A great chance to see Fountains Abbey in a very different light

Fountains by Floodlight

You may not realise but Fountains Abbey has had a tradition of floodlighting for over 60 years. No, I can't remember when it first started, but I do know it gives visitors a chance to see the Abbey in a different light. Every Saturday from now until October 18, experience the beauty and tranquillity of Fountains Abbey floodlit when the grounds are open to the public from dusk until 10pm.

You can also listen to and enjoy the sounds of Gregorian Chant as you stroll through the Cistercian ruins or join a free guided tour to learn more about the fascinating history of the abbey and its monks at 7pm and 7.30pm. There will be a live choral performance, featuring a different choir from across the region in the vaulted cellarium every week from 8-9pm, and hot refreshments will also be available. Normal admission prices apply. Last admission to the grounds is 9pm. For further information, telephone the estate office on 01765 608888 or visit the website www.fountainsabbey.org.uk.


The warmer weather, should I say summer, has brought with it at last some butterflies, although not perhaps as many as we are used to. Paul Irving has had lots of red admirals in his garden. Connie Young reports speckled wood, red admiral and comma in her Harlow Hill garden.

Joan Hill had a speckled wood in her garden at Boston Spa on Thursday, September 18. “It was so unusual after seeing peacocks, red admirals, tortoiseshell, etc, that I called the family out to see it. After looking in the butterfly book I deduced it was a speckled wood, even though it did say it was usually only present in the south of the country.

“A couple of weeks ago I also had a comma, but only the one this year. Not many birds about at the moment, but as soon as the niger seed containers are re-filled the message goes round and about six goldfinches appear twittering away in the tree or ground feeding underneath. This morning there is a pair of great tits and robin redbreast keeps popping in. They all seem to warn each other when the cats from next door appear through the hedge.”

Andy Beattie spotted several speckled wood butterflies “the other day along with the usual peacocks and red admirals enjoying the afternoon sun and feeding on sedums. We live near open countryside on Yew Tree Lane”

Tortoiseshell and speckled wood butterflies have also been seen by Alan Croucher. Speckled wood are now common in our district, they don't read the books and the books can't keep pace with the speckled wood’s movement north. I assume they aren't taking the advice to move south!

Reader's Photo of the Week

I have included a picture of a speckled wood butterfly, right, sent in by Alan Croucher. Andy Beattie also sent me a fine photo of a speckled wood, but I know Alan and he's bigger than me; sorry Andy.

More on Mallards!

Lin Tippey, from Knaresborough, writes: “Regarding the lack of mallards on the River Nidd. The predators we have seen are rats and crows, but no more than previous years. We are now another month on and I have just returned from a circular walk today on the river path to the Lido caravan site at Grimbald Bridge, and down Abbey Road to Low Bridge. In the whole of this stretch of the river I did not see one mallard, or any other duck for that matter. I would be very interested to know if this absence is confined to this part of the Nidd. Are they for example still plenty at Fountains Abbey? This is so unusual as we have every year seen dozens of ducks in our garden, scores at the Lido and always a few at Low Bridge.

“One good thing, though, from this walk: I was lucky enough to have two sightings of kingfishers, one at Abbey Mill near the weir, and one at Low Bridge. Brilliant!”

What do you think? This might be the time of year that mallards leave the river to find a safer place to moult but no mallards at all does seem strange. What does everyone else think? Are mallards dropping in numbers? Is it due to predation? Tell me about them at your favourite duck haunt.


Robert Brown tells me a juvenile black tern was seen at Farnham, Harrogate Naturalists' Society's private nature reserve, on September 24.

Kevin Dunn has been out and about recently and is able to report an adult moorhen with fully grown juvenile and five (day old?) chicks on a small puddle between Markington and Wormald Green on September 11. The same day he also saw a sparrowhawk and buzzard. Between Copgrove and Burton Leonard he saw two red kites. On September 18 Kevin sadly reports that there were only two adult moorhens, no full grown juvenile this time, and only two (week old) chicks left, on same puddle as above. Very few hirundines seem to be around. We took Danny to Aberdeen to start University last weekend and saw a few swallows still up there and a few were at Wheldrake Ings on September 26 along with a marsh harrier.

A good raptor weekend reported by Paul Irving on September 22 with one, possibly two, honey buzzards, and at least three ospreys. We saw an osprey hovering over a river from the A74 taking Danny north, incidentally. It was the first I have ever seen away from the breeding grounds; sadly we couldn't stop to see if it might catch a fish.

I received a rather sad email containing a newspaper cutting from The Independent , from Paul Haslam. It was entitled “Catastrophic fall in numbers reveals bird populations in crisis throughout the world.” It says. for example: “45 per cent of common European birds are declining, with the familiar European turtle dove, for example, having lost 62 per cent of its population in the last 25 years, while on the other side of the globe, resident Australian wading birds have seen population losses of 81 per cent in the same period.”

I suspect it's something most observers of wildlife have noticed and it is coupled with or perhaps even due to the decrease in insects of which honey bee problems are the most published, although I suspect many other species are also suffering. We really must look after our environment better; that means big changes to our lifestyle.

RSPB Fairburn Ings has seen some fine birds of late, including honey buzzard, up to five different marsh harriers, little egret daily, and a spoonbill a few days ago, greenshank and ruff present. On Thursday (September 9) a juvenile black tern was present for the third day running, clearly a different bird from the Farnham one.