Tranquil woodland in the heart of Skipton

© Skipton Town Council 2016

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A Year in the Life of the Wilderness





Winter in the Wilderness has been a mixture of unusually mild weather which brings heavy rain and floods, followed by a day of snow and what you would expect, heavy morning frosts. Flora and fauna have mixed fortunes with this topsyturvy weather. Spring flowers come through early only to be hit by hard frosts. Starlings in full voiceand have seen blackbirds mating. Also as the beck floods, have seen kingfishers and dipper, grey wagtails and heron. Tawny owls call throughout the night, proclaiming territories. A strange month – let’s see what February has to offer.



Gale force winds, heavy rain, for the start of the month. But a spectacular sight – high overhead, as a female peregrine catches a pigeon. Loud chup-chup as the male bird tries to take the kill.

Middle of the month brings more heavy rain but mild. Snowdrops and daffodils adding great colour. In between showers mistle thrush singing tops of trees. Curlew fly over, calling.

End of month sees crisp frosty mornings and lots of dry sunny afternoons, bringing the birdsong to life. Song thrush and mistle thrush, blackbirds, robins, wrens, starling, rooks, crows, dunnock, house  sparrow, green finches, chaffinch, all proclaim Spring is just round the corner. The breeding season will begin.  



Very cold start to March. Mornings of heavy frosts, even several inches of snow. Curlews calling, flying over roofs, picking up sticks. Lots of bird activity, readying for the breeding season. Daffodils coming into bloom, as the middle of March warms up and dry weather is here at last. Lots of fauna as the month progresses. Birds in and out of boxes selecting their nest sites. Dipper flying down towards the tunnel under the road. Grey wagtails with nesting material. As the last week approaches, I hear first chiffchaff of spring. The next day the snow is back and heavy rain finishes the month.



The April showers turn to snow and it feels like winter not spring. The wind direction changes and brings with it the first willow warbler singing as I start on my walk. It’s the second week of April. Spring flowers in full bloom. Emerging of orange tip butterflies and the trees are showing signs of green. A swallow flies over, a sign of things to come. Mid April brings a change with cold air moving in. This will not help birds on eggs and food will be difficult to find. The last week feels like winter, with snow, hail and sleet. A wren was out early this morning  - the cold has made her surface. With young mouths to feed.



Very strange month weather-wise, with frosts and snow and middle of the month, as hot as July. Canopy greening, trees in full bloom. Understory thickening out, good cover for any young birds down on the floor. Lots of nest box activity and young blackbirds, thrushes and robins calling their parents for food. Roe deer browsing early morning and sparrow hawk flying through. Swiftsscreaming overhead as the end of May looms. Not as many butterflies so far but summer months could see a change.



Unusually, a wet and windy June with a few warm days mixed in. Which in a way is great for the flora, as everything grows so quickly, trying to catch up, making everything lush and green. Young birds all around begging for food from busy parents, with predators ever ready, watching for their next meal. Early morning walk, watched a tawny owl take a young crow, big predator. The owl varies diet. Grey wagtail young busy in beck and a dipper flew through. With wet conditions not as many insects or butterflies, but brown rats busy early – even they must be wary of predators.



High summer arrives. Very hot for a few days, with warm, muggy nights. Swifts flying overhead with their screaming call, catching insects. Birds with second or third broods, such as blackbirds, robins or thrushes, still feeding young.

A good month for butterflies, orange tip, large white, green veined and and small white, tortoiseshell and red admiral. The flora is lush and carpeting the floor. Beck flowing fast after rain.

A walk at night, just before dark, reveals otter tracks along the beck, a first. Might be a dog otter that has been disturbed with the building of the flood defences high up Otley Road, where the water flows. Dog otters can travel up to 40 miles in an evening.



Last of the summer months sees a mixture of very hot weather, heavy rain, and some cold clear nights. Flora still lush and green, with trees and shrubs yielding summer’s bounty. Lots of butterflies. red admiral, peacock, and large white. Late clutch of blackbird young foraging in the leaf litter.

While litter-picking early, great views of male kingfisher perched on a branch coming from the banking. Swifts and swallows still overhead. House sparrows flocking in trees by gate at entrance to Wilderness. Wood mouse feeding on some seed we put out. The tawny owl may be lucky tonight.



Autumn arrives but it’s very mild. Warm days to start the season. Robins singing and starlings in full voice.

Middle of the month sees the last swallows leave. Just the odd willow warbler still calling. Kingfishers seen quite a few times. As the rain comes and the beck swells, heron fishing and dippers flying up and down. Mornings and evenings are darker now, but bats still flying and butterflies catching last of sunshine through the day.



Early part of month dry. Temperature still above normal. Some colour in the leaves but not cold enough yet to bring out best shades.

Middle of month first arrival of winter thrushes. Redwing came in through the night. Tawny owls calling now, proclaiming territories. Jays passing through looking for food, and squirrels foraging on the floor. End of month very mild and dry. Night walk – lots of owl activity, bats still busy, no hibernation yet. Plenty of food about as weather stays mild.



Early part of month still mild. Winter thrushes roosting overnight in the trees. A dipper in the beck and kingfisher flying up and down.

Damper middle of the month, but still plenty of bird activity.  Robins, wrens, blackbirds and mistle thrush singing. First cold frosts of winter. Last week of the month, frozen spiders webs make great patterns, on the bridge and in the bushes. Tawny owls in full voice on a late walk.



First week, hard frosts, scattering of snow on the hills. Robins singing along with starlings and redwings. Second week goes to the other extreme with temperatures up to 15 degrees, May-like temperatures, Nature’s clock upset once again. Cold and wet mid-month.

Starlings calling, making curlew calls and otherimitations of birds and the mobile phone.

End of the year sees temperatures mild again and very wet.

Let’s hope Nature has a great 2017 at the Wilderness.