Welcome to the Wharfedale Naturalists Society


Take a look at our upcoming events…
November 17 Tuesday evening talk – ‘A Thousand Years of Farming on an Upland Dales Farm – Past, Present and Future’
Tom Lord
Lower Winskill Farm, Ribblesdale
November 28
Birding – Anglers Country Park, Wakefield
Meet 10.30am at Visitor Centre car park SE375154
Leader: Helen Steward – 430398
December 12
Birding – Eccup circular walk
Meet at 10.00am near Bank House Farm SE 292423
(park on right-hand roadside just past the farm)
Leader: David Smith – 600613
December 15 Tuesday evening talk – ‘Birds, Bears and Ancient Civilisations in Northern Peru’
John Flood
Another fascinating tour report from John! Interval with Tea/Coffee
January 9
Special events – Winter Walk round Fewston Reservoir
Meet 9.15am Swinsty Moor Car Park
SE 187537
Leaders: Peter and Anne Riley – 862916
January 12 Tuesday evening talk – ‘Pennine Wildlife’
Tim Melling
Yet another treat from Tim
January 26 Tuesday evening talk – ‘Martin on Martens’
John Martin
Pine Marten natural history and conservation from a leading UK authority

The latest programme is available here.

All Tuesday evening talks are held at ChristChurch, The Grove, Ilkley starting at 7:30pm. Click here to show a map.

Birding Events

With Storm Abigail and unsettled weather in September, two of our scheduled birding events have had to be cancelled. As a result a new event has been added on December 12th, at Eccup Reservoir (details above). We hope the weather stays fine for this one.

Storm Abigail photo by NASA, MODIS / LANCE – http://go.nasa.gov/1O5uLft. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

BTO Goldfinch Survey

Goldfinch pair
With Goldfinches becoming more popular visitors to people’s gardens the BTO has launched a survey to try and find out why. It is attempting to find answers to questions by studying their feeding habits. If you would like to read more about this please click here. Detailed instructions on how to participate in the survey are available here.

Photo by Sylvia Duckworth [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Red Squirrel Appeal

The Wildlife Ark Trust have launched a fundraising appeal on the JustGiving platform for £189,000 to pay for the modification of the Squirrel Pox Vaccine candidate. They are optimistic that if enough people become aware of the appeal their target will be hit. The hope is that if the message about the Wildlife Ark Trust appeal on JustGiving can get enough publicity it will go viral; the only difference being that on this occasion a ‘virus’ will be saving the red squirrels not killing them.

If you would like to help the appeal please let all your friends know about it then tell their friends about it and so on. The link to the justgiving page is http://goo.gl//ttGuBj.

“Formby squirrel” photo by Peter from Liverpool, UK – A squirrel says hello. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Hay Time

The Wharfedale Naturalists are pleased to be able to continue their support for the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust’s ‘Hay Time’ programme, by contributing towards equipment. This will help in assisting them with their vital work to save the remaining species-rich hay meadows in the Yorkshire Dales. Previously, funding was provided for two leaf vacuums which have been well used and are in need of a service. In addition to this, a further petrol blower and vacuum kit will be provided and several replacement parts for the existing equipment.

If you would like to find out more about this project please click here. The Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust would like to thank all members for this kind contribution.

Nature Station

nature_station_logo_small With the weather changing, fewer insects are now available for the birds, and, although there is an abundance of other food sources such as nuts and berries, now is a good time to stock up on bird feeding paraphernalia. Nature Station has a November sale offering 15% discounts on bird food and feeding stations. Their website is also a good resource for offering useful information on seasonal wildlife and how best to attract it to your garden.

Some dates you may wish to add to your diary, mentioned in their current Newsletter, include:

28th November – 6th December: National Tree Week
4th December: Worldwide Wildlife Conservation Day

Hedgehog Appeal

After visiting friends in Sheffield, my one friend was telling me how he recently heard a hedgehog snuffling loudly in his garden. I told him I hadn’t seen a hedgehog in a long time and I remember seeing them most years when I was growing up. We had to rescue one from the middle of the road once, where it had curled up into a ball after being disturbed by passing cars, while it tried to cross. We fed it some of my friend’s cat food which it seemed to like, much to annoyance of the cat which appeared to run up a tree in protest!

At this time of year hedgehogs go on a feeding frenzy to build up fat reserves for their winter hibernation, which takes place between November and March. Like butterflies, they are considered to be an “indicator species”, and are supposed to reflect what is happening to our natural world. This is worrying since they have been in steady decline for decades and it is estimated we have lost up to 95% of these prickly creatures since the 1950s. Reasons for the decline have been attributed to their loss of habitat with much of our hedgerows being removed, because of more intensive farming and our remaining hedgerows not being as well maintained and subsequently less wildlife rich.

In urban areas, another reason for their decline has been the difficulty for hedgehogs to roam freely, in search of food, as more houses are built and gardens enclosed with walls and fences. Typically, they can roam a few miles looking for slugs, snails and insects and the connectivity between habitat patches has become much more fragmented. The use of paving and decking, more roads and car parking has also left hedgehogs with less cover to hide from predators and with bonfire night approaching they are increasingly under threat because they can mistake bonfire piles for good places to hibernate.

To coincide with “Wild About Gardens Week” the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal in which people can help by making a donation, recording hedgehog sightings to identify target areas, by following the practical steps in this booklet, or look to help increase connectivity between our gardens.

Hedgehog photo by Gaudete – Own work – please see Soil-Net project website http://www.soil-net.com/album. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

Gallows Hill Nature Area

For those that aren’t familiar with Gallows Hill, it is situated to the east of Otley, off Pool Road, on the south bank of the river Wharfe (See the site boundary above). The site’s name has rather grizzly origins since it was once used as a site of execution dating back to the Anglo-Saxon period. Today, however, it is a popular spot for the local community to connect with its wildlife.

The site has a variety of different habitats including two ponds which support good amphibian communities. Its keystone species is a healthy population of Common Toad and there has also been a record of a Smooth Newt in recent times. The surrounding trees, scrub and nettle beds also provide good habitat for birds, butterflies and dragonflies.

Currently the Friends of Gallows Hill and Otley Town Council are putting a plan together on how best to manage the site and, as part of this, the Wharfedale Naturalists would like to encourage members to visit so more information can be found out about the wildlife there. If this description is of interest to you and you haven’t already, please consider popping along.

Big Butterfly Count 2015

Big Butterfly Count
This year may not have been the best year for butterflies, but more people than ever participated in the ‘big butterfly count’, 2015. Over 52,000 people took part with over 50,000 counts, 5,300 on a single day in August. The average number of individual butterflies seen in each count had a 9% reduction on last years counts, which is thought to be a result of the weather, but the number of target species in this year’s count showed an overall increase. The largest declines in abundance were shown in Northern Ireland (-41%) and Scotland (-37%), who experienced worse conditions than other regions, particularly in July. Out of the species that showed an increase on 2014 numbers; the Holy Blue showed the largest (+151%), followed by the Silver Y moth (+92%) and the Ringlet (+75%). The results for all 20 of the target butterflies and moths are shown below:

Abundance % change from 2014
1 Gatekeeper 106995 17
2 Large White 83042 46
3 Meadow Brown 76713 16
4 Small White 72483 -3
5 Peacock 42754 -61
6 Small Tortoiseshell 31322 -57
7 Ringlet 27604 75
8 Red Admiral 21027 -28
9 Comma 18765 42
10 Common Blue 17932 -12
11 Green-veined White 14437 -42
12 Speckled Wood 12342 -25
13 Large Skipper 11198 24
14 Holly Blue 10334 151
15 Six-spot Burnet 9448 2
16 Marbled White 8071 52
17 Painted Lady 7416 28
18 Brimstone 6075 18
19 Small Copper 4395 -28
20 Silver Y 1912 92

For more information and an interactive map of the results please click here.

Yorkshire Mammal Group November Newsletter

Yorkshire Mammal Group
The Yorkshire Mammal Group’s November Newsletter is available here. It lists their upcoming talks and other events for November. If you haven’t done already you can also visit their website which has a calendar of events for 2015 here.

Butterfly Conservation’s Autumn Newsletter from Dave Hatton

Butterfly Conservtation
Dave Hatton has published the Autumn Newsletter for the Yorkshire branch of Butterfly Conservation. The first half of the year was a quite dismal, which he puts down three very dry springs and two consecutive damp autumn / winter periods. The second half of the year saw an improvement with an increase in Peacock, Comma and Red Admiral counts. Some of the browns like the Gatekeeper, Marbled White, Meadow Brown and Ringlet also appeared to fare quite well.

To view the full report click here. Remember to send your 2015 records into Diane Morris and she will make sure BC receives them, after adding them to the Society’s database.

Latest WNS Information

Please find the August Newsletter, Booking Form for the Winter Coach outing and Winter Programme in the links below:

August Newsletter
Winter Programme 2015 – 2016
Booking form for the Winter Coach Outing


There are approximately 7000 species of amphibian in the world. That’s a lot of species to remember! Luckily the British Isles is home only 7, which makes things a lot easier. So roll up your sleeves and let’s get frog hunting as David explores how to identify British Amphibians in this video:

Yorkshire Red Kite Newsletter – Issue 16

Red Kite
Please find the Yorkshire Red Kite Newsletter (Issue 16) here. Red Kites have continued to thrive in Yorkshire and breeding pairs have now reached treble figures for the first time since their reintroduction in 1999. They can be quite a distraction when travelling through some regions. One breeding pair have reportedly raised nine young, which has given numbers an extra boost.

Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Red Kite 9 Uploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Butterfly Recording

Since David Howson’s retirement, Diane Morris and Paul Millard have kindly offered to take over as butterfly recorders. As part of their new recording system, they have a new form, which they would like to encourage Wharfedale Naturalist members to use. This can be downloaded here along with some useful notes here. If you wish to print out a form and fill it in by hand, a suitable template is available here.

Diane would like to add that the butterfly recording should be a pleasure, and not a chore, so if you’re in doubt about anything on the spreadsheet please let her know, using the contact form below, or leave the entry blank.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message

Clicking send will forward your message to Diane.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

The Big Garden Birdwatch 2015 had over half a million participants and 8.5 million birds counted. In addition, people were asked to record other garden visitors such as slow worms, grass snakes, squirrels, deer, badgers and hedgehogs. The top ten birds seen this year were:

  • House sparrow
  • Starling
  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • Wood pigeon
  • Chaffinch
  • Robin
  • Great tit
  • Goldfinch
  • Collared dove

Out of the birds on the increase, Blackbirds were the most widely spotted garden bird, visiting more than 90 percent of people’s gardens. Robins have increased in popularity, jumping from 10th most popular in 2014, to 7th in 2015. Twice as many people saw Wrens this year than last and were spotted by 35 percent of participants.

Birds on the decline include the Song thrush, Greenfinch and Starling. Song thrushes are at an all-time low and have dropped to 22nd in the rankings and continue to remain on the red list of species. Greenfinches have plummeted to 25th place, which is the result of Trichomonosis, a parasitic disease, that has spread throughout the bird population, since it was first recognised, in 2005. It is thought the parasite may have jumped from Wood pigeon’s, who are carriers, to finches, at shared feeding stations. To help reduce further spread of the disease, the RSPB recommends giving bird feeders and bird baths a regular clean.

The next Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over the weekend of 30 and 31 January 2016.  More information can be found by visiting the RSPB website here.

Photo – “Erithacus rubecula with cocked head” by © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.