Connecting for Nature

A Biodiversity Partnership for Ryedale, Scarborough and the Howardian Hills


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Local Nature Partnership fund

 

The North Yorkshire and York Local Nature Partnership (LNP) is offering small grants through its new Community Fund. This fund has been created to support the activities of LNP partners and interested groups that are delivering the LNP’s vision, which is “to see the natural environment of North Yorkshire and York conserved, enhanced and connected for the benefit of wildlife, people and the economy.”

The fund is open to anyone working within the LNP’s area (see map above) and covers a wider range of activities, from capital items to insurance and staff costs. Applicants can bid for between £500 and £5,000.

The deadline for applications is 4 March 2018. For more information about this fund, including the guidance notes and application form, please contact:

Matt Millington, Local Nature Partnership Development Officer
Matthew.Millington@northyorks.gov.uk

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Kittiwake mitigation on the Futurist

20180201_091017.jpgThe iconic Futurist Theatre on Foreshore Road in Scarborough is being demolished this spring. This has been a controversial decision for many reasons, but planning permission was granted last autumn for the clearance of the site and stabilizing the steep cliff slope behind it, to pave the way for future development on the site.

This post will not explore the issues around the campaign to save the historic building, but it will focus on how nesting birds – in particular Kittiwakes, which have used the building’s ledges to nest upon in recent years, will be protected from harm as the process of taking down the complex of buildings proceeds.

The lead contractors, Willmott-Dixon take pride in doing their job carefully and correctly, staying within all legal obligations. Knowing that the structure has offered nest sites for the seabirds and that the engineers’ schedule for carefully dismantling the building requires that the demolition, commencing soon, will extend into the Kittiwake breeding season they have sought specialist services to make every effort that the gulls will not attempt to begin nest building on the Futurist. It is anticipated that the birds will seek nest sites on other nearby buildings; there are many seafront buildings in Scarborough already colonised by Kittiwakes.

Estimates by the contractor’s  ecologist put the number of nests last season at around a dozen, though the total number of  old kittiwake nests currently on the building – remaining from past seasons is several times that figure. A confirmed number will be gained as they complete de-nesting prior to netting the building.

Nesting Instinct

Kittiwakes return from the ocean in mid to late Feb and begin gathering in ‘rafts’ on the sea, before the nesting instinct draws them to seek suitable ledges. Pairs which nested on the Futurist before will no doubt come back looking to get access, but if they commence building a new nest – or more typically adding to an existing old one, then their nest becomes protected by law from removal or destruction. Naturally this presents a headache for the contractors as it would mean that demolition of the part of the building with a nest on would have to halt until the nest was vacated at the end of the season.

Preventative Measures

An array of measures will be deployed by the contractors to dissuade Kittiwakes from landing on and starting to build nests on the old building. This is perfectly legal and humane, but technically challenging, hence multiple approaches will be used, a ‘belt and braces’ plan if you like. Chief among them is the removal of all the old existing (unoccupied) nests and the shrouding of the building in fine mesh netting, fitted by specialist and tensioned in two directions. The aim is to complete this by mid February. Regular routine inspections of the netting ensue both to check its integrity and its safety with respect to the birds. If any bird should become entangled, an emergency response team, paid by the contractor will be on call to attend and release the animal before it suffers injury. This is very important and an obligation not universally followed by premises with exclusion netting installed – see the earlier post sharing an RSPB blog on this very topic.

In addition a number of solar powered sonic deterrents will be deployed. These are devices which mimic the Kittiwakes alarm calls and will hopefully persuade them to relocate to other nearby buildings out of range of the sound. A special ‘olfactory / visual’ bird deterrent gel applied to ledges will also contribute to the proofing measures. The bird gel is said to reflect UV light in such a way that birds won’t approach it. A similar ‘fire gel’ product has been successfully employed for some years on the Rotunda Museum nearby.

Another approach the contractors are employing is that operatives patrolling the building can deter birds which despite all these measures do land on the Futurist with a special optical device, akin to a laser pointer. Apparently gulls legs, being cooler than their general body temperature are very sensitive to warmth. A spot of light played across their legs when perched will cause them to take off again. Finally there will be ‘hawk on a string’ bird-scarers flying near the building, such as may be seen on some farmers fields.

Willmott-Dixon plans to display an information notices on the hoardings around the building site, illustrating how to recognize Kittiwakes and providing an emergency phone number to call in the unlikely event that, despite all these measures a Kittiwake, or any other bird does become entangled in the netting. It is really pleasing to work with a contractor which takes its responsibilities so seriously and has gone out of its way to do everything practically possible.

The proposed Kittiwake protection plan has been shared with representatives from the  recently formed Yorkshire Urban Gull Forum, including RSPCA Inspector Geoff Edmond, SBC Ecologist Tim Burkinshaw and Scarborough Birders’ Nick Addey. Scarborough Birders will collaborate in monitoring the colony in the town, as they have done for some years now, and advise on whether the loss of the small number of nesting ledges on the Futurist appears to have any impact going forth on the numbers of active nests elsewhere in Scarborough. In future years, when the site is finally developed, we will re-assess the question of whether to furnish the new structure with suitable ledges for Kittiwakes to return to the site, by way of mitigation for those lost to demolition this season. Given that there are ample unoccupied ledges on nearby buildings at present we are not currently concerned that the Futurist nesting site will be an empty development plot for a period of time. The situation will be monitored however.


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A tale of two seabirds

I would like to share with you a recent RSPB community blog on urban gulls in Scarborough,   A tale of two seabirds – Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls in Scarborough is about the problems, as some perceive them, of living in proximity to these two urban-nesting gull species. More crucially it describes the wisdom of being clear to distinguish between them.

It is well worth reading the blog, written by The RSPB’s Helen Quayle, for yourself, but to give a simple, message – we can help by urging everyone to describe our urban seabirds by their correct names, most crucially by distinguishing Herring Gulls from Kittwakes. Their different behaviour and ecology means that the solutions to any conflicts between people and gulls nesting in our coastal resorts are not interchangeable between the species, as Helen explains.

Kittiwake fatalities due to badly installed or unmaintained bird exclusion netting have been sadly been happening in Scarborough for several years. While netting on numerous buildings does need sorting out, if it is to safely and legally deter the birds from nesting on them, I welcome the spirit of the blog in trying to educate the wider public about the broader and arguably more insidious issue of conflating the ‘problems’ of Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes.

We have a way to go on this matter but some movement in the right direction is afoot. Finally there seems to be some progress with helping influential people in the council to take notice. Let us help educate the public and local business premises about the ecological and behavioural distinctions between our two urban breeding gulls.

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North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project

This innovative conservation partnership, led by the North York Moors National Park began will help the iconic Turtle Dove in and around North Yorkshire’s forests. The project secured £100,000 of funding enabling it to get started in 2017. The Project secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £64,000 forming the bulk of the cash to enable the biodiversity project to happen.

The National Park’s partners in the scheme include the Forestry Commission, Ryedale District Council, the RSPB, Scarborough Borough Council, Howardian Hills AONB and the North East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre.

The Turtle Dove is a summer migrant to England facing national declines of 91% since 1995. It seems to be holding its own in North Yorkshire though. This project wants to find out why and help them do even better through conservation measures in rural villages and on local farms and even quarries with suitable breeding habitat. Educational talks, school visits and new interpretation at public visitor centres such as Dalby Forest and Sutton Bank are also on the Project’s to-do list.

Surveys by volunteers, rising before dawn to catch the bird’s distinctive purring call have already contributed to a picture of this species’ status in North Yorkshire. It seems that they may be bucking the national trend and we hope to find out why and see what can be done through positive land management measures combined with an awareness-raising campaign. Farmers, parish and community groups, schools and visitors to the area will all be engaged in different ways to learn about, look for or help the birds through practical measures.
For more information and updates see these other posts on the Connecting for Nature blog:
Two Turtle Doves project secures funding (April ’17)  – News blog post
Turtle Doves and Tree Pipits… (July ’17)  – A surveyor volunteer perspective
Dew Pond restoration at Sawdon (Oct ’17) – A Community Nature Reserve project benefitting Turtle Doves
Turtle Dove project update (Oct ’17) News from the TD partners and Project Officer.
Turtle Dove Surveys (Jan ’18) In Volunteering menu – You could help the project by looking and listening for Turtle Doves.
The Project Officer Richard Baines may be contacted via the Conservation dept at the North York Moors National Park: conservation@northyorkmoors.org.uk
Please also see the NYM blog and the project’s page on the NYM website: http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/turtledoves


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Turtle Dove surveys

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, got underway in 2017. An essential part of the project is to locate breeding Turtle Doves, a summer visitor to North Yorkshire’s forests, farms and villages and identify population hotspots to better target local conservation efforts.

If you are a birder or naturalist with some experience or a willingness to learn to identify a small number of species by sight or song – including the Turtle Dove, then read on. The Project Officer, Richard Baines is coordinating with Forestry Commission and other landowners a survey of random 1km grid squares in likely territory. The snag is that the optimum time of day for detecting these elusive summer visitors is the first two hours after dawn, when they are most likely to perform their distinctive and un-mistakeable purring song, so the survey method calls for an early start!

The last two summers, 2016 and 2017 have already seen parts of the North Yorkshire forest district visited by early-rising volunteers. (Cropton Forest and Dalby Forest respectively.) In 2018 the project expands to cover a wider area, including Wykeham Forest as well as suitable parts of the Howardian Hills AONB, plus some follow up monitoring visits to sample of squares in Cropton and Dalby.

A written methodology is provided for volunteers to follow, ensuring consistency between surveys. Two dawn survey visits are called for in May – July. A daytime recce is also required to check out the lay of the land, identify the route to be walked and check for hazards. The survey visits take place at least 10 days apart and must begin as close as possible to daybreak.

Since the survey’s geographical scope is widening new volunteers are sought. Local birding groups around York, Scarborough, Ryedale and adjoining areas are being approached. It may also mean that the project has to use volunteers who have not done surveys before or who are reasonably competent birdwatchers but have never seen or heard Turtle Doves. This might be achieved by buddying-up less experienced newbies with volunteers who have surveyed the forests for Turtle Doves in previous years. If you have some birding experience, binoculars, keen ears and access to a vehicle* and you fancy taking on a dawn visit square, or if you are interested in helping but may need some support or mentoring, the Project Officer would love to hear from you. *Volunteers’ travel expenses are reimbursed so you are not left out of pocket.

drop a line to Richard Baines, North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project using the email below conservation@northyorkmoors.org.uk

 


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Human Impacts on Nature Reserves

An article was written recently for the ‘In Practice’ journal of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) proffering some interesting new data to show that nature reserves closer to settlements suffer greater disturbance and negative impacts.

The article, ‘Human Impacts on Nature Reserves – The Influence of Nearby Settlements’ was co-written by Fin Rylatt, Lauren Garside and Sara Robin of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and is the culmination of work analyzing reported incidents occurring on the Trust’s reserve network throughout Yorkshire. The authors categorized several types of disturbance, such as anti-social behavior incidents, harm to wildlife, littering and vehicle-related incidents (for instance unlawful access by motorbikes damaging habitats or perhaps a burnt-out car) and grouped reserve sites by their proximity to settlement

Although the data were only recorded ad hoc, the results are quite striking. Most reserves do not have a staff presence on site, this is likely to under-report the real level of incidents – other occurences may have gone unnoticed by site managers who provided the majority of the data.

The full journal is only available to subscribers from the CIEEM, so I have uploaded the individual article pdf below as I feel it warrants wider readership. It has implications for design of new housing development in relation to nearby nature reserves or Local Wildlife Sites and indeed the article goes so far as to suggest appropriate steps by developers and planners. It is well worth reading, if only to see the bar charts displaying the clear drop-off in disturbance incidents for sites more distant from human settlement. In fact the only disturbance category not to peak within 100m of proximity is vehicle-related incidents, which had highest frequency for reserves in the range 100-500m distant.

This is a new area of research, in which little work has been done, so despite the opportunist nature of the dataset there are important lessons for both Local Authorities and conservation bodies who manage sites.

To read the article ‘Human Impacts on Nature Reserves – The Influence of Nearby Settlements’ see this link InPractice97_Sep2017_RylattGarsideRobin


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Turtle Dove project update

Volunteers surveyed Cropton Forest in 2016,  Dalby Forest in 2017 with the intention to cover Wykeham and Broxa Forests next season.

 

The North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project began in earnest in June 2017, after the appointment of Richard Baines to the post of Turtle Dove Project Officer based at the North York Moors National Park. It was a busy first few months. Richard had to hit the ground running, as observations  were already coming in of Turtle Doves fresh in from their wintering grounds in West Africa.

The priority for the first few months was obtaining and collating as many records as possible from farms, birding groups and volunteer Turtle Dove surveys in the forest areas. Dalby Forest was the focus of the Turtle Dove volunteer survey this year, coordinated again by Cath Bashforth, Forestry Commission’s Ecologist. (See my earlier blog post here on my own volunteer experience in Dalby this year.) In 2016 the first volunteer Turtle Dove survey looked at Cropton Forest. Next year Richard will be incorporating the administration of this ongoing survey into his role and stepping up the volunteer effort, organizing dawn visits to 1km squares in Wykeham and Broxa Forests and also the Howardian Hills and Cleveland Hills, which is no small undertaking. Incidentally if you are a competent birder local to these areas and want to know more do let Richard have your email by dropping him a line at the conservation department.

With these dainty doves safely back in Africa, Richard has been able to shift focus for the autumn and winter. Their return migration will be in springtime, usually arriving back in Yorkshire around May. Turtle Dove sightings from 2017 season have been logged and further reports of recent or historic sightings compiled. In August Richard began visiting potential sites for project interventions such as farms, rural villages and even quarry sites where habitat could be improved for Turtle Doves and where community engagement might be targetted. A programme of talks to local interest groups has already kicked off with around 150 people to date hearing about the new project first hand.

Farmland near the periphery of the North Yorkshire forest can be promising habitat to listen for purring Turtle Doves.

The main points from Richard’s October 2017 Project Update to partners are reproduced below:

Surveys

Evaluation underway by North East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre [project partner]. Maximum of 173 birds recorded including both formal surveys and additional records.
• Dalby 2017 survey complete
• Cropton 2017 follow-up monitoring complete
• 2018 planning Broxa and Wykeham surveys
• 2018 planning Howardian Hills survey
• 2018 planning Cleveland Hills survey

Conservation Planning

• Farm visits started August 2017 (targetted by bird data received)
• At least six farms are now lined up for seed mix sites to be sown in 2018
• Wykeham Quarry (Hanson Ltd.) committed to sowing two sites with mixes.
• Community reserve planned at Sawdon inc. dew pond and nearby TD sown mix.
• Targetting started on supplementary feeding sites for April 2018 (awaiting final results from RSPB research Dec 2017). Sites will be located very close to existing TD populations
• New community reserves planned for Lockton, Ampleforth

Grants and Budgets for Conservation Sites

• Current TD project budget has some funds earmarked for supplementary feeding and seed mixes.
• A new North York Moors National Park conservation grant is a major boost to the project. Will fund up to 12 seed mix sowing sites over project duration as long term seven year agreements. Expected to start with six sites in 2018.

Interpretation and Talks

• Seven talks delivered with a further eight planned prior to April 2018. New requests arriving weekly. All talks currently in Yorkshire; majority within project area, proving to be a very good way of reaching local farmers/parishes which can then undertake conservation measures.
• Planning for static interpretation displays has started. The first may be Dalby Visitor Centre.
• Identification cards commissioned using Jonathan Pomroy, a local bird artist with Turtle Doves near his home in Gilling!
Education
• Meeting in Nov. with Head of Education and Youth Engagement, at NYMNP to set up education visits for 2018.

UPDATE Jan 2018. Please use the hashtag #TurtleDovelove when sharing this blog or any news and sightings on social media. We have decided to commandeer the tag for the project as it sums up our strong feelings for this beautiful summer visitor.