Annual Photographic Competition

Wednesday 18th November 2015

This years winning photos can be found here


Richard’s Nature Notes: May 2015 

A fox slinking through frosty grass one early morning at the end of April made for an uplifting start to the day, especially as viewed in the field behind my house.  Over the same field the other day two red kites were circling. After an apparent absence for some years, I have seen red kites several times in the Brantingham area this Spring.  Sightings can be reported via the Yorkshire Red Kites website; the organisers were pleased to receive my records and are hoping for more. It is noteworthy that this website mentions some informal criteria for the acceptable minimum distance for siting of small wind turbines near to woodland where red kites nest or roost.

 More good raptor news comes from Blacktoft Sands where, at the beginning of May, the RSPB reported regular sightings of a pair of Montagu’s harriers, with the male passing food to the female in mid-air.  In my own garden, goldfinches are nesting again in the rose arch, a linnet has been collecting nesting material, and there are regular visits by a pair of pied wagtails who must be nesting nearby.  There is also a notable increase in greenfinch activity; this hopefully reflects some recovery in their wellbeing after numbers were reduced by a nasty disease of the back of the throat and gullet caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae.

Did you realise there are several examples in our area of a globally rare habitat?  I find it hard to believe that there are reported to be only about two hundred chalk rivers (and streams?) in the world.  Most of them are in southern England and northern France, but, of course, there are a number of local chalk streams.  The characteristic clarity of the water is the result of it being filtered as it passes though the chalk before emerging from springs (interestingly at a constant temperature throughout the year).  I can recommend a guide to the chalk rivers of England which has recently been published as a laminated fold-out chart (price £3) by the Field Studies Council.  One of the animals to feature in the guide is the water shrew.  Earlier this year, I watched a water shrew on three separate occasions in Brantingham Beck.  It would repeatedly dart out into the stream, remaining visible for less than a minute as it hurriedly searched for food (which I presume would have included freshwater gammarid shrimps) amongst the aquatic plants and dead leaves.

 Gammarid shrimps are amphipod crustaceans.  Amphipods are mainly aquatic animals (fresh water or salt water).  There are also semi-terrestrial species such as the familiar sandhopper found under seaweed near the high tide mark on UK beaches, as well as some terrestrial species.  In the last few months, a colony of Australian landhoppers has been found living in a garden in Hull.  When disturbed they are quite distinctive as they apparently erupt into life and look like over-sized fleas: see

Hull Nats (Hull Natural History Society) are just starting on a project to create a database of Hull's wildlife. To do this they need records of plants and animals from the 120 kilometre squares which cover the urban area of the city along with a small part of the surrounding, more rural, fringe.  For more information see

If you are interested in contributing to a UK-wide database of records of wild animals and plants, you might wish to investigate iRecord.  It is an on-line system developed by the National Biological Records Centre, see .  I have just started to contribute records to iRecord.

Returning to things aquatic, a few notes about Great Crested Newts and Beavers.  Great Crested Newt populations have suffered not only from a lack of suitable ponds (although there is a pond near South Cave that has, in the recent past, supported hundreds of these newts in the breeding season), but also from their own genetic makeup. Half of all Great Crested Newt eggs perish because of a peculiarity in their genetics. How such a deadly genetic system evolved is unclear. 

Beverley is thought to be named after the beavers that used to live in the surrounding wetlands.  I am  currently looking into the historical evidence for beavers living in East Yorkshire, but have found only a few records.  Interestingly, Professor Bryony Coles, an authority on the historical evidence for beavers in Britain, proposes that beavers survived longest in England in the region between Harrogate, the River Wharfe and the Western fringes of the Humber Wetlands.  She notes, in particular, a bounty paid at Bolton Percy, near York, in 1790 for a “bever head”.

Finally, a date for your diary: Sunday 5th July. Insect Festival in York (at the Hospitium in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens) organised by the Royal Entomological Society.




Wildflower Meadow Opening

Sunday 11th May 2014

A large following of members of the 'Wolds & Riverbank Countryside Society' turned out to witness the official opening of the society's new wildflower meadow adjacent to their wood on Brantingham Road. Following the cutting of the ribbon to open the meadow, members had brought along a selection of food and drinks for an afternoon picnic. Though the weather threatened heavy rain showers for the day none were forthcoming and all were able to enjoy a dry afternoon though a little on the cold and windy side.

Tree Planting Project  Link to photographs



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