The first of the year was seen and photographed on 16th April as it rested on Harden Moor. Within the following two weeks birds were reported across Rombalds and Keighley Moors, Strid Wood and Barden Fell. The majority of the 90 reports were of birds heard, and only in a few cases were clear views obtained. On 20th May on Keighley Moor, a bird was seen at very close range as it was pursued by Meadow Pipits, and a few days later another flew over Glovershaw Lane. On 1st June, a pair were together in the same hawthorn bush on the edge of Barden Moor, a site much-favoured by this species. A juvenile was seen on Soil Hill on 22nd August, and a week later two young birds attracted attention as they remained in the Taylor Lane area of Queensbury for a few days. The final record was of another juvenile, which was feeding in heather at the far end of Keighley Moor Reservoir on 6th September.
Cuckoo at Storiths photo: Brian Vickers
BARN OWL Tyto alba
Uncommon resident breeder.
With 65 records, a third of which referred to breeding birds, it was by far the best-ever year for this evocative species. Reports of individual birds came mainly from areas where breeding was successful or attempted. We are clearly reaping the rewards of the conservation work that has been undertaken by the Group and many other dedicated volunteers. This obviously successful approach has been achieved through the erection of specially designed boxes, in carefully chosen locations, and in co-operation with skilled birders. Perhaps it is no surprise that farmers have approached the Group to erect boxes on their land. All the records came from Airedale and the north of the area and, for the first time, birds were attracted to Stockbridge and an area above the Worth Valley. Fifteen pairs were identified and 35 young birds were reared, most of them ringed. One pair, found in a box with 14 Goosander eggs, were non-breeders, whilst at another site there was apparently successful breeding but no further information was received.
LITTLE OWL Athene noctua
Common resident breeder.
This year the species was reported at 28 locations, mainly on the moorland fringes, where dry-stone walls provide cover and breeding opportunities. At most of these sites, pairs were seen and breeding was suspected, but only on Denton Moor, where four young were ringed, and in the Washburn Valley, was it confirmed. A juvenile bird was also seen at Low Snowden.
Barn Owl photo: Stephen Lilley
Little Owl photo: Roger Nelson
TAWNY OWL Strix alucoCommon resident breeder.
This is our commonest owl, reported from a wide range of rural and suburban habitats, including gardens. The 80 records mainly concerned birds from the north of the area, with at least 15 pairs identified as breeders. The seven broods in the Washburn produced 14 young and at seven other sites in Wharfedale seven chicks were seen in various stages of development. The remaining site was in Judy Woods, where an adult with two young was watched. At two sites the nests either failed or were abandoned, with unhatched eggs at one and dead chicks at the other.
This was a better than average year with seven breeding pairs identified, some using baskets specially placed by the Group and dedicated volunteers. One plantation in the north of the area held up to four breeding pairs where chicks were seen, some of which were later ringed. Two other sites produced successful broods of up to three young at each and at a nest in the south two more young were reared. Outside the breeding period single birds were seen at Heights Lane (Bingley), Fewston Reservoir, Soil Hill and at the Oxenhope Watchpoint where a bird flew close to the observers on 15th September.
A Short-eared Owl and a Long-eared Owl in the Washburn Valley.
Photos: Peter Curran
SHORT-EARED OWL Asio flammeusUncommon resident, winter visitor and occasional breeder.
This was a better year for this species, with sightings reported from 20 different locations across the upland areas of the region. In the north, breeding took place at four sites, displays and bonding were witnessed in March and birds were seen defending territory in May. On the fells in the south, adults carrying food were seen at two sites and at one, three young birds, about 100 metres apart, were located amongst heather. At two other locations in this area adults were regularly seen and one report suggested that three pairs were active across the moorland.
Outside the breeding season an influx of birds in December was reported on the Whetstone Allotment, where up to five birds were regularly seen during the month.
The eight reports were from watchers who spent late evenings at Stainburn Forest and covered the period from 3rd June to 2nd July. The submitted information indicated that at least two, possibly three pairs were active. Males were heard churring and engaging in wing clapping, and females were seen hawking for insects, but there was no further information concerning breeding.