Minutes of the Meeting of The Scarborough Field Naturalists Held on Tuesday 23rd January at 7-30pm at The University of Hull Scarborough Campus.
The President, Robin Hopper, was in the Chair and welcomed the 13 Members present, the low attendance being due to the severe weather conditions. Robin thanked Past President, Mick Carroll, for his three year Presidency, and wished him well as President of Ryedale Naturalists, and with his endeavours against persecution of Birds-of-Prey.
Robin also went on to say the Society had a strong Committee, and that his aim was to increase membership, especially amongst the younger generations.
Minutes of the Meeting held on 8th January: These had been displayed on the website, and, after a slight delay, on the meeting room projectors. They were signed as a correct record.
Correspondence: The January circular from the Yorkshire Geological Society had been received and copies were available for Members. Robin Hopper announced that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust had secured a significant sum of money to improve Burton Riggs Nature Reserve, and that there would be an open event there on Sunday 10th February. John Hume and others had received e-mails from Ron Baxter in relation to the management of Raincliffe Woods. A plant survey was proposed, but this had recently been done. A more pressing problem was that of the disturbance caused by mountain bikers.
Records and Reports:
Tim Burkenshaw reported on the Cayton and Flixton Carrs Wetland Project, informing members of a forthcoming Local Heritage Day on 31st January at Staxton Village Hall, as part of the YWT River Hertford and Carrs Partnership. Any interested Members were invited to attend and relate any stories they had about the area. He had brought posters and newsletters.
Mick Carroll had noted good numbers of Common Redpoll in the forests.
John Hume commented on the numbers of Redwings about the town.
Robin Hopper reported very close views of the Purple Sandpipers at the Harbour, up to 78 being seen recently. The Peregrines were back on the Castle Headland on what appeared to be a possible nest site. 400 Redwings had been seen over the town.
Richard Baines reported a Woodlark, which stayed for four days at Flamborough, where there was also a flock of over 40 Corn Buntings. Large numbers of thrushes were also present.
Tim Burkenshaw reported seeing a Woodcock at Staxton on 22nd January.
Louise Thompson had seen Woodcock, Barn Owl, Bullfinch and three Hares at Hutton Buscel.
Melanie Earle reported a Little Owl at North Moor this evening, and had seen six Fieldfares and a pair of Yellowhammers in her garden. She had counted the number of visits to her bird feeders over two 15 minute periods, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The morning count was Blue Tit 38, Coal Tit 133, Great Tit 27, Marsh Tit 23, Chaffinch 3. The afternoon count was Blue Tit 81, Coal Tit 41, Great Tit 26, Marsh Tit 23, Chaffinch 50. Speculation as to whether these were a few birds re-visiting frequently, or many birds visiting occasionally was aired.
After a short break, the speaker for the evening, ex-Society Member, and old Scarborian, Colin Howes, until recently Curator of Doncaster Museum, gave a talk entitled “Dial P for Polecat”.
Before embarking on his talk, Colin remarked on the Society’s Gavel, made by his father and presented to the Society at it’s Centenary.
He also presented a short study of Black-headed Gulls at a Doncaster wetland site, having counted the proportion of birds developing their brown heads as Spring progressed, and correlating the counts against average daily temperature and day length. There was no correlation between temperature rise, but a very positive correlation with extending day length, indicating this was the stimulus to change to Summer plumage. Amazingly, there were no similar studies to be found on searching the literature.
The main subject was that of the history of the Polecat in Yorkshire. Colin made the distinction between Polecat, Ferret and hybrids, saying that they were all the same species. By undertaking a painstaking and mammoth review of Church Warden’s accounts dating back to the 1500’s, for every Parish in Yorkshire, Colin had been able to speculate how the population of Polecats had changed over the centuries. Hunted as vermin, the population had declined significantly after the Enclosure Acts of the 1700’s, when much wetland habitat favoured by Polecats had disappeared. Later, in the late 1800’s, gamekeepers and the fox-hunting lobby pushed the animal to extinction in Yorkshire, leaving a “relic” population only to be found in Wales. From there, Polecats were gradually re-populating England, and animals were turning up (mainly found as road-kills) in south and north-west Yorkshire.
After questions, the President thanked the speaker for a fascinating insight into this seldom-encountered carnivore. The meeting closed at 9-15pm.