Harrogate & District Naturalists’ Society (hdns.org.uk)
As the flowers start to grow again and the trees burst into leaf, the birds burst into song. Blackbird, robin, dunnock, wren, chaffinch, greenfinch, song thrush (which helpfully repeats each phrase twice), mistle thrush and goldfinch can all be heard. Great spotted woodpeckers use tree trunks as drums to advertise their presence.
The small rookery near the entrance will be alive with rooks calling to each other as they begin to nest. Summer migrants begin to appear – swallows, house martins and later (in May), swifts can all gather over the open grassland and you may hear the falling cadence of a willow warbler along the hedgerows or a chiffchaff continually singing its name from the top of a tree. Some birds merely pass through very briefly and if you are very lucky, perhaps early on a quiet morning, you may find a wheatear or catch a brief colourful glimpse of a redstart.
Most birds will now be busy feeding their young and you should be able to easily spot family parties of blue, great and long-tailed tits. Other birds will have young to feed as well and sparrow hawks will be looking out for easy victims.
Kestrels will welcome the long grass as it will serve as home to many small mammals which they will hunt. An uncommon summer visitor but one which is increasing in number is the hobby. This is one of the few birds capable of catching a swift in flight and where swifts gather in “screaming parties” (as they do over the park) then one may appear. As summer progresses birds can be harder to see as most go into moult, renewing their feathers, so keep themselves quiet and hidden.
An exciting time in the bird watching calendar – anything can turn up anywhere! The summer migrants start to leave and parties of swallows can be noted flying over the park heading south. Buzzards can be very noticeable at this time of year and with pairs breeding not far away groups of three to four birds might be noticed drifting high on thermals. Red kites, too, are increasingly noted over the town and can be seen twisting and turning in the sky. Jays become more visible as they collect acorns from oak trees and then fly off to bury them for retrieval in the cold weather. As autumn approaches winter other species begin to move and in suitable conditions flocks of meadow pipits, skylarks, various finches and even woodpigeons can be counted as they stream towards warmer climes for the winter.
Winter thrushes arrive now - redwings and fieldfares – and these can be very noticeable as they flock to berries, keen to replenish the energy they have used up during their flight here from Scandinavia. Tits can form large flocks at this time of year and it can be worth scanning through them carefully as other species can join them such as treecreepers, great spotted woodpeckers, coal tits and goldcrests. Chaffinches might be joined by bramblings feeding on the fallen beechmast under the beech trees. The park is home to tawny owls, they are more often heard than seen, but now the leaves are off the trees they can be easier to find.