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

Your Frogs, Trees & Sparrowhawk.

Sparrowhawk - Raymond RumboldMale Sparrowhawk – Raymond Rumbold

Through Your Window

Pat and Raymond Rumbold have sent me a lovely male sparrowhawk photo taken from the hall window a few weeks ago. “It was on our back hedge looking bemused as all the birds had disappeared – I wonder why?!”

How Stean Blog

This month’s How Stean Blog is available now, I provide some fascinating insights into that common woodland plant Dog’s Mercury.

Frogspawn Bilton - Roger LittonFrog Spawn – Roger Litton

Frog Spawn

Bob Barker writes, “Not trying to enter the competition but frog spawn was in my pond on Monday 22/2, two big lots. There are now about four lots. I don’t think I look like carrion but on Monday I was weeding my veg patch and a red kite swooped down low over my head, but didn’t land. Maybe their eyesight isn’t as good as I thought it was.” I bet the red kite saw a juicy worm or two, a favourite kite delicacy I believe. Bob’s frog spawn was relatively early this year, I can’t understand why most is so late.

Lucky Dennis Skinner from Wetherby, “came back from the Galapagos Islands on 22 February to find one of my small garden ponds (about 3 x 4ft) full of frog spawn, later iced over! Today I counted 21 frogs in them, all very active before the heavy snow fall.”

Dr Roger Litton writes, “This photo is of the pond at Bachelor Fields, Bilton and shows that the frogs are now out in force spawning (7 March). As the photo shows, the pond was affected by a severe frost overnight Sunday into Monday and some of the top layers have been frosted. This will have killed the affected eggs but fortunately the rest of the spawn, under water, will have survived. However, there is a more serious problem. Someone has released goldfish into the pond. When the tadpoles hatch they will be eagerly devoured by the goldfish. This suggests a dire future for the frogs in this area as the future generations will be decimated by the fish. This introduction is completely irresponsible given that frog numbers nationally are in serious decline (partly because of loss of habitat but this introduction is not going to help locally).” Roger makes a valid point about goldfish and frogs, particularly when like much of our wildlife frogs are in decline due to disease and other factors. What do you think? Have you seen any frogspawn?

Oak - Jon BurgeA Seasonal view by Jon Burge of his Favourite Tree

Your Favourite Tree

Jon Burge writes, “My favourite tree is the one I am looking at at the moment; however, here is one of my all-time favourites – 400m north of the Burnt Yates playground (see photo). Not unusually old, it is one of the largest around that, albeit sculptured by the wind shedding small branches, had not yet lost a great branch. A good example of an oak in its prime. Just after I took the fourth photo, a great storm broke off a 2-ton branch, and it is now a typical oak good for another 300 years of rustic shape.” Brilliant to see this wonderful oak in all it’s moods.

Gretchen Hasselbring, “Just wanted to report something cool. I was looking at a huge yew tree near the clock tower in Ripon this morning, one of the warmest days we’ve had in a while, and in a gust of wind the tree shook off a giant cloud of….? Which hung over it and then dispersed. On closer inspection, it appears to be the pollen from the mature flowers of English/common yew (Taxus baccata). I understand that this cloud could indeed be toxic? Very exciting sighting for me.” The red fleshy bit that covers the yew’s berries is the only part of the tree that is not toxic and eating that is very hazardous because the seeds inside are dangerously toxic. The pollen that Gretchen saw which is released by the trees in early spring is cytotoxic. Cytotoxicity is too complicated for me, visit the weblink for more info and it’s probably good to keep well away from it. All parts of a yew plant are toxic to humans with the exception of the yew berries (however, their seeds are toxic); additionally, male and monoecious yews in this genus release cytotoxic pollen, which can cause headaches, lethargy, aching joints, itching, and skin rashes; it is also a trigger for asthma. Male yews bloom and release abundant amounts of pollen in the spring; completely female yews only trap pollen while producing none. Grazing animals, particularly cattle and horses, are also sometimes found dead near yew trees after eating the leaves, though deer are able to break down the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely. In the wild, deer browsing of yews is often so extensive that wild yew trees are commonly restricted to cliffs and other steep slopes inaccessible to deer. The foliage is also eaten by the larvae of some Lepidopteran insects including the moth Willow Beauty (see Wikipedia). It is believed that yew trees were kept in churchyards to protect grazing animals although another explanation is they were grown in churchyards to make into bows, surely peace loving folk don’t need bows!

Dogs and Wildlife

It’s probably a bit late to ask you to keep your dogs on a lead where sheep are concerned because many have already lambed. Please remember however that pregnant sheep are the most vulnerable to dogs because the dogs don’t need to even attack them, just romp around in the same field. The sheep see them as predator, panic and can abort so please consider the farmer’s livelihood by always keeping your dog on a lead in any field with animals in. This is what is meant by worrying sheep, not a physical attack. Wild animals can be just as vulnerable so if you are anywhere this spring with a dog where wild animals and birds could be breeding, for example along the riverside where ducks are living or in a field where lapwings, curlews or sky larks may be breeding, then again please keep your dogs on a lead and thank you all you considerate dog owners for thinking of our wildlife.


I told you grey squirrels were like Marmite and your responses certainly reflect that.

Tom Peace writes, “Squirrels are awesome little creatures that are curious and very agile!” Visit Toms Blog.

David Uffindall writes, “Thanks for the credit re the picture. We have two, sometimes up to four grey squirrels that come to our garden. We never encourage them to come near the house – they are animals after all – but do like to watch their antics from quickly nipping through the foliage to getting on the wire fence and then taking a leap for the bird feeders. We have a couple of supplies of nuts that they are particularly attracted to and occasionally they take a fancy to my fat balls – sorry, I mean the fat balls in the feeder! They are very agile, great fun to watch and a super challenge to get good pictures of, so I tolerate them quite happily. If they came near the house though….!”

Jo Smalley writes, “Hahahahahaha, I’d rather see red! Love the marmite comparison. So true though.”

Dennis Skinner thinks squirrelsare an absolute nuisance in my garden digging up the lawn and borders and taking the bird food. The pigeons are worse! Does anyone else think pigeons are becoming too many? They seem to breed 5-6 times a year and have few enemies.”

Paul Irving writes, “It doesn’t matter how long alien species that have been brought here by us are here they are still alien, that’s what the science says. Yes, our ecology adapts to an extent, but look what we lost in the case of the grey squirrel, the red, which I can just remember seeing in this area. Personally I’d happily forego the pleasure of all the unnatural aliens such as the Grey Squirrel (got rid of quickly in this garden!), Canada Goose, Fallow Deer, Pheasant and Himalayan Balsam, especially if it meant more of some species of native.”

Mark Haythorne, Penny Pot Gardens, views’ on grey squirrels are, “I’m afraid I’m very firmly in the “against” camp. I can see why people like to watch them as they frolic about – they do appeal to the “cuteness” factor, but my reasons for not being a fan are: (i) they are pretty much responsible for demolishing the indigenous and much less harmful red squirrel, because of the virus they carry and competition for habitat, food etc (ii) raiding the bird feeders and damaging them – they can chew through practically anything; (iii) digging up bulbs and corms etc, and damage to trees, which I suffer from a fair bit but (iv) by far my biggest problem with them is that they decimate garden bird populations by devouring eggs and chicks – I have personally seen them do this more than once with blue tit and chaffinch nests in my garden. I even saw one tackling a wood pigeon! The cat problem and loss of habitat for birds is bad enough – we will lose a decent curlew and skylark population when they plonk 680 houses on the fields between Queen Ethelburga’s and the Army College (B6161 at Oaker Bank) but grey squirrels certainly play a big part in garden bird predation. I’m sure a lot of people will take the ‘live and let live’ approach, but like American signal crayfish, we could certainly do without the little beggars!”

Mike Sims of Burnt Yates visited Fountains Abbey recently where he saw “a pair of Wigeon, a pair of Goosander and several Goldeneye, as well as the occasional Cormorant, the usual Coot, Mute Swans and Mallard and sometimes up to 230 Black Headed Gulls, all seen on the Lake at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. There are Little Grebe on the Lake too and up to 15 seen on the Half Moon Reservoir at the Abbey end of the Water Gardens there. The bird hide near the Visitor Centre is brilliant with Great Spotted Woodpecker being a regular visitor for the peanuts.” Sounds well worth a visit, watching the goldeneye courtship display is always fascinating.


Tony Brookes, Old Scriven, Knaresborough, “Yesterday p.m. I was in my study and looked out of the window to see a male sparrowhawk swooping towards the bird feeding centre. As is often the case, the small birds escaped bar one that cowered on the bird table whereupon the sparrowhawk circled the table at great speed at least six or seven times before the terrified bird escaped into the nearby bushes. The sparrowhawk alighted on a branch, defecated and flew off over the park. I have never ever seen a sparrowhawk hunt in this way and could find nothing online to suggest other people have reported this activity. No doubt readers of your website might find this behaviour unusual and may wish to comment or even relate similar occurrences.” Tony then says, “I was reminded by this of the stories of foxes walking around trees where pheasants roost to disorient them and, it is said, make them dizzy and fall out of those trees. Fact or an old wives tale?” It does seem like unusual sparrowhawk behaviour, they usually fly in at great speed like a stealth bomber and if they miss keep on flying. At another time of year I would have said the sparrowhawk was a juvenile and new to the hunting game but to survive winter it can’t be. Sorry but I’m afraid like most things wildlife I don’t get it. I have heard the fox and pheasant tale before and always assume it to be an old wives tale. Like you I would love to hear what other folks have to say, on both issues.

Adrian Wetherill, tweeted, Egyptian goose on Nicholson’s lagoon, Ripon racecourse, 24/2/2016.

Joan Howard tells me, “White crow seen this winter in Morrisons car park. Shoppers walk past it…must think it is a seagull.” I wonder if it’s the same one that keeps getting reported or many? The BTO tells us the maximum recorded age for a crow is 17 years. Much older than I expected, although the typical lifespan is 4 years.


Harrogate and District Naturalists Society See website for full details.

Tuesday 15th March 08:00 – 17:00 Mini-bus trip to RSPB Fairburn & Swillington Ings / St Aidans. Mini-bus trip (booking essential).

Harrogate RSPB Group See website for full details including costs and to confirm no changes.

Monday 14th March 7:30pm Indoor Meeting – Tom Lawson “Birding in Iceland”

Nidderdale Bird Club See website for full details including costs and to confirm no changes.

Friday 11th March a full day visit to Foulshaw Moss & Dallam Heronry

Saturday 12th March a fundraising event at the Glasshouses Methodist Church, Broadbelt Hall (HG3 5QY) on Saturday 12th March. The Curlew has declined in Britain to such an extent that it is the bird most in need of conservation action and is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation concern. The BTO are hoping to raise £100,000 in the first year to do extensive research into the reasons for the decline of both breeding and wintering Curlew. Nidderdale Bird Club’s fundraising will take several forms, this is the first. As well as providing coffee and tea there will be T-shirts and cards and cakes for sale.

Tree Charter, Cranes and What You See

19 February 2016

Ancient Oak Lamb's Close DallowgillAncient Oak – Lamb’s Close, Dallowgill


Way back in 1217, just two years after Magna Carta was signed, Henry III signed The Charter of The Forest. The aim was to protect the rights of people to access and use the Royal Forests. The Charter of the Forest provides a window to a time in history when access to woods was integral to life. Being denied access for grazing livestock, collecting firewood and foraging for food was a real concern for the people of the time. Now The Woodland Trust reckon it’s time for another Charter because trees in all areas of society are more at risk than ever before from natural threats, such as pests and diseases, man-made pollution, infrastructure and political disinterest.

Making history – the call for a Charter

In summer 2015 the Woodland Trust put out an invitation for organisations from across the conservation, environmental, business and social sectors to join a call for a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People. More than 35 organisations answered the call, and have been working with the Woodland Trust to create a national moment for woods and trees. It will establish a legacy of lasting change for the relationship between trees, woods and people. This charter would bring trees and woods back into the centre of public consciousness and political decision-making in the UK. After all, as The Woodland Trust tells us, trees provide “clean air, natural flood defences, a mask for noise, improved physical health and mental well-being, mitigation against the urban heat island effect, pollution absorption, wildlife habitat, recreational spaces in cities, contact with nature in cities and sensory outdoor learning resources. Yet tree numbers are declining and frequently they aren’t being replaced. For example, according to Rotary Clubs – Community and Environment and Sustainablity newsletter, Nidderdale, delightful as it is, has only 5% tree cover. The national average is 8%. Harrogate Rotarians are doing something about it, you can offset your carbon emissions with trees and these guys have a scheme to do just that. But it’s not cheap, it involves a lot of volunteer help and you can get involved too.

Share your tree story

One of the things that worries me is that when hedgerow trees in particular fall over they are never replaced. Yet they provide a superb habitat, excellent aesthetic appeal and suck up all this excess water that will plague us more and more in the future. The Woodland Trust as part of the Appeal want to know your stories about trees. Have you got a treasured memory that wouldn’t have been the same without trees? Please help to create the charter by sharing it with The Woodland Trust. Let’s do more to protect our trees.

Cropped CraneCommon Crane (Grus grus)

The Great Crane Project

Some of you may remember Michael Clegg, a Knaresborough lad who will be respectfully remembered as a broadcaster, journalist and environmentalist. He was involved in making what we now know as RSPB Old Moor into a nature reserve. I recall sharing the Harrogate Naturalist Society’s private hide at Farnham with him. One of his legacies is the annual Michael Clegg Bird Race (the most species seen in 24 hours) which raises money for a Yorkshire bird conservation project. This year the project raised money for the Yorkshire Breeding cranes. Our thanks to the record number of teams which took part on 3 January and raised so far over £1100 for this project. The winning team saw 107 birds. If you would like to donate or find out more about next year’s bird race please email Graham Speight

Dipper - Peter ThomsonDipper by Peter Thompson


Chris Norman writes, “Last April I moved to Dubai, so really miss home. The pictures of the Kite, the Tawny Owl and Gouthwaite tugged at my heartstrings. Very good news regarding the continued success of the Red Kites in our region. Metropolitan Dubai doesn’t offer much in the way of wildlife, but I am thrilled that a laughing dove is nesting in a “potted” olive tree on our balcony. Apparently passerines nest all year round here, but mostly avoid June/July/August, which is understandable as the eggs would almost boil in the ambient temperatures! They would need to sit on them to keep them cool!” Wow! My blog is going international. Thanks Chris.

Steve Whiteley was “watching my resident flock of sparrows on my feeder together with the other various regular visitors (coal tits, blue tits, great tits, collared doves, robin and wood pigeon) this morning, I noted this little chap in action. I believe he is a wood mouse and he has been active all morning and a lot more adventurous than normal. He has been resident under my shed for 3 years now and currently appears intent on chewing his way in at the moment. I thought they were supposed to hibernate during the winter but perhaps not. He may have been confused by the warmer weather.” In fact very few of our mammals hibernate – dormice, hedgehogs and bats. Some of the rest may not venture out quite as much if the weather is really bad. Many get by by caching their food, a well known example is the grey squirrel and perhaps another is the fox, if it gets into a chicken run.

Jim Neary recalls a sighting of a leucistic (all white) crow back in 2012 (in the area of Morrison’s car park, Harrogate where Edna Barker saw hers). I wonder how long they have been around there and does the collared doves still nest in the car wash there?

Roger Graville writes, “Just read the comment about bullfinches in the Hookstone Woods area (Harrogate). We are very near there on Arncliffe Road, and we regularly have a pair of them on our sunflower seed feeder. Usually one at a time, but occasionally there have been both male and female together during the winter.” I find what happens with bullfinches is that the male comes first, looks around for danger, flies down to the feeder and when confident it is safe calls down the female. I believe that they pair for life.

Stuart Ibbotson “thought I would drop you a note around my 2016 sightings. My list for my local patch (Bilton, Harrogate) is, after three weeks, missing song and mistle thrush, also redwing and fieldfare. I hope that due to the lack of berries around that they have moved on in their search for food. Greenfinch is also absent and is worrying if compared to 10 years ago when I considered them to be a pest as approximately 30 would take over my garden feeders. Siskins are plentiful in the garden and as I write a party of eight are present. Also bullfinch numbers are consistent with four pairs being regular visitors. Happy to report that this week I have seen two separate dippers staking out their territories on the Nidd, one of which is by the Scotton weir. Also grey wagtails seem to be returning to their breeding sites. A barn owl was hunting in the daytime around the farmhouse that is adjacent to the Nidderdale Greenway. I suspect that it had been unable to hunt on the previous two days due to the non-stop heavy rain. Today at 8.45am two otters which from their appearance I would say were mother and daughter, were making their way upriver and seen swimming under the viaduct. Shortly after a buzzard flew through the trees and across the river. It all makes you ponder on the changing face of nature. Twenty years ago I would never have dreamed of seeing buzzards on my local patch let alone otters. Greenfinches and thrushes were taken for granted as being omnipresent and were overlooked. Food for thought!” Stuart certainly raises some interesting points, slightly further afield we see little egret, whilst barn owl numbers remain high. Goosander numbers seem to have peaked and then fallen back again but not to the very low numbers of 20 years ago. Out wildlife numbers continue to fluctuate but whilst there are winners and losers don’t ever forget that around 60% of our birds have declined in the past 20 years and butterfly numbers continue to be a worry. We still have a lot of work to do to retain our biodiversity. I just wonder what effect car and industrial emissions are having, after all if our kids are more likely to get asthma how is our wildlife affected?

Lisa Walch wrote, “I saw a barn owl in full flight at 4pm yesterday near Grassington. It was flying across a field. Couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture the memory.” They are great, aren’t they? Keep watching in the same place, camera at the ready, you may see it again.

RSPB Fairburn Ings reports the following interesting birds this week, “three Smew inc one male, Egyptian Goose one.”

Recent birds at Nosterfield Nature Reserve complex include, Red-necked Grebe (Flask Lake), Bar-headed Goose, Little Owl, Grey Wagtail, Marsh Harrier, Caspian Gull (Lingham), Goldeneye and both races of white-fronted goose (Carthrope Mires).

It’s always great to hear what you have seen whilst out and about and whilst a photo always helps it’s never essential because I have a good stock and I have some great friends who are happy to share their photos with us.

Notes For Your Diary

RHS Harlow Carr

The East Dales Ringing Group will be ringing and recording birds caught at RHS Harlow Carr this Sunday, 21st February (WEATHER PERMITTING). Normal entry fees to RHS Harlow Carr applies, open 9.30 – 4 with last entry to gardens at 3. An opportunity to get close to and fully appreciate birds normally seen at a distance.

Through Your Window

Judith Fawcett reports a robin on her new, blue, feeder and she has had visits from amongst others long-tailed tits, a sparrowhawk and a very wet redpoll braved the snow showers. I suspect these will be leaving their flocks to start pairing up, prospecting for nest sites and eventually breeding, good luck to these delightful bundle of feathers.

Stan Beer at How Stean Gorge tells me, “Seen goldcrests, great spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers and nuthatches on the feeders at the gorge. They have only just started to come and feed.”

Jen and Jon Dening, tell me, “Lots of activity on our bird feeders currently. Here is a pair of Bullfinches and a Siskin. The latter is staging a welcome return as we haven’t seen any for a while.” Like me and despite national findings Jen and John’s bullfinch numbers are increasing.

Share what you see through your window with me.

Salmon, Kites, Trees and Defend Nature

Outdoors Again – 19 November 2015

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Salmon - Stephen Tomlinson

photo by Stephen Tomlinson

Salmon Jumping

Judith Fawcett from Jennyfields in Harrogate writes (22 October), “Enjoyed a few hours watching the salmon leaping up the weir on the Swale at Topcliffe Mill yesterday. There were some very large fish and apparently have been leaping most of the week. It was a first for me and saved a long drive to the Ribble near Settle. Not many birds on the feeders yet. Three Kite and a buzzard over Saltergate early week. My neighbour regularly sees deer near her bungalow. Had a Red Admiral in the house last week, it enjoyed feasting on half a pear and stayed until the sun came out then was out of the window and away. Not looking forward to the clocks going back so am making the most of the wonderful colours at the moment before the wind blows them off the trees.” Judith writes again on 11 November that she saw more salmon at Linton Weir and one at the weir in Otley. Clearly impressed, Judith enjoyed the sight so much she wrote this poem, ‘The long journey.’

Judith Fawcett - The Long Journey

It fascinates me that salmon breed in our waters and spend much of their life in the sea whilst eels and lampreys, (river and sea) breed in the sea and swim up our rivers as juveniles (ammocoetes) growing up in the mud of our rivers before returning to the sea to breed. Brook lampreys spend all their lives in our rivers. A totally opposite life cycle. Danny, my son, reckons this may be because eels and lampreys are very ancient creatures, a bit like I feel, and originally formed in the sea before there was any land. What do you think?

Red Kite - John Herrington

Red Kite – John Herrington

What A Lot of Kites

Alan Croucher asked me if I knew why there were so many red kites in the Woodlands area of Harrogate and Doug Simpson the ‘Red Kite Man’ reckons that as many as 51 have been seen near the Great Yorkshire Show Ground, probably roosting there.

Trees To Plant

Terry Knowles of Harrogate Rotary Club raises money for trees and then finds places to plant them in the Nidderdale AONB, as part of a carbon offset scheme. If you have a site in Nidderdale and want trees planting, British hardwoods, then let Terry know on If you want to help fund this wonderful initiative then again please support Terry. Terry has around 800 trees at the moment so this is a very generous opportunity.

State of Nature

The Critical State of Our Nature

In 2013 for the first time ever, 25 of the UK’s wildlife organisations have joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories. To quote Sir David Attenborough, “all is not well.” The key findings of the State of Nature report are:

  • 60% of the 3,148 species that were assessed had declined in the last 50 years, and 31% had declined strongly.

  • A new Watchlist Indicator assessing the state of 155 priority species showed that they had declined by 77% in the last 40 years. One in ten of the 6,000 species assessed using modern Red List criteria are thought to be at risk of extinction in the UK.

  • We know less about some taxonomic groups, such as non-insect invertebrates, fungi and many marine species. But if they are following the trends we know about, they are also likely to be suffering significant declines.

In October 2015 a further response was published entitled ‘The Response for Nature report for England.’ which outlines specific asks for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help save UK nature. To ensure its recovery, nature needs the UK Government, or devolved Government’s to undertake a number of important actions including halting species extinction, Deliver a network of special places for nature on land and at sea, connect with young people, provide incentives (or other financial measures) that work for nature and Fully implement and defend the laws that conserve nature – our most important laws that safeguard species and special places, including the European, Birds and Habitats Directives, which is under threat. We must resist attempts from Europe to weaken these directives and ensure their full implementation, thus helping to reduce pressures on nature.

Defend Nature?

This latter point needs Action now. In December European Governments will be discussing the Nature Directives and our Government is not one of the nine Governments committed to keeping the laws. This is despite Rory Stewart, our Environment Minister, saying the UK can lead the world in nature conservation. So can you write to Rory and your local MP seeking their support for the full, current Nature Directives. For more info, including appropriate addresses search Defend Nature and do it today before we suffer even more catastrophic losses to our wildlife, please.