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:


6 January – Dull day. Good views of robins, wrens, dunnocks, and blackbirds and a small flock of long tailed tits.

13 January – Grey squirrels, not good for nesting birds in spring

20 January – put up new bird boxes, including a tawny owl box and moved some old boxes

27 January – Very cold. Blue and great tits checking the boxes. Dunnocks active and wrens, robins and the odd chaffinch.

3 February – Tawny owls have been calling near my house. Checked and one calling in Wilderness, and seeing resident birds with brighter bills than the dark ones from Europe

10 February – The weather can’t make its mind up, with this warm air meets cold air – and the wildlife and plants don’t know what to do either. Snowdrops are pushing through, crocus also and certain trees and bushes have buds showing, A mistle thrush was in fine voice at the top of a tree. They nest early and it’s a good sign of warmer weather that’s here to stay

17 February – A great week for birdsong, both mistle and song thrushes singing, starlings full of voice with their bubbly song and I heard one mimicking a curlew. Dunnocks are going hell for leather – they have a sweet song, very tuneful. Robins are proclaiming ‘This is my patch, keep away.’ Males are very territorial

24 February – Mixed week, cold, mild, warm, but another good week for birds, and a new one for the Wilderness -  although it was flying over, nevertheless an oyster catcher calling in flight heading back to the breeding ground up the valley. Female sparrowhawk caught a blue tit – looked like an adult hawk about 4 years. She’s a very accomplished hunter.

2 March – The new paths look good and I must say there wasn’t litter on my duty this week. First grey wagtail of the year and chaffinches singing and greenfinch with the distinctive wheeze call note at the end of the song. More flowers pushing through. It’s mild and warm for this time of the year and some birds are displaying, i.e. blue tit, blackbird, dunnock and songthrush.  

9 March – Spring has sprung – male blackbirds are fighting each other for mates. Mistle thrushes singing in the tops of trees. Flowers pushing through Nature knows, and as long as there are no frosts, everything is getting busy for the season to come. Curlews calling overhead as they also come back to their breeding grounds.  

16 March – I watched a wren building a nest, one of many as the females are fussy where they live! Now that rings a bell. I think the record for one male was 13 nests.

23 March – A dry March and even Skipton is getting warm sunshine. First migrant warbler back this week in the Wilderness. A chaffinch singing its arrival. Lots of activity around the boxes and bird song everywhere. The warm weather has certainly had its effect.

30 March – Another very warm week. Cooler today. Still waiting for the first willow warbler to arrive. Large numbers of bumble bees prospecting sites and several species of butterfly now emerging from hibernation, peacocks, small tortoiseshell and red admiral.

6 April – Strange week of weather, mild one day then frosty mornings, even snow showers mid-week that settled on the hills above Skipton. Lots of bird activity. Seen the first young blackbirds of the year. This early brood could struggle to survive if the weather gets cooler and wetter.

10 April – Mild and warm in the sun between showers. A male blackcap was singing by the wooden bridge, joined by the local robin and wren. Lots of blue tit activity busy searching for food and nesting materials. Not seen the young blackbirds – not sure if they have survived the week.

I hope the Open Day goes well. Unfortunately I can’t be there as am leading a group around Grassington and Hebden.

20 April – From the feedback I reckon the Open Day went well – great to hear lots of families turned up. Getting the young ones involved is the future for Nature. Mixed weather this week, very cold at times. A few young thrushes and blackbirds in the undergrowth. As I walked into the Wilderness saw my first house martins and swallows of the year.

24 April – Weather doesn’t look good for the rest of the week so an early walk on a cold but dry morning. Greeted by willow warbler singing and blue tits in and out of nest box. A new mammal for the Wilderness, a busy little bank vole by the wooden bridge. Blackbirds alarming as a magpie has found the nest. One egg broken on the path and the rest will be eaten as the magpie will come back and finish the lot.

10 May – Black cap building a nest this morning.  I hope the weather improves and they fledge later in the month.

24 May – Fantastic weather and due to get hotter. Birds do tend to go quiet mid-afternoon. Even they can get too warm. Good number of butterflies – green Venus white, small white, orange tip.

Off on my hols birding in Suffolk next week.

8 June – Bit of a mixed start to June. Forecast not good up to end of month. Great to see the vixen and two cubs this morning if only briefly. Lots of alarming from wrens and blackbirds.

15 June – Another mixed week. Some good news – not much litter on our duty at the weekend. Male roe deer wandering and a few fledglings about so some nests have made it through the wet period.

23 June – What a wet week – enough rain fell for the whole month of June. It will be interesting to see what happens with the flora and fauna in the coming weeks

20 July – All this wet and warm weather has made the vegetation grow very fast.   Lots of cover for any young fledglings. Not so good for the male sparrowhawk I was watching this morning – unsuccessful on both his attacks.

27 July – Very early walk through this morning. Very quiet birdwise till I got to the stepping stones.  High up in the trees a young tawny owl was sitting watching me.  I say young from feathers, but probably a late brood chick – may be earlier eggs failed.

3 August – Still plenty of thrushes, blackbirds, robins, wrens and various tits this week. Haven’t seen any warblers but as migration has started, birds will pass through, so next few weeks anything could drop in.

10 August – Well summer well and truly came this week – what a difference some sun makes. Lots of butterflies about and several brown hawker dragonflies down by the bridge. What fantastic flyers these insects are. Must have been quite a few about as I watched one flying along Ward Street later.

17 August – Summers just get wetter. Not much activity this morning. Still, there’s always something to see if you take your time and keep quiet. As I stood on the bridge looking upstream, I heard a high pitched noise then movement along the bank. Sure enough a mink working its way down the beck passed under the bridge and on its way under the road tunnel.

24 August – Dry at times earlier in the week. A bit of warmth has helped – a good hatch of speckled wood butterflies, and a very big family of long tailed tits foraging through the trees.

31 August – Last day before heading off for holidays, cruising the Med first half of September then last two weeks in France.  Autumn will be well underway by then.

5 October – Lots of colours – the trees are spectacular at this time of year. Soon there won’t be much cover for the birds and some mammals gorging themselves for the winter months ahead. Watching the squirrels hiding nuts and acorns closely watched by a jay – clever birds, why find your own food when someone else does the hard work?

11 October – Not a bad week, dry but cold yet in the sunshine feels quite warm. Who says British birds aren’t colourful? I was watching a male and female bullfinch this morning. The male was stunning, one of my favourite birds.

19 October – Mixed weather this week. Lots of blackbirds and thrushes about. Lots of chattering, each group informing others about food sources. It’s a good time of year to stop and listen to the crow family - you would be surprised how varied their call notes are.

26 October – Winter thrushes have arrived this week. Don’t see many in the Wilderness, just the redwing and fieldfare but I think this year may be different as there are not enough berries on the trees to support these winter migrants – so gardens and small wooded areas should see good numbers of these superb winter thrushes.

2 November – Pink footed geese calling, flying high over the Wilderness.  Lots of these birds will be moving  through heading towards the west coast of Lancashire for the winter. Most of the leaves are on the floor today after the rain and strong winds. Still, as long as we don’t get the tail end of storm Sandy we should be OK.

9 November – Too dark in a morning for early walks, so daytime strolls

weather depending. Good number of blackbirds and a few from across the water with the black beaks.  Robins and Dunnocks still calling and occasionally singing. Very wet in the afternoon, nothing much moving.

16 November – Very mild week, still lots of insects about so the garden birds have been in the trees. Thrushes, blackbirds and robins turning over leaves looking for grubs before the frosts come. There are a few waxwings about so we may see some at the bottom of Shortbank Road shortly.  

23 November – Plenty of water flowing down the beck after yesterday’s heavy rain. Couple of jays searching for food watched by a family of long tailed tits and alarming calls from robin and wren.  As I was leaving 5-6 waxwings flew over looking for any trees or bushes with berries left on.

30 November – Winter has arrived – very cold last night, very frosty morning.  The ground is hard. Insects will be difficult to find. More and more of the Wilderness birds will be visiting gardens feasting on fatballs and peanuts, sunflower seeds etc. But the resident robins still chase away any rivals in their territory and alarming when jays fly down and squirrels keep turning over leaves looking for hidden stores.

7 December  – Cold week,  birds busy looking for food before the mild forecast at the weekend. But then winter really arrives next week with temperatures of -10 degrees forecast. We need to keep all the bird feeders topped up and water is important as natural water freezes over. Tawny owls are calling in the Wilderness at night staking out territories.

14 December – Another cold week.. very slippy on the paths this morning with the now heavy rains. A few blackbirds and a good number of wrens which have probably been huddled together overnight in a nest box. I think the record for wrens in one box is 18.

21 December – What a change in the weather, very mild and dry today. Lots of bird activity, dunnocks robins, wrens, blackbirds, thrushes, all searching for food. A small number of midges hatching  and flying. Rooks were calling in the tops of trees. Blue tits and great tits calling as they flit around in small flocks.

28 December – End of another year recording in this wonderful little area  known as the Wilderness. A nice walk through this morning, dry and quite mild. Lots of long tailed tits calling and moving through the trees . A starling was singing from the top of a tall tree and a blackbird tried part of its song also. Just as I was leaving I saw my first goldcrests  and tree creeper – a great way to end the year.