Leader: June E. Atkinson
A sunny but breezy day was a bonus after a severe gale the day before. A good start to the day was made at Nosterfield when a Peregrine Falcon was sitting on one of the islands, later flying off. Ducks were present with good numbers of Wigeon and Teal. Tufted Duck, a single Goldeneye and three Redshanks were also present, plus a small party of Linnets which flew around. Greylag and Canada Geese were present but a bonus was when five Pink-footed Geese flew over. A Pied Wagtail was seen on our walk down to the North Hide. From there, across the field, large numbers of Golden Plovers, with equal numbers of Lapwings, were found. Grey Heron was added to the list and a lone Robin was in the bushes.
Lunch was taken at Lingham before exploring the lake, where two fine drake Pintails were the main attraction while Gadwall, Shelduck, Mute Swan and Great Crested Grebe were added to the list. A walk to Kiln and Flask produced Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Starling and also Collared Dove for the two members who took the short route via the village. A Common Buzzard flew over, but the regular Little Owl was having the day off. A Little Grebe was on Kiln with Redshank. The first bird at the screen was a Goldcrest which gave close views. Gadwall and Teal were present and a Water Rail called from the reed bed, but there was no sound from the Cetti’s Warbler.
As there was time left in the day, it was suggested that we should visit Nicholson’s Lagoons to see the pair of Red-crested Pochards which had been there for some time, to which everyone agreed. The ducks were easily found, the drake in fine plumage, with the female; other species found were Shoveler, a well-disguised Common Snipe, Redwing, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch. An excellent end to the day, with 51 species recorded by the enthusiastic members. The lack of passerines was very notable.
It is now becoming something of a tradition or pattern that I organise some birding (other biological orders are usually hidden away at this time of year) on some date in December, within the Society’s area and with some eatery nearby. And so it was that on the 11th December at 9am 16 members of the Society met outside (yes) the Black Lion in Skelton, just NW of Boroughbridge. The heavy cloud cover made for moderate light conditions but at least it was dry and with little wind.We first of all explored the intensive arable fields just outside the northern end of the village, with the intention of finding some bunting and finch flocks. Walking on hard farm tracks, some under a Stewardship access scheme and others on PRW. Looking across some active sheep breaks (fattening sheep fenced on stubble turnips) we spotted, at distance, some large flocks of Woodpigeons which eventually alighted in tree tops. Whilst looking at these pigeons we spotted several flocks of smaller birds whirling around over some standing barley, left around a field headland probably to hold game birds. Some of these smaller birds eventually landed in nearer large deciduous trees and we could get a look at them through bins and scopes; and to the delight of us all these birds proved to be Corn Buntings and lots of Yellowhammers. After a good look we moved on nearer and in so doing flushed some Red-legged Partridge and a Hare, as we set off. A Red Kite flew low over a distant field and probably had disturbed a lot of the small birds we suddenly started to see – a single Song Thrush, a nice flock of Linnets flipped over the hedge and out of view, some Redwing and then more, and nearer, Corn Buntings and Yellowhammer. On reaching the barley headland more finches were seen closer, also a Tree Sparrow, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a covey of 13 Grey Partridge took up near us and landed out of sight in the middle of the stubble turnips. As time was of a premium at this stage I decided to walk back towards the village diagonally across a ‘bare’ field and was pleased to find up to 60 each of Linnet and Pied Wagtail with a few Meadow Pipits mixed in. Back in the village a Jay was seen to drop into someones garden feeders – in my lifetime I can recall the ‘keeper’s gibbets’ in nearby woods full of Jay (and other) carcasses. Back to our vehicles and a short drive to the parking area, adjacent to Hewick Bridge. En route some of the group had seen about 80 Lapwing in a winter corn field. The bacon butty/café trailer on the parking area was tempting but resisted, by all! We then proceeded to walk down river to look at the ex-quarry site and large developing reed bed soon to be handed over to the YWT come March next year. This site looks like an exciting habitat but little was seen over or in the reeds today. On the open water 40 odd Tufted Ducks, about a dozen Gadwall, four Goldeneye and eight Shoveler were observed. Eleven Cormorants were loafing on the dry spit. On the walk back to the cars, along the riverside, a few Long-tailed Tits were seen whilst looking through the alders for finches. A resting Buzzard was observed being harassed by a Carrion Crow. But the highlight was a flock of 43 Curlew coming low and calling – wonderful to see and listen to.
From Hewick Bridge a short drive towards Ripon and into a parking area near the Canal Marina allowed us to make a quick and short walk down the Canal side, to what is known locally as Nicholson’s Lagoon. In some winters this site can hold a substantial Starling murmuration – but not this year, and anyway we were too early in the day. But, as usual, this site always seems stuffed with birds, mainly waterfowl. Over a hundred Mallard, six Shoveler, a single Shelduck, four more Goldeneye a few Gadwall and six more Cormorants; a Snipe put in a brief appearance. It was obvious here and at the previous site that no geese were in evidence at all.Time was moving on (13:00 hrs) and so back to the cars and make for the Weir Car park at Langthorpe (Boroughbridge) for a quick stop at the weir and search for any Goosanders lurking below, in the river. The drive from Skelton to Langthorpe, through some arable farmland produced two Red Kites, a Buzzard and a Kestrel. On the river bank near the weir, some lucky members of the group had a Kingfisher nearly take their hats off as it made from the river to the Canal. Initially no Goosanders could be found near the weir but three were found below the bridge – the drake in the group then flew upriver, landed and drifted back down stream, right in front of the happy photographers. Just before 2pm all sixteen of us plus one other arrived at the Royal Oak in Staveley for a splendid lunch and convivial chat. After which, feeling replete, some of the group departed, but some hardy souls stayed on, and departed in the murk around the Staveley Nature Reserve hoping for a sighting of Barn Owl; six of us were soon rewarded with an observation of a perched bird in the Orchard and nearly in Muff and Jacks garden! A walk out to the Public Reedbed Hide and back produced another Barn Owl and two Water Rails seen from the first Hide. By this time, on the edge of darkness, an offer to call around at Muff and Jacks for mince pies and coffee was too tempting. So the six of us called around, and with other members of the group, rounded off a wonderful day sat around the log fire eating delicious mince pies and talking birds – what else!
Thanks to Muff for her organising this day and the hospitality towards the end; to Nigel Harcourt-Brown for the pictures (all taken in poor light) and to all attendees who made the day so enjoyable.
Happy Christmas and New Year to all.
Leader: Andy WoodallOur annual fungus foray began at the Woodland Trust car park on Ripley Road with some fine, bright autumn weather. At this spot the gorge comprises broadleaf woodland in a lovely steep-sided valley and there certainly was no shortage of fungi there for us to see. Ownership of this land passed to the Woodland Trust in 1995.
A group of 8 of us set off into the gorge to look for fungi, under the expert eyes of Andy Woodall and co-leaders Mike and Joyce Clerk of the Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group.
Some of the first fungi we found were Sulphur Tuft and Oak Stump Bonnet, which unsurprisingly was growing on dead oak. We also found plenty of Honey Fungus, a dangerous parasite of trees and shrubs which spreads by long, black cords resembling bootlaces. And as usual, the Elder trees provided some fine examples of Jelly Ear and Elder Whitewash.Andy showed us how to identify fungi by several means including cutting them open, and using our senses of smell and taste and touch, although care had to be taken! He explained the distinction between Earthballs which are inedible, and Puffballs which are edible, cutting them open to show the spore mass. Some fungi need to be identified by a spore print. He also showed us some perennial bracket fungi which he left untouched in order for them to grow outwards the following year.
We then found two different species of Inkcap, and saw the different stages from edibility to messy deliquescence! The Common Inkcap has a striated, silky surface. It should not be eaten with alcohol – the result is severe nausea, so that it was once used as an aversion therapy for alcoholics! It was pleasurable to find several groups of people including family members stopping to ask about fungus species that they had themselves found in the woodland. Some people even brought specimens up to Andy to ask him to identify them.
We followed the path and reached the riverside, where some invasive Himalayan Balsam was growing, although fortunately there was not much to be found there. Then some of us enjoyed our lunch sitting on Thora Hird’s bench beside the River Nidd, whilst the majority who could not fit on to the bench enjoyed theirs equally despite sitting on the ground.We then crossed Burgess Bridge (opened in 1988) only to find a fabulous show of Fly Agaric below the birch trees. Nearby was found the uncommon Green Elfcup, which was prized for its effect staining wood. The green-coloured wood, called ‘Green Oak’ was once much used in the manufacture of Tunbridge Ware. Surprisingly fungus-like were some slime-moulds, including an orange, squirtable variety to be kept away from small children.
Other fungi we found included Amethyst Deceiver, False Chanterelle, Brown Rollrim, Holly Speckle, Dryad’s Saddle, Weeping Widow and Blushing Bracket. In total we found 39 species of fungus (see list attached) with prizes being awarded as follows:
Best dressed fungus competition – Fly Agaric
Best named fungus competition – Dryad’s Saddle
Best spooky fungus competition – Amethyst Deceiver
Many thanks to our leaders for providing such a fascinating day of mycology. We are already looking forward to a 2019 Fungus Event.
Leader: Nick Gaunt
Ten members met at the car park near Manchester Hole in Upper Nidderdale. Starting in the car park and using the fascinating limestone landscape and lime-loving flora of the area, Nick demonstrated some of the essential features of mosses and liverworts, and explained the first steps towards unravelling their identities. Technical terms that split these small plants into major groups – acrocarpous and pleurocarpous mosses, thallose and leafy liverworts – were demonstrated using examples on the rocks, soil and trees of the area, including the pleurocarps Anomodon viticulosus, Kindbergia praelonga and Thuidium tamariscinum, acrocarps Fissidens dubius, Bryum capillare and Polytrichastrum formosum, and thallose liverworts Conocephalum conicum, Lunularia cruciata and Marchantia polymorpha. A brief descent into Manchester Hole fascinated us all with its profusion of ferns as well as mosses and liverworts.
After lunch, our attempt to look at moorland flora around Scar House Reservoir was abandoned as the strong wind blew us back to the car park, so instead we headed down the valley to Lofthouse, where we spent some time exploring the flora on the rocky river bank. Here we found Musk (Mimulus moschatus) and very robust Procumbent Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) in flower. Sticky Groundsel (Senecio viscosus) was also in flower by the fire station.
All photos courtesy of Nigel Harcourt-Brown
Leader: June Atkinson
Sea-watching began at 9.15 a.m., as soon as we arrived at Hartlepool Headland: high tide was at 8.15 a.m., which brought the seabirds closer to us. Razorbills, Common Guillemots and three Red-throated Divers were soon found. There was a continual movement of Common and Sandwich Terns offshore, with Gannets moving through constantly and packs of Common Scoters flying north. The local birders were helpful in alerting us to a Peregrine Falcon over the sea which gave an exciting display as it chased Fulmars and Kittiwakes.
Some of our members had taken a walk along the front where they found a Whimbrel on the rocks, unfortunately it took off before the rest of us arrived, but Turnstones were seen by all and Eider Ducks were located in the harbour entrance. As the local gardens were very quiet for passerines, we left for Newburn Bridge which was our lunch stop. Sanderlings were on the beach, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and more Turnstones were found among the rocks. This location is the most reliable wintering site for Mediterranean Gull and, just before we left, one was seen. A few leftover lunch crumbs thrown out brought it down to give us good views, which pleased the photographers.
A view through the telescope to our next stop at distant North Gare, revealed an Arctic Skua, our next target species, chasing a seabird. Seaton Common and North Gare are always worth a visit, for Whinchats particularly. The initial quick scan was negative, but the Arctic Skua was found as it flew briefly chasing a Sandwich Tern, before settling on the water for the duration of our stay as the Sandwich Terns present failed to catch any food to attract the skua to move. Some members walked to the shoreline where they found a Wheatear. As we returned to the car park, one of our photographers showed us a picture of a Whinchat which he had just taken and so we aIl began to search for the bird and eventually found two.
Our next stop was RSPB Saltholme Reserve from where there were reports of Curlew Sandpipers and Garganey. The female Garganey was found, along with Black-tailed Godwits and Little Egret, from the Phil Stead hide. The staff informed us that the main hide was closed during the building of an upward extension and so our only option was to view the main pool from the main road. A Merlin perching on the ground was pointed out to us by local birders. Ruff and Golden Plovers were seen but the Curlew Sandpipers were elusive. A shout of ‘Spoonbill’ had us looking up to see it flying across the pool giving us great views. The Merlin took off disturbing all the waders, which was fortunate as then a Curlew Sandpiper was found close by the road, giving everyone excellent views. A satisfying end to a good day’s birdwatching.
A total of 70 species was a credit to the efforts of all the members; we were short on passerines more of which may have been added with a walk around Saltholme, but we concentrated on quality species.
June E. Atkinson
Our day started with Colin Newlands giving us a brief history of this quarry. Colin is Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager for the Ingleborough NNR, and we were delighted that he had offered to lead us for the day. In 2000 English Nature (now Natural England) took over the care this former limestone quarry, which had been worked from 1943 until the 1960s. Since then the quarry has been managed as a Nature Reserve, with minimal management and tree planting, in order to watch over the progress of natural regeneration.
We were quickly absorbed by the diversity of plantlife at our feet and, as usual, had not moved far from the parked cars by lunchtime. In many areas the soil was thin, yet numerous species seemed to be thriving: from tiny Autumn Felwort (Gentianella amarella) to sizeable stands of Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) reaching 70-80 cms in height. The recent rainfall had replenished the ponds and Colin pointed out the Northern Spike Rush (Eleocharis mamillata) (Nationally Rare), growing with the Common spike rush (Eleocharis palustris). Towards the western edge of the quarry, with nesting ravens ‘croaking’ at us, we found Rigid Buckler Fern (Dryopteris submontana), a single Rustyback Fern (Asplenium ceterach), numerous Bird’s-eye Primrose (Primula farinosa), and Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) to name but a few species found.
By the end of the day our plant list totalled 157 species. We had a great day and certainly benefitted from Colin’s knowledgeable leadership. The trip was a very enjoyable way to celebrate ‘Yorkshire Day’.
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.
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.
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.
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
‘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.
Leader: Kevin Walker
14 members met in Pateley Bridge, focusing on botany, in particular ferns.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.