Trees Need Protection Too

IMG_2457A Veteran Oak Tree in Ripley Park

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

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

Buzzard Persecution – Can you Help?

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

Police investigation after red kite found dead in Nidderdale

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

Sad News

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

Spring Hots Up

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

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

0194_large_paul brothersBrimstone – Paul Brothers

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

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

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

What signs of spring have you seen?

The Great British Bee Count

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

Goosander - Richard YeomanGoosander – Richard Yeoman


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


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

Harrogate RSPB Group

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

Studfold Adventure Trail

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

Nidderdale Bird Club

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

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

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

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page:

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

Is Spring Hotting Up?

Robin - Barry CarterA couple of award winning photos from Barry Carter, “The Nuthatch image has got a third place in an international photo contest and the Robin won Best Image on Andy Rouse’s Fotobuzz website and also scooped the members’ votes top position! Have a look at my Barry’s new website, it is in its infancy and trying to concentrate mainly on the birds.

Nuthatch - Barry CarterSpring Hots Up

Andrew Willocks tells me, “The first frogs spawn was seen at Harlow Carr on 8 March, the first summer migrant was a Chiffchaff seen and heard at Harlow Carr on 11 and 13 March.“

Roger Litton took these great photos of frogs at Bachelor Garden pond recently. Sadly I can’t pass on the call frogs make when courting; it’s brilliant, really soothing and calming.

John Stockill spotted a red-tailed bumblebee at Studley Royal on 12 March. Over the last few days there have been a few bumblebees around. Robert Brown reported a good number in a tree full of pussy willow which most probably would be tree bees, the ones that take over bird boxes. John and his family “also spotted curlew and a grey wagtail bobbing about The Strid which was roaring after the rain we’ve recently had. A great walk through the woods noticing spring is just around the corner.”

What signs of spring have you seen?

Common Frog8 - Roger LittonFrog – Roger Litton

Do Otters Eat Fish!


Ian Law and his daughter “Lisa spotted an Oystercatcher which was about 100 metres away on a dry stone wall above How Stean Beck on Sunday, 12 March.”

John Stockill saw a birch tree with the fungus piptoporus betulinus growing on it. It’s better known, at least to me, as birch bracket or razor strop fungus. So called because Barbers used to ‘strop’ or sharpen their cut-throat razors on tough, leathery strips cut from the surfaces of these polypores. It only grows on birch trees. The 5,000 year old mummy found in the Tyrol and nicknamed Ötzi the Iceman had two pieces of this fungus on a neck thong, it seems unlikely that their purpose was to sharpen a razor! (First Nature). It is much more likely that it was used in its dried form to carry light from place to place or as tinder when starting a new fire, hence another name for it, Tinder Fungus. In case you were wondering, no it’s not poisonous but is bitter tasting, when cut these polypores have a faint but not unpleasant ‘mushroomy’ odour. Usual warning – only forage fungi from supermarket shelves.

John Wade writes, “Fascinating sighting at Ripley end of the Bilton-Ripley walkway, yesterday, 9 March, a beautiful day, was a bat at 2.40pm. I do not know bats, but the book seems to show it as a pipistrelle. Seems the good weather brought it out. Is it unusual?” Most folk even experts can’t identify bats by sight and usually do so using a bat detector. As John says, it was most likely pipistrelle although which of the three varieties is anyone’s guess. Bats will venture out at any time of the year and I once saw one in Borrowdale at New Year, it was a lovely day and probably a few insects about so hopefully like yours it ate and then returned to sleep, come to think of it some uninterrupted sleep would do me good! To answer John’s question it’s not usual but does occur perhaps because the bat was disturbed or more likely because it just woke up and fancied a look round. Maybe because it was during the day it had been disturbed but they usually are sensible enough to hibernate well away from anywhere humans venture into. I guess other creatures may be more likely to disturb it but disturbance is not the only reason bats wake up. If you have a better theory let me know. John also saw a pair of little owls recently at Nosterfield.

Starling Murmuration - Judith FawcettJudith Fawcett took this great photo of a recent starling murmuration at Nosterfield.

Ken Fackrell writes, “Someone asked about otters taking fish from garden ponds. Yes they do, leaving uneaten bits all over the garden, and even leaving an undamaged fish alive by the side of the pond. That one, at least, recovered.” Ken continues, “Grey wagtails are by the footbridge in Nidd Gorge most mornings now,” and “where are my frogs this year? We normally have dozens from mid-February onwards, but not one this year.” Nice to know grey wagtails are around, my personal suspicions are their numbers are falling. Hope your frogs have arrived by now, let me know if that’s not the case. A number of folk have also asked the same question whilst others have said their frog numbers are better than ever. One such person being Neil Anderson. Let me know what the frog situation is with you, please.

Paul Irving writes, “I’ve also had a female blackcap in the garden for about a fortnight. Mink are decreasing in part it seems to be in conjunction with the return of the Otter, a much larger animal. Otters mainly declined due to organochlorine pesticides (DDT et al) and it has taken a long time for them to return. I am 66 and cannot remember them being common before, although I do remember one being nailed through the head onto a keepers gibbet along the Nidd near Knaresborough as a boy. Many fishermen dislike this resurgence of a natural native predator, perhaps they need reminding that their rainbow trout and carp are non-natives and about ecology. Sea Eagles and Ospreys are never going to predate fish in garden ponds even in rural sites, cats, herons, mink and otter even foxes are much much more likely candidates.” I recall reading an article from the turn of the century (1800 to 1900) by a fisherman saying how pleased he was that otter were returning and ‘holting’ in the Nidd Gorge, the reason for their return was because the Nidd was becoming cleaner because lead mining upstream had declined.

Peter Thomson tells me, “You have probably seen in the HDNS sightings that that I saw a black Mink on 5 Jan and two Otters on the early morning of 6 Feb. Having never seen an otter in the beck before, I was very puzzled as to why they should have been there. They were diving for fish right opposite my house then headed downstream towards the Nidd, which must be about a mile away. Having since read your explanation concerning Otter territories I now understand why they were there but I shall be very surprised if I see them again. Last week there was a Little Grebe in the Beck on Wednesday and again on Saturday which is the first time I have seen one there since 1988. He seemed to be catching plenty of small fish on the Wednesday and a rather larger one on the Saturday morning which I was able to photograph from my bedroom window. I have had three different Chaffinches with the papilloma virus on my garden feeders; the two which were worst affected have now disappeared. As for the rest of the garden birds, they all seem to be pairing up and looking for nesting sites. I watched a Tree Sparrow taking dead leaves into a nest box which has been occupied by Great Tits for the previous two years; it will be interesting to see who ends up as this year’s tenant. There has been a family of three Roe Deer regularly roaming the area and a covey of up to 20 Pheasants including a black one which has been around for a few years (if it is the same one).”


Two more buzzards shot dead in North Yorkshire


Harrogate District Biodiversity Action Group AGM Saturday, 1 April at RHS Harlow Carr Wolfson Room, Bramall Learning Centre, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB 10.00am for guided tour of RHS Harlow Carr Gardens, 10.45 – 12.30 for meeting

Frack Free Harrogate District – Meeting Thursday, 30 March, Friends Meeting House, 12a Queen Parade, Harrogate HG1 5PP. All Welcome.

Zero Carbon Harrogate Tomorrow Demain the film – Showing solutions, telling a feel-good story… … this may be the best way to solve the ecological, economical and social crises that our countries are going through. Demain has had a phenomenal impact in Europe. Read Moreand view the trailer 7.30pm, Monday, 20 March, St Mark’s Church, Leeds Road

Harrogate and District Naturalists Society

Kevin Walker will review the history of recording the flora of the HDNS area over the past 150 years with a focus on the current flora and how it has changed. Wed, 22 March 19:30 – 21:30. St. Robert’s Centre, 2/3 Robert Street, Harrogate at 7.30 p.m. visitor’s fee is £3.00.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Visit to RSPB Fairburn Ings, Saturday, 25 March. Meet 10am Fairburn Ings Car Park or 9am at Trinity for car share

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday, 20 March (Evening). Investigating Wildlife Crime: a presentation by Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer.

Saturday, 25 March. Bolton-on-Swale Lake: an early spring visit to a former sand and gravel quarry off the A1 with wildfowl and woodland birds.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings from the Nosterfield complex via Twitter include: the Starling murmuration, @NosterfieldLNR tonight plus chiffchaff, short-eared owl, smew, avocet, blacktailed godwit, pintail , hare, little egret, white-fronted geese and a pinkfooted goose, goldeneye, and a possible rough leg buzzard large white patch on rump. A request, LADYBRIDGE is a privately owned working farm. Please can those viewing from Carthorpe road stay well clear of farm/quarry entrances. Thanks!

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists Society Sightings Page,

David Gilroy, “My first Chiffchaff calling this morning – outside Betty’s in Harrogate town centre! “
Ian Webster, “Masham, riverside. 3. Kingfisher and 1. Dipper.”
Peter Thomson, “Chiffchaff in scrub on bank of Oak Beck opposite Knox Mill. This is the same place and the same date that I first saw one in 2015.”
Mike Metcalfe, “Sand Martin 1 at Staveley today, (12-3-17) over east lagoon at 16.35”
Mike Smithson, “A chiffchaff at Goldsborough this morning next to the River Nidd. My first of the year. Also two fieldfares, a goldcrest and a pair of shelduck on the farmer’s pond, Midgeley Lane.”
Joe Fryer, “A snipe on Dallowgill area. Also 2 golden plover, one nearly in summer plumage male 1 female 1, green woodpecker 1, red kite 3 +buzzards. Plenty of red grouse.
P & M Robinson, “First chiffchaff of the year heard and seen this morning on Abbey Road in Knaresborough.”

RSPB Fairburn Ings. Recent Reports: 3rd- 8th March

White-fronted Goose 3 on flashes most of week. Barnacle Goose Single throughout; Wigeon c125 on flashes. Pintail Present throughout in small numbers. Smew 2 until 3rd. Cormorant Well developed young in nests. Bittern. Three on 3rd. Male booming on western lagoon occasionally. Great White Egret Single throughout. Red Kite 1-2 Daily. Oystercatcher 6 Daily. Curlew Max 21 seen daily. Snipe Up to 40 recently on Big Hole and Main Bay. Kingfisher Occasional at kingfisher screen and down Cut. Peregrine Two reported most dates from flashes. Nuthatch 1-2 regular on feeders. Goldcrest Max 4 on 6th. Cetti’s Warbler Now three singing intermittently. Chiffchaff Single on 7th. Treecreeper Pairs regularly at VC and down Cut lane .occasionally in song! Fieldfare Daily. Max 125 on 7th. Siskin 8 on 8th. 

Acrobatic Feeders & Has Spring Sprung?

staring-adrian-mosleyStarling – Adrian Mosley

Acrobatic Feeders

Adrian Mosley has kindly sent some great photos of of acrobatic feeders on our garden feeders here on Jennyfield. “It has taken the Siskins some time to appear in numbers this year but this week we had 9 at one time (23rd Feb) on the feeders. I also had a surprise visitor to our garden a Sparrowhawk sitting on the garden seat looking at the feeders longingly – but the birds had flown.”

My grateful thanks to all of you who have thanked me for resuming my blog, much appreciated. Please share with your friends and fellow wildlife watchers. Also see my monthly blog at How Stean Gorge.

Signs of Spring

Rick and Trisha Brewis have already seen “dogs mercury and celandine out in full flower in the Nidd Gorge and flowering blackthorn out in blossom down Bilton Hall Drive! How early is that?” Nowt surprises me any more, when will we get winter this year? I used to enjoy long walks on frozen ground; trudging through thick mud is no alternative. I seem to recall in previous years that not only did we have a Harrogate crocus fortnight the second week in March but also yellow crocuses (croci?) always came first. Now there are hardly yellow ones on the Stray, but loads of purple and white ones.

Meanwhile Jackie reckons that the snowdrops are one of the best displays for years and she saw a red admiral whilst out walking last week. As I write I’ve just received a weather warning for ice, so blame me.

John Wade saw his “first curlew of year on 17/2. On the road to Lindley. There was only one. Earliest I have ever seen one. Robert Brown also reports seeing curlew on their breeding grounds. Also a nice flock of about 20 lapwings. Six or so bramblings still regularly in our garden.”

house-sparrow-adrain-mosleyHouse Sparrow and Goldfinch – Adrian Mosley

Philip Woffinden writes, “The Mallinson estate, Harrogate, frogs have been busy early this year, with frogspawn first being noticed in my pond on 21 February. This compares with 17 March last year, 16 March in 2015, 6 March 2014, 4 March 2013, 26 February 2012, 1 March 2011 and 10 March 2010, so it breaks the record for earliness. The frogs were first apparent in the pond on 16 February, so the ‘boys’ may not have had to wait as long this year before they were able to attract a female with their croaking.”

Doug Simpson, “Had three singing Skylarks at Scargill last Saturday (18/02).”

This one has a mixture of winter visitors and spring signs from Andrew Willocks, “I thought that I would pass on a few sightings from Harlow Carr for February 2017. We had the first Bumble Bee seen this year in the gardens by one of the gardeners Peter Duechar on 20 February with a Peacock butterfly and also the first Curlew was seen flying over the gardens on territory all on the same day. The Waxwings are still coming into roost most evenings into the gardens at Harlow Carr from 4.00pm, they can be viewed in the arboretum at the far end of the gardens, the number ranges from 30 – 60.” Sorry but no guarantee that the waxwings will stay much longer.

Andy Hanby reports whooper swans and pink-footed geese at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Sorry sand martin report was my error, one hasn’t been seen in the area yet.

What signs of spring have you seen?

Red Kites Poisoned

The Raptor Persecution Website has revealed that two red kites found dead in Nidderdale were poisoned and the Police are appealing for information and warning about the dangers of illegal bird of prey poisoning. The two red kites were found poisoned in Nidderdale in 2016 one near Pateley bridge and the second near Bouthwaite, the second with as many as eight different poisons found following tests. Officers are appealing for information about the two incidents, and warning members of the public about the dangers of this illegal practice. Hard-hitting posters urging people to report suspected wildlife poisoning are being distributed across the county. If you find a mammal or bird that you believe has been poisoned, please do not touch it, as poisons can transfer through skin contact. Also keep youngsters and pets well away. Make a note of the location, including GPS co-ordinates if possible, and anything else that is around or near the animal, and contact the police immediately. Call me naive but do you think ‘hard hitting posters’ will do the trick? What do you think? I shudder every time I see a bird of prey, of any type, near moorland and pheasant shoots. It’s surely time more was done to protect our wildlife and licensing all shoots may be one way of dealing with these illegal activities. Anyone with information about the poisoning of the red kites found in Nidderdale should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, quoting reference number 12160043415, or email

Buzzard Shot

North Yorkshire Police report an incident in which a Buzzard was shot in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A dead buzzard was found on 1 February 2017 in an area called High Skelding, near the village of Grantley. It was in a small coniferous plantation close to where the Ripon Rowel footpath crosses the upper River Skell. If you have any information about this crime please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101. After being connected to North Yorkshire Police select option 1 and quote reference number 12170018791 when passing on information. Alternatively contact the investigating officer PC820 Hickson by email:

How To Make A Wildflower Meadow

Visit Friends of The Earth for information on how to grow a wildflower meadow.

siskin-adrian-mosleySiskin – Adrian Mosley

Wildlife Meetings

The Pinewoods Conservation Group is holding their AGM on from 7pm on Thursday, 9 March at The Green Hut, Harlow Ave, Harrogate HG2 0AS. There are plans for Harrogate Borough Council to lease 4 acres of The Pinewoods to Harrogate Spa Water Limited (HSWL). HSWL are then planning to build an extension of up to 5,000 square meters to their current plant on this land. The planning application also includes a proposal to create new landscaping and footpaths within the area with a percentage left open for public access. See here for more info and show your support for the PCG at their AGM.

Do Otters Eat Fish!

Paul Brothers writes, “I know of both dogs and cats that will eat fish, taken straight out of garden ponds. Netting may not be too much of a deterrent to them. I appreciate that a dog may not be able to get into the garden, but a cat certainly would. There was talk of a sea eagle coming into a garden pond near to me a couple of years back. Though the chances of that are pretty slim I would suspect. Osprey and other such birds are also unlikely, but cannot be ruled out. Mink could be another culprit and their numbers are increasing since they escaped from the mink farms.” I still reckon that otters are most likely to raid ponds but agree other wildlife could also do so. Regarding mink it was once considered that otter numbers were depleted because of the escaped mink. This is now considered unlikely to be the reason and polluted waters are a much more likely reason. Following Brexit of course we can now pollute our waters as much as we like so maybe our river life is in danger once again. Mink are much smaller than otters and unlikely to displace them and I believe as a consequence, coupled with culling, they are in fact reducing in numbers. Does anyone have any hard facts on this, please? I recognise of course that our water could be much cleaner than it currently is, it’s just better than it was.

chaffinch-with-fringilla-papilloma-virus-conrad-plowmanChaffinch with fringilla papilloma virus – Conrad Plowman

Conrad Plowman tells me, “I was interested to read of the depredations of an otter in fish ponds recently – in the past week remains of goldfish have been found in a neighbouring garden, within a few metres of the Knaresborough railway viaduct. There is easy access to the ponds from the Nidd. These are almost certainly as a result of an otter (or possibly, but less likely, a mink) attack, during the night. We haven’t seen otters in this stretch for about three years, but will certainly keep a look out. I have attached a photo of a chaffinch with fringilla papilloma virus. We don’t get many chaffinches on our feeders, but all that we see, both male and female, are affected to some extent. The method of transmission seems to be unclear, but bird to bird infection must occur. There seems to be nothing that can be done except trying to keep good hygiene around the feeders, although it is very difficult to do this on the ground. They generally seem to manage to feed without difficulty. I would be interested to know if other readers see this virus locally.


Roger Graville asks, “You asked about sparrows in your latest article. We have always had plenty in our garden in Arncliffe Road, but after an enforced temporary move away for a few months we thought many birds may have stopped coming to our then empty feeders. Having returned home just before Christmas we are glad to say that although the variety of birds is only slowly building up again, the flock of sparrows turned up virtually straight away to welcome us back home, and we now regularly have between 10 and 20 as before.” I’m pleased that Roger’s sparrow numbers are doing well. I suspect that there are sadly fewer visiting my garden though. What’s happening near you?


Harrogate Futures Forum:

Growing Pains or Grasping the Nettle… Do we need British horticulture?

Mike Prest of Knaresborough Horticultural Society will share some of his extensive experience in this sector. Presentation and discussion 16 March at 7:30pm, Friends Meeting House, Queen Parade, Harrogate. Admission Free – All Welcome – Refreshments Available

Harrogate Futures Forum presents a series of debates about the ways in which current issues may impact the Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon areas. Contact: Shan Oakes

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society Birds in a Cage, Derek Niemann. This is the story of an obsessive quest behind barbed wire. Through their shared love of birds, a group of British POWs overcome hunger, hardship, fear and stultifying boredom. Their experiences leave them scarred, but set them on a path to becoming greats of the conservation movement. This tale is not just about birds or war, but about the human spirit. Derek takes us through the despair, the suffering, the hope, and the laughter, showing us how a love of the natural world can help us in good times – and in bad. You don’t need to be an ornithologist to enjoy this talk! When: Wed March 8 19:30 – 21:30 St. Robert’s Centre, 2/3 Robert Street, Harrogate

Nidderdale Bird Club Friday, 10 March, RSPB RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire: a trip to the south shore of the Ribble Estuary, looking for geese, ducks and waders.Please note this was originally RSPB Marshside.

High Batts Nature Reserve Autumn/winter lectures High Batts Nature Reserve runs an Autumn and Winter Programme of talks and slideshows. These are open to members and to non-members and the venue is The Golden Lion in Ripon, commencing 7.30 pm. Entry costs £2.00. When: 6th March 2017: Roger Parrish: “Birding the Dots” – welcome to Texas.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings, from twitter include a fantastic Starling murmuration plus bittern, barn owl, white-fronts and smew, great-crested grebe, gadwell.

Sightings from Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page,

Will Rich: Two Buzzards circling over New Park
Ian Webster: House by the dam wall 4 Crossbill.
David Gilroy: A female Blackcap in the garden today, along with regular Bullfinches.
Will Rich: Male and female Blackcaps in my New Park garden, Tawny Owls hooting in the early hours on a regular basis and a pair of Bullfinches.
Alan Medforth: Two Dippers with nesting material, between High and Low Bridge, Knaresborough. PLUS One Grey Wagtail, Two Buzzards and heard a Green Woodpecker.
Paul Irving: Allerton Lakes: Glaucous Gull 1st winter, Herring Gull c400, Great BB Gull c150. European White-fronted Goose 17, Mute Swan 15, Red Kite 3 Redwing 150.
Lingham Lake: Little Egret 2, Pintail 3, Dunlin 7, Redshank 10, Ringed Plover 1
Nosterfield NR: Linnet c150, Peregrine 1 adult female
High Batts NR: Chaffinch c60, Brambling 3, Kingfisher 1, Little Egret 1, Buzzard 3

RSPB Fairburn Ings.Recent Reports: 16-23 February

Pink-footed Goose 5 by New Flash on 23rd. White-fronted Goose 3 on north flashes most of week. Barnacle Goose Single throughout. Shelduck 53 max – present daily. Pintail Present throughout in small numbers. Smew Male and redhead throughout. Bittern Single on 21st & 22nd. Great White Egret Single throughout. Red Kite 1-2 on most days. Marsh Harrier Male on 18th. Oystercatcher 4 by 23rd. Curlew Max 25 see daily. Snipe Max 39 on 21st. Woodcock Singles on 14th and 15th. Common Snipe Upto 40 recently on Big Hole and Main Bay. Kingfisher Occasional at kingfisher screen. Peregrine Two reported most dates from flashes. Nuthatch 1-2 regular on feeders. Cetti’s Warbler Single heard on 19th. Chiffchaff 2 on 17th by Parker’s Pond. Treecreeper Pairs regularly at VC and down Cut Lane occasionally in song!. Starling c5K still at roost on lagoons. Stonechat Three on 18th. Grey Wagtail Single on 15th.

Butterfly Haven, Perhaps Heaven!

Six-belted Clearwing - Rex Bradshaw

Six-belted Clearwing – Rex Bradshaw

I was recently kindly invited by Rex Bradshaw to join him and his mate Alan on a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife’s Trust Brockadale Nature Reserve. Brockadale is roughly situated just east of the A1 a few miles south of Ferrybridge. The date was set and somehow Rex had chosen one of the year’s best day’s for butterflies. Now I have never seen marbled white butterflies before so I was rather hoping we might see one. In fact my luck was in, spectacularly in. We were still in sight of the parked car when we saw our first marbled white and I kid you not we must have seen over 100 by the end of the adventure. The reserve is of course managed for its flora and fauna and there are fields full of wild flowers including, in places, carpets of the superb clustered bellflower, a tall strikingly blue flower. These weren’t the only flowers, we also saw field scabious, greater knapweed and much much more. Similarly we didn’t just see marbled white butterflies but also enjoyed excellent views of ringlets, meadow browns, gatekeepers and skippers. The star butterfly was perhaps the dark green fritillary but it wasn’t the butterflies which stole the show but the six-belted clearwing moth. This unusual moth is mainly a specialist of southern Britain and it lives on calcareous soils. Brockadale is such a great nature reserve because of the magnesium limestone which outcrops there and because it is in a valley too steep for ploughing. We have around 15 species of clearwing moths in the UK, so called – and no surprises here – because you can see through the wings, simple? This gives them the appearance of a wasp or hornet and no doubt offers them the protection they desire. These fascinating insects are very difficult to see, indeed, certainly in the past, folk looked for their frass (droppings) and exit holes of their caterpillars to find them. Nowadays it seems that pheromone lures are the best way to see them. Their wings aren’t entirely clear and this offers one way of distinguishing them from wasps. Incidentally why do folk consider wasps a pest and feel the urge to dispose of them. They are important pollinators and provide important services in our gardens, just ignore them and you should be fine. The six-belted clearwing feeds on common bird’s-foot trefoil and the larvae feed within the stems of this delightful flower. If you fancy going to Brockadale and it really is worth a visit then pick a sunny day and go soon before the butterflies disappear.


A Gathering of Green-veined Whites

Hen Harrier Plan Fails

The RSPB have announced that they have pulled out of the Hen Harrier Action Plan. The reason they cite is “The voluntary approach of the Hen Harrier Action Plan has failed, leaving licensing as the only viable option.” Illegal killing of hen harriers remains, in 2015 before the agreement there being just six successful hen harrier nests from 12 attempts in England. In 2016 and despite the agreement and the shooting industry’s promises even these lamentable figures have not been achieved. There are apparently only three hen harrier nests in England and none of these are on moorland. The conclusion therefore is that legislation is the only way to achieve protection for our hen harriers and all the other birds of prey which fail to survive life on grouse moors. The law continues to be broken, it needs strengthening. What the RSPB believe needs doing is to introduce a Licensing Scheme, “not to tar everyone with the same brush, or blaming a whole community for the actions of the few. Quite the opposite: it is effectively a targeted ban that will stamp out illegal activity and drive up the environmental standards of shooting.” Maybe such a license can also protect our moorlands from illegal and inappropriate burning, mountainside dredging which forces water into people’s homes as well as allowing predators of all descriptions to survive and enhance the ecosystem. In the interests of fairness, although perhaps not accuracy, read The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s views here.

Barn Owl2 - Steve Tomlinson

Another great photo from Steve Tomlinson, this time a superb barn owl.

Biodiversity in Unsafe Decline

I know I keep mentioning it but sadly these subjects don’t seem to be important to the decision makers and we need to act now to reverse the situation, we need the decision makers to take action. An international team of scientists has issued a warning that biodiversity is dropping below safe levels for the support and wellbeing of human societies. Our local ecosystems affects such things as crop pollination, waste decomposition and regulation of the carbon cycle. These ecosystems depend on the biological diversity within them to function. This is the conclusions of an Internationsl Group of Scientists in a peer reviewed report in a recent copy of Science magazine. You need to subscribe for the full article which can be found here.

Campaigns – Woodland Trust, “Enough is Enough”

The ancient woodland habitats of the UK are our earliest native woods and priority wood pasture, and our oldest and most impressive trees. They are our richest land-based habitats; there’s still so much we can learn from these natural wonders. They are defenceless. Despite being such treasures our ancient woodland habitats are not fully protected. Many people are surprised to learn they have no legal status, and they have very little (sometimes no) real protection from development, climate change, tree pests and disease, inappropriate management, intensive land use and more. Enough is enough. These ancient habitats need proper protection now, before we lose them forever. With your help, we can change their fate. Visit here for more details.

Free Seeds

Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and they have 100,000 FREE wild flower seed packets to give away to people all over the UK. Any space can be transformed – from balconies to old boots, streets to shared spaces, boxes to buckets. Anyone can sow and grow wild flowers – it’s quick, easy and fun. Each seed packet contains country specific native wild flower seeds – and autumn is a great time to get sowing. Just go online to get your FREE seed packet

Your Sightings

'Feed me! - Ian Willson'

Ian Willson has sent this photo of an adult song thrush feeding its young and it perfectly encapsulates that situation where we humans think, “why can’t the damn thing feed itself?”

Shirley Dunwell, from Bilton, wrote on 19 July, “My observations recently have been restricted (not through choice) to my own garden but in some ways it has focused my attention as to how busy my patch is. The dunnock is very busy and with signs of nest building early June, I am hopeful of finding evidence of their nest later on. There was at least one success – for the sparrow hawk – in its panic a goldfinch hit my window and was immediately taken. A greater spotted woodpecker has visited at least twice, around 6-7am, tempted by the fat balls and then checking out the trunk of my large juniper tree. This was lovely to see and has actually made me rethink my plan to have this ‘not very attractive’ conifer removed. NB mature trees are more useful to wildlife. I am surprised that during these summer months of ‘plenty’ how hungry the birds are. I only regularly put out three types of food: fat balls are beloved by the quarrelsome starlings (particularly this year’s brood) and also house sparrows. Sunflower hearts in the feeders attract goldfinch, greenfinch, bullfinch, chaffinch. (I used to regard chaffinch as ground feeders, but they certainly seem to have mastered the feeder balancing act). Mealworms are the blackbirds’ absolute favourite, one female with still demanding adult-sized young has become very bold, flying onto windowsill to demand more and even coming inside when door is open. I must mention the other regulars: magpie, wood and feral pigeons, jackdaw, rooks and collared dove. Sadly no identifiable butterfly sightings as yet – just a few cabbage whites and one harlequin ladybird”. Some lovely birds, what birds do you get in your garden and are your birds hungry?

Doug Simpson writes, “Should 2016 go down as the year of the chiffchaff? I’ve never previously heard so many calling as I have this year. Just about everywhere I go there’s one singing away. I don’t know about their actual breeding success – others will be better informed than I am on this point. I’m hoping it’s not a case of lots of males and no females – hence all the calling.” I have certainly heard plenty of these birds calling but like Doug don’t really know the answer, are there more chiffchaffs, are there just more males, have you any ideas?

June Sharp, “Wild flower verges would be brilliant! Yellands wild flower meadow is my favourite! As an elderly gardener my cottage garden is my meadow as I can no longer travel the open countryside. Insects are plentiful but have only seen three butterflies this week. I live in the beautiful village of Galphay on the edge of Nidderdale.”

Val Rogers, Bilton, “I have been walking the dog a bit earlier than usual over the last three days, mainly in the field at the back of Tennyson. Each day I have seen the barn owl flying low over the field from the Nidd end down to Willow Woods, then over the track to the other side. I have only seen it once before about four weeks ago when walking in the evening with Keith Wilkinson and members of the Nidd Gorge Advisory Group. I was very lucky this morning (24/7/16), I spotted it as soon as I entered the field, quartering from one side to the other swooping now and then, when it reached Willow Woods it turned and came halfway back up the field, before flying over the track to the other field. That’s it for today I thought, but no after about 20 minutes it was back. What a privilege!” Val’s right, it’s always a privilege to be able to enjoy our wildlife and beyond me why so many feel compelled to destroy it.

Reserve Sightings

Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Recent sightings include common redstart, redshank, common sandpiper, little ringed plover, little egret and yellow wagtail. The barnacle geese have been joined by a black swan, colour ringed little egret, common darter dragonfly, ringlet, meadow brown, small white & gatekeeper butterflies. A little grebe with young travelling on its back and the last juvenile avocet has been ringed.

RSPB Fairburn Ings

Highlights include whooper swan, as many as six garganey, little egret, spoonbill, red kite, marsh harrier, golden plover, ringed plover, little ringed plover, curlew, black-tailed godwit, dunlin, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, common gull, yellow-legged gull, hobby, peregrine, whinchat.

Harrogate Naturalists’ Society Sightings Page

Mike Smithson reports, Seven mandarin ducks flew into the farmer’s pond on Midgeley Lane, Goldsborough on 24/7/16.”

Moorland Myths Exposed & Spring Arrivals

Wheatear Tom WilsonWheatear – Tom Wilson

Apologies, my computer is misbehaving and I have lost some emails, so if you emailed me recently then please send it again. I believe the problem is now resolved, fingers crossed and sorry for the inconvenience.

First Avian Arrivals of 2016

We ought to be looking out for the first avian arrivals of spring. Already we have lapwing and curlew on territory and our resident passerines are pairing up, marking out territories and maybe even building nests. Birds like rooks are already sat atop their communal tree probably on eggs, perhaps young, whilst in our conifer plantations our few resident crossbill chicks are no doubt nearly ready to leave their home. As birdwatchers what we really look for are the first migrant birds here to breed and it always surprises me that a couple of the earliest arrivals are the ring ouzel and wheatear. Why am I surprised? Well both these birds choose to nest on our often cold and bleak moor tops. Find the ring ouzel around Scar House Reservoir, or maybe around the Barden reservoirs in Wharfedale, whilst the wheatear seems to prefer limestone country, look around Stump Cross caverns and Troller’s Gill. One of the reasons these birds arrive so early may well be because they travel fewer air miles than some of our other summer visitors such as warblers. The ring ouzel for example winters in the Atlas Mountains and northern Africa. Now don’t just go to Scar House and expect to see a ring ouzel, they take some finding, so be patient and vigilant and you may be rewarded. A ring ouzel differs from the blackbird because it is slightly bigger and it sports a white gorget, a crescent shaped area around the throat or upper breast. The female ring ouzel, like its blackbird cousin, is more browny coloured and evidently the gorget can get whiter with age with a juvenile’s barely noticeable. Ring ouzels are sadly in decline, never common, their range size has declined by 43% in last 40 years.

Wheatears, apparently named after the distinctive white rump, white rear, seen as they fly away, are a beautiful bird and unlike the ring ouzel comparatively confiding. Male and female wheatears like the ring ouzel can be distinguished even by humans. The male bird is blue-grey below with black wings with a white forehead, a white eye stripe and a narrow black facial mask. The female is similar, generally browner and duller. The wheatear, or to be precise northern wheatear, winters in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is found across a broad belt that stretches from Mauritania and Mali through northern Nigeria, Central African Republic and Sudan, to Ethiopia and southern Somalia.

Other early migrants include the ubiquitous chiffchaff, it’s always great to hear the first distinctive onomatopoeic chiffchaff call, although by mid-summer the excitement has worn off and the LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) are everywhere. A final early arrival and another we all enjoy seeing is the very much threatened sand martin, now in Nidderdale pretty much confined to breeding in artificial nest sites such as the Nidderdale Birders one at Gouthwaite reservoir, or the one at YWT Staveley Nature Reserve. I was somewhat surprised to look at the BTO fact file for sand martins to find they are not of conservation concern, my guess is this is due to all the sand martin walls built throughout the country which not only provide plenty of nest sites but crucially provide ones which are not prone to flooding. It would be great if you could tell me your first sightings of migrant birds, your first reports of birds nesting and of course eventually how successful they were.

Red Grouse Kat Simmons (cropped)

A Glorious Red Grouse – Kat Simmonds

Moorland Myths

Katie Chabriere of Harrogate, Founder of Harrogate Animals People Planet Initiative, (Katies Letter) wrote to the Harrogate Informer suggesting that burning heather and gripping moorlands could be responsible for Kex Gill, Blubberhouses suffering so many catastrophic landslides, which could cost £33m of taxpayers’ money to resolve. The Moorlands Association spokesperson responded suggesting that they were the solution to the problem not the cause, although they failed to say who burns the heather and grips the moorland. It was however their last sentence which I felt it necessary to query, I have tried three times to respond to this but sadly it seems that Harrogate Informer just aren’t getting my emails for some reason, so this is what I wanted to say, I wonder if you agree?

I am pleased that Amanda Anderson, Director of the The Moorland Association, recognises the importance of moorland and the environment yet she sadly avoids addressing the specific issue of tree planting, gripe blocking and heather burning in Kex Gill, which Kate Chabriere specifically mentioned. Trees are disliked by the shooting fraternity because they get in the way of the line of fire. I trust no one shoots down Kex Gill onto the road below and therefore such planting may well help everyone and harm nothing. The Moorlands Association’s stated commitment to the environment would be confirmed if trees were planted in this area. It is however Ms Anderson’s final paragraph which needs addressing. She says, “Perhaps Ms Chabriere might be interested to know that our moorlands benefit not a ‘tiny minority’, but host internationally recognised habitats and wildlife, boost rural economies to the tune of millions of pounds, are the backbone of our UK lamb industry and are loved by vast numbers of walkers and nature enthusiasts.Nice spin Ms Anderson but please can we address the reality. Our moorlands are a vastly subsidised industry, it has been estimated that £286 per tax payer, per year, is spent on them. The moorlands are subsidised through the Single Farm Payment (more than £17 million in 2012-13) and the Environment Stewardship Scheme (£20 million same year). These payments are supposed to be tied to Government Approved Environment Good Practice, although sadly there seems to be little evidence that this is adequately policed. Shooting grouse and the introduced red-legged partridge and pheasants goes hand in hand with the elimination of all manner of vermin, birds of prey, stoats, weasels, foxes, even apparently domestic pets, pheasants (they become vermin outside the season because they peck grouse eggs) and hedgehogs. The only wildlife the shooters are interested in is there to be killed, it’s as simple as that. The sheep numbers on moors have long been kept low to protect the moors for the grouse and the vast majority of our lamb is obtained from lowland farms. We all know about the hill farmers who struggle to make a living. Moorlands are not natural, left to nature, trees and scrubs would grow in places, land would become more water logged, the wildlife more diverse and the whole environment would benefit, including areas downstream. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that it would be any less loved by walkers and nature enthusiasts as a consequence. It would probably be enjoyed even more.”


The British hedgehog population has declined by up to a third over the last 10 years. This petition requests the House of Commons to endorse the practical supporting measures of ‘Hedgehog Street’ and ensure the hedgehog is given better legal protection including adding it to Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act by the Government and in particular the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Please sign it.

Nature Reserves

RSPB Fairburn Ings, First Sand Martin 14 March, also two Ravens, Red Kites, Marsh Harrier, three Peregrine, Cetti’s Warbler daily and Firecrest at the weekend.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, 12 March 55 Whooper Swans, Lingham Lake, bumblebee and peacock butterfly 13 March. 16 avocets have been present, may still be, please look for coloured rings. Also there has been a whooper swan movement recently and they have passed over HDNS Farnham, YWT Staveley and the Nosterfield complex.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Susan Turner (cropped)

Great Spotted Woodpecker – Sue Turner

Through Your Window

Sue (& Geoff) Turner, Wetherby, wrote on Thursday, 10 March 2016, “We have seen no signs of any frogs or spawn in our garden pond but last year the first frog spawn appeared on 2 March. We do have plenty of birds at the moment and they are going through a substantial amount of sunflower hearts. This morning I counted 16 Siskins (both male and female) in next door’s tree and on the feeders. They have been regular visitors this year since 3 January 2016 but not in such great numbers, usually only five or six. A few years ago we only used to see them for a couple of weeks in March but recently they have stayed around for a few months. We do the weekly BTO birdcount so have good records of all our visitors and so far this week we have seen Blackcap 2m and 1f, Bullfinch 2m and 1f, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Collared Dove, 11 Blackbird, Greenfinch 1m, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Great Tit, 1 Songthrush, Chaffinch 2m & 1f (quite often with white fungus on their legs), 7 Woodpigeon, 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock and 1 Greater Spotted Woodpecker (very infrequent visitor). We have heard the Song Thrush singing since early January but this week is the first time we have actually seen it, when it came for a bath in the pond. We do not see House or Tree Sparrows any more and it is ages since a Starling visited our garden. I clean the feeders and water bowls regularly and the sick looking birds we see are usually Chaffinches. On the subject of grey squirrels, they might look cute but we are no lovers of them or the many Woodpigeons. Both these species hoover up all the food we put on the lawn for the ground feeding birds and they seem to be thriving. The squirrels dig holes in the lawn, either burying or looking for food, and once they dug tulip bulbs out of a planter and ate them! Our garden backs onto the Harland Way cycle track so there are lots of very tall self-seeded ashes and sycamores, which the squirrels and Woodpigeons love.

Judith Fawcett reports, “haven’t seen a goldfinch in the garden for a while.”

Pat Inman writes, “For the first time I have redpoll in my garden in Shaw Mills. I noticed them two weeks ago and now they come each day to feed with the other finches on the sunflower hearts. Both they and the siskins hold their own against the larger gold and greenfinches.”

Great squirrel Debate

The squirrel issue rages on, Ann White writes, “Regarding the grey squirrels (tree rats). We too find them a menace, as they commandeer the bird feeders. But we fixed ’em! Put a clamp on to the lid of the feeder, and they can’t get in no matter how they try! Amusing to watch them though – they hang about underneath and have to be satisfied with the ‘droppings’. What we do have, and on a daily basis, are Woodpeckers – they are beautiful, and so interesting to watch. This in the Knox area of Bilton backing on to the old railway embankment. Think that the squirrels kill the pigeons if they can, as we woke up one morning to find hundreds of feathers on out lawn plus a skeleton!! Poor thing.” I would think that it was more likely to be either a sparrowhawk or a fox which killed Ann’s pigeon, probably the former. One way to tell if it’s a mammalian or avian predator is to inspect the feathers, if they have been bitten off, it’s most likely a fox. If they have been pulled out, a raptor. A squirrel would tackle a chick including chewing through a nest box to get at the chick, but I doubt it would attempt a full grown pigeon unless it was already ill or injured.

Notes For Your Diary (See website for full details.)

Harrogate and District Naturalists’ Society

Wednesday March 23 19:30 – 21:30 lecture ‘RSPB Wetland Reserves – managing for the future’ Graham White RSPB.

Harrogate RSPB Group

Saturday March 19 10am Outdoor Meeting – visit to Saltholme. Meet at Reserve.

Nidderdale Bird Club

Monday 21st March (Evening) Gouthwaite’s Sand Martin Wall: a presentation reviewing the wall’s development and first year of use.