Summer sights include ‘cute’ fox cubs

Margaret Savage's picture of a fox cub in her garden, below, tawny owl spotted by Amy Morgan and Stephen Tomlinson (s).

Margaret Savage's picture of a fox cub in her garden, below, tawny owl spotted by Amy Morgan and Stephen Tomlinson (s).

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Wildlife can’t really be described as cute, but owl chicks, and fox cubs in the garden have prompted several reader photographs. By Nigel Heptinstall.

Sightings

A cuddly tawny owl chick from Steve Tomlinson ()S)

A cuddly tawny owl chick from Steve Tomlinson ()S)

I’ve had a tawny owl photo sent me by Amy Morgan and Stephen Tomlinson. Amy’s was taken near her Spofforth home whilst Stephen took his in Hookstone Woods, Harrogate. Sorry, Amy, but I have chosen Stephen’s photo because his tawny owl chick looked so cute (no American accent intended).

I wrote recently about a red-legged partridge in Neil Anderson’s garden in deepest Bilton, Harrogate. Brian Atter wonders if it is the same bird he saw in Oakdale glen some time ago.

Neil’s bird probably has crossed the River Nidd from the Mountgarret estate whilst Brian’s is likely to have been released in the Oak Beck valley somewhere. Richard Yeoman tells me: “My daughter runs a dog walking business and one of her customers lives in Dunkeswick. During the last weekend in April I had to drive out there and whilst I was out at the house I spotted a couple of goldfinches on one of the feeders - seems these people get a lot of visitors and they feed them well.”

Margaret Savage writes:“This little chap was taking advantage of our cats’ outdoor water bowl.”

I seem to be doing cute this week and they don’t get much cuter than fox cubs, do they? I guess I shouldn’t really categorise wildlife as cute, should I?

At RSPB Fairburn Ings recently. Little stints and the avocets have successfully bred.

Hawthorn

Have you noticed a couple of interesting things about this summer?

The quantity of hawthorn blossom and the buttercups are both in my opinion better than normal. The farmers I suspect don’t like buttercups because some animals don’t eat them, but come winter I’m sure that the visiting thrushes will love a big crop of hawthorn berries to feast on.

Hawthorn is such a common bush and therefore probably goes without need to describe, Culpeper certainly thought so: “It is not my intent to trouble you with a description of this tree, which is so well known that it needs none.”

He tells us that “the berries, or the seeds in the berries beaten to a powder and drunk in wine are held singular good against the stone, and are good for the dropsy. The distilled waters of the flowers stays the lask.”

A search of the internet reveals “Lask n. A diarrhea or flux. [Obs.]”, so there you have it. The hawthorn is also known as quick thorn or May tree and the latter name is what is probably referred to in the old saying “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out.” referring of course to the blossom rather than the month.

Buttercups (Ranunculus)

These despite those lovely golden yellow flowers are considered extremely toxic and can cause blisters in the digestive tract, which may cause bloody diarrhoea. Buttercup may transmit its toxins through brief contact with skin and was previously used to treat skin abscesses. However, buttercup has not been used as an alternative medicine in nearly a century because of its extreme toxicity. I’ve never experienced any problems touching buttercups and I’m equally sure most kids and their parents, who have ever tested for butter fondness have ever done so but this does perhaps reveal why animals shun them. Culpeper refers to buttercups as crowfoot and warns against taking it orally. He does suggest however mixing it with a little mustard for use on blisters.

It seems that all Ranunculus species are poisonous when eaten fresh by cattle, horses, and other livestock, but their acrid taste and the blistering of the mouth caused by their poison means they are usually left uneaten.

Bug Photography Competition

Buglife have launched their first photography competition. There are some great prizes on offer, including a bespoke bug walk and macro photography experience for up to 10 people. The competition closes on September 30. Just visit www.buglife.org.uk/bugphotography for more details on how to enter. There are three age categories: eight years and under, nine to 15 years, Adults (16 years and over).