 9.30 in Pets at Home car park. “We have been removing balsam for a couple of years now and have made a difference! If we can remove all the balsam from a couple of open areas Sam Walker the HBC county ranger plans to spread the hay from the wild flower meadow later this year.”

Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough: Saturday 23rd July from 10am. Balsam Bash, Meet at the entrance. Bring some gloves, a drink and wear long sleeves. Everyone Welcome.

Harrogate RSPB Group: Wednesday 24 August 7:00pm Outdoor Meeting – YWT Staveley

Help Our Devil Birds?

Common_Swift_nestlings_in_nest_boxTwo Common Swift nestlings, peeking out of a swift nest box, a few days before fledging, in Greifswald, Germany. Photo used under Creative Commons Licence.

On many birders’ lists, Swifts – once called devil birds – are top birds, their magnificent flying skills, robust flying skills and raucous calls make them so. We should actually call ‘our’ Swift the Common Swift, (Apus apus for you quiz buffs). In fact there are as many as 93 members of the Apodidae family. We need of course to be able to distinguish a Swift from those other aerial experts, the Martins and the Swallows. Swifts aren’t a member of their family but are often linked with Hummingbirds, how weird is that? Anyway, Swifts are black, often fly together in fast, noisy groups and have that wonderful scimitar shape because of their sweptback wings, which often paddle at high speed. They nest in the roof space of houses, most frequently under the tiles. Swallows have long tail streamers and nest in porches and outbuildings, they have a white body, blueish-black back and a reddish head. House Martins usually nest under your eaves, if you are lucky, and although similar to the Swallow, the tail is less pronounced and they have a white rump which is diagnostic. Finally Sand Martins look similar but are found mainly around water and have no white rump but are brown. For a great ID video visit the BTO Identification Guides.

But I’m talking about the Common Swift because I recently attended a talk about Swifts from Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation and organised by Harrogate Futures Forum. Edward has loved Swifts since childhood. In the late 1990s he noticed that the Swifts nesting in his local area were in decline. He realised that re-roofing of local properties was blocking Swifts from returning to their long-established nest sites. Edward set up “Swift Conservation”, a web-based advice service, celebrating Swifts, and showing what can be done to save them. Swifts used to live in holes in ancient trees and perhaps cliff faces but they have shared our homes, or at least open eaves, for as long as 2,000 years. Now we are stopping them reaching their homes by use of close fitting plastic and other material which just doesn’t provide the holes necessary for Swifts to nest in. Swifts only come to ground to have their young, they do everything else in the air, yes even that. But they need a place to rest their eggs and because their legs have adapted to be mostly useless they need a small space and an easy drop off or runway. If we don’t help them they will continue to reduce in numbers by around 3% per year, as they have been for the past 15 to 20 years. I’m no mathematician but I reckon that’s pretty bad and I recall far more Swifts filling our skies in the past, The BTO say numbers have reduced by a third since 1995, so what can you do?

Swifts Local Network

Well Swift Conservation have some of the answers including buying or building and installing nest boxes, information, along with siting information from Swift Conservation. But we could also form a Swifts Local Network. A group of concerned folk who would encourage interest in Swifts, survey and monitor Swifts, encourage local authorities to make provision for Swifts in new developments and give advice. If you’d like to help, drop me an email (outdoors@virginmedia.com) and I’ll facilitate an initial meeting. One thing you might all like to consider doing is to monitor where Swifts breed. So again drop me a line if there are Swifts breeding near you. That is if Swifts fly low, roof level, over somewhere make a note of where, but don’t make a note if they are flying higher because they might just be foraging and they can fly prodigious distances to find food. The RSPB are also seeking help with their National Swift Inventory so you could also share your records with them.

More Red Kite Killings

They are at it again, this time in Blubberhouses. Can anyone make any legal suggestion as to what we can do to help? I’m wondering about a mass walk through the grouse moors nearby. We might target the wrong folk but by walking through the moors en masse we are disturbing the Grouse and the landowners won’t want that and maybe they may cease their activities or even encourage the culprits to stop shooting our kites. I know it’s extreme and affects the Grouse but it also affects the income from Grouse and sometimes direct action may do the trick. What do you think? Only using public footpaths and access land of course, nothing illegal. See Raptor Persecution UK for full details of the latest killing.

June Pinewoods Planting Events

The Pinewoods Conservation Group (PCG) is reaching the end of a project to plant over 3,000 new wild flowers in the Harrogate Pinewoods to increase biodiversity within the woods. As a last push an event is planned for Sunday, 5th June from 10am for one to two hours with a request for volunteers to help with the planting. Volunteers are asked to bring a trowel and meet at Harrogate Council Nurseries off Harlow Moor Road. Just a small amount of time spent helping to plant will ensure PCG reach their target of over 3,000 new wild flowers within the woods, keeping the Himalayan balsam down and increasing biodiversity within the woods, benefiting all our visitors.

Peacock - Stephen TomlinsonBilton’s Peacock Peter – Photo by Stephen Tomlinson

Peter The Peacock

Folk keep asking me how Bilton’s favourite and probably only Peacock is progressing, indeed someone who has just moved away from Bilton has asked me to keep him informed of how Peter is doing. Pretty fine, as far as the enthusiastic and sadly unsuccessful attempts at finding a mate are concerned, which can be very noisy and very dramatic when that brilliant tail is displayed. Anyway Stephen Tomlinson has sent me a photo for you to enjoy. It seems incidentally that a peafowl lives around 15 years in the wild and maybe as long as 23 in captivity.

Insects / Wildlife Decline

Sue Boal makes an interesting observation which for me sums up why our biodiversity is in decline, “There is also a worrying lack of insects. The bumble bees in our garden seem to be in trouble. We also have ground bees and bee flies which I believe prey on them. Windscreens used to be covered in insects in the summer and you were covered in them when you went cycling. I notice from the D&S (Darlington and Stockton Times) that farmers have tried to get banned insecticides through but have failed. I think exceptional farmers who truly love wildlife should be given medals or some type of commendation. My neighbours chop down trees and view the outside as simply somewhere to have a barbecue.” What Do You Think? Adult bee flies generally feed on nectar and pollen, they can be important pollinators. Larvae generally are parasitoids of other insects. 38 Degrees have a petition to Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking her not to lift the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

Alan Croucher was “wondering how butterflies are faring at the moment. We’ve had a few occasional visitors to the garden but not many. There have been Peacocks around and an Orange Tip a couple of weeks ago and then, last weekend (14/15 May), we had a Blue pass through (I wasn’t quick enough to see which kind) and my first Speckled Wood of the year. Apart from that just an odd White, but not much more. The rain will keep them from flying today I suspect!” I reckon that butterflies are doing dreadfully and personally I have seen and continue to see despite an improvement in the weather very few. Please plant nectar rich plants in your gardens.

Joan Hill writes, “Wondered if you have any clue as to what has happened to the finches this year? Haven’t seen a Chaffinch at all or a Greenfinch and where are the Goldfinches? Every year we have had at least 8 Goldfinches at a time – two on each feeder and four waiting and whistling for their turn, but this year there only appears to be an odd one. We have had a very interesting time watching two Pigeons building a nest in the silver birch tree just outside our conservatory. The male brings a foot-long piece of stick and sometimes it gets knocked out of his beak before he reaches the female and he has to go and find another. The female seems to sit on the nest all the time. This is the third year they have built in exactly the same place.” I think some finches have suffered after last year’s poor summer for breeding. Greenfinch have that disease and whilst it affects them the most many other birds also suffer, although mainly finches. After saying that, whilst finch numbers are definitely down my experience is they are not faring as badly as you are experiencing. It may be worth everyone ensuring their feeders and especially water bath is kept spotlessly clean, although I realise you probably already do that. Maybe numbers will increase after a good breeding season this summer. I wonder why Pigeons and other birds repeatedly need to add to the nest structure?

The Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership is a £1.8 million scheme to look after and help people get involved with Upper Nidderdale’s historic landscapes, cultural heritage and wildlife habitats. Watch the film to find out more about the dale and the projects, lots for everyone to enjoy.

Magpie - John WadeJohn Wade’s Attempt at Teaching Birds Language Seems to Have Failed Miserably.

Your Sightings

I think John Wade may be having Magpie trouble! Shirley Dunwell has solitary bees occupying her bee log. Sue Boal writes “On our way back from Leeds on Tuesday this week, my daughter spotted 2 baby yellow rabbits. She googled it and found that they are a rare genetic mutation but we are not sure how common they are.”

Carol Wedgewood spotted what I think is a buff ermine moth at Ripley Castle. Other sightings from Carol include “Oystercatchers in wet field on Brimham Rocks Road, Tawny Owl perched on drystone wall near Thornthwaite Scouts Camp. In our garden a Goldfinch and Mistle Thrush amongst the usual visitors. A Buzzard calling and flying low over our field. Great to see it close up! A return visit of a Barn Owl quartering over our field, perched on a low branch on tree near the pond. It then flew back up the field and perched on a fence post, in front of our barn window, overlooking long grass. Then it flew off towards the northwest, up the hill, as it always does, over more long grass in a neighbour’s field.

Judith Fawcett reports seeing a Tawny Owlet at High Batts Nature Reserve recently.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve recent sightings include Arctic Terns, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Yellow Wagtail, Black-Tailed Godwit, Avocet with chicks, Little Egret and Sedge Warbler.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Nesting Little Egrets.