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.

large-yellow-underwing-eggs-rex-bradshaw

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.

Keeping The Skies Alive: Swifts and Red Kites

Swift - Gillian Charters

Swift – Gillian Charters

A Talk on the Swift – Rare Within 20 Years!

Because I felt it important to publicise this event which will be held at The Friends Meeting Hall, Harrogate on Thursday 19 May at 7:30 things are a little earlier this week, also because I have only just returned from holiday things are a little rushed this week, so bear with me and please attend this meeting. For many folk the sound of a squadron of Swifts flying low and fast over our rooftops whilst attempting the Swift’s own version of sonic boomS is a delight of hot summer days. Well not only are hot summer days few and far between but Swift numbers are also getting fewer and fewer. In fact they are listed as an amber species for the UK, so it’s worrying. An interesting Swift fact courtesy of the BTO is, “By sleeping with half of its brain at a time, the Swift lives a perpetually aerial life, coming down only for a short period each year to breed.” It seems we humans also have only half a brain focused on the wildlife which share this planet with us and Swifts are reducing in number. Surveys show that unless we take action now, and on a significant scale, within 20 years the Swift will become a rare bird within the UK.

The meeting will discuss what’s happening and what we can do to help them and action includes both creating new nest places and properly protecting existing ones, as well as providing and maintaining habitats more generally that offer them with vital support, principally their flying insect food and water. Speaking will be Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation, a charity created by Edward to save the Swift, to explain why they matter and to tell us how we can help, and that’s what Edward will be talking about at the meeting. It promises to be a fascinating because Edward is a fascinating man in his own right. His working career has been mostly in buildings and facilities management; he was Head of Gallery Management for the Tate Gallery in London from the opening of the Clore Gallery to the creation of Tate Modern. Edward has loved Swifts since childhood. Admission: £5 adults, £2 unwaged. This meeting is organised by Harrogate Green Party.

cuckoo David Tipping

Cuckoo – David Tipping

Swifts and Cuckoos Are Back

A number of you have kindly contacted me to say you have seen Swifts and Cuckoos:

Rick and Trish Brewis, “Seven Swifts seen today (5 May) above Pine Street allotments. First time in my living memory that Swifts have arrived before the Swallows!” Has anyone else seen Swifts before Swallows this year and does it imply Swallow numbers are also declining fast?

Bill and Liz Shaw, “Heard then saw our first Swifts of the year last evening (5 May) over Harrogate, fab.”

Susan Hockey, “heard the Cuckoo today on the hill behind our house off Scar House Road, Upper Nidderdale.

Ian Law, “I heard a Cuckoo this morning whilst walking down to Knaresborough from Bilton Hall on the Beryl Burton cycle way. The nearest location I could work out would be the woods at Scotton Banks.”

Cuckoos are often much closer than they sound and can be seen sitting in exposed places on trees so a careful search, especially with binoculars, can often reveal one. I heard one recently near Thruscross Reservoir. Why wasn’t it called West End reservoir after the village lost under its waters?

Nidd Gorge

Ken Fackrell writes, “Keith Wilkinson is quite right – I walk every morning in the Nidd Gorge and nature is repairing itself rapidly (as it will do everywhere once we stop tampering). This morning I watched a pair of Grey Wagtails feeding on insects in the early morning sun, just by the bridge in the Nidd Gorge – they are frequently there these days.”

Orangetip - Brian Morland.jpg

Orange-tip Butterfly – Brian Morland

Your Sightings

Jacquie Fisher, “Orange-tips, Peacocks and Brimstone butterflies at Harlow Carr, so if you go to see the tulip displays look out for the butterflies, and the bird song is amazing.

Philomena Noonan, “Last evening I was on the Ripley path between the viaduct and the back of Tennyson Avenue when a Barn Owl flew right over me and then flew in front of me down the track and over the next field. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to experience this wonderful sight.”

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, “Drake Garganey, 25 Ringed Plover, 14 Avocet, 10 Dunlin and Lesser Whitethroat.

RSPB Fairburn Ings, “Spoonbill, Black Terns, 4 singing Cetti’s Warblers, Turnstone and Sanderling.

Sue Boal, “Last night I went for a drive with my daughter and we saw a black and white bird about the size of a Crow which we could not identify. It was flying in a strange sort of figure of eight towards the ground as if trying to intimidate or impress something on the ground (we saw a pheasant). It was mostly black underneath with a white bar on its tail and the upper was 50/50 black and white. It was not a magpie or am oyster catcher or a lapwing. Sorry, no photo, but it was outside East Rounton near Northallerton. Would you know what we saw?” I can only guess, but if the pheasant was a female maybe it had young and it was protecting them from a Crow. Crows are particularity prone to feather pigmentation dilution, leucism and maybe this was such a bird. Otherwise I really can’t think what it might be. If it is a Crow it may well be around next time you are in the vicinity so keep a look out for it and see what species of birds, if any, it associates with. Does any one else have any ideas?

Steve Kempson, “This morning Mrs K and I went for our annual outing to woods near Mickley for the bluebells, which are currently out in drifts (interspersed with celandines, stitchwort and wood anemones) and looking absolutely superb in today’s sunshine. A good variety of butterflies around too – saw Brimstone, Orange tip, Peacock and (I think) a Speckled Wood.

Tony Mawson had a special sighting recently, an Alpine Swift circling over the junction of Knox Avenue and Ripley Drive, Bilton. A large Swift with very pale underbelly, left in the direction of Killinghall.

Red Kite - Doug Simpson

A Magnificent Red Kite – Doug Simpson

Red Kite Killings

It’s great that so much support red kites and are appalled by their unnecessary deaths and I think your comments are worth recording. Richard Yeoman, “I couldn’t agree more – bet the bastards that shoot birds of prey would be first to go to the police if someone shot at them! If enough people are “on side” it might be worth a petition I know Red Kites are protected but that doesn’t help if the bad guys are not “caught on camera” – no proof – no prosecution.” Does anyone have any further thoughts on what can be done locally? Pete Seamen says, “Well Nigel I can only agree with your terminology for such scum. I would like to see them banned from having shotgun or firearm certificates for a length of time if not for life. This may cost some their jobs but if a business such as game shoots cannot exist without breaking the law maybe it needs seriously looking at.” Nick “Totally agree with these sentiments. Until the employers of gamekeepers are held responsible for the actions of their keepers and punished accordingly, I can’t see things changing. Fine words from the likes of the Moorland Association are meaningless.” Tom’s Nature-up-close Photography and Mindfulness Blog “My brother-in-law and his family and friends hunt geese and ducks a lot. Yet they claim that they love nature! I hope they never become very fond of me! Geese and ducks are highly intelligent animals with tight family bonds. Some birds are very intelligent. We have a parrot that understands abstract ideas (and tells you things to prove it)! For instance, the other day I said to her (when she dropped a sweet potato that I gave her), “You are spoiled rotten!” She replied, “So are you!” Tony Rogerson says, “To me the answer is relatively simple: grouse moors should be operated under licence and if wildlife crime is found to have taken place on the estate, or by an employee of the estate while undertaking duties on behalf of their employer (on or off the estate), the licence should be revoked.” Paul V Irving says: “I think bastards is fair enough, although given that there are some very nice people born out of wedlock I usually refer to such people as “Criminal Scum.” As you say there is no purpose in killing Red Kites but even if there were they are protected, all birds of prey are protected and have been since the 1954 Protection of Birds Act. Quite how long does it take before some presumably not very bright people get it. For those people that think there is rather too much of this sort of behaviour in our uplands, along with all the environmental downsides of driven grouse shooting that are only now all becoming better known – water colouration, a contribution to flooding, a reduction in downstream biodiversity etc they could consider signing this petition to ban driven grouse shooting at :-https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125003.” Trevor Brown, “Bloody hell Eccup is the place I saw my first Red Kite.” Judith Fawcett, “the world has gone mad. I’m lost for words on this one.” Luke Steele, “A worrying development. Eccup has always appeared a safe haven for birds of prey.” The English Exile, “????holes, what do they get out of this .” Peter Burton, “makes me so angry.” Someone else said, “Time to up the punishment. Mindless cretins.” Patricia McDermott, “why oh why?” Charles Gibson, “Don’t blame you in the least, Nigel. If only we could stamp it out. The world would be a better place.” Steve Harris, “Clearly yet another criminal has (probably legitimate) access to a firearm. Worrying deceit and misuse.” Christine Holmes, “I completely agree with you on the killing of the Red Kites. These beautiful birds are such a delight to see. I cannot understand the mentality of these people. Guns kill. What or who is the next victim going to be?” Tony Mawson “My feelings are the same as yours re Red Kites, hope Gareth Jones has luck catching those responsible.”

Outdoors Events

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

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday 16 May(Evening) Staveley YWT Nature Reserve

Sunday 22 MayFull-Day Bird Watch in the AONB

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Tuesday 17 may – Great Whernside, Upper Nidderdale

Bastards

ECCUP KITE - Doug Simpson

The Eccup Red Kite – Doug Simpson

Well, what else do you expect me to say? How many of you have watched the Red Kites over Bilton, maybe there will be one less to enjoy now. Doug Simpson, the Red Kite Man, tells me that two more Red Kites have been shot locally, “On 21 April a new Red Kite nest was discovered in woodland near Eccup in West Yorkshire. Hanging from the next tree was the carcass of a Red Kite. Veterinary examination and X-ray of the bird showed injuries which were consistent with it having been shot whilst sitting on its nest. On 23 April, just two days later, a kite with a broken wing was found near Nidd in North Yorkshire. It was still alive. It was taken to a local vet who found that the wing was so badly damaged that it would not recover. It was put to sleep. Again, veterinary examination and X-ray showed that shooting was the cause of the bird’s injuries. Information was subsequently received that what was presumably the same injured bird had been seen on 20 April, approximately a mile away from where it was eventually retrieved. The finder had gone to get a cat carrier to put it in but could not find the bird again. Any information about either of these incidents should be reported to the Police by dialling 101 and asking to speak to a Wildlife Crime Officer or, alternatively, by using the ‘Contact us’ facility on the Yorkshire Red Kites Website.

Why are folk killing Red Kites? These birds are almost predominantly scavengers, they may take the odd errant worm or beetle and, let’s be honest, the BTO say that Red Kite “scavenge on carrion, scraps, will take small live prey.” Yorkshire Red Kites say, “Red Kites are scavengers, drifting around on their long buoyant wings looking for food items on the ground. They do not have the strength or power associated with some bird of prey species, which rely primarily on their hunting skills for survival. Although they are capable of taking small live items such as mice and voles, kites mainly rely on carrion – things which are already dead – as their basic food supply. They are quite often reluctant to land, snatching up their food from the ground and either feeding on the wing or taking it into a tree, to feed on whilst perched. If the food item is too large to carry off, they may land on the ground – but they are very wary and will generally wait until crows have fed on it first, as though making sure that it’s not a trap!” The RSPB agrees, “Mainly carrion and worms, but opportunistic and will occasionally take small mammals.” I tried The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and they agree, saying, “Red Kites are primarily scavengers, however that is certainly not to say that they will not take young game birds and other ‘live’ prey items, but they will clean a large carcass in a similar way to a vulture. Because they are a relatively weak bird, they rely on other predators to open up the tough skin, so that they can then access the soft flesh within. Decomposition also softens the dead animal’s skin, allowing kites to rip the body open themselves, devouring the putrid flesh. Just like vultures, they have highly specialised digestive systems, which produce powerful acids to neutralise rotting meat, making them resistant to bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli.” So continuing to look at why, let’s look at game birds, almost all our game birds (a misnomer if ever I heard one, no game involved there, at least not if you are the target) – pheasants and red-legged partridge – are kept in captivity until large enough to be introduced into the wild, that is until they are too big to be taken as prey by most creatures, especially Red Kites which weigh (BTO again) male 1000 g female 1.2 kg. That is around the weight of a bag of sugar. They aren’t a threat to game birds and to kill them just demonstrates that age old mindset of hooked beak bad! Why? It seems these folk are killing Red Kites when they are at their most vulnerable at nests, probably supporting young which will also die as a consequence of this disgusting action.

In Scotland a new law of vicarious liability for wildlife offences was introduced. It came into effect on 1 Jan 2012 and is specifically aimed at anyone who has the legal right to kill or take wild birds over land or manages or controls the exercise of that right. It was passed in response to the illegal killing of protected birds (usually raptors) on (especially) shooting estates, and is designed to make landowners/managers ‘vicariously responsible’ for crimes committed by their employees, contractors and agents under existing laws that relate to:

  • the protection of wild birds, nests and eggs;

  • the prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds;

  • the possession of pesticides;

  • attempts to commit such offences.

Clearly it’s time we had a similar law here, after the MPs had declared an interest I wonder how many would be left to vote on it? We should also ensure that no Government financial support is provided to landowners who allow such activity on their land. I suspect many, many folk do enjoy their Red Kites as illustrated by Jo Smalley, “Red Kites over Jacob Smith Park, Knaresborough last week. Beautiful. Stood and watched them for ages.” What do you think?

Bilton Recovering - Keith Wilkinson

Bilton Recovering – Keith Wilkinson

Nidd Gorge

Keith Wilkinson, of Bilton Conservation group, tells me he was “working in Nidd Gorge this morning with students and took this image to show just how quickly the flora is recovering after last winter’s storms. The floods had been so severe we thought that bluebells, wild garlic, wood anemones et cetera would have been scoured away because the collapsed river banks looked so bare and devoid of life. You can see the ample evidence of fallen trees – but it is remarkable that the bare areas are greening up with a decent show of bluebells and wild garlic. Tawny Owls were calling from the north bank and a pair are raising young. There have also been reports of Barn Owls hunting over the west field near the viaduct. There is much work to be done recovering the ravaged footpaths and small teams have been out almost every week since February making the place safe and accessible. It will take until Christmas at least to complete the job. I was encouraged by the complimentary remarks of a group of elderly walkers from Bedfordshire(!) who were here for a long weekend. They were very impressed with the fact that the woods were so accessible, attractive and litter-free. I didn’t realise that Nidd Gorge’s fame had spread quite so far. I walked with them for half a mile as they paused on the viaduct to admire the view before they headed off for a ‘shandy’ at the Gardeners Arms and back to Knaresborough.” I dare say I’d be happy to holiday in Bilton if I lived in Bedfordshire.

Wren's Nest2 - Stuart Ibbotson

Wren’s Nest – Stuart Ibbotson

Stuart Ibbotson writes, “I thought I would send you a few birds nesting and young Heron photo. The young Heron was on the Nidd and clearly had not yet learned a lot. Firstly it was quite unafraid of people passing by on the opposite bank and secondly could not contain its excitement when a female Mallard brought her brood of 16 to within striking distance. This clearly gave mother duck the opportunity to gather her brood into a tight formation and then swim away from danger. Woodpigeon on nest as seen from the Nidd viaduct. Female Mallard on nest at the base of a tree also seen from the viaduct. Wrens nest constructed on a fallen tree root, (a favourite site for wrens). A pair of Goldcrests have a nest within the sewerage fencing. Finally, Tawny Owl on nest. This nest site has been used on and off over the years and I first noticed the bird sitting on 22 March. Therefore by my calculations the first egg should have hatched on 21 April. No sighting of the young as yet but the owl is sitting noticeably higher up.”

Your Sightings

Farnham, Harrogate Naturalist Society’s members’ private nature reservehad a Black-tailed Godwit on 29 April, and on May 1st an Arctic Tern, Little Gull and Pied Flycatcher.

Sightings at Nosterfield Nature Reserve recently: Arctic Terns, Swift and Whimbrel.

Richard Scruton, “Saw my first Swifts of 2016 on Friday (29 April) and this morning (2 May): 6 swifts seen in eastern Luxembourg on Friday evening at Wecker and Wasserbillig, and a large group seen this morning near Knaresborough Golf Club where the Farnham road turns off the Knaresborough-Boroughbridge B6166 road.” Richard certainly gets about in his quest to see swifts!

Gretchen Hasselbring wrote, “I wanted to report a Fieldfare sighting. Not sure if they are rare but it was the first I’ve seen one. 3 May late morning along the Ure in Ripon on a grassy bank between a field and the river presumably catching worms?” Fieldfare are common in winter because they are a winter migrant from Scandinavia, here to eat the berries, seeing one at this time of year is much more unlikely, although last Wednesday I saw a few, which suggests that the weather in Scandinavia is not particularly good or our weather isn’t providing the tail wind they need to migrate across the North Sea.

Chaffinch - Roger Litton

Chaffinch – Roger Litton

Through Your Window

Roger Litton writes, “This Chaffinch sat on the lawn and said ‘I’m not moving until you take my photograph’!”

Please note no blog next week, my 65th birthday, presents to the usual address.

Outdoors Events

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

Nidderdale Bird Club

Friday 13 MayBarden Bridge and Strid Woods

Monday 16 May(Evening) Staveley YWT Nature Reserve

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Thursday 12 May – Spa Gill Wood

Tuesday 17 May – Great Whernside, Upper Nidderdale

Red Kites & Fracking

Red Kite - Doug Simpson

Red Kite – Doug Simpson

Any Red Kites Nesting Near You?

At the beginning of March, Red Kites probably started thinking about nests and all that entails. Some will no doubt be intent on some refurbishment prior to settling into a new breeding season. Not all established pairs will stick with the previously used nest, sometimes they get more ambitious as though they have learnt from their previous experience. To pairs which lost their nests in the storms in 2015, perhaps they have consulted the manual and will make a rather better job in their efforts this season. Stick-carrying is the first sign of nest construction, culminating in the addition of the lining material. Ideally this would be sheep wool but, unfortunately, plastic materials often find their way onto the nest, occasionally with dire consequences. Plastic can form a waterproof membrane in the nest, causing pooling of water and failure of eggs or death of the young. Yorkshire Red Kites are particularly interested in sightings of pairs in new locations, particularly where this indicates a widening geographical spread of the population. Please let them know if you suspect that this is happening – the information will be treated confidentially. You can do this via the web site form and provide as much information as possible, including, if you can, date and time, weather conditions, exact location, post code or OS grid reference if known.

Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators

This is a book about pollination and habitat management and is aimed specifically at Farmers and land owners. It’s free and can be downloaded from here. You can also order print copies.

This book, published in April 2016, is an informative and useful practical guide for conserving insect pollinators. It brings together practical skills with an in depth understanding of pollinator ecology providing farmers and other land managers with the best available advice on creating and managing habitats for bees on farmland. The book is the distillation of a 20-year research partnership between Marek Nowakowski – a practitioner with a passion for wildlife conservation on farmland – and applied ecologists working for the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.’ Please forward and share with anyone who you think will find it useful.

“Living with fracking”

A note for your diaries. Joanne and Steve White live in Ryedale and are concerned about the proposed fracking in their area. Having spoken to their MP, who visited Pennsylvania to look at the impact of fracking there, they decided to make their own visit, hoping for reassurance. They bought a video camera and went to meet many of the people that their MP had spoken to. The film, ‘Living with fracking’, is the result of that trip. Steve and Joanne have been invited by Nidderdale Climate + Environment Group to come to Glasshouses to show their film and answer questions about it. Coming with them is Dr Tim Thornton, a retired Ryedale GP, to talk on the health impacts of fracking. This event is on Monday, 23 May at 7pm in the Broadbelt Hall in Glasshouses. All are welcome.”

Wildlife Politics

Shirley Dunwell writes, “My first sighting of orange tips (butterflies) near South Stainley on a glorious sunny day. Re insects, generally: Has anyone researched the effect that traffic has on our insect population? Or am I alone in my concern? Surely the effect of hitting billions of them constantly, particularly on fast motorways, but overall any travelling vehicle is lethal to them. The bumblebee becomes a statistic with just one crack of the windscreen and quite often I come across them on the pavement, a sure indication to me that they have been hit. The smaller insects are difficult to detect but I suspect their numbers are depleted dramatically. I certainly don’t have a problem with ‘fly squash’ on my car as used to be the case.” Shirley raises a very interesting point. I suspect that the answer is no. Did you also realise that according to the Asthma UK 5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12). Now in my view much of this is caused by vehicle emissions. If these small particles can affect us then imagine the damage it possibly does to our insects. Combine this with pesticides, herbicides etc. etc., and couple all this with the fact that the oil, car and chemical global conglomerates have huge power over our Government, is it any wonder our wildlife is in such decline? What do you think?

North Yorkshire Police Wildlife Crime Unit tweeted that there was a Red Kite shot near Harrogate on 26 April and badger baiting near the West Yorkshire border same morning. Do not report incidents or crime on Twitter, ring 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Moorland Myths Exposed

Martin Tither writes, “Interesting views on moor gripping. Research on this topic has been going on for some years – one of the best-selling Chief Scientist’s Division Research Reports from the Nature Conservancy Council was on precisely this topic, and that was late 70s, early 80s. United Utilities (previously North West Water) was on record as saying that water treatment to remove peat etc. from drinking water was costing them, i.e. customers, millions of pounds. Two further points: run-off from moorland is gradually filling reservoirs, reducing their capacity and having detrimental effects on flooding. And let’s not forget that siltation caused by moorland run-off destroys spawning redds for fish.”

Bluebells - Roger Litton

Bluebells – Roger Litton

Your Sightings

Carol Wedgewood reports a Barn Owl “flying low in front of our barn window just before 9pm last night, at twilight. Such beautiful creatures. They fly so effortlessly. What a treat.” There a few birds which everyone enjoys seeing and Barn Owls are up there at the top of the list. Nice to know it’s flying at the appropriate time. This probably suggests it is finding enough food and doesn’t need to fly during the day. They’ll be feeding young soon, if not already so let’s hope there continues to be sufficient food and the weather remains kind to them. Barn Owls can’t hunt in the rain.

Roger Litton tells me, “Having just read your latest blog, I see mention of bluebells. We went for a short walk at Swinsty reservoir this morning. We were very surprised to see that the bluebells there are nearly fully out.”

Dennis Skinner, “On Wetherby Golf Course last week I spotted again, 2 Buzzards being harassed by one Crow. I think the Buzzards are starting to nest across the River Wharfe. Also many Woodpeckers hammering all over the course – but no sightings yet!”

Chris Beard, “Saw our first Swallows in Nidderdale this afternoon (21 April). Also saw Plover/Lapwing with two very young chicks.” It seems early for lapwing chicks but great to see they have at least reached this stage. What chicks or evidence of breeding have you seen?

Osprey - Sue Evison

Osprey – Sue Evison

Sue Evison reports an Osprey at Gouthwaite Reservoir was around for several days around 10 April.

Steve Kempson wrote on 18 April, “We’ve been out to Staveley this morning and saw quite a few Sand Martins skimming over the lake, whereas our House Martins haven’t put in an appearance today; perhaps they’ve retreated south for a bit (sounds like a good idea to me!).” I couldn’t agree more, Steve.

Roger Brownbridge tells me, “the Goldfinches are basically there on the feeder all day with others in the tree waiting their turn, you can almost see the sunflower seed level going down. Interestingly they ignore the nyger seeds in preference for the sunflower seeds. Saw first brood of ducklings of the year on the River Wharfe today (22 April).” Roger also has Greenfinch visiting his feeder, which is nice, let’s hope they are recovering from the Trichomonosis disease.

Andrew Dobby saw his first Swallow of the year in Scotton on 22 April. Sadly they don’t seem to have brought the summer with them, maybe there was only one!

The Cuckoos are Here!

Robin Hermes wrote, “Your report just outstanding, thanks to it was able to identify a bird I saw at Little Alms Cliff yesterday, for the first time ever, a Cuckoo!”

Nature Reserves Sightings

The Steppe Eagle which escaped from Swinton Park has been found and caught at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Apparently she was happy to see her handlers and stepped straight onto the glove. Bird brained or what? A beautiful Black-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage has also been reported recently, a Marsh Harrier and three more late-leaving Whooper Swans.

Alan Croucher writes on 22 April, “We had a very enjoyable visit at Nosterfield – picking up just over 50 bird species. I forgot to mention that we had our first Swallow last week at Ripley and we saw more today. Other highlights were Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler (which was singing conveniently from a hedge just by the hide – and was visible too). There were a few more Avocets this week and we saw a couple of Orange-tip butterflies (as well as some Peacocks).

On Sunday 24 April, Robert Brown reported a Swift and Osprey at Farnham Gravel Pits, Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society private nature reserve.

Mandarin - Peter Thomson

Mandarin Ducks – Peter Thomson

Through Your Window

Colin and Ann Snelson from Middlesmoor report, “Saturday, 16 April, Middlesmoor, had our first pair of Siskins in the garden. Heard them first! As usual they were squabbling on the nut feeder. Never known them to be so late appearing. Usually it’s February. Walking in Lofthouse on 18 April saw the first pair of Swallows, but so far they haven’t made it up the hill.”

Adrian M Mosley, tells me, The Siskins are showing no desire to leave the garden feeders – they seem to have decided to stay – here we are mid-April. Goldfinches, Long tailed Tits and Nuthatch daily.” Adrian also saw some Whooper Swans at Nosterfield.

Peter Thomson, who sent in the moorhen photo on the feeder, writes, “he has been on his own for a week or two now which makes me think that his mate is sitting on her first clutch of eggs somewhere. At the moment there are no herons about so let’s hope that their efforts are more productive this year. I thought I should send you a photo of this pair of Mandarins which I saw from my bedroom window at 9 o’clock on Thursday morning. They were exploring the garden and when I opened the window to take some photos they saw me and wandered down towards the beck where they stayed for a few minutes for a photo-shoot before jumping into the water and heading off downstream towards the Nidd. The last time I saw one in the beck was a drake in February 2013 so I was particularly pleased to see a pair. They do seem to be rapidly increasing in numbers all over the country.”

Sue and Lawrie Loveless, “Photographed from just inside our glazed front door about 8.00pm, a Sparrowhawk.”

Outdoors Events

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Harrogate RSPB Group

Thursday 5 May Away Trip to Northumberland. Three nights in Northumberland. Booking essential