Spring Watch Appleton le Moors

It sounds as if many of us have gained a greater appreciation of nature during lockdown. From listening to bird song in the city or spotting more wildlife for those of us lucky enough to live in the countryside.

We thought our knowledge of birds was pretty good, but we’ve learnt so much from other villagers over recent weeks as people have shared sightings and their far superior knowledge on Facebook! The incident that best sums up our poor “twitcher” skills is hearing a high pitched beeping noise in our kitchen. We were convinced that an alarm had gone off in a drawer, and after much searching and head scratching, realised it was the small red legged partridge sitting on our wall outside the window. Whoops! So thank you to those in the village who we are still  learning from, especially Jim and Chris (the latter who has let us use some of his photographs)

The first sightings of visiting birds arriving back in Appleton are eagerly anticipated as they herald the start of Spring. The sound of the first cuckoo is a milestone (even we know that call!) and there is a level of competition as to who can hear it first (24th April this year) Mind you, whilst it is now clearly resident locally, we are still to actually see one..

Other recent sightings include a nightingale heard singing in Appleton Hall, collared doves nesting on a security light at the Moors Inn, and rarer species like the spotted fly catcher, nuthatch and goldcrest.

We look forward most to the arrival of the “acrobatic” birds; usually a solitary swallow or house martin over the village, then more, and finally the ones we love the most, the screeching swifts that race overhead like fighter pilots. We’ve had both swallows and martins nest in the eaves of our house and the Long Barn before. This weekend the Barn has been martin central as several pairs seem to be sussing out possible new nesting sites.  Fingers crossed! They’ll be in good company with the sparrows, blackbirds and starlings all nesting and raising young in the courtyard.


The variety of habitat around Appleton means there are all sorts of other birds and animals to look out for when exploring. On the common, the quieter pace of life has seen more sightings of roe deer and hares, whilst overhead red kites, buzzards and hobbies have been spotted. Along with pheasants, sky larks and yes, the infamous partridges! 

Up on the moors, we’ve seen curlews, lapwings and grouse on our walks. On country walks through fields along hedgerows, look out for yellow hammers (their distinctive call is “a little bit of bread and no cheese”) long tailed tits (these are Disney cute, and fly about in little flocks calling noisily) and black caps. 

In the woods, you can hear the distinctive “hammering” of a wood pecker; green and the greater spotted wood pecker are just two varieties seen recently. And by the River Seven that snakes through the woods down to Sinnington, you could be luck and see a pair of dippers. If you are really lucky, a flash of bright jewelled blue will mean you’ve spotted a king fisher.

Head towards the coast, and there is so much to see; Bempton Cliffs is a great place to see all sorts of seabirds from gannets to puffins.

Closer to home, the bird feeders we now have in the Long Barn courtyard have attracted  gold finches, chaffinches, robins, collared doves, great tits, blue tits, pied wagtails and wrens (alongside the usual suspects of sparrows, blackbirds and  starlings)

And when summer is ended, and our migrant visitors departed, there is still much to see. Hooting owls calling out to each other as you walk back from the pub are really common. Our favourite owl to look out for is the ghostly white barn owl; often seen hunting early morning as the sun comes up.

We also have a bucket list of wildlife that we’d like to spot, from sightings listed on the The North York Moors National Park web site! These include pine martins (spotted as part of the Yorkshire Pine Martin Support Programme) nightjars and a murmuration of starlings. Not to mention the various whales and dolphins off the coast from Whitby.

So for those of you coming to stay, we’ll be happy to share any recent sightings in the visit. The North York Moors organises a variety of Wild Life safaris, which will return post lock down. Just bring your binoculars, and keep your eyes peeled. Who knows what you may spot!