Birding in Wharfedale – List

Red Kite

Red Kite

Birding in Wharfedale:
Birds seen in WNS area
(1946 – end 2003)


1. The first ‘complete’ annual WNS list we have is for 1950. I have not included in the following table the year in which birds were first recorded for those that were apparently relatively common at that time and had been recorded in most of the previous years.

2. There does not appear to have been a consistent approach over the years to authenticating records of ‘rare’ birds: note of submission of some such cases to the YNU are recorded, but rarely the outcome of such submissions. In other cases there does not appear to have been any submission. If the WNS considers it would be worth maintaining this list in the future it would be highly desirable if we could introduce the discipline of reporting rarities (as BOG does at the moment). There were only two sightings of birds that would come in this category in 2003. An alpine swift was recorded for the first time in the area when Brin Best saw one over Otley Wetlands on 26th April: I attach a copy of the excellent report which he produced for BOG and which is still under consideration. The other was the second sighting of a red-backed shrike at Lower Barden reservoir on 15th June. This was recorded by digiscope (telescope + digital camera), an increasingly popular way of recording rare birds, and a splendid close-up of the bird was on the BOG web-site the next day!

3. The status of a number of species is confusing and evolving. Species introduced over the last two or three centuries have escaped into the wild, bred and established stable feral populations. The little owl, for instance, is now regarded as one of our favourite wild birds, although it was only introduced in 1874 and 1888. Another species, the Egyptian goose, has become established in some parts of the country, and was accepted onto the BTO list in 1971. There has also been a positive policy of re-introducing endangered species, e.g. red kite and, at the moment, the corn crake. Global changes in the weather area are also resulting in significant changes in the distribution of birds, e.g. the little egret has been seen in 4 of the last 7 years since it was first recorded in 1997. Finally, the situation is further complicated by the massive increase in bird ‘parks’ in the past half century, which has resulted in far more escapees than before: the situation being particularly confusing for geese (see note 1). I have had to adopt a somewhat arbitrary position for the WNS area. I have included the greylag goose, the mandarin duck and the red kite as ‘wild’ birds. However, I have queried the status of a number of other birds such as storks, various geese, ruddy shelduck and ring-necked parakeet as to whether they might more likely have been feral birds or escapees, rather than ‘wild’ birds (although all are on the BTO list). It is impossible at this distance to review whether or not these sightings, which have generally occurred since the early 1970’s, were of ‘wild’ birds. However, I have included some footnotes on each of these species and made a judgement on whether the balance of probability is that the bird could have been wild or is most almost certainly an escapee. The majority I have included in the ‘escapee’ category and birds in this category are shaded.

4. The number of sightings of rarities (i.e. seen 5 times or less) is shown in red.

5. There have also been a number of ‘exotic’ escapees, the most famous (or infamous) being the Eurasian Eagle Owl, which terrorised small dogs on Ilkley Moor in 2001/2. These are listed separately.

John Flood
WNS Bird List 1946-2003