Mike and Dawn Monkman write, “The attached photos are of a pair of swallows that have chosen our porch to nest in this year. Despite all the comings and goings they seem to have made it to a clutch of chicks, four it would seem. Let’s hope they make it all the way back to Africa!”

I’ve been a little concerned about the number of house sparrows and swifts this year, do you think they are in decline? Anyway let’s join with Mike and Dawn in wishing their swallows the best of success. Another reader to send me some excellent swallow photos is Geoffrey Blackman of Ripon.

More Fox Sightings:

Chris Shovelton writes, “We live on Cornwall Road, backing on to the Pinewoods and over the last few days we have been very fortunate to witness bird flying lessons taking place. I am no bird expert but I think it is a buzzard and its young.

You hear a distinctive “mewing” cry then a pair of birds appear – a smaller one followed by a larger one who swoop round, come in from the trees over the garden and then back into the trees again. We are also being treated to regular visits from a thrush who is clearing up our snails at a good rate – we hear the tapping as he/she gets at the goodies inside the shells.

The bird(s) is/are not frightened of us pottering around the garden and will often carry on feeding under the hedge whilst my neighbour and I converse! Finally on sunny days we get visits from the local foxes who come to sunbathe on one of our gravel covered terraced beds. Usually there is just one but a couple of weeks ago there were two who curled up close to each other for a couple of hours. I attach a photo that I took a few years ago of a classic pose that “our” fox often adopts when visiting!” Surely this lovely creature isn’t the rogue fox mentioned above. It’s great to hear that the common buzzard continues to expand its range.


What you may be asking is PBWF? Well it stands for Pateley Bridge Walking Festival and this is the third year of a wonderful initiative organised by Freya and Pete Brosnan from Glasshouses.

The walks are varied and offer something for everyone whether you enjoy a short wander or a strenuous trek. For example, this year’s walks include the fascinating Dales farm at Gouthwaite, Nidderdale AONB Ranger walks and archaeology.

At this stage I guess I must come clean, on Sunday, September 30 I am running, well leading, a short walk down the dale between Birstwith, Burnt Yates and goodness knows where else.

Anyway for information about this walk or any other on the itinerary visit the PBWF website, email or ring 01423 712088. The festival runs from Thursday, September 28 to Sunday, September 30.

There are limited places on each walk and places are filling fast, so please book early to avoid disappointment. Sorry, no dogs allowed, but see the website for a list of local kennels that do ‘day care.’ A fee is also made for each walk, and different walks attract different fees, this covers administration costs and, where appropriate, the costs of professional expertise and transport.

Brilliant Bush Crickets:

I loved this photo of a speckled bush cricket sent in by Jud Goodwin. We have four major types of cricket in the UK, grasshoppers, which have large back legs they use for jumping and comparatively short antennae which have a clubbed end, ground-hoppers are similar to grasshoppers except their abdomen is protected with a hard covering and they over winter as an adult, crickets which have evolved to run and burrow and consequently their hind legs are less efficient for jumping and finally bush-crickets who have long thread like antennae and large back legs for jumping as Jud’s photo demonstrates.

Collectively these creatures are known as Orthoptera and we have about 30 resident breeding species, plus the occasional migrant, including locusts.

Speckled bush-crickets are a common species which is flightless and likes well vegetated areas, especially woodland margins, hedgerows and gardens. In late summer they lay their eggs under bark or in plant stems which emerge in May as nymphs which become mature bush-crickets by the end of August. They are a mainly nocturnal species and consequently rarely seen.

This bush-cricket is probably a female because if you look closely you can see a sabre-like ovipositor. In common with the majority of bush-crickets, males sing by rubbing their forewings over each other. At the base of the left forewing there is a small tooth which is rubbed against the edge of the right wing to produce a sound. The song, or stridulation, of the speckled bush-cricket is a short, high-pitched chirp repeated regularly and is inaudible to most humans beyond a range of a few centimetres. Unlike other bush-crickets the female is able to produce a weak stridulation in response to the male who, upon hearing this, moves towards her.