Welcome to the Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society


Take a look at our upcoming events…
03 May Evening Nature Walks – Barden and Strid Wood
Meet at Barden Bridge SE053574
Leader: Lynn Loader – 865671
05 May Botany – Sun Lane NR, Burley-in-Wharfedale
Meet 10.00am in Sun Lane SE157466. Park on houses side of road.
Leader: Anne Riley
07 May Birding – Barden Moor
Meet 10am at Halton Heights parking area SE037555
Leaders: Brenda and Derek Parkin – 864036
10 May Evening Nature Walks – Eccup
Meet/park just past Bank House Farm (not in front of farm itself) on reservoir approach road SE293423
Leader: David Smith – 600613
17 May Evening Nature Walks – A Botanical Walk in Middleton Woods
Meet/park at Ilkley swimming pool car park SE118484
Leader: Bruce Brown – 467519
19 May Botany – Lower Winskill Farm, Ribblesdale
Meet 10.30am at Farm, SD828664, (leave road from Langcliffe to Winskill Stones at SD834659). Toilets and hot drinks.
Leader/owner: Tom Lord. Website: lower-winskill.co.uk
21 May Birding – Fairburn Ings RSPB Reserve
Meet 10am at reserve car park SE 886328
Leader: Ernie Scarfe – 851214
24 May Evening Nature Walks – Gallows Hill: Toads, Newts and Bats
N.B. 8.30 start
Meet Gallows Hill SE210459
Leader: Gordon Haycock – 968112
31 May Evening Nature Walks – Lindley Wood Bridge to Dob Park
Meet Lindley Wood Bridge SE209500
Leaders: Peter and Anne Riley – 862916

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.

Website Update

Apologies for any disruption to the website. We have been getting a bit more traffic lately and our bandwidth limit has been hit a few times. We are in the process of finding the best way forward to prevent this from happening in the future.

Friends of Gallows Hill

The friends of Gallows Hill (FoGH) Nature Reserve, in Otley, have published a programme of events available here. Useful information about the site can be found here. If you are interested in becoming involved, they have a group of volunteers that meet at 2pm on the first Saturday of every month, at the Gallows Hill car park.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 Results

The results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 have been released with a total bird count of over eight million. The House sparrow was found to be the most recorded bird in the UK again although the Starling was the most commonly seen in Northern Ireland. Around four House sparrows were seen in each person’s garden. The results are as follows:

Top 10 UK overall

  • House sparrow
  • Starling
  • Blue tit
  • Blackbird
  • Woodpigeon
  • Goldfinch
  • Chaffinch
  • Great tit
  • Robin
  • Long-tailed tit

Top 5 by country

  • House sparrow
  • Blue tit
  • Starling
  • Blackbird
  • Woodpigeon
Northern Ireland
  • Starling
  • House sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Blue tit
  • Blackbird
  • House sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Starling
  • Blackbird
  • Blue tit
  • House sparrow
  • Blue tit
  • Starling
  • Chaffinch
  • Blackbird

The Chaffinch ranked higher in Scotland than anywhere else and the Blue tit appeared in 82% of people’s gardens in Wales. It is thought January’s mild weather led to higher counts of smaller birds, such as long-tailed tits and coal tits, since more were able to survive the winter. The long-tailed tit was a new entry for 2016 – in at 10th position. The blackbird was the most widespread garden bird appearing in 88% of people’s gardens but numbers have still been declining since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

April Newsletter, 2016

You can download the April Newsletter and coach outing booking form below:
April Newsletter
Coach Outing Booking Form

Appeal from our butterfly recorders

Many thanks to Diane Morris and Paul Millard for all their hard work with the butterfly records for 2015. Those of you that attended the recorder’s evening will have heard their findings first-hand. In addition to the records you have kindly been sending them, they have appealed for people to report records from sites in Wharfedale which have previously gone unrecorded.

The Wharfedale Naturalists has a butterfly database dating back to 1948 containing over 60,000 records, but despite this there are 21 tetrads in our recording area, comprising over 60 square kilometres, that have no butterfly record at all. In an effort to fill in all the gaps, a list of these tetrads can be downloaded here and if any of these are near where you live or if you fancy a trip out this summer, try and see if you can spot a butterfly in one of our blank squares. If you are successful let them know, they will be pleased to hear from you.

Missing Tetrads

Missing Tetrads 1 – 21

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

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Moth report for 2015

mothUnfortunately, the moth report for 2015, from Joyce and Mike Clerk, did not make it into the printed copy of the review so, if you wish to find what 2015 was like for moths, please download your copy here. Many thanks to Joyce and Mike for compiling this detailed report.

New Habitat for threatened butterfly

In the spring of 2015, Nigel Heptinstall discovered a colony of Dingy Skipper at an old car park on the shores of Thruscross Reservoir. Unfortunately a large amount of aggregate, destined for footpath repairs, was deposited on part of the site which the butterflies favoured. Following discussions with Yorkshire Water and the footpath contractor, steps have been taken to avoid further disturbance of the existing areas and a plan has been devised to use some of the aggregate to create two new areas of habitat, to help conserve this threatened butterfly. The Wharfedale Naturalists would like to thank Paul Millard, Yorkshire Water and Fountains Forestry in helping make this happen.

Commemorative Publications

Jeff Davitt has kindly scanned three commemorative publications marking 25, 40 and 50 years of the Society:

25 years of the WNS
40 years of the WNS
50 years of the WNS

BTO Goldfinch Survey

Goldfinch pair
The Goldfinch Feeding Survey is now over and the BTO would like to remind those who took part to submit their data before March 31st. As a reminder, participants were asked to spend two minutes watching the Goldfinches, in their garden, record how many there were and what they were feeding on. The study aims to find out why Goldfinches have become much more common garden visitors in the last 20 years and what their food of choice is. A greater understanding of how they use the resources in our garden can help us provide for them when things are tough. Please click here to submit your results or print off a log sheet and send it to: Goldfinch Survey, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU. Don’t forget to visit the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch Flickr page for some fantastic photos.

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.

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 April Newsletter

Yorkshire Mammal Group
The Yorkshire Mammal Group’s April Newsletter is available here. It lists their upcoming talks and other events for the month. If you haven’t done already you can also visit their website which has a calendar of events for 2016 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.


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