First signs of nesting

We had the bird ringers visit yesterday, unfortunately increasing wind cut short the session but notable was a Siskin with a brood patch (an area of naked skin which would be in contact with the eggs) looking a the weather today hope the nest is somewhere sheltered. The Pied wagtails are regularly going in and out of the big tin shed they nested in last year.

Sexton Beetles

A recent moth trap caught some black Sexton Beetles Nicrophorus humator, we normally get the black and orange ones N vespillo. By lucky coincidence the cat caught a young rat, so we put them together in a tub and watched the result see below. I was trying to get a time lapse sequence but they did most of the burying overnight. However I was lucky enough to be watching/videoing when there was some activity and then one beetle abandoned the rat. It quite obviously wanted to escape the container so I let it leave. This was a surprise as the information I have found says  both parents tend the larvae, unless the one I filmed was a rival that had turned up? It can be seen towards the end of the video that at least one beetle was still under the rat. These like all the others we have caught had phoretic mites. Several different fly species visited the corpse one showing particular interest was a bright blue/green metallic fly.


Spring Wood Whalley plus a close encounter with some mining bees

Interesting chat yesterday with Jayne Elizabeth Ashe the assistant development officer on the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership project and a few others about how to kick start some wildlife recording in Spring Wood Whalley and possibly having a bioblitz or other wildlife events there. One thing that did come out was the realisation that probably a lot of recording is already being done, informally by regular and other visitors but none of this is being shared. So if you or anyone you know has been recording or photographing the wildlife in Spring Wood let us know or email Jayne

Recently came across a colony of I presume Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee just outside of Slaidburn.

Andrena cineraria - ashy mining-bee
Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee
Andrena cineraria - ashy mining-bee
Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee
Andrena cineraria - ashy mining-bee
Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee

Too much going on!

Big things have been hapening with the Clitheroe Naturalists, they now have a facebook page and they have revived the Clitheroe Wildlife facebook group they will also be sending out email newsletters if you would like to be included email and if that’s not enough they have published their summer outings programme as a pdf

It has been a hectic few weeks, at this time of year there is just so much going on I find it difficult to keep up this is the time of first, first Bumble Bee first Hoverflys, you get the picture. The most enjoyable thing for me is the return of sound to the garden, the fantastic symphony of bird song in the early morning and evening but more important to me is the hum and buzz of insects.

This time of the year is always a rush in the garden as this is the time for transplanting self sown wildflower seedlings and small plants from the borders into the meadow areas. It is a rush because you have to wait for them to grow enough to be able to identify them but, then get them in the meadow whist the grass is short and the ground still damp. Reviewing the seed sowing I did in early March. I have had good germination with Ladies bedstraw Galium verum , Hemp agrimony  Eupatorium cannabinum, Wild carrot  Daucus carota and marginal success with Crosswort  Cruciata laevipes , Field Scabious Knautia arvensis.

Over the last few weeks have had more Siskins, Red poles and Gold finches than I remember from previous years additionally we have a pair of Pied wagtails and the Gray wagtails are still with us, Long tailed tits still coming to the feeders and we have seen one pair of Bullfinches. In addition to the beeflys, now Bumble bees and Carder bees, hoverflys and queen wasps have reappeared along with various other flys and so far  we have had Comma, Peacock and Orange tip  butterflies. Wildflowers strongly flowering include Primrose and Cowslip. Bluebells are just starting and the Blackthorn has been out about a week.

Out and about the search for spawning Toads still fruitless but a friend of a friend has reported spawn in Osbaldeston.

A wonderful weekend

Two important first in the garden, first butterfly a Comma so not the one I was expecting, which confused my poor brain no end. Also first Bee fly which I have to admit I find more exciting presumably Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major. Both of them on Primula denticulata one of the best early flowers you can grow in your garden.

A trip to Stocks Reservoir resulted in a small number of Toads in amplexus and a larger number of males waiting, no spawn seen though the water was very cloudy from a pea soup green algae bloom. Garden also filling with soft toys! which the cat is starting to catch. Blue and Great tits are checking out the nest boxes but but don’t think we have any takers yet.

Bee fly
Bee fly
Comma Butterfly
Comma Butterfly
Toads at Stocks Reservoir
Toads at Stocks Reservoir


Saw a Wren collecting moss with Wrens the male makes several nests and then tries to temp a female, and a pair of Kestrels looking round the outside of the barn possibly prospecting for nest sites. More flowers are now out in particular Dogs mercury plus the leaves of wild garlic are starting to show. Still no insects to speak of. Saw three baby bunnies in the garden today, as did the cat! The frog spawn has now transformed into a ball of wiggling tiny tadpoles. Saw the Gray wagtails again. Found a possible Blackbird egg in a friends garden it was broken and on the ground so could have hatched.

I often ponder things and my latest is, what is more valuable or more important to preserve a site with small populations of one or more rare species or a site with large populations of common many species? Which is more deserving of our resources. I know which I would find the most interesting as a naturalist but which has more value to wildlife as a whole and to the wider human community? I think these are important question that need to be asked far more frequently.

Should we stop placing such high value on rare species?

Attended an interesting talk by Martin Colledge on Gisburn Forest Past Present and Future organised by the Friends of Bowland. One of the things he highlighted was a meadow restoration project at the Gisburn Forest Hub. This meadow now has an abundance of common meadow species but he said apologetically no “rare species”. I think he said this because he believed there was a lot of  “hardened naturalists” in the audience. I think it is sad that there is, I am afraid to say, a well deserved perception that naturalists value rarity above all.  I have to say I strongly disagree with ascribing this high value to rarity,  if a species is rare it is by its very nature less ecologically significant than an abundant species (excluding apex predators). I believe this attitude damages wildlife conservation because it devalues the common, the wildlife most people encounter most of the time. I also think this attitude is a barrier to a lot of people becoming more deeply involved with natural history organisations.

We have a pair of Pied wagtails and at least one Gray wagtail about the place. Interestingly every year at this time we see Grey wagtails then they disappear,  later we always see fledglings about the place for a while where they go in between no idea. Plus the first Redpolls of the year. Not seen the Starling with the damaged wing for a few days hope it has been able to rejoin its companions.

A visit to the fishery cafe end of Stocks reservoir revealed large quantities of frog spawn in the pond and a few Toads near the pond, with one pair in amplexus but no spawn in the pond or the reservoir.


On the 9th a Gray wagtail singing at the back of the house. Yesterday loud chattering in the trees and when we went indoors about 30 Siskins descended on the feeders. Today we are back down to 6 or 7 Siskins so presume we have seen migration in action. Regularly hearing and seeing at least one pair of Curlew. More and more plants starting to bud and a few now in flower such as the lungwort Pulmonaria  we eagerly await the bursting into flower of the Primula denticulata as these provide excellent early nectar for any early flying insects coming out of hibernation or emerging from pupa. Had a meeting yesterday with some fellow members of the Clitheroe Naturalists about how we could promote the group and bring in new “younger” blood. One of the things discussed was having one or more “Wildlife Wanders”. My idea for these are a group of us meet at an interesting location and wander about looking at the wildlife. Hopefully there would be a mix of people who “know a bit” and people who would like to “learn a bit” about wildlife, a provisional date for one of these wanders is 27th May.

Some other dates for the diary; next week Th 16 Mar at 7.30pm a  Talk on Gisburn Forest, Past Present and Future by Martin Colledge at Tosside village hall  Organised by Friends of Bowland and save the date Sat 13 May, Join Sharon & Peter Flint to explore the trails in Gisburn Forest, visiting Bottoms Beck and some nearby marshy areas to examine aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. Craven Conservation.

Spring thick and fast

In the last week so much is happening have had no time to record it. 26 Feb. the first lump of frogspawn in the pond followed by a new clump on each of the following two days. Then a break until this morning with one more clump.

Frog spawn
Frog spawn

Blue tits are exploring the nest boxes and possibly a Robin is building in one of the old kettles I have recycled as a nest box in the big tin shed. Now hearing Curlews and lots of bird song. Gamy wing the Starling has now learned to use both the peanut and fat snack feeders. Saw a queen wasp yesterday. We are getting more Siskins and Goldfinches now, plus still the occasional Brambling. Longtailed tits still visiting as groups but also as pairs. Been frantically sowing seed and splitting/transplanting perennials in the garden. At this time of year I dig up a lot of the Oxeyed daisy’s Leucanthemum vulgare and other wild flowers which have self seeded in the beds and plant them out in the meadow areas. I find this a very effective way of creating meadow areas.

A lot of people don’t realise that many native wild flower species make excellent garden border plants, I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said, I would grow wild flowers in my garden but my soil is too rich! This is a complete MYTH, wild flowers will thrive in garden borders and the richer the soil the better the show. Many will produce a better display than a lot of so called “garden plants”. The poor soil rule only applies to WILDFLOWER MEADOWS where you are growing a mix of flowers and grasses. In this situation the grasses would grow too strong and smother the flowers if the soil was rich.

Had another Sparrowhawk close encounter when one chased some Blue tits around the small Holly bush about three meters from where I was stood.

Frog and Toad survey, I am very interested in what is going on with Frogs and Toads in Bowland and am interested in any sightings of Frog or Toad spawn and in particular any sightings or evidence of Toads crossing roads in the Bowland area if you want you can use the online form on this site.

Also I would encourage everyone to report sightings to the PondNet Spawn Survey 2017 there are also some really good identification guides on that page.

Is February the most annoying month?

The weather is horrible I hate and love February one day there can be sunshine and warmth enough to make us feel Spring has arrived the next can plunge us back into an arctic winter. Gamy wing the starling is still with us and I now wonder if it might become a permanent fixture. I should mention we have two other disabled avian residents Gamy leg a male blackbird who has a healed broken leg, he has been with us for at least three years and the year before last raised at least two broods. The third not quite right resident is Hoppy a Pheasant with a dodgy leg.

There are a few signs of Spring the Dunnocks are chasing each other and flapping at each other. Pigeons are wing flapping, Wood peckers are drumming and the amount of song seams to increase daily.

Saw a large Hare cross the field opposite the kitchen window this morning whilst making coffee.

Found this very interesting Grey squirrels in North Yorkshire are being given contraceptives in their food in a bid to control their population I would love for there to be a Bowland Red squirrel reintroduction project.

Sparrowhawk wins a meal and a surprise visitor

Witnessed a Sparrowhawk take a Starling, I was outside changing the gas bottle when I heard a noise behind me, which sounded like a very muffled explosion. In the field behind me was a compact ball of Starlings the ball was much denser than the ball the form when moving around feeding and the sound was much louder. At first I only saw the Starlings and then a fraction of a second later I saw the Sparrowhawk swoop at the ball  from the right with its back to me looking like a fighter plane, part of the ball fragmented with a few Starlings peeling off from the group one in particular headed to the left as the main group headed to the right. The Sparrowhawk with a few twists and dives was immediately on the tail of this one Starling heading left. There was a few microseconds of move and counter move with eventually the Starling flying low over the ground where it was overtaken in mid flight and I lost sight of the Sparrowhawk  with its prize as it went into the trees.

Whilst taking Louise to work we spotted a white bird feeding with the sheep next to the track the bird turned out to be a Little Egret. It was very tame suggesting it was very hungry/exhausted unfortunately we only had the compact camera with us but got a photo from the car to prove it had existed, amazed at how yellow its feet are, which unfortunately are hidden in the grass. Sadly it was gone by the time I got back.

Little Egret
Little Egret

Getting ready for Spring

Decided to revamp the pond before any frogs turned up. Last year we had a single male take up residence and over about a week, five lots of spawn appeared. So dug out the waders baled out some of the water into water butts along with some of the pond weed and algae. Then waded in and started digging, managed to deepen the centre by about a foot, so  now it is about one meter deep in the centre when full. I was hoping to add a liner but the pond was filling so fast I gave up on the idea. Not too worried as last summer I only had to top it up a few times though the level did fluctuate dramatically.


Also hard pruned a section of the boundary hedge amazingly this has added about one and a half meters to the wet meadow area.  Important to get this done before any nesting activity starts. The bird ringers visited us on Sunday and over a hundred new birds were rung, mainly Coal tits as usual. The injured Starling is still with us the wing is noticeably still drooping but it seems to be flying OK. A Brambling turned up the day after  the Garden bird watch (typical). Now starting to see a few Siskins and Gold finches. Robins are pairing up, but occasionally make mistakes and attack their partner.

The wild primroses in the stream bed have put out a few flowers but in the garden the only things in flower are the Snowdrops and Dames violet which has never stopped flowering all winter.

Wild Primrose

Discovered today the rats or mice have been eating my chainsaw, my fault for using vegetable oil as chain lubricant.


Big Garden Birdwatch

Highest number seen in the garden at one time

backbirds 4
Blue tit 5
Chaffinch 6
Coal tit 12
Dunnock 2
Great tit 4
Long-tailed tit 10
Robin 4
Starling 1 (this is the injured bird which looks to be getting better it can now fly up into the trees but the wing is still noticeably drooping)

Also seen Nuthatch, Great spotted woodpecker and the ubiquitous Phesants and luckily two Buzzards flew through the woodland bordering the garden. Behind the house there is a flock of about 50 Starlings. Also early this morning saw a wagtail but could not tell which type. The Rabbits have started to venture into the garden to nibble on new shoots starting to emerge I will have to get out the chicken wire cylinders, to protect some of the more vulnerable plants.

Have recently caught and dispatched a couple of rats who had moved into the barn presumably after sheep feed. Unfortunately the rubble filled walls of the barn are continuous with the walls of the house so there is no barrier to them being able to get into the roof space. When we first moved in we had quite a large colony establish themselves in the roof that took some shifting.

Another justification for controlling rats is they have an impact on the small mammal population, I am not happy about using poison because it also poisons Woodmice and Voles which in turn also poisons Owls and Kestrels.

Return of the Lapwing

16th Jan on the way to Clitheroe saw a flock of about 60 Lapwing presumably on one of their reconnaissance  flights from the coast. 17th Jan the Great spotted woodpecker is drumming on the tin plate capping a telegraph pole. Raked all the leaves off the gravel meadow and gave it a quick mow to knock back some of the grass and rush and both to help reduce the fertility of the soil.

A talk prompts a rediscovery

Went to a talk on Cross hill and Salt Hill nature reserves Clitheroe by Phil Dykes. The rich diversity of wildflower species was an eye opener  and now a firm promise to myself to pay these two sites much more attention. The talk was hosted by Clitheroe Naturalists and there hopefully will be a guided walk lead by Phil in the summer.

This sudden cold spell has made the feeders even busier. The wounded Starling is still with us and can fly a bit, it managed to get about 30cm off the ground today.

Not sure if it is related to the cold weather but we haven’t seen any Starlings flying over the house for a few days. Also today saw a Buzzard in the Ash tree by the gate, this is the closest we have ever seen one to the garden.

Looking forward to the Big Garden Birdwatch

Very simple to do sometime between 28-30 January watch the birds in your garden for an hour and record what you see. You can get full details and a free pack from by post or you can download it.

Currently in our garden we are getting Blue and Great tits, Coal tits, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Longtailed tit, Robin, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Dunnock. We also have lots of Phesants!

In the woodland outside the garden we regularly also see Tree creeper, Tawney owl, Jay and Magpie and in the fields Starlings Fieldfares and Redwings as well as Crows and Rooks. Above us we see Buzzards, Ravens and recently Kestrels.

The injured starling is still about and is starting to fly a bit so fingers crossed for it making a full recovery.

A great help is this BTO collection of youtube videos on how to identify birds, the good thing about these is they show you how to tell the difference between easy to confuse species.

New Year at Crow Wood Farm

Had a quick look around for wild flowers in bloom yesterday and found none. A look round the garden found the following garden plants in flower Dame’s Violet (Hesperis matronalis) Primrose and Wallflower both garden varieties. Over the last couple of weeks a male Sparrowhawk has been a regular visitor sitting on the bird table, in a vain hope his dinner would come to him. Not seen him for a couple of days which is fortunate for an injured Starling that appeared the garden three days ago with a drooping wing and unable to fly. Talking of Starlings every few days large flocks fly directly over the house on their way to roost, possibly they are part of the roost at Blackpool. As they regularly fly directly over the house and sometimes low enough to hear the wing beats, we wonder if our house is used as a landmark. The sound of a flock of Starlings overhead is possibly one of the most magical sounds in nature along with the buzz of insects in a meadow. Went for a walk on Boxing day but the only thing of note was a Hare we disturbed.

Going back to Starlings we have a small flock that feeds in the fields behind our house and we see varying numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares about the fields and hedgerows.

The Friends of Bowland have published their programme for 2017 you can download it from their website

Sustainable Tourism

Went to the Forest of Bowland Sustainable Tourism Forum last night. This is an annual event for Tourism businesses who support the aims of the AONB and want to be more environmentally friendly. The night was also the venue for the annual meetings of two organisations. Bowland Experience a business support network of which I am a Director and Champion Bowland a charity which gives small grants for environmental projects. One of the speakers was Amanda Parker from Browsholme Hall who had just won the Lancs. Tourism Sustainable Tourism Award.