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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

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

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

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

Snaizeholme Field Trip September 26th 2013

Snaizeholme

Snaizeholme 26/09/2013 Chandlers

Red squirrels, part of our countryside for 10,000 years, used to number 3.5million in the UK.  In the 19th century the larger grey squirrel, introduced from North America spread relentlessly, out competing the red for food and spreading a deadly virus which left the greys unaffected.  Snaizeholme is one of a handful of sites in NE England which is being managed to encourage the reds.  After a longish drive and a short walk we had amazing photo opportunities of these delightful animals scampering about eating and ‘squirreling’ away the nuts which we had brought for them.

At the reserve there is a feeding station and information about how tree species such as Larch and Scots Pine are being planted to provide the cones which the reds prefer to eat.  Sycamores are weeded out as they attract the greys to cross the buffer zone created by the wild fells of Widdale.  Stick piles encourage stoats and weasels to nest as they help to keep rabbit numbers down.

I asked for nuts on it!

Snaizeholme 26/09/2013 Chandlers

Once we had all filled our cameras’ memory cards with cute squirrel photos we drove to Ribblehead for lunch.  Whernside and the viaduct looked stunning in the sun, so quickly delete several squirrel photos!

The drive down Ribblesdale showed off Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent equally well and as we had time, Will introduced us to a hidden gem.  An industrial archaeology site, the huge Hoffman lime kiln, just outside Settle, the back drop to which is a vast quarry wall where Raven and Peregrine breed.

Tea at the Ye Olde Naked Man Café in Settle and we were back in Harrogate for 5.30pm.

This is the last of the field meetings which Will Rich is organising after many over the past few years. Many thanks to him for so many successful trips.  Colin Slator has taken over the planning for this coming year and I hope there will be continued support for what will be a great itinerary. Will is still going to drive the minibus when he is available, so watch this space!

Sue Coldwell

Farnham Gravel Pit Members’ Day – 14th July 2013

White-letter Hairstreak

White-letter Hairstreak Farnham GP 14/07/2013 Mike Smithson

Thanks to good weather, about 30 members  attended Members’ Day this year on Sunday 14th July.  An optics and camera display, supplied by Marcus Grover from Northallerton, provided additional interest for those seeking new equipment.

Butterfly species produced an excellent display with many Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Ringlets recorded.  The White Letter Hairstreaks obliged, giving good opportunity for photographers.

Dragonfly species were also numerous with Emperor and Black Tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker and four species of damselfly. Many thanks go to David Alred who helped members to identify each species.

Ornithologically, the Common Terns were busy feeding their young on the islands, which are at last beginning to appear again as the water level recedes.

Sue Coldwell

Farnham GP 14/07/2013

The above photos were also taken by Mike on Members’ day. They will soon also be on the gallery for you to see enlarged views

Malham Tarn NNR Field Trip 4th July 2013

Common Wintergreen 04/07/13 Will Rich

Eight stalwarts braved lashing rain as we were conducted through fen and bog at the reserve, which being at 1200ft can be rather uninviting in these conditions.

Early Marsh Orchid 04/07/13 Will Rich

However Peter Welsh, our articulate and knowledgeable guide, compensated for the weather with his sunny disposition as he described the various plant species encountered, including Northern Marsh Orchid, Bogbean, Marsh Cinquefoil, Cranberry, Sundew and (not so) Common Wintergreen.  Unfortunately the weather ruled out sightings of any flies of the dragon, damsel or butter variety.

Lunch was taken in the old orchid house at the Field Studies Centre after which the rain abated though the wind whipped up white horses on the water as we toured the meadows and wetlands on the tarn shore.   There we enjoyed the sight of more orchids, mostly Northern Marsh but one or two Early Marsh and Heath Spotted.  Also of interest were Bird’s Eye Primrose, Butterwort and Marsh Lousewort.  Finally Peter showed us the drier limestone meadows on the higher ground, where species such as Milkwort, Mountain Everlasting and Fragrant Orchid flourish.  Very little bird life was seen during the day, the highlight being a number of Spotted Flycatchers,one of which gave particularly good views.

Malham 04/07/2013 Will Rich

Just as we were saying our farewells the sun emerged, so we headed for tea and cakes in Malham village where the weather was considerably balmier by this time.  Many thanks to Peter, the National Trust and Natural England for an enjoyable and instructive day.

Will Rich


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