Tranquil woodland in the heart of Skipton

© Skipton Town Council 2016

The_wilderness_top2 squirrel l squirrel r

A Year in the Life of the Wilderness



Rod visited the Wilderness usually weekly, mainly on a Friday. These are his observations:


4 January – Another year in the Wilderness. Nature – can we call it a small  

Reserve? Very cold. Snow is on the way. Lots of birds busy looking for food. Black birds, songthrush, robin, wrens, blue, great and longtailed tits.


10 January – Heavy snow forecast for tomorrow. Birds and mammals could be in for a hard time. Rooks calling in the trees – they breed early in the year, the odd crow and magpie mixed in.


17 January – After heavy now, heavy rain. Not much activity, very few birds moving. Heron looking bedraggled down in the beck.


25 January - Most of the snow has gone. Robins and dunnock singing

their territory. Nice views of the tree creeper running up the tree trunk in search of food.


1 February – Very wet, beck in flood. Everything is suffering to find shelter and food but signs of Spring are about if you look closely, with the odd green bud and shoot poking through.


8 February – Lots of activity after yesterday’s snow. Large mixed flock of birds foraging in the trees – red polls – gold crests – various tits and finches.


15 February – Weather set to get milder and blue tits are busy checking nest boxes and getting ready for the breeding season ahead


22 February – Large number of house sparrows chattering on the house and building near the bottom entrance gate. A very early nesting bird so lots of activity..


28 February – Weather improving – Spring is here. Blue tits and great tits in and out of the nest boxes looking for potential breeding holes. Mistle thrush and blackbird singing in the trees with wrens, robins, dunnocks all singing lower down in the bushes.


8 March – Lots of birds on the move overhead – oyster catchers and redshank, curlew calling heading for their breeding grounds. Also pink footed geese now moving through heading back to their breeding groundsin northern Europe.


14 March – Best day of the week. Winter’s still here for now. 8 young blackbirds in the undergrowth, must have been an early brood and they have done well to hatch in these conditions.


22 March – Spring didn’t last long. Winter’s back with a vengeance. Lots of but alassnow, good for animal and bird tracks. If you know the signs you can tell what’s been about that morning but alas it’s snowing again and the wind is blowing covering up the tracks.


29 March – Hard frost last night but snow is melting. Any of the family that had started building in the nest boxes will have stopped. It could be a disaster for those birds who time their eggs watching for caterpillars emerging. But everything will be late this year.


5 April – Winter’s still here. Those young blackbirds I spotted 2 weeks ago won’t have survived with this snow. It’s due to get warmer next week.


12 April – Feels more Springlike this morning. Blackbirds and mistle thrushes, robins, wrens, Dunnocks all singing. Blue and great tits busy inspecting boxes again. I spotted my first swallow at Bolton Abbey earlier.


19 April – Heavy rain this morning, sunny by lunch. Lots of birdsong. First chiffchaff calling. Good number of tortoiseshell butterflies emerging.


25 April – Feels like back end of winter again. Temp dropping several degrees. Lots more birds arriving now – swallows flying over. Willow warbler and blackcaps singing. Rooks are busy feeding  their young and crows, magpies and jackdaws are on the lookout for any bird’s nest with eggs or chicks to feed their young.


2 May – Weather needs to warm up. Birds, butterflies struggling to find food. Not much insect life. Most bugs and grubs will be under the leaf litter.


10 May – Very early walk this morning. Checking on tawny owl. Didn’t see any activity near the box, But good views of a male in the trees.


17 May – Still coolish. Looks like blue tits have hatched. Bids in and out of boxes. Need some warm weather so insects emerge.


31 May – This is more like it. Superb weather. Garden warbler, blackcap, Willow warbler, blackbird, songthrush, wren, robin, dunnock, great and blue tits, starlings all singing. Fantastic dawn chorus.


7 June – What a week: summer heaven. Wilderness in full bloom, canopy green. Young birds have fledged from boxes. Families of blue and great tits. Young willow warbler in the understudy. Predators are on the look out to feed their young. Magpies, crows and stoats all very active.


14 June – Not a bad week. We needed the shower to freshen things up. Two young tawny owls sitting high in the tree being mobbed by blackbirds. Easy to spot if you know the alarm call of blackbirds for owls.


21 June – Still blackcaps and garden and willow warblers calling. They could still have chicks or even a late brood. Heron down in the beck with a very small fish in its beak.


28 June – Very early walk this morning, 4am. Just turning light. And there is was – a badger. Had seen signs earlier so there must be a set maybe in a bank not far away.


5 – 19 July – holidays.


26 July – A walk in the afternoon just for a change. Nice and cool in the Wilderness. Lots of shade. Not many birds about till alarm of a wren and a brown rat appeared in the wall. Good number of butterflies – small white, gate keeper, tortoiseshell, speckled wood.


9 August – Swallows, house martins, swifts, flying over the Wilderness over the garage opposite. Mass swarm of insects hatched – looks likesmall black clouds. Birds having a feeding frenzy.


16 August – The good weather looks set for a return next week late summer. The swallows and house martins may have another brood if the weather stays warm into September.


23 August – Nice early walk. I love these still mornings. Heron in the beck feeding. Still havnt seen a kingfisher…..but one day…..


20 September – Migration starting to come through. Influx of blackcaps, willow warblers, chiffchaffs moving through, feeding up and getting cover on their way to the coast.  


27 September – Great weather for September. Lots of bird activity – blue, coal and great tits feeding and calling. Great view of a pied flycatcher. First one seen in Wilderness. Red Admiral butterflies.


4 October – Early walk to see and hear tawny owls. It’s this time of year they become really vocal, setting up their territories.


11 October – Still mild for October. Plenty of food about for the birds and animals. Lots of insects and nuts and berries.


18 October – Very interesting encounter this morning between a grey heron and a brown rat. The heron was standing very still when the rat passed in close by. At first I didn’t think the heron had seen it but suddenly it struck out and that sharp dagger beak skewered the rat.


25 October – Very wet week. The Autumn leaves have taken a battering with gales forecast this weekend. Most of the colours will be down on the graound. Great though for leaf litter insects.


1 November – Wet again in but not cold for this time of the year. Good flock of starlings in the trees, calling, even singing at time.


8 November – Lots of insects flying, wasps and blue bottles feeding off the ivy berries. Even the odd butterfly – a red admiral flying.


15 November – Still mild and dry. The rooks across the road were taking sticks. They do breed early but this weather is upsetting their time clocks. My raspberry bushes have berries on them again.


22 November – Nice morning, dry and mild after the strong winds of Wed/Thurs. Lots of leaves for the birds to turn over. A roe deer moving through. 3 or 4 magpies calling, chattering, through the trees.


29 November – Mild for this time of year/ Lots of goldfinches, chaffinches and 2 or 3 bullfinches in a huge flock, moving through.


4 December – Mid week walk due to storm forecast Thurs/Fri. Lots of singing birds, robin, goldfinch, blackbirds. They must know it’s the last warm day of Autumn sunshine.


13 December – Mild week and set to stay this way on the run up to Christmas. This weather is keeping the rooks busy repairing nests. Mistle thrushes singing in the tops of the trees as the morning warms up.


20 December – Looks like the year will finish wet and windy. Blue tits are already checking put nest boxes with the weather being mild.


27 December – High winds, gales and not much to see. A few robins, wrens and blackbirds in the undergrowth. |Another season ends – it won’t be long till Spring and new life will emerge and the cycle will start again.




Robin, wren, blackbird, song thrush, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, rooks, carrion crow, magpie, heron, tree creeper, red poll, gold crest, chaffuncg, green finch, gold finch,  house sparrow, mistle thrush, oyster catcher, red shank, pink footed geese (flying over), pied fly catcher, willow warbler, chiffchaff, bullfinch.



Brown rat, roe deer, stoat. weasel, fox, badger.



Peacock, tortoiseshell, green veined white, orange tip, gatekeeper, small white, large white, comma, speckled wood, holly blue, red admiral.