Feed the Birds

Sam Newton – Natural Heritage Trainee, Land of Iron

Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) are a member of the thrush family, and an annual migrant to the UK from Northern Africa. They look similar to Blackbirds (Turdus merula)  but they are slightly smaller and have a striking white neck band which helps identify them (torquatus means wearing a collar). In the UK Ring Ouzels breed in upland areas of Scotland, northern Wales, and north and south west England; hence another name they have – Mountain Blackbird. They can also be seen as they come into and leave the country along the southern and eastern coast.

Male Ring Ouzel - copyright RSPB

Ring Ouzel are a UK Red List species because of their historical population decline – an an estimated 58% population decline from 1988-91 to 1999, and 43% range decline from 1968-72 to 2008-11. This means the birds are endangered in the UK, and are therefore of particular conservation importance. Action is required to try and maintain our population.

Within the North York Moors, local volunteers have identified Rosedale as an important spot for the birds. They’ve studied the population here in detail for the last 18 years.

The Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme has become involved with the aim of improving the local habitats, so helping to ensure Ring Ouzel persists in a landscape whose natural heritage has been shaped by its industrial heritage. It is suggested that the remains of industrial structures in Rosedale provide the crags and gullies that the birds prefer to nest in.

Rosedale landscape. Copyright Tom Mutton, NYMNPA.

A factor identified as a reason for national Ring Ouzel decline has been diet, which is mainly made up of invertebrates and berries. The red berries from the Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) ripen from July into the autumn and are particularly important prior to migration in September when the birds need as much nutrition as possible for the long journey ahead. Within Rosedale, existing Rowan (also known as Mountain Ash) is located on the steep moorland edge – less accessible for sheep grazing, and not burnt as part of moorland management. However, many are now veterans, showing that there has been little natural regeneration recently.

Another view over Rosedale. The dead tree highlights the lack of natural regeneration around it. Copyright NYMNPA.

So with advice from the Rosedale Ring Ouzel volunteer monitors along with support and assistance from the landowner, gamekeepers and grazing tenants; the National Park’s Volunteers and Apprentices have been out planting. It took a while because they were working in some pretty wild weather at the beginning of the year but they eventually managed to plant 150 Rowan trees either in small exclosures or as single trees. These new trees will help to provide the local Ring Ouzels with food into the future.

A small number of aged Rowans surrounded by one of the small exclosures and some of the single scattered trees. Copyright Sam Newton, NYMNPA.

The birds themselves have just arrived back in Rosedale to breed this year.

Have a listen to the BBC’s Tweet of the Day

‘Bloody awful tripe’ about trees

Aside

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Veteran tree at Low Wood, Hawnby - copyright Alasdair Fagan, NYMNPA

If you like your poems recited by the poet and maybe animated – click here. Larkin sometimes thought his own poem was ‘bloody awful tripe’ – and at the same time upcoming spring might be ‘corny’ and predictable but it’s also reassuring and propitious.

Born to be Wild

Dr Ceri Gibson – Pearl Mussel Projects Manager, Freshwater Biological AssociationFBA logo

The Freshwater Biological Association has been working with the North York Moors National Park for the last 3 years on the ‘Restoring Freshwater Mussel Rivers in England’ project (funded through Biffa Award). Our role has been to rear juvenile mussels ready for reintroduction back into the River Esk at some appropriate time in the future when the habitat is restored and the water quality improved enough to support them.

Rearing juvenile freshwater pearl mussels (FPM) is a 24 hrs a day, 365 days of the year operation with our staff attending the hatchery even on Christmas Day to ensure that the mussels, and the host fish that they rely on as part of their lifecycle, are all okay.

Proof that the FPM are looked after even on Christmas Day. Copyright FBA.

But it’s not a bad job over here on the shores of Windermere. Whilst the wind may funnel up the lake at times, come rain, snow or sunshine, the views are wonderful and we have a great team.

View looking north over Lake Windermere. Copyright FBA.

The adult mussels are kept in circular tanks in our hatchery connected to tanks which contain host fish. Keeping fish and mussels in close proximity under controlled conditions improves the chances of the mussels successfully completing their lifecycle. We try to maintain the mussels in as natural an environment as possible so they are kept outside in flowing water provided from Windermere.

We constantly monitor the mussels and fish to record when glochidia (freshwater pearl mussel larvae) are released from the females and when these glochidia have grown sufficiently on the fish gills. Then we set nets to collect juveniles as they drop off their fish hosts and transfer them to trays in our juvenile rearing facility. Whilst other techniques of bank-side encystment and seeded gravel reintroductions have been used for some rivers we believe that rearing juveniles beyond their most vulnerable pedal feeding stage, when they live amongst the gravels before filtering free-flowing water, will yield better reintroduction survival rates and allows us the opportunity to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

Back in 2016, we worked with Simon Hirst (River Esk Project Officer) to translocate more adult mussels from the Esk to the hatchery. This exercise followed a recently commissioned brief from Natural England and was very carefully monitored. It proved successful and we have been collecting the captive bred juveniles in large numbers over the last two seasons. FPM larvae are carried on the gills of specific fish hosts for up to 10 months as part of lifecycle. It is interesting that in recent years the Esk glochidia grow to excystment size (350-400 microns long) and drop of the fish hosts within 2 to 3 months at the hatchery. We are therefore monitoring their survival in the rearing trays carefully.

We have been working with other river populations to prepare juveniles for reintroduction into their native rivers. The trays they are reared in are indoors where the juveniles are well protected. So we have set up flume systems to expose captive-bred juvenile mussels to diurnal and seasonal conditions which better reflect the river situation they will be reintroduced to. Once in the flume we can control flow to ‘teach’ them how to adapt to flood and drought conditions. During these experiments we record how many mussels are deeply buried, how many remain on their side on the surface of the gravels and how many are roaming about using their muscular foot. We also record whether they are siphoning water or not.

We look forward to the time that we can repeat these experiments for the Esk population but in the meantime have a look at some of our other, older juveniles filmed in their flume – click here. Or organise a group visit and come and see us at the Ark to visit the Esk juveniles and learn more about what we do.

Rainbow from Mitchell Wyke. Copyright FBA.

Biffa Award logoBiffa Award is a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. 

 

Scrub, scub, glorious scub

Richard Baines – Turtle Dove Project Officer

If you are a farmland bird – such as a Turtle Dove or a Song Thrush, looking to protect your nest from predators and other disturbance – where should you nest? If you have any sense you will be looking for a dense patch of protective scrub or a large hedge (slightly more organised scrub) safe from dangerous raptor talons or avaricious eyes.

Unfortunately this type of vegetation containing older stands of Hawthorn and Blackthorn is becoming increasingly rare in the countryside due to creeping development, agricultural intensification and ‘tidying up’. Scrub can often be assumed to be a problem which needs to be removed. It has been an undervalued habitat in many conservation schemes over the years with other more showy habitats taking precedent.

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project is wanting to improve the appreciation of this fantastic habitat.

Scrub is very important for Turtle Doves. Their delicate nests are often built within 2 metres of the ground in a dense tangle of thorns and twigs. They need this structure to reach the ground to feed. Stock grazing under such a habitat can remove any value to many birds such as Turtle Doves. In the winter scrub is a fantastic habitat for roosting birds such as Long-eared Owls. These magnificent birds are also looking for protection from disturbance and somewhere to have a daytime nap.

Last week we started work on our first community reserve for Turtle Doves at Sawdon near Scarborough. We were out with the Sawdon Community Nature Reserve Group and a very hard working Community Payback team. We planted a mixture of Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Hazel to create a thicket of scrub for the future. Luckily the planting day was sunny and warm with many birds singing in the trees around us. Amongst the appreciative audience were Song Thrush, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammers who will all be able to benefit from the effort made to increase their local nesting habitat. Future plans for this site include pond restoration and a Turtle Dove flower meadow.

Creating our first community reserve for Turtle Doves - at Sawdon. Copyright NYMNPA.

Richard and Katie, helping to create our first community reserve for Turtle Doves - Yederick Spinney, Sawdon. Copyright NYMNPA.

Why why why the Rye?

Anne-Louise Orange – Ryevitalise Programme Manager

We’re continuing to develop our stage two application for submission in October to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme.

We need to explain and evidence why the upper Rye catchment is such a special area for people, wildlife, and the rich diversity of habitats the wealth of species rely on; and why it needs support to secure its future.

To help us we are delighted to have recently appointed the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust Consultancy to undertake audience development and interpretation consultancy work for the Partnership. WWT Consulting are pleased too and have written their own blog post which you can read here.

We’re keen to hear from you if you have ideas and views about the catchment – please get in touch directly or complete our survey. Your ideas and views will be used to inform the delivery phase of Ryevitalise which, subject to a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, will commence spring 2019.

View of the Rye. Copyright Claire Flanagan, Environment Agency.

 

A Date with a Dove

Richard Baines – North York Moors National Park Turtle Dove Officer

Was Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, a birdwatcher? As she sat about looking pretty with doves fluttering around her feet maybe she wondered when Turtle Doves would arrive back in Yorkshire from Africa that year!

Valentine’s Day has long been associated with doves, specifically Turtle Doves, and true love. This may have a link with science. Turtle Doves have been known to have a preference for monogamous partnerships; their strong connection is played out during their beautiful display when they first arrive back on their breeding grounds. The male will sing his soft purring song then fly up above the trees, fan his black and white tail and glide effortlessly down, making sure the female is watching!

Turtle Doves at Sutton Bank, 2015 - copyright Richard Bennett

Turtle Doves at Sutton Bank, 2015 - copyright Richard Bennett These photographs – kindly donated to our project by local photographer Richard Bennett – illustrate the wonderful care and attention Turtle Doves put into their post breeding courtship whether they are with the same mate as the previous year (or trying to woo a new one…. )

Sketches of Turtle Dove by Jonathan Pomroy

In the past few months I have had lots of requests from organisations in Yorkshire to talk on the National Lottery funded North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. Happy to oblige, here are some up-coming evening talks over the next few months. Please note romance is not guaranteed but lots of interesting facts and enthusiasm are.

22 February 2018 Newton-on-Rawcliffe Parish Council Newton-on-Rawcliffe Village Hall Starting 19:30
5 March 2018 Malton & Norton Green Drinks Malton Blue Ball Inn Starting 20:00
7 March 2018 Levisham with Lockton WI Lockton Village Hall Starting 19:30
4 April 2018 North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Dalby Forest Visitor Centre Starting 19:00
17 April 2018 Ryedale Natural History Society Kirkbymoorside Methodist Hall Starting 19:30
19 April 2018 North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project Yorkshire Arboretum Starting 19:00
24 April 2018 East Yorkshire RSPB Group North Bridlington Library Starting 19:30

A to Z: a quantity of Qs

Q

QUAKERS

Quakers is a commonly used name for the Religious Society of Friends. Whether the term was originally meant to be derogatory or not, it is now embraced. The Society of Friends was formed in 17th century England. Quakerism spread particularly in northern England during that century due to missionary efforts.  In the same way that Methodism took hold in the North York Moors in later centuries, the Society of Friends found ready converts in this area due in part to the distance from centres of authority and conformist religion.

The founder, George Fox, had an understanding of Christianity that differed from that of the established Church of England at the time – he believed that there was something “of God in every person” (i.e. an inward light), people didn’t need Churches or Clergy to experience God they could do it themselves and have their own direct relationship. This idea of equality of all and divergence from the norm didn’t go down well in a period of Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration. Fox and others who thought the same way and who met together to listen to God, were imprisoned over and over again. Official persecution ended in 1689. 

After the initial period of conversion the Society turned inward and consolidated. New generations of Quakers sustained the Society – they didn’t need special buildings or clergy, their local meetings acted as self-regulating communities. A way of life was expected based on morality, honesty, diligence and most importantly, an inner conviction. The life of Joseph Foord, the land agent responsible for the engineered water races of the North York Moors, provides an example of how sometimes it wasn’t always easy for members of Quaker families to live up to all the expectations – Joseph was officially disowned for fornication. When he was buried, years later and away from home, he did end up in a Quaker cemetery although recorded as a ‘non member’.

Maybe not having inherited a place in the establishment, and having therefore avoided a classical only education and a disdain for business, individual Quakers worked hard for a living and for the betterment of all. They had big impacts in the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries including railways, and the iron and steel industries on Teesside.

QUAKING GRASS Briza media

Quaking grass is a common wild grass found in unimproved or semi improved grassland habitats on dry soils and slopes, the less nutrient rich the better. It relies on traditional hay meadow management (grazing or cutting) to give it a chance amongst more competitive grasses.

It has thin delicate stems ending in small coloured ‘locket shaped’ flowers which are what quake and tremble, making the grass easily identifiable in the summer when it stands out amidst the surrounding sward. The quivering movement and the rattling sound engendered make this grass particularly appealing and over time it’s been given a variety of different names based largely on the movement – Dothery dock, Shivery shakes, Wiggle waggle, Tottergrass, Quakers-and-shakers etc.

Image of Quaking Grass from http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/quaking-grass

Special QUALITIES

These are 28 Special Qualities of the National Park identified in the Authority’s Management Plan of 2012. The idea was to put into words the elements – landscape, environment, heritage and the feelings engendered – that make the North York Moors what it is i.e. special. It’s not an exhaustive list, everyone will have their own opinions, but it helps to illustrate the fundamental aspect that the whole has many valuable and interrelated parts.

Special Qualities from the North York Moors Management Plan 2012QUARRIES

Mineral resources from the North York Moors – limestone, sandstone, alum shales, ironstone, whinstone – have been quarried since the prehistoric period. Quarrying is a lot easier and cheaper than actual mining but depends on the mineral sought being close to the surface so it can be dug straight out, cutting into and manifestly changing the landscape. The available resources have been exploited to provide for local populations and sometimes the national interest if quarried on an industrial scale.

Now the majority of these local quarry sites have been abandoned, but it is still possible to identify these artificial landscape features all over the North York Moors. As well as having historic interest – sometimes you can see tool markings on a face, these sites have been re-colonised to some degree. Quarry sites provide refuges of uncultivated undisturbed land where since quarrying stopped unexpected plants and animals have moved in making the most of a habitat of rocky outcrops and thin low nutrient soil. These often isolated man-made sites can be extremely valuable for biodiversity such as cliff nesting birds like Peregrines and Kestrels and alpine plants like saxifrages.

Peacock butterfly, spotted in Boltby Quarry. Copyright Roy, McGhie, NYMNPA.

QUERCUS spp.

Quercus is the genus (Group) name for Oaks. There are two species of Oak found in the North York Moors – Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) – as well as hybrids of the two. The difference between the two main species is that the acorns of Pedunculate oaks hang from stalks (peduncle) whilst Sessile oaks produce acorns directly from their twigs – so you have to look carefully to tell the difference. Pedunculate oak is also known as the English oak and the Common oak in this country because it has been so widespread in woodlands, hedgerows, fields and parkland. Sessile oaks tend to be found in upland areas in the UK, in places like wooded gills because they prefer dry soils.

Pedunculate Oak close up drawing from https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5mhcqx

Sessile Oak close up drawing from https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-5mhcqx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the most magnificent looking oaks in the North York Moors are Veteran Trees because oaks can last for hundreds of years if allowed to flourish in the right conditions. Oak woodlands are great biodiversity habitats for mammals, birds, invertebrates, fungi and lichen amidst the living and dead trees. Sunlight can penetrate the oak canopies to reach the ground and enable ground flora to flourish.

Upland oak woodland. Copyright NYMNPA.

Acorns are reasonably easy to propagate, by collecting local acorns to plant out in new woodlands the local provenance can be sustained hopefully for hundreds of more years.

Collected acorns to be propagated and planted. Copyright NYMNPA.

QUOITS

Quoits continues to be played competitively in the North York Moors through the Danby Invitation Quoits League and the North Yorkshire Moors League, in Esk Dale. The heavy metal quoits (originally two horseshoes forged together?) are thrown with the ultimate aim of encircling iron pins (‘hobs’), 11 yards away, set in a square of clay. Like all the best traditions there are lots of specific terms and rules used when it comes to playing e.g. a ‘Frenchman’ is the term for when the quoit lands underside (the ‘hole’ side) to the right of a hob.

Danby Quoit Club 1923 - from http://danbyquoitleague.btck.co.uk/Aboutus

Different versions of Quoits are played in different UK regions and countries. The variety played in the North York Moors is part of the northern England tradition which is also played in Swaledale, County Durham, Cleveland and Northumberland. It seems this north eastern sporting tradition, formalised in the 19th century, came out of a shared mining background and survived the end of that industry in the local area.

Quoit pitches are often located close to Public Houses or Village Halls, all focuses for social interaction. There are pitches (and matches)  in a number of villages in Esk Dale; a few years ago funding through the North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER programme (in a previous incarnation) helped restore the pitch in Fryup Dale.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P

A Ryevitalise Carol

In a desperate attempt to come up with a Christmas themed blog post – we’ve fallen back on an old favourite and adapted it for our own ends again. We’ve crow barred some of our themes for the Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme into The Twelve Days of Christmas – please ignore the lack of logic, any hint of a reasonable timescale and the very clunky meter. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas
as adapted by Anne-Louise Orange, Ryevitalise Programme Manager

On the first day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, an Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the second day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, two writhing lamprey, and an Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the third day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and an Alcathoe bat in a veteran tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey and an Alcathoe bat in a veteran tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, eight walks in circles, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, nine wooded wonders, eight walks in circles, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, ten engaged farmers, nine wooded wonders, eight walks in circles, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, eleven invertebrates flourishing, ten engaged farmers, nine wooded wonders, eight walks in circles, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Ryevitalise gave to me, twelve beautiful vistas, ten engaged farmers, nine wooded wonders, eight walks in circles, seven salmon spawning, six bird species thriving, five historic mills (pause for effect), four white-clawed crayfish, three enchanting rivers, two writhing lamprey, and a Alcathoe bat in a Veteran Tree.Sheep going somewhere, in a wintery Bilsdale. Copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme logo

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Talking about Turtle Doves

Richard Baines – Turtle Dove Project Officer

Our Turtle Doves are now in Africa, but that doesn’t mean our work stops.

Turtle dove courtship at Sutton Bank NYMNP Visitor Centre May 2015 by Richard Bennet, North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project

With the majority of results now in for our two formal survey areas (Cropton and Dalby Forests), along with many additional sightings logged this year, we can now announce our results. In 2017 a total of 244 birds were logged over 78 dates between the first seen on 17 April and the last record of one on 25 September near Pickering. Over both the 2016 and 2017 survey seasons we recorded 24 singing males in Cropton Forest. During our 2017 surveys in Dalby Forest we found 12 singing males. Our largest flock was 13 birds including juveniles recorded on 25 July 2017.

These results illustrate how important our area is for these endangered birds. In comparison there were very few sightings in the rest of Yorkshire this year and even fewer to the north of us. We have known for some time our area has been a stronghold for this species due to the committed work of many individual birdwatchers and the local Forest Bird Study Group. However this is the first time Turtle Doves have been surveyed as a single species in the north of England. We would not have been able to achieve these detailed results without the hard work of our volunteer surveyors. I started this project as a volunteer myself, keen to help these beautiful birds and I hoped other people would feel the same. Thankfully a small army have now joined the Turtle Dove brigade! Here’s a quote from George Day, one of our volunteer surveyors this year; “Being part of such an exciting project has been fantastic. It’s been a real treat to spend dawn in the forest with purring Turtle Doves”.

Carrying out these surveys can be fun in themselves, but we are often asked what happens to the data collected and is there a direct benefit to Turtle Doves? Within the first six months of this project the data collected by volunteers so far has been used to identify and target the best areas to set up new feeding sites and attempt to improve nesting habitat. I can now visit a farm, explain to the land manager how important their land is for Turtle Doves based on how many birds are nearby. This makes a huge difference to the delivery of the project.

Richard presenting to an end of term meeting of Turtle Dove volunteers, Dalby Visitor Centre 2017. Copyright NYMNPA.

We’re working hard to spread the word and plan sites for new and improved habitat to create in 2018. I have a Heritage Lottery Fund target to deliver 40 talks to groups in the three years of the project and I’m pleased to be on course to complete 20 by the end of the first year! It seems a lot of people want to learn about and help these iconic birds. From a small village community in Sawdon to a national Forestry Commission conference the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove roadshow is purring its way around our beautiful county and beyond….

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project logo

North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project partner logos