Connecting for Nature

A Biodiversity Partnership for Ryedale, Scarborough and the Howardian Hills


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Wildlife Conservation event at Brompton

An information afternoon in Brompton by Sawdon promises to be a fantastic opportunity to learn about local wildlife from a range of experts. Organised in support of the Brompton Butts Conservation project, the event was inspired by the discovery of a thriving population of Water Voles in the village, associated with Brompton Beck and ponds.

Invited guest speakers will present a range of short talks on different aspects of iconic wildlife species in the local area and will be available to chat to. A range of stalls will be set up representing local groups with a nature interest. A photography display will also feature and refreshments will be provided for the event. Children will be catered for with nature-themed craft activities, so you can take the whole family along.

The Brompton Wildlife Event is on from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday 29th September and can be found in the village hall in the centre of Brompton village. The best news is that it is free to attend so why not pop in and see what you can learn?

Download the flyer / poster: Brompton Conservation Event Flyer

Brompton Butts flyer pt1Brompton Butts flyer pt2

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Voles and Vols at Hawsker

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A group of volunteers did a sterling job today out on the Cinder Track at Hawsker Sidings, nr Whitby, clearing a grassland site with some excellent botanical interest. The task was supported by North York Moors National Park, Scarborough Borough Council and Whitby Naturalists Club, with volunteers from the local community and the National Park volunteering service.

Over lunch a discussion about the botanical interest of the site was rather upstaged by a very confiding Field Vole who scampered, without a care, among the rucksacks looking for morsels. This new ‘vole-unteer’ appeared to be very happy despite the attention of many camera phones thrust into its vicinity and certainly made for a memorable few minutes of nature appreciation before work resumed.

The sidings are an important fragment of species-rich grassland beside the old railway line, where strip of flower-rich meadow has developed at Hawsker, (near to Northcliffe and Seaview Caravan Park). It is a few miles south of Whitby on the former Scarborough to Whitby Railway route – now a popular permissive bridleway called The Cinder Track.

A small but keen group of volunteers picked up loppers, rakes, bowsaws and hayforks to clear recently mown vegetation and to prune back an encroaching hedgerow which is shading some of the grassland flora. About half the vols were new to conservation volunteering and half had volunteered before with the National Park so it was an ideal mix.

The work party, which continued until around 3pm, involved raking and gathering-up arisings on the fragile ground following a cut with a tractor-mounted mechanical flail by the Council’s Parks Department. Some pruning of the adjacent hedgerow was also carried out to expose parts of the grassland becoming shaded by encroaching hawthorn. Numbers only just made double figures but the groups achieved a great deal, not only gathering up all the hay, but also cutting back some scallop-shaped bays in the hedge line to help the flora and create nice sheltered microclimates for insects such as butterflies.

Another task is planned at the site in mid October – date to be advised. Please do come along – tools, instruction and good company are provided! Please contact tim.burkinshaw@scarborough.gov.uk to find out more or register interesting this or other tasks on the Cinder Track. We hope to meet plenty more vols (and voles) at subsequent work parties up and down the old railway line.


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Hawsker Sidings – volunteer task on the Cinder Track

 

This Thursday join staff from North York Moors National Park and Scarborough Borough Council and members of the Whitby Naturalists Society to help manage an important fragment of species-rich grassland beside the old railway line.  A small strip of flower-rich meadow has developed at Hawsker Sidings a few miles south of Whitby on the former Scarborough to Whitby Railway route – now a popular permissive bridleway called The Cinder Track.

On Thursday 13th September, volunteers are invited to come along for the day , or just for the morning if preferred to grab a rake or a pair of loppers and enjoy some good company among fellow nature-lovers. Meet at the car park of the Seaview Caravan Park at 10am, a few minute’s walk from the work site. Over lunch there will be a chance to hear about the botanical interest at the site and news of a soon-to-be-launched volunteering collaboration on the Cinder Track. The work party will continue in the afternoon, for those who wish, finishing by 3pm.  Work will mainly involve raking and gathering up arisings on the fragile ground following a cut with a mechanical flail. Some pruning of encroaching hawthorn bushes will also be carried out.

Please do come along, tools and instruction will be provided – you may like to bring your own work gloves, though spares will be available. Sturdy footwear is advisable and rain gear if the forecast is questionable. Lifts may be available from Whitby. Please contact National Park Senior Ranger Bernie McLinden, Mobile: 07976 292889.

We look forward to seeing you there!


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Dragons and Scorpions – Dipping in The Mere

Pond Dipping is always a popular activity on Family Fun Day at The Mere

At the start of this month I was afforded a day out of the office to preside over a family-friendly pond dipping session at Scarborough Mere. This water body lies off Seamer Road and is the focus of a Regeneration Group who organize an annual Family Fun Day, with various activities laid on for local people. The contribution of the Parks Dept is to take pond nets, dipping trays and a microscope and to lead some pond-dipping in the edge of The Mere. We usually find some good stuff.

On this occasion the star finds were a large Water Stick Insect and a couple of Water Scorpions. The former is rather unusual and not normally found this far north in the UK. Given that the Mere is a very old water body it is possible that it harbours a variety of invertebrate species not found elsewhere locally. Among the other creatures we found in good numbers were water mites, mayfly nymphs, water hoglice and assorted freshwater zooplankton.

Pond dipping is always popular on the fun days and we must have had a good few hundred people stop by our picnic table to participate. It is also a great opportunity to encourage youngsters to learn about wildlife and most are astonished at the variety and abundance of invertebrate life in the water.

I’ll leave you with a few images -we were kept busy on the day so I didn’t get many photos.

The sightings board quickly filled up with invertebrates from the pond samples

Esssential tips : find a flat spot to set out your tray of water before collecting your sample.

Water Hoglouse

Water Stick Insect


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Preventing Crayfish Plague

Invasive Signal Crayfish have now been found at a number of locations on the River Rye; the result of either deliberate release or poor biosecurity measures. These are a threat to our native White-Clawed Crayfish. With this in mind Duncan Fyfe, EA Catchment Coordinator reminds all who have an interest in the wider water environment – be it flood risk and land drainage, fishing or ecology –  of the importance of taking biosecurity very seriously.  

Failure to do so can result in rapid and widespread ‘invasions’ of a host of unwanted plant and animal species that can have a devastating impact not only upon native wildlife but upon flood risk too. Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) such as Himalayan Balsam will out compete native plant species and when they die back in the winter they leave bare ground, exposing river banks, streams and ditches to erosion. The Environment Agency and Natural England have been working with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and East Yorkshire Rivers Trust through the Derwent Restoration Project to map the extent of INNS problem on the Derwent and develop an action plan to control the spread.

Signal crayfish are not as immediately visible as Himalayan Balsam but the potential impacts are no less real and are serious for both ecology and flood risk. Until very recently the only known and established population on the Derwent was on Settrington Beck. However, they have now been found at a number of locations including the Seph and Riccal.

Signal Crayfish represent a very real threat to our native White–Clawed Crayfish – a protected species that is declining in this country. However, many rivers and streams in Yorkshire still contain good populations of White-Clawed Crayfish which is why its important to protect them. The invasive Signal Crayfish, introduced from North America are a larger, more aggressive species which outcompetes our native crayfish and can impact upon the wider food chain. Once established they may burrow into the banks of ditches, streams and rivers exacerbating erosion and bank collapse. They also carry a plague, caused by a water mould which is fatal to White-Clawed Crayfish.

Crayfish plague can be transferred between rivers by equipment and clothing if you enter the water. However, there are things that you can do to stop the spread of crayfish plague by taking appropriate biosecurity measures. All who work outdoors on the Derwent should be doing this as a matter of routine.

Biosecurity Measures to prevent spread of Crayfish Plague and other INNS.

The mantra is Check, Clean, Dry!

  • It is good practice to do a visual check of all machinery, equioment and clothing, such as waders before you leave the site – Signal Crayfish have been known to cling to machines. Himalayan Balsam or other invasive plants can be carried off site too in the tracks of machinery
  • A disinfectant may be used to clean kit, alternatively ensure nets, and all equipment is allowed to completely dry before putting into another watercourse.

 

Leeds University has developed a free on line training tool on biosecurity training which is available on the Leeds university website:

 http://www.nercdtp.leeds.ac.uk/news/invasive/

 

 

I have also attached a fact sheet on the Signal Crayfish and there is a link below to the Non Native Species website that has in turn lots of information about the Check Clean Dry Campaign and the whole host of other invasive species we need to be mindful of.

http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/index.cfm                                  


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Bioblitz events

You may have heard on social media about broadcaster Chris Packham’s “Bioblitz 2018 – Nature reserves are not enough!” campaign. His mission is to harness citizen science to monitor the state of biodiversity across the UK. Chris and his team are visiting 50 UK sites over ten days. More detail of the whole campaign and the itinerary may be found on Chris Packham’s website:
https://www.chrispackham.co.uk/chris-packhams-uk-bioblitz-2018

The objective of a bioblitz is to record as many species as possible (usually within a set time, such as 24hours). Everyone is welcome regardless of experience and experts will be on hand to help. There are three stops in Yorkshire, which you may be able to support. Two are within easy striking distance of the Connecting for Nature patch.

On Wednesday 18th July Filey Bird Observatory and Group (FBOG) is playing host. More details are described on a post on the FBOG website here. All enquires can be directed to Mark Pearson, Comms. Officer for FBOG, who will update the page with more event details as they are confirmed but the line-up is already impressive, including bird ringing, cetacean watches, bat walk, moth trapping, botanising, seashore hunts and even storm petrel ringing (after dark on Tues night) The main public engagement events will be based out of Filey Country Park on the afternoon of Weds 19th. There is even a Bioblitz Bingo for kids! It is hoped the Chris Packham will be able to visit Weds tea-time, but his schedule is tentative. Keep an eye on the FBOG Filey Bioblitz event listing for updates to the details.

 

On Thursday 19th July Chris Packham and the UK Bioblitz Team will be visiting Nosterfield Nature Reserve nr Ripon (grid ref SE 278 795). Chris is expected to visit only briefly during the morning but the Nosterfield Bioblitz actually commences at 5pm on Weds 18th July and runs until 5pm Thursday. Moth traps with be running overnight and presumably keen naturalists will be out at first light. The YNU will be represented there too. See their post about the Nosterfield Bioblitz.

Staff from North East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre (NEYEDC) are coordinating the collation of records and training people in iRecord, a self-service biological recording website and app, at their base camp from the Nosterfield Quarry Visitor Centre. Records from the Bioblitz will go straight onto a dedicated database.

According to Chris Packham’s website they will also be visiting RSPB Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire on Thursday 19th July. A link I’ve found to the Fairburn event here, indicates it will be on from 10am-4pm. The RSPB’s reserve info page has details of facilities and entrance fees for Fairburn Ings.

 

13.07.12 Wyedale verges 2 Burnet moths on vetch

Moths and Butterflies, like these Six Spot Burnet moths are among the many groups of plants, animals, fungi etc which may be recorded on iRecord, the app often used by Bioblitzers.

 

 


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Marine Invaders!

 

A marine invaders spotter sheet – this one is for Wakame seaweed

In September 2017 the Capturing Our Coast project (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund) launched a new campaign called ‘Marine Invaders’ with the aim of engaging a national cohort of citizen scientists to determine the national distribution of a suite of marine non-native species (NNS). Marine Invaders is an ongoing campaign that can be adopted by anyone with an interest in the marine environment or NNS. Survey protocols and identification guides have been produced and are freely downloadable (from www.capturingourcoast.co.uk) so no formal training is required. Citizen scientists can choose from three habitats in which to survey: rocky intertidal, sandy shores or artificial structures.
The Yorkshire Coast is an important region to examine for the presence of NNS as, on the whole, this area is considered to be relatively pristine. Located where two North Sea circulation cells meet, the area around Flamborough Head provides a plentiful food supply due to the upwelling of plankton and nutrients, a feature termed the ‘Flamborough Front’. The marked difference in water temperature of these two cells also defines the northern and southern limits of many species. For this reason, the Flamborough Front also acts as an invisible barrier to some NNS migrating north.
On the Yorkshire Coast there are relatively few NNS compared to the rest of the UK and especially the south coast. Confirmed NNS records include algae, crustaceans and sea squirts. The Australasian barnacle (Austrominius modestus) is one species whose numbers appear to be on the rise across the Yorkshire Coast. This species competes with the native Northern Rock Barnacle (Semibalanus balanoides) and can tolerate higher temperatures, turbidity and lower salinity levels.

During the ‘Beast from the East’ several live Slipper limpets (Crepidula fornicata) were washed ashore at Barmston. Introduced from the United States, this species has the potential to physically alter the seabed habitat. Previous records for Slipper Limpets had their most northerly distribution as Spurn Point however the recent wash-up could indicate that there are established populations offshore north of this.

The Orange-tipped sea squirt (Corella eumyota) which originates from the Southern Hemisphere has also been found on several Yorkshire shores from Runswick Bay to Filey Brigg. Found on the underside of boulders or hard surfaces, this species can smother other animals in the vicinity and fouls the hulls of ships.

Non-native species of algae on the Yorkshire Coast include Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), a species of kelp considered one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species. This is now well established in the Humber Estuary and outcompetes our native kelp species. Wireweed (Sargassum muticum) is a brown alga from Japan. The majority of UK species records for algae are from the south and west coasts, however in 2017 there was a confirmed report of wireweed found attached at Newcastle. With such close proximity to the Yorkshire Coast, this is one species that we could start to see appearing in our rock pools in the not so distant future.

Many of the initial marine NNS introductions are thought to have occurred in ports and harbours although some introductions have occurred through the transportation of other species such as oyster. Biosecurity is important to help stop the spread of NNS. Even people on the shore or coastline can be potential vectors, but three simple steps can help reduce the risk of this happening:

1. Check your clothing, boots and equipment for signs of living organisms.

2. Clean and wash everything (with hot water where possible) and if you do find any organisms leave them in the water where you found them.

3. Lastly fully dry all of your equipment, clothing and footwear.

Through the Marine Invaders campaign, over 420 individual 10-minute timed species searches have been conducted by citizen scientists around the country, producing over 45 confirmed NNS sightings. This work contributes to that of the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat (GBNNSS) in tackling one of the world’s top four greatest threats to our oceans. You can join the campaign too by visiting the project website (https://www.capturingourcoast.co.uk/) or by contacting the CoCoast Yorkshire team (cocoast@hull.ac.uk) – the more ‘eyes on the ground’ the more habitats we can monitor!

Nicky Dobson University of Hull.

The text of this article first appeared in Yorkshire Naturalists Union News Brief April 2018.