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Farnham Gravel Pit Members’ Day 15 July 2018

A perfect hot and sunny summer day welcomed members and friends to Farnham Gravel Pit on Sunday 15th July 2018.

The day started very early, in fact overnight, as the moth trappers Jill Warwick, Charlie Fletcher and Whitfield Benson set up their equipment to catch the moths. The reward was 100 macro moths and 30 micro moths with 77 new species to add to the Farnham list. Poplar Hawk, Drinker, Coxcomb Prominent, Swallow Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Beautiful Hook Tip, Common Footman, Scarce Footman and Beautiful Hook-tip to name a few.

HDNS Mammal Recorder, Richard Stobbs, set traps the previous evening and early arriving visitors, including some youngsters, were able to walk round with Richard to watch him open the traps. The species captured were 10 Bank Vole, 5 Common Shrew and just one Wood Mouse.

Holly Blue, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

Holly Blue, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

Mike Smithson led the Butterfly walk. Fifteen species were on the wing. Small Skipper (10), Brimstone (1) Large White (20), Small White (40), Green-veined White (10) Small Copper (3) Holly Blue (2) Small Tortoiseshell (10) Peacock (10) Comma (3) Speckled Wood (2) Gatekeeper (50) Meadow Brown (50) Ringlet (10) and Purple Hairstreak (2) a new record for Farnham.

Ruddy Darter, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

Ruddy Darter, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

David Alred showed visitors several Dragonfly and Damselfly species. These included Ruddy Darter and Common Darter which were on the lake and also at the pond and we had good views of them. Black-tailed Skimmers were flying low over the lake. We saw an Emperor female laying her eggs directly into the lake. The male was close by fertilizing the eggs as she laid them in the water and making sure no other males came near. Emerald, Common Blue, Bluetailed and Azure Damselflies and Common and Brown Hawkers were also seen.

The flora is struggling in places this year due to the hot dry weather. In spite of this there have been some good numbers of Pyramidal Orchid and also scattered patches of Bee Orchid and just one Fragrant Orchid. Twayblade and Common Spotted Orchid have been present in good numbers. All were over before Open Day. The Reserve still has quite a lot of colour with Field Scabious, Tall Melilot, Knapweed, Agrimony, St John’s-wort and Upright Hedge-parsley. Plants of note are Equisetum Variegatum, Variegated Horsetail. First recorded in 1986 and found again in 2015. The only locality in the HDNS study area and lowland parts of vice-county 64. A full list of Farnham plants is available on the website.

Mute Swan, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

Mute Swan, FGP 15/7/2018 (Mike Smithson)

A pair of Common Terns were feeding two chicks on the platform, bringing in small fish at regular intervals. A late breeding Little Grebe was on its nest and the Great Crested Grebe had a small young one on its back. The Sand Martins were having a good year thanks to the weather and occupying the wall for a second brood. A pair of Reed Warblers with a nest in the Phragmites bed were feeding young and Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were still in song.

June Atkinson and Valerie Holmes

FGP Moth list 15 July 2018

Nosterfield BioBlitz 2018 – 5pm Wednesday to 5pm Thursday 18/19th July 2018

‘Nature Reserves are Not Enough!’ says Chris Packham whose team selected Nosterfield Nature Reserve as one of 50 sites he visited in a ten day period, aimed at highlighting the extent to which nature is under threat by undertaking a ‘bioblitz’. This audit of wildlife will create a bench mark, helping to measure the rise and/or fall of different species over a given time period. The Nosterfield event started with a Bat Walk and Gull Roost Watch on the Wednesday evening. There was a guided walk during the day on Thursday into the heart of the Reserve, which many enjoyed, opening of the moth traps from the previous night, pond dipping and a demonstration of microscopes by Grovers Optics. Another guided walk on the Quarry included the Heritage Lottery Fund and Local Nature Partnership initiative which is allowing LUCT to collect local seed and propagate wetland plants which were growing in the area around 5000 years ago, before mineral extraction was ever dreamt of. The hope is to recreate these Neolithic conditions and attract birds which would have lived hereabouts such as Little Bittern.

The Nosterfield team, headed by Simon and Jill Warwick with an amazing set of volunteers smashed last year’s BioBlitz total with two hours to go. Members of the North & East Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre did a sterling job collating the total number of species identified by 5pm at the end of the day as an amazing 816 with some more specimens still to examine and classify. Subtotals: 321 plants, 89 birds, 212 Lepidoptera, 122 other invertebrates, 12 mammals, 3 amphibians and 57 other species. All totals are requested to be in by 10th August nationally, when there will be further publicity about the audit.

Well done to all the team and volunteers and thanks to Chris Packham for his early morning inspirational team talk.

Sue Coldwell

Ferns and Higher Plants at Skrikes Wood and Heyshaw Moor – 14th July 2018

Leader: Kevin Walker

14 members met in Pateley Bridge, focusing on botany, in particular ferns.

In Skrikes Wood, 14/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

In Skrikes Wood, 14/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

Upper Nidderdale was a known fern hotspot to the Victorians, who dug up specimens for their ferneries, unfortunately causing the decimation and even local eradication of some rare species in the process. However there was still much for us to see.

We walked to Fish Pond Wood for instruction from Kevin on the fern life cycle, morphological features, habitats and tips on how to identify common species, illustrated by the examples surrounding us. We then continued to Skrikes Wood for more unusual species including beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis) and oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris).
Interesting sedges, rushes and other plants were also pointed out.

The wood contains deep ravines which we negotiated after a somewhat perilous and exciting adventure scaling collapsed giant boulders and decaying trees. Everyone delighted in observing Wilson’s filmy fern (Hymenophyllum wilsonii) growing in its highly specialised habitat at the end of the assault course.

Leaving the wood we sidetracked to see a large area of chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea).

Lesser Twayblade  (Neottia cordata) 14/7/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

Lesser Twayblade (Neottia cordata) 14/7/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

The final treat was a visit to Heyshaw Moor for a completely different flora including lesser twayblade (Listera cordata) growing in saturated sphagnum despite the weeks of drought. It survives in a tiny moorland island surrounded by species poor grouse moor where managed burning prevents growth of most plants.
Thanks are due to Kevin for sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge and time so generously.
See separate species list for a fuller recording of what was seen.

Hazel Mitford

Plant species list

National Meadows Day at Farnham Gravel Pit – 7th July 2018

13 of us attended at FGP on this fine morning, and spread ourselves out around the lake in the marked areas previously mapped by the organising team, led by Sonia Starbuck. We proceeded to record all the flowering plants possible – fortunately, fresh from our training session on grasses, sedges and rushes with Kevin Walker on the previous day.

Field scabious beside Farnham Lake, 7/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

Field scabious beside Farnham Lake, 7/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

FGP is a particularly rich site – it has the largest species count of all the HDNS sites surveyed – and at this, the peak flowering season, it was a feast of flowers despite the preceding weeks of drought. Speaking for myself, it was a useful exercise to have to key out all those Willowherbs, St John’s Worts & Forget-me-nots which I normally ignore!

We amateurs got nowhere near to the full species tally but we did record 197 plants between us, and we did enjoy ourselves. 9 plants appeared to be new or previously overlooked. Some of the areas were not covered – you just can’t get the staff! – so the project may be continued in future years. See below for the list of plants recorded.

Sea Club-rush (Bolboschoenus maritimus), 7/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

Sea Club-rush (Bolboschoenus maritimus), 7/7/2018 (Sonia Starbuck)

Shortly before 3:00pm there was a general exodus in the direction of the World Cup England match…

Many thanks to all those who attended, to June for hosting the event and to Sonia for organising it.

Muff Upsall

FGP Meadows Day survey plant list

Grasses, Sedges and Rushes at Staveley Nature Reserve, Friday 6 July 2018

Leader – Kevin Walker

This was Kevin Walker’s identification workshop day at Staveley Nature Reserve, teaching us about grasses, sedges and rushes. These are topics which I had previously managed to avoid, by using the lame excuse that my botany book did not include grasses. But knowing that such an opportunity should not be missed, I somewhat nervously put my name down for the event, along with eleven other HDNS members.

We assembled first at the Paddocks, right next to Staveley reserve. Before we set off, Kevin produced an excellent selection of useful ID guides to help us on our ID way.

Grasses from Orchard Field (Bob Evison, 2014)

Grasses from Orchard Field (Bob Evison, 2014)

We began our foray in the orchard of the reserve where an astonishing array of meadow grasses were to be found. Although it was suggested that we should try and use the Latin names, it is difficult when the English names are so attractive – Sweet Vernal Grass, Meadow Foxtail and Golden Oat Grass all sound so Summery!

Kevin demonstrating marsh flora (Nick Gaunt)

Kevin demonstrating marsh flora (Nick Gaunt)

We then progressed into the wetter(?) areas, walking through to Upper Marsh, to find rushes and sedges, which were plentiful despite the very dry weather.

Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) (Nick Gaunt)

Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) (Nick Gaunt)

Of course a visit to Staveley would not be complete without including some orchids, so following on from grasses, sedges and rushes we then went in search of marsh and dune helleborines, and even spotted one bee orchid. On the way back Kevin fitted in a session on willow identification, and then finally a few very keen members found time for a spot of birdwatching on the East Lagoon.

A wonderful day in a wonderful location. Thanks to those members who took part and to Kevin for sharing some of his extensive knowledge and for his patience in dealing with our questions. I am sure we are all looking forward to his next trip at Skrikes Wood which will also include ferns.

Sonia Starbuck

Grasses list Staveley 8/7/2018

Ashberry and Ellerburn Bank, YWT sites and SSSI’s, 27th June 2018

13 enthusiastic would-be botanists were punctual at the visitor centre on Sutton Bank, where the temperature was already in the 20s. Shared out into 4 cars, we parked in the restricted space at YWT Ashberry and set off through the tall vegetation to the crystal clear stream fed by calcium rich springs which runs through the reserve. There were many plants typical of limestone marsh and grassland, the first we noticed being extensive patches of Marsh Lousewort; Marsh Valerian, Marsh Pennywort’ and Marsh Bedstraw were also found – it was marshy! There were abundant sedges such as Glaucous, Carnation, Hairy and Bottle and at least four species of rush, all providing useful practice for those of us who were trying to improve our identification skills. Butterwort was plentiful but most not flowering; similarly the Bird’s-eye Primroses had more or less finished. A full plant list is attached.
We were charmed by the beauty of the location and the variety of plants, although full exploration of the site was rather beyond our botanical skills and time allowance.

Ashberry Pastures Group, 27/6/2018 (Kerry Morrison)

Ashberry Pastures Group, 27/6/2018 (Kerry Morrison)

So after a couple of hours we headed off to Ellerburn Bank where we were met by the YWT site manager Kate Yates. This reserve is a small but stunning meadow which has never been interfered with by agriculture. We were impressed before we even went through the gate by the enormous and exotic looking Woolly Thistles which guarded the entrance. Kate described the management strategies, which included chasing the butterfly orchids around the meadow with anti-rabbit corrals, and showed us the Fly Orchids, slightly past their peak flowering. A huge list of other plants was accumulating – see attached list – highlights included Dropwort, Pyramidal orchids, Musk Thistle and many beautiful grasses which were at their best, particularly Purple Moor grass and Yellow Oat grass.
The hot sunshine brought out a bonanza of butterflies – blues, skippers, marbled whites, a beautiful dark green fritillary and many others (see attached list.) The site is also notable for reptiles but to see adders and slowworms we would have needed to search the dry stone wall and once again our time was limited. Many of us felt we would like to return to these sites again with more time!

Thoroughly sunned and overloaded with new plant names we set off on the long drive back after what felt like a quite intensive day. Many thanks to Kate and the YWT, they do a fantastic job in saving and maintaining these important sites.

Muff Upsall

Ashberry Pasture and Ellerburn Bank 27/6/2018 Plant and butterfly list

Evening Field Trip To Stainburn Forest for Nightjars and Woodcock, 14th June 2018

Storm Hector blew itself out during the early evening to leave a perfectly calm night for the trip. The wild weather had greatly weakened the midge population which was a bonus for us, but the lack of moths, the food for Nightjars, was a concern. 16 members joined Mike Smithson for the walk up to the clear fell area. Before the sun went down Tree Pipits entertained us with their parachuting antics and as dusk gathered the Woodcocks began to rode.

Tree Pipit, Stainburn Forest, 14/6/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Tree Pipit, Stainburn Forest, 14/6/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Woodcock, Stainburn Forest, 14/6/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Woodcock, Stainburn Forest, 14/6/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

There were several sightings, quite a few coming very close to the group and giving excellent views of their distinctive profile and rapid wing beats. As darkness fell and the sunset faded, a single Nightjar gave us good views and started to churr quietly. There followed sightings of a pair sitting on a dead tree outlined against the sky. The churring started up again and in the increasing darkness a single bird was observed again outlined against the ever darkening sky. The track back to the carpark was thankfully made from limestone chips which showed up well in what by now was total darkness, approaching midnight.

Nightjar, Stainburn Forest (taken a few days later by Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Nightjar, Stainburn Forest (taken a few days later by Nigel Harcourt-Brown)


Thanks to Mike for leading.

Upper Teesdale, Friday 11 May 2018

Seventeen members met at the Bowlees visitor centre for a botanical field meeting to study the flora of the area. The visitor centre is located in an old Primitive Methodist Chapel. The walk was led by HDNS long time member Richard Campbell who knows the area very well.

Young Twayblade, Bowlees, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

Young Twayblade, Bowlees, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

We walked from the car park, behind the visitor centre along Bow Lee Beck to an old quarry. We found very many plants in a short space of time. Many were in their early stages of flowering as we were further north than Harrogate and at a higher altitude. A full plant list is attached to this Field Trip report. To pick out a few we saw Twayblade, just at the two leaf stage but it is very distinctive and we saw hundreds of plants over the day. We also saw Common Spotted Orchid, Arum Lily, Wood Anenome, Barren Strawberry, Wood Forget-me-not, Marsh Marigold, Butterwort, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage and Welsh Poppy.

 

Spring Gentian, Upper Teesdale, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

Spring Gentian, Upper Teesdale, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

We returned to our cars and drove a couple of miles further west just the other side of the river from the Pennine Way. On the more acidic roadside verge we saw the distinctive silver leaves of Melancholy Thistle. We were to see very many more leaves of this abundant plant during the day. Greater Knapweed was growing nearby and also Water Avens. We followed a track across the field down to the River Tees. There was a cold wind blowing and young lambs in the fields. We saw Heath Wood-rush, Birdseye Primrose, Common Scurveygrass, Spring Gentian, Creeping Willow, Cowslip, Sweet Vernal-grass, Marsh Valerian, Early Purple Orchid and many more. There were Sand Martins by the river. We drove back to the Visitor Centre for lunch.

 

David explaining crinoids to the group

David explaining crinoids to the group

After lunch we walked from the car park. We crossed the road and walked by a wood. We found Great Wood-rush, Winter Aconite, Bluebell, Wood Sorrel, Common Whitlowgrass. Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Slender Speedwell, Globe Flower and Bitter Vetch, Lathyrus montanus. We crossed the river at a very interesting geological feature where the river washed down over rocks and small waterfalls to reveal a polished limestone platform revealing many fossils. David Holmes was able to explain the Geology and also about a large intrusion in the river, the size of a house, we came across later which had been washed down by the molten Whin Sill 320 million years ago. We walked back along the river bank in the direction of the Wynch Bridge and Low Force where the plant life was verdant. We saw good numbers of plants we had already seen and one new one for the end of a great day – Goldilocks.

Goldilocks in woodland near Low Force, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

Goldilocks in woodland near Low Force, 11/5/2018 (Nick Gaunt)

 

On the way home some of us stopped off at Eggleston Abbey where we were treated to the sight of thousands of plants of Meadow Saxifrage.

 

Many thanks to Richard Campbell for a really wonderful Field Trip.

Meadow Saxifrage, Eggleston Abbey, 11/5/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Meadow Saxifrage, Eggleston Abbey, 11/5/2018 (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

 

Valerie Holmes

Teesdale plant list

RSPB Fairburn Ings Reserve, 1st May 2018

Leader: June E. Atkinson
A sunny day was very welcome for the ten members who met in the reserve car park and a good start was made from the observation platform with Reed and Sedge Warblers, a pair of Common Whitethroats choosing a nest site and an Avocet which came into view just in time for a tick. During a walk from the centre to the first hide, House Sparrows were noted at the feeding station and, continuing on, a few Greylag Geese were seen with a Moorhen, while Blue and Great Tits were on the feeders. We continued our walk along the streamside where a Large Red Damselfly was found, Orange Tip butterflies were on the wing and Chiffchaffs were singing. On our way up to the coal track, a Willow Warbler gave good views and, once on the coal track, a Sky Lark and a Green Woodpecker were heard and an Oystercatcher was at a pool. News of Black-necked Grebes on the new pool quickened our pace and we had excellent very close views of five of them in breeding plumage; Little Grebes and Pochard were also present.
We moved along to the highest point which overlooks the reserve towards the main road, our main objectives being Great White Egret and Spoonbill. It was essential to use a telescope to view both species some distance away at their breeding site in the willows. A Cuckoo flew by then perched obligingly for us and, before we left, a Bittern began booming from the reedbed. Well satisfied with our morning, we made our way back to the centre for lunch before taking in Lin Dyke, as Egyptian Geese had been reported there. After much searching, a single goose was found. Due to the heavy rainfall in this area recently, the water level was very high. Gadwall, Shoveler and Shelduck were among the ducks present, two Common Terns gave good views as did a Little Egret. From the willows, a Cetti’s Warbler gave us a few bursts of song but remained elusive, as usual!
We continued towards the canal bank where a Willow Tit was seen by two lucky members. Garden Warbler and Common Whitethroat were present along the way and another Common Tern and Avocet were on Higson’s Pool. On our return, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and Greenfinch were added to the list and, as we approached the car park, a singing Lesser Whitethroat was heard and eventually seen. Few raptors had been seen during the day and so an effort was made in the car park to find some. After much sky-watching, a Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk were found and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen from the bridge — a fine end to the day.
Thanks to the weather and a great team effort by the members, a total of 75 species was seen.

Fairburn Ings bird list

Hartlepool and Teesmouth, 20th February 2018

Leader: June Atkinson

Our minibus driver, Keith, got us off to a good start, arriving at Hartlepool at 9.15 a.m. on a sunny morning with a receding tide that had been high at 6.30 a.m. Our first stop was along the seafront where the rocks were just beginning to be exposed and our target wader species, Purple Sandpiper, was quickly found. The usual Turnstones and Oystercatchers were in good numbers but a very good find was a single Knot. We next moved on to the Headland to sea watch as, in the past, this had always produced a good number of species but today it was extremely quiet and two flying Red-throated Divers with one on the sea, two Common Scoters and a Common Guillemot were all that were seen. As we walked past the breakwater, a Mediterranean Gull was sitting on the rocks and a party of Eider Ducks was on the sea, close to the entrance to the fish docks. Moving on to the Marina, which like the Headland is usually a good location, did not produce anything today. The report of a Black Redstart at the entrance to the docks was worth a try, but in vain, though a diligant member did find a Little Owl which gave a flying view to some of the group.

Our lunch stop at Newburn Bridge gave us the usual Mediterranean Gull, also a lone Sanderling on the beach. A Lapland Bunting, with a large flock of Linnets across the road from there, was worth investigating; as usual the flock was constantly on the move but some members did have a brief view of the bunting. A short stop at North Gare provided us with a Grey Plover, before we reached RSPB Saltholme Reserve where a strong northerly wind greeted us. Fourteen species of waterfowl were seen, highlights being Pintail, Red- breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. Hundreds of Wigeon were feeding in the fields with Curlews, Golden Plovers and a close Little Egret, while a hunting Marsh Harrier gave excellent views. A Stonechat was located and Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch and Reed Bunting were some of the species at the feeders.

Well done to the 18 members who worked hard to provide such a good list of 73, which equalled last year’s trip — a very enjoyable day.

June Atkinson.

See the bird list

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