Geltsdale RSPB Reserve 22nd April 2014

In spite of a gloomy weather forecast a full minibus of 15 members plus Colin Slator as leader set off for the upland RSPB reserve of Geltsdale in Cumbria.  The route took us via Upper Teesdale to look for Black Grouse, and although persistent drizzle had set in we were fortunate to see around 20 males feeding on the grazed grassy areas at Langdon Beck, plus a brief sighting of a single female.  Other upland species were also present, including Curlew, Redshank, and displaying Snipe and Lapwing.

We continued on to Geltsdale RSPB Reserve, and while we ate our picnic lunch in the Visitors’ Centre Steve, the RSPB warden, gave us information about the reserve and issues affecting its management. We were also entertained by live CCTV footage of a pair of Barn Owls that were nesting in the loft above our heads in the Centre.

The reserve covers over 5000 hectares, and consists of blanket bog (which is being restored by blocking of artificial drains and reducing sheep grazing and heather burning), heath, upland farmland, and woodland (which is being extended by natural regeneration and extensive planting of over 100,000 native trees), making it an important site for breeding upland birds such as Golden Plover, Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat, and Black Grouse. After lunch Steve accompanied us for a walk along one of the trails to look for these species, but unfortunately the weather had deteriorated to alternating drizzle and heavy rain, so birds were conspicuous by their absence!  However we did see Skylark, 2 more male Black Grouse, and some of the group had good views of a Ring Ouzel.


Fox Saltholme Colin Slator

With the weather showing no sign of improvement it was decided to leave further exploration of the reserve for a better day, and head back home via Saltholme RSPB Reserve!  We arrived there an hour before it closed, in very murky conditions but at least the rain had stopped.  From the first hide a drake Scaup and drake Garganey were quickly spotted, and near the next hide we had close views of a fox with 3 cubs. On leaving the reserve, a female Long-tailed Duck was seen from the main road on Saltholme Pool, along with excellent views of a Black Tern feeding over the Pool.  Stopping off at Dormans Pool a Sedge Warbler and Water Rail were heard, giving a total of 67 species seen or heard on the day, which was a good total considering the weather conditions.

We arrived back in Harrogate shortly before 8 pm, a long but interesting day with some excellent sightings, and our thanks go to Colin for leading the trip, and also to Will for a long day’s drive of 300 miles.

Robert and Cynthia Chandler


Yorkshire Bird Report 2012

YNU Bird Report

YNU Bird Report

The 2012 Yorkshire Bird Report has just been published this week.  It’s still £12 (plus £2 P &P) and is the most accurate picture of the status of Yorkshire’s birds!  Some stunning artwork by some nationally famous artists, some amazing photographs in the Gallery section (all taken in Yorkshire and not just rarities!) and a fascinating  map depicting where ringed birds have come from or gone to, from our county.   Copies of the report will be available at the HDNS AGM  (April 23rd 2014)

Reminder: The AGM will be at St. Robert’s Centre at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23 April.

Followed by two short films by David Tipping, featuring wildlife around Harrogate, the Scottish islands of Islay and Mull and the Channel Island of Alderney.

Trip to Skipwith Common and the Lower Derwent Valley 25/03/2014

‘Quality not quantity’ was the initial theme for our trip to Skipwith on Tuesday 25th March –I’m referring to the four members who accompanied our guide for the day, Colin, rather than the birds! The weather hadn’t shown great promise, (hence the small numbers?) but as we neared our destination things began to improve.

Wood Lark

Wood Lark Skipwith Common 25/03/2014 MiKe Smithson

Or at least the Woodlarks thought so! As we peered through the drizzle amidst the continuous yaffling of some energetic Green Woodpeckers we heard the tell-tale sonorous, rippling sound of Woodlark. At first they were not visible, but our patience was rewarded when, after searching further afield, we were treated to a close sighting of a singing Woodlark on a nearby tree stump. Mike moved quickly to mount his camera onto his scope and managed to track the bird along the ground. Then the bird flew off so we made our way back to the cars with mutterings of ‘Lifer’ and ‘First Yorkshire Personal Sighting’ and ‘pure quality

Duffield Carr was the next site and here we did indeed experience copious quantities of wild fowl. Some numbers were recorded, including 15 Ruff, over 20 Dunlin, 32 Whoopers, as well as multiple Gadwall, Pintail, Shovelers, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal along with calling Snipe. It seemed that our trip today had been perfectly timed to greet the arrival of the Whoopers whose progress had been reported by various messaging services earlier in the day.

At East Cottingwith we heard our first Chiffchaff of the day and found plenty of Tree Sparrows.

Skipwith Outing 25/03/2014 Mike Brown

Our final destination was Wheldrake YWT where this winter’s bad weather had left its mark with demolished hides and jetsam-strewn walkways. The conditions didn’t seem to bother the local Water Rail as they conducted their territorial squabbles to the accompaniment of frenzied squeals. And although we didn’t manage to find the reported Great White Egret, we enjoyed the search. Before we left, we had more Whoopers and views of four Buzzards climbing a thermal and combing the skies above us. We finished with a decent number of species ( 63 in all ! ) and even a little bit of Gold (in the form of Goldeneye and Goldfinch!). Thanks again to Colin


Report by Sue Harrison

News from the British Trust for Ornithology

This is an occasional newsletter from your BTO Regional Representative, it will be updated from time to time with information relevant to the Harrogate and District Naturalists’ recording area. Contact me by email: mikebtorep@gmail.com or by phone: 01423 567382, mobile: 07900 301112. Website: www.bto.org

New for 2014 a Nationwide Peregrine Survey, the last one being in 2002. In common with most BTO surveys these days the main fieldwork is based upon visiting randomly selected squares ( in this case 5 x 5 km), these are backed up with on-going visits to known sites mainly by local Raptor Study Groups, casual sightings of Peregrines can be submitted via the BTO’s BirdTrack website.

The Harrogate and District Naturalists’ recording area is within my BTO Region and a couple of random squares are located within it, I have already allocated those squares to volunteers but the opportunity is still there for casual records from anybody and should ideally be notified via BirdTrack, however, if you do not wish to use that facility you can always contact me directly. It is already becoming evident that people are aware of sites that are well know by monitoring organisations, this is not a problem and I am happy to hear about any site either within or outside my region, I can then have them checked with the appropriate people, you never know, you might have located a hitherto unknown breeding pair!

Please contact me if you are interested in current BTO surveys, e.g. The Breeding Bird Survey, Garden Birdwatch or Winter Thrushes.

Mike Brown.

Field Meeting Brimham/Sawley High Moor 25th February 2014

Brimham Party 25-02-2014 Will Rich

I wondered how Colin was going to cope with us all (16 in total) as we gathered eagerly at Brimham Rocks, energized with the promise of a fine day and clear skies.  But, obviously used to instilling a sense of order and purpose, Colin established ground rules and commenced by outlining our target species for the morning (Stonechat) and even remembered to add some health and safety advice.

Our morning stroll over the moorland was, for me, uncharted territory and quite a contrast to the area of Brimham Rocks where I normally walk.  We were soon treated to fine views of deer:  four Reds, two Roe and a Sika buck with a magnificent pair of antlers.  It was whilst we were examining these creatures that we became aware of at least two Stonechats in the foreground.  Their colours stood out beautifully against the surrounding pale ochre of the dead grasses and echoed the russets of the distant deer.

Red Deer Brimham 25-02-2014

There was a distinct lack of other passerines but we were accompanied at several points by the clear, loud and melodious trills of various Wrens.  And we enjoyed the unexpected zigzag flypast of a Snipe which had obviously decided that an approaching army of 16 was rather too many to risk.  Not so a Red Kite which drifted directly overhead, giving excellent views.  Further along, from an elevated position, we had a panoramic view of seven Buzzards soaring and occasionally clashing with each other.

After returning to Brimham car park, we relocated to Sawley High Moor for lunch.  Following a short game of musical cars, half of which were positioned at one entrance point and half at another, we were privileged to explore yet another area new to me.  The land, being part of a shooting estate, had vast tracts which were promising heathland habitat  and Colin expressed the conviction that in future  some interesting species might take advantage of the area.

Our target species (Crossbill and Redpoll) were sadly lacking.  Sounds of Coal Tit and Goldcrest were all that we could hear, though Colin discerned a distant Kestrel.  As we stood straining eyes and ears, a Sparrowhawk swept over the trees.  Indeed it seemed that raptors were the order of the day as we were able to count another six Buzzards in the eastern sky with a view that encompassed the A1 in the distance.

It was a great day out, despite the small number of birds, and we were very grateful to Colin for giving his time when he should have been packing for his holidays.

Sue Harrison

Field meeting at Staveley YWT Reserve 14th January 2014

Colin with capture

Colin Staveley 14/01/2014 Will Rich

A good number of members (seventeen) turned out for the first, mercifully dry, field meeting of the year.  This was very gratifying for our leaders, Colin and Brian, who had put in a considerable amount of work placing and setting the twenty-nine mammal traps.  Colin was his usual jovial, witty self as he gave a very entertaining introduction to mammal trapping.   He also had some Barn Owl pellets and a display board showing the skeletons of the typical species on which they prey.  Meanwhile, Brian arrived with a Bank Vole and a couple of Wood Mice, the latter of which escaped into the car park and  ran off.  We were not disappointed, however, as once we were in the reserve, we had ample opportunity to inspect and photograph several other Wood Mice.

Colin showed us his collection of mammal and bird traps, some of them now illegal,  and gave a quite horrifying account of the huge numbers of Stoats and Hedgehogs are trapped and killed by gamekeepers.

Bank vole on Will's shoulder

Bank Vole Staveley 14/01/2014 Malcolm Jones


The main species trapped during the day was Bank Vole but we were also able to see Common Shrew and, the highlight, a Harvest Mouse.  Bank Voles and Wood Mice seemed content to sit on people’s shoulders for a short while whilst being photographed.

Harvest Mouse Staveley 14/01/2014 Malcolm Jones


All mammals were released back into the areas where they were trapped  Colin also showed us skulls of various larger mammals, including Grey Seal, as well as casts of footprints.    No larger mammals were seen, despite traps being set for Water Vole and Mink, though there was evidence of Otter.  Many thanks to Brian and Colin, also to Bobby Evison and YWT for allowing us to place the traps on the reserve.

Will Rich

Field trip to South Pennines 17th December 2013

Kestrel Saddleworth Moor 17/12/2013 Peter Thomson

Saddleworth Moor, despite its grim reputation, was looking beautiful in the bright sunshine as we arrived at RSPB Dove Stone.  Walking up Chew Road towards Chew Reservoir we were treated to excellent views of a female/juvenile Kestrel which perched for long intervals on a rock beside the track.  Further along, our keen-eyed leader Colin spotted far off across the moor a white blob which, to the unpractised eye, might have been a stray plastic bag.  Looking through the scope, however, this was definitely what we had mainly set out to see – a Mountain Hare in full winter regalia.   Shortly afterwards, on the other side of the track, we obtained much better views of an equally beautiful animal, which provided some good photo opportunities.  The hare seemed unperturbed by a helicopter which was passing almost directly overhead transporting stone to fill in the moorland grips (drains).  A huge area of the moor is now managed by the RSPB and there are healthy breeding populations of Dunlin, Golden Plover and other waders.

Mountain Hare Saddleworth Moor 17/12/2013 Peter Thomson

Colin’s pager was now beeping repeatedly, telling him that there were Two-barred Crossbills (quite a rarity) at Broomhead Reservoir on the other side of the Pennines near Stocksbridge.  We set off in the minibus along the A635, past those places which will live forever in infamy, towards Holmfirth, then along some tortuous country lanes to Broomhead.  Unfortunately, it was the usual, “You should have been here an hour ago,” because the birds were nowhere to be seen.  They had been there since August and are there still (14th January).  In fact, the more enthusiastic of  our members have been back subsequently and seen them.   As it was now beginning to get dark we had to give up the hunt, return to the minibus and wend our way home.  Many thanks to Colin for “delivering the goods”  yet again (at least as far as our main quarry, the hares, was concerned).

Will Rich

Field trip to Druridge Bay 12th November 2013

I see no birds

Druridge Trip 12/11/2013 Alan Medforth

After an 8 am pick up in Harrogate I drove to Ripon in the hired mini-bus to collect a further three participants, to make a total group of eight members. Driving north up the A1(M) towards Newcastle and then skirting around the south side of the City and passing under the Tyne via the tunnel. About 15 miles north of the great river, on the A189 our first (two) brief stops were specifically to look for the reported two juvenile Greenland White-fronted Geese feeding in a field of rape, amongst a group of Grey-lags. These birds were quickly located but required very careful observation to confirm identification – the key word here is juvenile not immature ! A short drive further north eventually brought us to the coast at Cresswell, which lies on the south end of the seven mile long Druridge Bay. From Cressswell we looked out over the sea, which was flat calm, and with excellent visibility we soon picked out Red-throated Divers ( which numbered 20 plus during the day ), single Gannet, fly past Long-tailed Duck and  drake Eider. From this point one could easily pick out Coquet Island which lies at the northern end of the Bay.

The shore and adjacent sand dune system could be seen in its golden glory and the immediately inland complex of habitats ranging from wet grassland, small and extensive water  bodies, reedbed and various types of woodland were all laid out in front of us waiting to be explored. Some of these habitats are quite young, especially the post opencast coal mining complex of the Chevington area. At least six sites within the area are Northumberland Wildlife Trust sites. During the course of the day, in glorious sunshine albeit with a cool westerly breeze, we looked out over the sea at several points, Cresswell Pond (twice), Druridge Pools and the large East Chevington complex.

Other than birds little else was seen of note. With regard to birds passerines were very much in short supply, especially buntings and finches. Waders were few and of the common species. Raptors were also scarce – the lack of Short-eared Owls was most disappointing. But ample other sightings made up for the perceived loss. A small skein of Pink-foots coming in high off the sea, against a powder blue sky and calling as much as they could muster lifted the spirits no end. A superb drake Velvet Scoter close into the shore with Red-breasted Mergansers and Red-throated Divers around it for good measure. Then towards the end of the day, with the sun at our backs, a beautiful Bittern flew nearby into a bed of scrub and reed – don’t they look so big and tail-less in flight (?)

Flying Ducks

Sunset 12/11/2013 Alan Medforth

I often regard Northumberland as my second home. Today’s trip did not diminish my enthusiasm for the County and especially this site one bit.

The homeward drive was uneventful but to track back into a lay-by and locate an earlier lost flat cap was all part of the service !


Colin Slator.

News from The British Trust for Ornithology.



This is an occasional newsletter from your BTO Regional Representative, it will be updated from time to time with information relevant to the Harrogate and District Naturalists’ recording area. Contact me by email: mikebtorep@gmail.com or by phone: 01423 567382, mobile: 07900 301112. Website: www.bto.org

Bird Atlas 2007-11

One of the most ambitious volunteer projects ever undertaken, to map all our birds in both winter and the breeding season and from every part of Britain and Ireland. Over 40,000 volunteers spent four years scouring the countryside in search of birds, submitting their records to the BTO to integrate local information on bird numbers into coherent national pictures on the state of Britain and Ireland’s bird populations and finding some startling results along the way.

Over the last 40 years the British breeding areas for 74 (8%) of our bird species have expanded beyond their previously known range, whilst for 72 (37%) of them the range has shrunk and for 47 (24%) it has remained relatively unchanged. But what is rather surprising is that for nearly all of them there has been a shift in where they live. Every species has a story to tell.

For those species that spend the winter months with us the changes have been very different. Over three quarters of species were found in more areas than three decades ago. Improved coverage of remote areas explains some but not all of these gains, but the 8% of species now found in fewer areas are of real concern.

So, what are the surprises? Forty years ago the Little Egret was very much a bird of the Mediterranean but in 1996 this small white heron bred here for the first time. Since then it has increased its range in Britain by a whopping 16,350% and has become a familiar bird for many and one that our children will grow-up with and associate with British wetlands.

The charismatic Green Woodpecker exemplifies the complex changes we see. It has become more common in eastern England and has spread northwards into parts of eastern Scotland. Meanwhile, it has begun to disappear from western Wales, an area that is also losing its Lapwings, Kestrels and Starlings.

The “little bit of bread and no cheese” of the Yellowhammer is a sound that is disappearing from our countryside. Forty years ago the species could be heard singing in almost every village in Britain and Ireland. But Yellowhammers are now missing from large swathes of Ireland, western Scotland, southern Wales and northern England, representing a 32% contraction for this formerly widespread breeding bird.

The new Atlas is considerably larger than previous editions running to just over 700 pages packed with invaluable data and illustrated with numerous excellent photographs. Copies can be obtained directly from the BTO at £69.99 plus p.&.p.

Please contact me if you are interested in current BTO surveys, e.g. The Breeding Bird Survey, Garden Birdwatch or Winter Thrushes.

Mike Brown.

Minibus trip to Hartlepool October 22nd 2013


Hartlepool 22/10/2013 Mike Brown

Reports of a Pallid Swift and Western Bonelli’s Warbler made the minibus trip to Hartlepool a hopeful prospect.  We arrived with rain abating and a fresh SE wind. We all looked skyward but no Pallid Swift. It had been seen earlier that morning so surely it would return!  Having conducted a thorough search we turned our attention to the sea.  The first challenge was differentiating between two divers, one Red Throated and one Black Throated. On a receding tide, coastal waders were playing hard to get, two Purple Sandpipers, a couple of Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers and a single Bar Tailed Godwit flew over.  Among the Black Headed Gulls was one Mediterranean Gull.  Sea ducks were scarce, apart from Scoter and a male and female Eider on rocks. Still no Pallid Swift so we moved on, which is precisely  when the swift made a  re-appearance back at the Headland


Hartlepool 22/10/2013 Mike Brown

U turn accomplished, Colin drove back and some of the sharper eyed of us spotted it at distance over the bay. It was to finally return to roost on the church while we were well on our way home.

We called in at Newburn Bridge and got a much closer view of a Mediterranean Gull on the beach and a single Ringed Plover. Our next stop was North Gare and then the Zinc Road. The grass was quite long but careful searching revealed good numbers of Curlew, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and several Ruff and on the river we saw Red Breasted Merganser and Red Throated Diver.


Hartlepool 22/10/2013 Mike Brown

In the area around Greatham Creek were Shoveler, Dunlin, Little Egret and a visit to Dorman’s Pool gave us Pintail and Marsh Harrier, with Kingfisher in one of the creeks.

72 species seen and all worked quite hard for, but no one said it was going to be easy!

Thanks to June for leading and Colin for driving, making a most enjoyable trip.

Sue Coldwell

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