Tag Archives: Wildlife

Connecting for Nature

Flower-rich roadside verge in the Vale of Pickering.

Flower-rich roadside verge in the Vale of Pickering.

The marvellous Yorkshire B-Lines project is the topic of one of the talks at ‘Connecting For Nature’ an event bringing together local people in Ryedale, Scarborough and Howardian Hills to pool their ideas for biodiversity action. The event will be held at Pickering Memorial Hall, 27th Mar 9.30-2.30, with lunch included! Places limited. The event is free but pre-booking is essential. You can book or ask for further information by emailing liz.bassindale@northyorks.gov.uk who is coordinating bookings for the event. Please sign up soon! Let us know if you have any special dietary needs.

Those attending will also be hearing from NYCC’s Local Nature Partnership Officer, Matt Millington, former Dalby Forest ecologist and local natural historian Brian Walker, North Yorkshire based nature writer Amy-Jane Beer as well as Buglife’s Paul Evans on the aforementioned Yorkshire b-Lines initiative. The speakers will be helping us address the conference theme of Connecting for Nature, thinking about the strategic, the local, the surprising and the joined up in working together to protect and enhance natural habitats.

The event is jointly hosted by Scarborough Borough Council, Ryedale District Council and the Howardian Hills AONB, following discussions about joining forces for coordinating a plan of action for local biodiversity. The workshop groups will focus on five key groupings of habitats, inviting participants to share their ideas and priorities. Delegates will be invited to indicated their preferences when registering on the day from 9.30am. The workshops will cover:

Woody places (habitats defined by trees – forests, woodlands, orchards), Wet places (including ponds, marshes, rivers and floodplains) Farmland places (especially arable and grassland), Coastal places (seashore and marine) and Community places (including urban and suburban parks, gardens, allotments, rural villages, churchyards, transport corridors etc).

If you have an interest in the natural habitats of North Yorkshire and the wildlife that depends on them perhaps you should have your say? If you cannot join us on the day, please get in touch so we include you in further communications about the new partnership. We need people with all sorts of community interests and connections as well as specialists in particular wildlife, locations and land management. Hope to see you there! Don’t forget to register your interest asap. The contact email again is liz.bassindale@northyorks.gov.uk  If you quote ‘Connecting for Nature’ in the subject that would be most helpful.


A Bounty on the Brow

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Some mornings on the way over the Yorkshire Wolds to Scarborough I like to take in the back roads. One such route crosses East Heslerton Wold to arrive at the top of Sherburn Brow, where it encounters the Wolds Way long distance trail, which follows the road downhill towards Sherburn before regaining the crest of the brow. Now this un-sung viewpoint offers a cracking view across the Vale of Pickering any day of the year*, but the added bonus on this occasion was a mixed flock of finches alighting in a skeletal hedgerow.  The birds were enjoying the bounty of a stewardship crop planted as a winter food source for farmland birds. These wild bird mixtures can be a vital crutch to the survival of some of our smaller seed-eating birds in the winter countryside and I stopped briefly to appreciate the crop and the flighty flock of winged seed-seekers.

A wild bird seed crop (sometimes called WBS mix by those in the know) is a tailored mix of arable crop plants left unharvested over one or two winters. Typically they include a mix of starchy cereals and oil-rich brassicas. Wheat, barley or triticale, a forbear of modern wheat, could provide the cereal element for instance. Providing seeds with high lipid content could be oil-seed rape, fodder radish or kale. Such brassicas left to seed will provide seed pods for a couple of seasons and the sought after seeds will be held tightly by the plant until a prying beak makes good its entry. Other seed bearing crops like millet are sometimes are included in the mix to increase the variety. The whole lot grows together and additionally provides cover and shelter for game birds in the barren months of winter and spring.


Wild Bird Seed crop on Sherburn Brow

One of the advantages of a sacrificial crop like this is that the seeds remain attached to upright stalks, safe from the rot and mould they would quickly succumb to if scattered on the ground. It can produce quite a wildlife spectacle if carefully located, by a thick hedge or a woodland for safety and warmth. This particular location, on my visit, had attracted 40 or more Bramblings, among dozens of Goldfinches and Chaffinches, with a few Greenfinch, Linnet and Bullfinch for good measure. While we enjoy our garden bird visitors attracted to seed feeders and bird tables it is worth thinking about the feast we might have in the countryside if a few more hectares of wild bird seed mix were sown on every farm. To recover their dwindling populations our farmland birds need not only to survive through the winters but emerge fit enough to breed the following spring. It made my week to see Bramblings and Linnets in double figures. Will future generations enjoy such treats I wonder?

* Footnote: The spot I refer to is one of my favourite routes to descend into the Vale of Pickering. While a sunny morning view is a joy, there is a phenomenon I long to capture on camera: that magical meteorological situation when a thermal inversion holds a thick grey fog pooled in the Vale while the Moors and the Wolds are bathed in golden sunshine. One can almost imagine Lake Pickering once more filling the Vale.

Holes and (Water) Voles

Chloe Hayes Water vole project apr13 003This year a student from Hull University’s Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences, in Scarborough carried out her undergraduate dissertation on Water Voles on The Carrs. Chloe Hayes sampled a selection of farm ditches, plus the River Derwent and the Hertford, looking for field signs (latrines, burrows, footprints, feeding signs). Chloe concluded that Water Voles are definitely still present in places. On Potter Brompton Carr, the best of the farm sites she looked at, 7 out of 10 watercourses sampled had signs of this endangered aquatic mammal present.

The habitat feature that seemed to correlate most closely with the presence of water voles in Chloe’s study was the density of ditch vegetation, indicating the value of the management of drainage channels to encourage a thriving  community of macrophytes (larger plants). Her observations also suggest that ditches with well-developed stands of reeds (Phragmites) are favoured, perhaps because they offer good year-round shelter and are a popular food plant of these furry vegetarians. Higher Level Stewardship schemes on some of the sites sampled have included capital works and ditch management regimes that may have benefitted water voles on these riparian habitats. This could include for example: retaining more consistent depth and flows of water in some ditches, where water level management sluices are in place; enhancing opportunities for marginal vegetation through re-profiling or through less frequent ditch maintenance regimes. Clearly there is a case for further monitoring of aquatic mammals and the impact of wetland stewardship schemes in The Carrs near Scarborough.

The dissertation is an unpublished student project, but if anyone wishes to learn more about it, or the findings please get in touch.

Local Heritage Day

775186_410525529024937_585619170_oIf you live in the Vale of Pickering please come along and share what the landscape means to you along with and old stories you may have about the area. You can also bring along any artefacts or photos you have to share. There will be experts there to see what you have brought and local groups with displays about the landscape, history and wildlife of the area. As part of the Lottery fund bid we are trying to build evidence about the area so would really appreciate anything you have to share.