Back to the Annual Report Contents and Home page


by Gill Smith

2010 was a strange year, with very cold, snowy conditions at both ends of the year, and a mostly cool, dry spring and summer. In many ways this is a return to the conditions of the sixties and seventies and it will be very interesting to see how our wildlife responds. I suspect cold winters are good for killing off garden pests – but this of course may reduce the food supply for some birds. Certainly the cold has killed many tender and semi-hardy plants that were beginning to establish themselves here in Yorkshire, sadly including the rosemary in my garden.

On a wider front the government came up with proposals to privatise at least some Forestry Commission land and woods, with worrying implications for conservation and access if commercial interests were to become dominant. However, in the face of huge public protests the proposals were dropped and the status quo remains, but that of course does not mean that all our ancient woodlands are safe. It must also be remembered that even ancient woods require managing, preferably by time-honoured methods such as coppicing.

We mustn’t forget the discovery of a new bat in Ryedale – see the mammal report.

In my travels around the area I am dismayed at the state of our verges: they either seem to be totally abandoned and becoming choked by rank, coarse grasses and plants such as cow parsley and/or scrubbing over, or – arguably worse – being turned into smooth, weed-free lawns which are really green deserts: where are all the mice and voles to go, and if they go where will the kestrels and barn owls find the food to feed their chicks? I don’t know what the answer is, but we really need to campaign for a sensible, wildlife-friendly cutting regime. The same is true for some hedges which are mechanically cut (“mangled” might be a better word) at the wrong time of year, depriving birds of protected nesting sites and berries for autumn food.

We welcome Gordon Woodroffe as our new Mammal Recorder. Speaking of recording, the online recording scheme (see Tom’s notes on p.31) seems to be a success, and I urge you all to use the form to submit your sightings.

We had a successful year with many enjoyable trips, including a most interesting visit to Rievaulx Terraces with Nick Fraser.