Monday, April 27, 2009

The Gamekeeper's Gibbet

Another Sunday. As a voluntary ranger I was out this weekend with assistant ranger Harry Nightingale and we spent the day checking out the local trouble spots for the remains of last night's excesses. Wheeldale bridge turned up several bags of rubbish - beer cans, bottles, barbecues and a tree which had been cut down to use as a campfire.

However this was brightened by the wonderful view into Little Fryup from Oakley Walls

And not far from Danby centre on the Oakley Walls side, I came across a sight I'd not seen in over 25 years. A 'gamekeeper's' gibbet. This one contained dozens of moles. I used to see them with stoats, weasles, rats, crows and numerous birds of prey.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Last Week

A varied week.
Sunday. Ran back to Whitby from the other side of Egton with dog in brilliant weather (15km) and found an occupied Barn Owl's nest.
Monday. Removed turquoise bathroom & tiles from our new house in Robin Hood's Bay
Tuesday. Trish dropped me off at Sneaton Rd/Scarborough Rd junction. Did my BTO bird survey, walked to house in RHB. Re-fixed/replaced damaged floor boards in one of the b/rooms, then walked back to Whitby and saw a Little Owl on the way. (total 12km)
Thursday. Went to the newly opened 'Homebase' store in Whitby.
Friday. Joined the Hawk & Owl Trust volunteers to erect a bird hide deep in Dalby forest. Saw two adders on the way in.
Saturday. Went with Trish to order new bath, sinks & toilets and then Trish won £70 worth of vouchers with a promotion run by Yorkshire Radio.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Song Bird Survival?

I read a bit in the paper recently about a new website 'Song Bird Survival' ( The website states that there is a need to exterminate or control song bird predators such as birds of prey, crows, and other predators - including grey squirrels & domestic cats. Now I won't go into the rights and wrongs of the latter two in terms of small bird predation, but why save songbirds at the expense of our indigenous predators?

The web site contains many flaws in its reasoning. There is no definition of what a song bird is to start with.

'Song birds', whatever they are, have been around long before we came along. And so have their predators such the Magpie, Crows & birds of prey.

I'm thinking of a 'Save our Worms' campaign and the aim is to reduce the number of Thrushes, blackbirds and other worm predators. After they have as much right to live as those birds that prey on 'song birds'.

Messing around with nature just messes it up!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Walking

Easter Sunday dawned sunny so setting off from our new house at RHB we immediately saw our first Swallow and took the now well used coastal path to almost Ravenscar before turning off up to the railway. A small clump of willows in a gully produced, surprisingly a male Tree Sparrow, followed by a male Reed Bunting and then a pair of Stonechats. Returning to RHB via the railway produced a couple of Willow Warblers in suitable habitat near the old Stoupe Brow quarry, now home to several Fulmars. Trish of course heard the Willow Warblers, I had to make do with spotting one before it vanished again. This quarry has two rather large boulders somewhat larger than some houses and comparable to similar such boulders in the lake-district such as the Bowder Stone and others. A line of old rusting bolts up the shear face of one an indication of a practice climb in the late 1960's.
Total distance about 8 miles

Easter Monday I joined North Yorkshire Moors National Park volunteer ranger Richard Simpson on a patrol around Goathland district, taking in Darnholme, Julian Park, where I saw 3 Yellow hammers and a newly hatched clutch of Mallards in the nearbye pond, on to Hazel Head, Hunt House and Simons Howe where we saw our first few walkers. Returning via the old mere created in victorian times for winter skating, and the old golf course built at the same period,, we encountered our first mass hoards of visitors.
We covered around 9 miles.

Before returning home I had a quick excursion to the old whinstone mine but discovered the entrance had collapsed and the exit along the fault line had been blocked off and was unable to locate this. I've had many interesting trips through this mine.

On my way back to my car I noticed a young male inside a car, who judging from his lack of clothes and jerky movements was pre-occupied with having sex with either the rear seat or a hidden passenger. I waved hello as I passed but he did not respond. The lack of manners today is........!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Chance?

I read my Whitby Gazette on Tuesday only to discover that two thieves who robbed a Whitby store after traveling from Preston Park in Hull have been effectively let off by Judge Steven Ashurst by having their sentence deferred for 6 months provided they stay out of trouble. (Whitby Gazette - Tuesday 7th April)

Michael Smith ( 21criminal convictions + 8 kids!) and Daniel Turner (93 criminal convictions) go free because the judge at York was considering, "Giving both men a chance to prove themselves".

Good god! They've already had a total of 114 chances, how many more do they need?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Birds singing in the night

I've spent many nights on the moors in all seasons and weathers. But spring is my favourite for listening to birds. Many birds sing or can be heard at night. 'Drumming' Snipe, the sound coming from feathers as the fly, and of the Grasshopper Warbler's lovely 'reeling' sound - which sounds just like the ratchet on a fishing reel slowly being turned are well known bird sounds and can be hear in the dark on the moors. Lapwings are another night time favourite. Nightjars too can be heard in recently felled parts of Dalby and other forests, their songs again sound mechanical, almost like a scooter or small motor bike. These birds too are curious and I've had them hover close over my head several times. Binoculars are handy at night too and I've often watched them sitting on forest tracks. (binoculars should make the scene a little brighter!!).

Fox, Badger and Deer will often approach you at night with much more confidence than during the day. My first encounter with the sound of a Barn Owl was initiated at night by the strange 'Shhhhhhhhhhhhh' sound coming from a barn late on night which I soon discovered coming from their nest in a nearbye building, now turned into holiday cottages at Stainsacre.

Many birds are far easier to identify by their sounds and songs. The Chiff Chaff which I first heard this year on the 17th of March is a migrant from Africa. A 'little brown job' (LBJ), as birders call it and other, similar looking birds. But it's sound - a 'chiff-chaff', is unique and unlike any other LBJ. So you don't even have to look for it in the canopy above. The Chiff Chaff looks similar to a Willow Warbler but the song is totally different and makes them easy to tell apart.

In fact identifying most birds by song is far easier than by sight. In addition once you can identify a few birds by sound it makes birding much more interesting as you identify the bird without seeing it. Something which is often very difficult for many woodland birds once the leaves are out.

There are some birds which are very rarely seen but are easily identified by sound. An obvious one would be the Grasshopper Warbler. Less obvious would be the now rare Corncrake - which calls day and night - and very few birders have ever seen one! Another is the tiny Quail with its 'Wet-my-lips' repeated over and over from grass or crops. Again, easy to hear but almost never seen.

Age takes it toll unfortunately and with each passing year my hearing gets worse. I even have difficulty hearing Skylarks, one of my favourites and Trish, my partner has now become my ears. It looks like a hearing aid is my next purchase.