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Signs of Spring – Well Maybe!

Jo Poole wrote in mid March before the unseasonal weather “Sad to say, I saw no sign of “our” frogs or spawn today in the Valley Gardens (Jo was the lady I mentioned a few weeks back who ‘led’ me to a small clump of frog spawn in the Valley Gardens). It seems that the snow melt has unkindly swept them away. Today I have seen two blackbirds arguing over a female (the same the whole world over.....!) and two dunnocks playing chase. I think spring is in the air despite the low temperatures.”

Roger Graville reports frogspawn, “Well, some arrived in my pond in Arncliffe Road, Harrogate,on March 18. I thought at first it was the residue of snow, as it was in two clumps on top of some underwater pots, but on closer inspection realised what it was. Today the pond is frozen over again, and some of the spawn appears to be frozen as well, so it remains to be seen how many tadpoles will hatch.” There is a body of opinion that the top layers of frogspawn protect the bottom layers from the frost, until eventually it all sinks below freezing level, so hopefully that is the case with folk whose spawn has been hatched before the dreadful cold weather.

The unseasonal weather seems to have done little to dampen the ardour of some of our wildlife as this photo of hares in the snow taken by Stephen Mobbs demonstrate. Stephen amply describes the weather conditions, “This weekend has seen exceptionally harsh conditions for this region. The fields on the higher ground surrounding Harrogate have been almost scoured clear of snow by the strong easterly wind, with the snow now forming huge drifts behind walls and across minor roads. This has not deterred the typical behaviour of March hares. The attached pictures show two hares between Penny Pot Lane and Beaver Dyke Reservoir” Stephen also writes, “A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the arrival of the curlews, establishing their territories in the fields in Felliscliffe. For birds which move to sea level to avoid the coldest winter conditions, the recent blast of snowy weather must have come as a shock. However, there’s no sign of them giving up their territories, even temporarily. They are still calling and displaying, even in the worst conditions. The attached pictures show one of several curlews feeding amongst a flock of Canada and Greylag geese close to Penny Pot Lane on Sunday, March 24. The birds are just visible through the drifting snow.” I’m not so sure how well Stephen’s curlew photos will turn out but they again amply demonstrate the harsh conditions with curlew alongside canada geese enduring a partial blizzard.

Young Birds

DM Dimmack-Kneale from Harewood Road, Harrogate, contacted me to say, “Just prior to our summers becoming extended winters, I was in the garden doing some hoeing, six feet in front of me, on the lawn, were three song thrushes, mum and two young, who were being given the boot. When finally they left, their mum looked sad, then she followed them. She needn’t have worried, they were well prepared, they knew the best surface to use, for preparing escargot. It’s very sad that so much wildlife habitat and wildlife is being lost. Harrogate is a fine example. People don’t consider wildlife. Dimmack-Kneale has also been red kite watching, “This month so far, I’ve seen a kite nine times. Number nine, while sitting writing this, it circled a few times then flew into someone’s garden. Once when out, it flew about 25ft above me, before scanning gardens for scraps. About an hour after watching the kite, a sparrowhawk passed the window. Is it normal for a kite to spend so much time around dwellings?” Firstly I cannot agree more with the correspondent regarding the loss of habitat and wildlife, at least Harrogate Borough Council has committed to supporting wildlife; let’s hope it bears fruit. Regarding kites and spending time around dwellings, they will go wherever food is to be found, but please do not put food out for kites as in the long run it can be detrimental. Let them find their own food.

Graham White tells me that blackbirds have hatched young in a nest in his Bilton, Harrogate garden.

Robert Brown advises that two sand martins have been seen at Farnham, Harrogate Naturalists’ Society’s private nature reserve.

Danny and I saw two wheatear at Scar House and little ringed plover and chiffchaff at Nosterfield Nature Reserve on April 9. also seen by others at Nosterfield, Mediterranean gull two pairs of pintail and three goldeneye still present. A single sand martin has also been sighted, the only so far!

Recent sightings at RSPB Fairburn Ings in past few days, include, black-necked grebe, avocets, bitterns, goshawk, a sprinkling of chiffchaffs, sand martins and 20 brambling.