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.
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.
Thanks to Mike for leading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See the bird list
On Saturday 27 January, members of Starbeck in Bloom, the Harrogate and District Biodiversity Group and HDNS all joined forces in Starbeck Library to organise the Big Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB.
Since some of us do not have our own gardens, Starbeck in Bloom decided to open up Belmont Field and Starbeck Library garden for a community event. Armed with binoculars, and on behalf of the Harrogate Biodiversity Group, Malcolm Jones led children of various sizes (and adults) on a walk around the library perimeter. Despite the poor weather, they were rewarded with several sightings including a flock of long tailed tits, which caused great interest amongst the ‘new’ birdwatchers.
After this, the participants came indoors and set to work on various craft activities involving birds. For most of the morning the library was full of children working together round a table, absorbed in their set tasks of making bird feeders, bird mobiles and learning about different foods to attract different birds. The usual HDNS photographic display was on show in the main library and refreshments were available.
The Starbeck Big Garden Birdwatch was a credit to the organisers who had worked so hard to involve the local community and to teach them about birds. This was a free event and it was good to see such hard work being rewarded. Hopefully there will be many more joint events organised in the future.
27 January 2018
Leader : Colin Slator
Eleven of us braved the early morning icy conditions to enjoy a walk starting at High Batts NR. After a brief visit to the hide on the reserve where we saw a good variety of birds at the well- stocked feeders, we started walking along public rights of way towards Ripon through Ripon Parks. Colin shared his encyclopaedic knowledge of the locality in relation to future and past gravel extraction activities, changes in the course of the River Ure, and changes in land use and ownership that he has witnessed over his long association with the area since the reserve was first set up in 1973. We scanned the hedgerows for Yellowhammers, Bullfinches and Tree Sparrows and the copses for mixed flocks of Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin. A small flock of Curlew flew into view several times. A very dark Buzzard was the first raptor we saw sitting in the emerging sunlight, but that was soon followed by a fantastic sighting of a large sub adult Peregrine Falcon sitting on a fence post preening. Bird of the day, it sat for several minutes allowing us to photograph it before flying off. By now the sun was warming us up and it was a beautiful day with small pockets of mist floating across the winter fields. As we walked we could see how different land management strategies over the years had changed the fortunes of several species, none more so than Otter.
After a festive lunch at the Golf Club we just about timed it right to witness a spectacular Starling murmuration over the reed beds near the river, viewed from the bridge over Ripon Canal. Although they were distant, the sheer number of birds was astounding. The numbers increased for about fifteen minutes, each time it looked like that there were no more to come, even more arrived to swell the ranks and put on an extended display. Nicholson’s Lagoon had a large number of Mallard, a single male Pintail, several Goldeneye, and a Goosander. Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck completed the line-up.
Many thanks to Colin for leading and to Muff for organising the meal booking.
Leader: Nick Gaunt
On a cool, overcast but dry day nine members were shown around High Batts Nature Reserve by Will Rich. Given the time of year, flowering plants weren’t particularly memorable, but a few fungi were identified such as Birch Polypore, Candle-snuff , Dead Man’s Fingers, Jelly Ear and the only puffball to grow on wood, Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme).
Thankfully, there was a good number of mosses and liverworts including some in a calcarious ‘scrape’ that are restricted to base-rich areas, such as Entodon concinnus, Ditrichum gracile and Thuidium assimile. The dominant ground cover in the burnet rose scrubland was of the mosses Hylocomium splendens, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus and Pseudoscleropodium purum. Trees on the river bank held the flood-zone mosses Leskea polycarpa and Syntrichia latifolia, which looks black and shrivelled when dry but instantly unfurls bright green leaves on moistening.
Elsewhere the trees supported the pleurocarps Hypnum cupressiforme, Rhynchostegium confertum, Cryphaea hetermalla, acrocarps including Orthotrichum affine and Zygodon viridissimus, and the liverwort Metzgeria furcata.
After lunch, which we took in the ‘Hotel’, Will led us ‘off piste’ to the northern edge of the reserve to see a small waterfall that held, amongst others, the semi-aquatic moss Platyhypnidium riparioides and the liverwort Lunularia cruciata.
Members listened intently as the features of some of the mosses were described and did their best to come to terms with the scientific names!
Bird life was sparse but good views of goldcrest, redwing and a couple of kingfishers were had. Sadly, the hawfinch recently seen in the reserve didn’t show.
Overall, a good day was had by all.
Leader: Andy Woodall, Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group
Our day in Hackfall Woods got off to a promising start, with the morning’s weather being mild and bright. A group of twelve of us set off (one was following) with our fungi books, magnifying glasses and packed lunches at the ready.
Although Hackfall appears to be a natural wood, the landscape is in large part a result of design and work undertaken by the Aislabies in the eighteenth century. It is now an English Heritage Grade 1 listed garden.
We had scarcely left the car park when we had our first fungus sighting – Ergot Claviceps purpurea formed in the inflorescences of some of the grass. It is very poisonous. We did not need to venture much further before finding other species such as Jelly Ear, Angel’s Bonnet, Elder Whitewash, Honey Fungus and Turkeytails. Several of these were growing on dead elder trees. Nearby, found on ash were Cramp Balls or King Alfred’s Cakes Daldinia concentrica. Then we found Dead Man’s Fingers and Candlesnuff, weird and creepy fungi to find at this time of year around Halloween.
We lunched on Kent’s Seat at Alum Spring, where we also had the chance to admire the lichens, ferns and mosses which were growing very profusely around us. As well as fungi we had a few diversions such as tiny tree snails and slime mould.
We then found more of the dreaded Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea. This is a dangerous parasite of trees and shrubs and spreads by long, black cords resembling bootlaces. Other common fungi included The Deceiver (so-called because of its variable appearance, not because it is poisonous), Sulphur Tuft, Common Inkcap, Oak Stump Bonnet and Coral Spot.
In total we found 44 fungi. A few of us were interested in tasting the edible species (although this did not apply to me).
Later in the afternoon it began to rain and as we headed back towards the cars it rained more and more, and the paths became very muddy. Fortunately, our health and safety contact telephone numbers were not required and we each got back in one piece. The rain certainly did not spoil our day.
Many thanks to our leader, Andy Woodall from the Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group, for a lively and entertaining day of mycology, and for patiently answering all our questions. I was sorry that we did not find any magical Earthstars (my favourite fungi) but those can wait for another day.
After a good run through in the minibus, a Merlin was seen flying over a field as we approached Spurn on a bright day with a fresh southerly wind. A sea-watch first at the Warren produced Arctic Skuas, Gannets, Fulmars, Sandwich and Common Terns and a Brent Goose, while packs of Common Scoters and Teal were moving through. Near the sea-watching hide, a Whinchat was found on a fence where it gave close views, a good start! As we walked along the road from the Warren checking the bushes, it was obvious that there was a distinct lack of passerines with only Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler seen. During a lunch stop by the Crown and Anchor Inn a Wheatear was found below the sea wall and the report of a Pied Flycatcher in the car park was worth investigation, but the bird did not oblige. After lunch we visited Kilnsea Wetlands, with the prospect of seeing both Pectoral and Curlew Sandpipers our main objective. The Curlew Sandpiper gave good views along with Greenshank, Ruff and Dunlin but the Pectoral Sandpiper remained elusive, though we did cover all the possible sites. Seven species of duck were also seen including Pintail, Shoveler and Wigeon. High tide was approaching as we returned to the centre to obtain close views of waders in the estuary. We were greeted with a fantastic display of Grey Plovers and Knots, some still in their breeding plumage, Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings and Dunlins, there were thousands of waders all along the tide line, together with 12 Little Egrets. Speculation was made of the possibility of a Whimbrel and one member persevered until he found one! A great ending to an excellent days birding with 80 species being recorded.
Many thanks to all the members who worked hard to produce such a good list. See: Spurn Point Species List 03Sep17