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

Starting out in the past

Anna Chapman – Student Placement, Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme

I am a first-year undergraduate studying at Exeter University reading History. Public History is one of my core modules; it focuses on the presentation of historical knowledge into the public sphere and maintaining the efficient and ethical management of heritage. For this module I have to undertake a work place to learn the day to day business of managing a heritage site. The North York Moors National Park with heritage sites across the Park area seemed a natural fit for my placement and the Land of Iron team were kind enough to take me on. With my placement being only a short 40 hours, the team arranged a well packed and varied set of tasks around their National Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Anna sorting finds by material type. Copyright NYMNPA.

The first day here I worked alongside Kim Devereux-West (Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Assistant) at the National Park Authority’s Castleton Depot. We were sorting artefacts from the community archaeology excavations carried out in 2016 and 2017, by material type. I came across a lot of interesting pieces, but if I had to choose one in particular I would have to mention the poison bottles, usually in good condition, but what struck me was how common they seemed to be.

Some of the few none poison bottle finds. Copyright NYMNPA.

Later that day once the fog and rain had cleared we ventured up to visit the Rosedale East ironstone kilns and mines, and associated railway line. Having never been here before it was great to see such a unique and grand piece of heritage not only in its natural state, but also to see the work being done through Land of Iron to maintain the safety of the deteriorating site for the public. The remainder of the kiln structures still held a remarkable presence in the beautiful landscape of the dale, I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful juxtaposition the views from the top of the pastoral moors must have been against the fully functioning industrial sites in their time.

On the opposite side of the dale we visited the Bank Top calcining kilns. New interpretation boards in development will help provide a fresh and modern learning experience for the public, by telling the Land of Iron stories. As there is little historical record for the miners, kiln workers, railway men and their families, it’s important to convey the site’s known history and what happened there, to ensure these incredible heritage sites are recognised and appreciated.

Industrial heritage sites, Rosedale. Copyright NYMNPA.Having had the luxury of visiting sites along the moors, I also had the opportunity to help out in the Helmsley Headquarters. It was great to learn about the hugely varying roles in the Land of Iron team all working together to progress their Scheme. Having only ever been on the other side of National Park events and projects as a member of the public, it was extremely useful to gain an insight into the work behind the scenes.

I got involved with another aspect of the National Park and heritage, I got to help set up and help manage an event for the public. Malcolm Bisby, a local historian and power bank of knowledge on the Rosedale ironstone industry, is holding a series of talks – ‘Tales over Tea: the story of the Rosedale ironstone industry told over a four-part series‘. Part two of four took place at Danby Village Hall. The venue had had to be changed because his first talk at The Moors National Park Centre was so popular the rest have had to be moved to a larger venue. The previous event space held up to sixty and we were aiming to set up for around eighty. Despite this last-minute change of location and a lot of reliance on word of mouth, the turn out did not disappoint as the Village Hall filled up.  Malcolm gave a knowledgeable and engaging illustrated talk to the eager audience, who were also keen to get to speak to speak to him afterwards, showing how admired he is in the community. It was very useful for me to be able to see how much work it takes in setting up these kind of events and to meet so many enthusiastic people showing how worthwhile all the work is for community heritage.

On my final and very sunny day in Helmsley, I was working again at the Headquarter this time in the IT department with Sandra Kennish. I spent the day scanning published paperwork and entering the information into a database. It is really important to record and organise as much available data and sources as possible, and make this accessible in the future.

On Wednesday 18 April, ICOMOS celebrated the International Day for Monuments and Sites, whose establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983. The theme for this year was ‘Heritage for Generations’ and the events taking place were led by a group of chosen youth leadership who are emerging professionals in each of their countries. The events that took place were led by these groups using social media, and promoting the protection of cultural heritage with the hashtag #heritage4generations. If you use this hashtag when visiting a monument or event you can share why it may be important to you individually, as each human experience with heritage is different and unique. However, when each individual shares the story behind their monument or heritage, together with the global ICOMOS community, what starts as an individual experience of heritage becomes global, portraying the amazing variety of heritage and the effect it has collectively on culture across the globe. This social media movement is vastly important in encouraging the communication between generations and continuing conversations about heritage, so the cultural changes are documented from one generation to another creating an overall narrative for cultural heritage.

I’d like to thank all the staff at Helmsley for firstly fitting me into their busy schedules and looking after me so well, and secondly for teaching me so much about heritage that is right on my doorstep which before this placement I knew little about. I hope this isn’t my last time being involved in the heritage sector and look forward to visiting the National Park again in the future.