This old oak tree in Thorgill is in full leaf and host to hundreds of living creatures. It is older than all of us in the dale. Pictured here at the end of June against a backdrop of the moor. Each month it will appear here showing the seasonal changes of our landscape Updale Natural History Recorder
Old oak tree
On Saturday 23 June 2018 Rosedale’s Updale Natural History Recorder took 11 keen walkers along a journey through the dale visiting various habitats. Walking alongside hedgerows full of dog rose and walls lined with foxgloves and ferns was a real pleasure. The route included the river to Low Thorgill Farm, Thorgill and the hillside above Thorgill and the track north of Thorgill.
The banks of the River Seven hosted numerous birds nests including wren, robin, coal tit and dipper. Trees and shrubs alongside added nests of great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, nuthatch, redstart and green woodpecker. Further afield were willow warbler and chaffinch. All but one nest had already hosted a brood this year and were no longer in use or were last year’s. They gave a great insight in to bird breeding in the dale. A pair of green woodpeckers were still feeding young in their nest hole high up in an ash tree alongside the river and the group were very lucky to watch one of the young peering out of the hole. A spotted flycatcher performed what they do best, flitting out from a branch, taking an insect in mid-air and returning to the same perch. Over the moor a red kite soared high and curlews gave protecting warning calls to their young.
The group visited habitats which favoured some less common flora. Wet flushes revealed musk, creeping forgetmenot and round-leaved water crowfoot. Unimproved acidic pasture hosted our locally rare heath spotted orchid (just the one), bitter vetchling, heath speedwell and heath bedstraw. Close to the moor there was the delicate looking but robust chickweed wintergreen. Both trailing and slender St John’s wort was encountered on a dry trackside leading up to the moor. Three sedges included yellow, oval and remote.
It was good to see ringlet, common blue and small heath butterflies but none in great numbers despite the warm weather.
It was a pleasure to lead such an engaging and interested group Updale Natural History Recorder
Heath spotted orchid
Young green woodpecker still being fed in nest hole
A band of volunteers were at work in Rosedale Abbey on Friday 15 June, helping to clear one of the fields near the campsite of thistles in order to improve biodiversity in the area.
Dethistling – hard but rewarding work
If you are interested in joining in this important work, learning new skills and meeting other like minded volunteers, then see: http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/looking-after/volunteering
You may recall here in late March a female nuthatch preparing an old woodpecker nest hole to use as her own. On 26th March she was seen taking mud to the old woodpecker hole and applying it in and around the entrance. She also carried wood chips which she stuck in the mud to help bulk it out. She does this to reduce the size of the entrance to minimise the risk of predation or another bird taking over the nest site. Twice a great tit was seen going in only to be chased out very aggressively by the male nuthatch. The male, distinguished by chestnut red flanks, keeps guard during the whole breeding process and will fend off any intruders. During the early stages he sang from just above the nest hole and from the top of the trees. The female continued to ‘mud up’ around the entrance and to watch her size the hole to fit her body exactly was intriguing. She would go in and then squeeze her body out slowly, presumably allowing the wet mud to adjust to her exact body shape.
On two days in April, 14th and 18th they were seen mating on a branch very close to the nest hole. It is not known if she had already started laying eggs by this time. Some birds mate up to 30 days before egg-laying, others just before and some during the egg-laying stage. Nuthatches usually lay 6-8 eggs and the female incubates them after having laid the last egg. Incubation lasts 15-16 days. During this time the male keeps guard and also occasionally feeds her at the nest hole. The female was certainly occupying the nest hole i.e. sitting on eggs, on 27th April when the male was seen to feed her at the nest hole three times at 20 minute intervals. She actually came out to see off a blue tit and went straight back in. Over the incubation period more often he was seen to ‘call for his lady’, peering in the hole and flying off closely followed by her and they would feed away for about 10 minutes before she returned to her duties.
On 12th May the female arrived at the nest hole a number of times with food for her newly hatched nestlings. Each time she was seen to dip down in to the hole and out and away. During these early stages of feeding the young the male wasn’t seen to help but was close by in the trees, occasionally being heard with a contact call or short song. The female occasionally went in the hole completely and brought out a fecal sac for disposal away from the nest, cleaning up after her young. As days passed, the male was also seen to feed the young. Feeding young nuthatches at the nest lasts for 23-25 days.
On 2nd June both adults were feeding at the nest hole and periodically a nestling would appear at the entrance awaiting delivery. Obviously the young were getting big enough to think about leaving. The next day fledging was in progress, with the young being coaxed out by the adults, both having food in their bills. An adult would call at the hole and hold on to the food working back on to a branch with a fledgling following to then receive the morsel. At least four of possibly 6-8 young nuthatches were seen coming out of the nest hole and up the tree trunk flitting about in the branches. The final act was the male entering the hole and exiting alone not to return. All gone. 26th March-3rd June: the privilege was all mine. Nature is wonderful, especially when she lets you in Updale Natural History Recorder
Female nuthatch preparing nest entrance
Mating or more precisely copulation taking place close to nest site
Male nuthatch on duty near nest hole, red flanks clearly visible
Well grown young nuthatch getting close to fledging
These beautiful small butterflies are on the wing and in small colonies on the moor here in Rosedale. They are found on bilberry in a sunny spot with a bit of shelter from the breeze. Males are very territorial and perch on a prominent branch awaiting passing females. If disturbed they often return and settle on the same spot after a few frantic circuits. However, they can be hard to spot as they are well camouflaged against the green leaves of bilberry. Updale Natural History Recorder
Green hairstreak butterfly
Two of the earliest summer migrants come back to Rosedale each year, ring ouzels and wheatears. Both are back on the moor and pairing up. Ring ouzels nest on heather-clad steep slopes and wheatears favour open stoney ground. Both can be seen from the old railway line. Updale Natural History Recorder
Male and female ring ouzel
Despite the atrociously wet weather some wildlife are managing to get on with things. This mistle thrush is sitting on eggs way up in that tree. Often a rather untidy looking nest with bits of all sorts she’s got some sheep’s wool loosely tucked in there. Updale Natural History Recorder
To watch a female nuthatch preparing a nest hole is amazing. She selects an old hole, often an old woodpecker nest hole as in this case and she transforms it. She infills crevices and/or reduces the size of the cavity using mud and bits of rotten wood. She will also use mud to reduce the size of the entrance to minimise the risk of predation. The male, distinguished by chestnut red flanks, keeps guard during this process and will fend off any intruders. Updale Natural History Recorder
Female nuthatch working on nest cavity
Nuthatch uses mud and bits of rotten wood