Dragonflies Don’t Care Where!

Wendy Binns snapped these dragonflies, which I think are common darters, doing their bit to ensure the survival of the species, on her husband’s fine sun hat. She writes, “It was such a glorious weekend and these dragonflies landed on my husband’s sun hat in the garden and refused to leave even when he took it off!” Later Wendy encountered another dragonfly, this time on the hedge in her garden, which I think is a southern hawker. I have to admit that dragonfly identification remains difficult so any knowledgeable person out there is welcome to correct me. Roger Litton has also enjoyed seeing common darter dragonflies, “We went to Harlow Carr on Friday and saw quite a number of smaller dragonflies. I photographed this female common darter. Encouraged by these sightings, I went down to the Rossett reserve on Saturday where I saw only a couple of male common darters. The ponds at the reserve are quite low and one of the main ones (by the boardwalk) is almost completely choked with weed; the second pond has bulrushes encroaching so the useable area is rapidly diminishing.”

2014 Calendar

The Bilton Conservation Group (Harrogate) has announced that their calendar for 2014, featuring images taken in the Nidd Gorge, is now available. It can be ordered for £5, with free delivery in the Harrogate area, from Keith Wilkinson, the honorary secretary, on email keith2niddgorge@talktalk.net or phone 01423 564708.


Rob Hardcastle tells me that “the ring-necked parakeet is still knocking around the gardens here at the top of Jennyfield (Harrogate). It was happily feeding on our ripening apples yesterday evening. Any other reports within and around Harrogate?” Has anyone else seen any members of the parrot family in the wild recently?

I’m delighted to hear that John Wade has plenty of starlings in his garden, “I cannot understand why we have no starlings in our garden, then fill the feeders, and within two minutes we have 20. Do they have scouts watching, or what?” I have seen very few starlings in our garden this year, although I believe a pair did breed successfully and then left taking their friends with them. Why they suddenly appear is of course anyone’s guess, but if you are living in the wild you surely need much more acute senses than us humans, who only need a supermarket or corner shop sign to know where food can be obtained.

Roger Litton makes an interesting observation, “There seem to be far fewer wasps around this year. We normally have many on the plums (which have done well this year) but so far have seen only one or two. It is easy to overlook the fact that wasps are carnivorous. In the Valley Gardens on Friday I came across the remains of a pigeon (presumably the victim of a sparrowhawk) which had attracted a fair few wasps feeding on what little meat was left - again I attach a photo. Last month the family had a few wasps round their picnic - one of which flew off with a small piece of ham and then kept returning for more!” Wasps, especially those with yellow and black stripes (social wasps) and which aren’t welcome at picnics in fact are often omnivorous, they’ll eat anything but especially fallen fruit, nectar (hence their importance as pollinators) and as Roger has noted carrion. Why there are so few wasps is a mystery, but it may be because they have had such poor summers in past years. Social wasps divide their colonies into male, female and worker wasps, but these colonies only last a year and new ones need to be started each spring. Queens which survive the winter build a new nest with just a few cells, into each of which she lays an egg, which turns into a larva and she then must feed it. Around a month later the first larva hatches and takes on the worker’s role. In this way the colony builds up and by September a wasps’ nest might hold as many as 25,000 individuals, although more frequently between 4,000 and 10,000. I wouldn’t want the job of counting them!

Fountains Abbey Floodlit

Every Saturday in October and the first Saturday in November Fountains Abbey will be floodlit between 59.30pm. Admission is half price or free for National Trust and English Heritage members. There will also be a local choir performing in the cellarium between 7.30-8.30pm. If it’s cold, and I reckon it’s a possibility ,then there will be hot soup and drinks available in the tea rooms and a delicious hog roast. If you are lucky you might also see the many different species of bats which live at Fountains Abbey, one of Northern England’s best bat sites.

Please ensure that all photos are high resolution, at least 400kb. Make the subject for all emails FAO Outdoor Column, thanks!