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An iconic bird of our region is of course the red kite and since its re-introduction at Harewood it has continued to expand both its range and its numbers.

Doug Simpson, the “red kite” man, has contacted me, as he does every spring, to ask each and every one of you for help. Red kites are continually monitored and one way of doing this is to register and watch breeding success. So if you have seen a red kite or pair of red kites in one particular area then the probability is that they may be setting up home there. If you think this might be the case then let Doug know via email to doug@milvus.me.uk with details including where possible a grid reference, although the name of the wood or other local landmark may well suffice.

Some of you have already seen possible breeding activity. On April 8 Roger Newman saw four red kites circling over the by-pass near Rudding Park and “one was carrying a stick, so hopefully we will get a breeding colony there.”

Spring Sightings

Elwyn Cox writes, “I live in Wayside Avenue and I regularly record bird (and other) sightings for BTO. On most days a red kite circles overhead for a few seconds. Since the beginning of February, every day, two to six siskins have been observed on our seed-mix feeders. This week, we have had a visit from a lone brambling, while two male blackcaps have come on the last three days. Last week we saw our first butterfly, a peacock.” Have you seen any butterflies yet?

Tony Brookes tells me, “I saw a dozen swallows circling Hopewell House, Hay A Park, Knaresborough on a walk yesterday (April 17), following my first sand martin near Eastfields, also Knaresborough, on Tuesday and hearing my first chiffchaffs near Arkendale on Monday. The two pairs of siskin attending our feeding station in Old Scriven have been here since February. They love the sunflower hearts as much as the blackbirds love to “mug” my wife for suet treats. We have seen a considerable increase in visits by greenfinches and bullfinches to the feeders over the last couple of weeks. Other birds in good numbers include goldfinches and long-tailed tits. However, despite hearing lots of drumming in Jacob Smith Park, no visits from greater spotted woodpeckers this year. This is normally a bird seen in the garden on a daily basis. However, a green woodpecker has been yaffling away in the park and I am hopeful he will find a mate.”

At Fearby, near Masham (April 24), Pat Everest has some exciting news, “I have had some great sightings this week. The swallows have returned to our stable end, and I have also seen the bats flying about our house in the evenings. We also have a pair of French partridge in the garden every day (beautiful birds), along with a pair of pheasants. They all tuck into the food along with our regular visitors including siskins. I have mentioned that the curlews are back, but now I have seen the oystercatchers back in the same field”

John Wade writes, “I rarely go out birdwatching these days, but like to wander around. Just walked around Rossett reserve, Harrogate, and saw and heard first willow warbler. Chiffchaffs have been around Oakdale golf course for over a week now. My wife saw a dipper there on Thursday of this week, the first for a long time. I thought the curlews, due to the weather, were probably two weeks late back on the moors above Beckwithshaw. We have had more siskins this year in our garden than ever before, mainly in March. The red kites are so common that they tend to go hardly noticed. A pair of sparrowhawks nest on Oakdale every year, and they seem busy again. We have just been to Mull, and the swallows and house martins arrived about April 17. But I have seen none here yet. What a size is the white-tailed sea eagle. And, happily, there are quite a few hen harriers.” White-tailed eagles get the tag ‘sea’ yet can be found well inland in Europe. Their range includes much of Eastern Europe, especially Russia, Poland and Ukraine although in fairness a lot breed off the coast of Norway as well and they seem to prefer the coast in Scotland. They also eat a lot of fish, another reason for the sea epithet? Historically British records suggest a wide range not necessarily on the coast (Walthamstow, Roman Leicester). Finally how big are white-tailed eagles? As big as a barn door is how many bird watchers would describe them, with wings extended that’s no exaggeration, with a bigger wingspan than the golden eagle.

Peter Dawson had a great-spotted woodpecker visit his garden.

Robert Brown reports the first swifts at Farnham gravel pits, Harrogate Naturalist Society’s private nature reserve, 13 on April 25.

Seen at RSPB Fairburn Ings recently wood sandpiper, garganey, nuthatches and siskins breeding, whinchat, avocet, black-tailed godwits, yellow wagtails, swift, little gull.