Cow Myers, Tuesday 23rd May 2019

Leader: Dr Kevin Walker

HDNS members examining Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) - 190523-113532_DMC-GX8_P1080822
The programme for the visit to Cow Myers promised Globeflower, orchids, Butterwort and Herb Paris. It delivered on all those – and much more. Fourteen HDNS members including Kevin Walker our leader, assembled at the Lindrick Livery stables, keen to be off exploring since several of us had not visited this particular site before. The weather forecast was warm and fair – perfect conditions for botanising.

Cow Myers is a very special place because it is both an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation). The site contains an area of limestone irrigated by spring water, a series of wet woodland calcareous flushes.

As we walked through the first meadow spotting several hares through the long grasses, we were joined by Tom Ramsden the landowner, who lives at Sleningford Hall. Tom explained a little about the management of the land and how part of it had been recently grazed by Belted Galloway cattle.

Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustris) - 190523-115335_DMC-GX8_P1080826The site is fringed with Alder Alnus glutinosa which is quite extensive in places. Close to the stream we found Globeflower Trollius europaeus and then Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus, with its seedlings regenerating and forming scrub. Within the carr is a large clearing with many interesting plants including Marsh Lousewort Pedicularis palustris. This plant is a parasite and because it is reddish always looks to me as if somebody has tried to set fire to it. Close by, Bird’s-eye Primrose Primula farinosa was on show with its delicate lilac-pink petals. I was very excited to find Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris a carnivorous plant complete with its violet and white flowers, as I often see its leaves but no flowers.

Tom Ramsden then invited us to have our lunch in the Witch-of-the-Woods House but we felt reluctant to go indoors on such a lovely day. We chose instead to lunch on the grass, or in a bog, depending upon how lucky you were with the seating plan.

Birdseye Primrose (Primula farinosa) - 190523-120247_DMC-GX8_P1080828After lunch we meandered into the woodland south of the River Laver, where we came across numerous plants of Herb-Paris Paris quadrifolia. The leaves of Grass of Parnassus Parnassia palustris and the tiny Bog Pimpernel Anagallis tenella were also present, but it was too early for the flowers. A tree highlight for some was finding Bay Willow Salix petandra, with its leaves smelling of balsam. It is also worth mentioning that the numbers of ferns, rushes and sedges we found were quite astonishing. They included Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca, Heath Woodrush Luzula multiflora ssp congesta, Broad Buckler Fern Dryopteris dilatata and Blunt-flowered Rush Juncus subnodulosus. Our final flowers of the day were Early-purple Orchids Orchis mascula in the hedgerows as we drove home. In total our list exceeded well over 100 species. See attached.

Thank you to Kevin Walker for leading and to Muff Upsall for organising.

Sonia Starbuck

Cow Myers plant list

HDNS Cow Myers bryophytes

Upper Nidderdale, Tuesday 30th April 2019

We soon left the low ground fog behind and, by 10 a.m. when we reached Gouthwaite, the sun was shining. The early team had stopped at Wath for Dipper and, although that was unproductive, they did see Treecreeper and hear Green Woodpecker. In the car park at Gouthwaite, a Garden Warbler gave good views as it sang from a nearby tree. The low water level at Gouthwaite Reservoir produced much activity amongst the waders present with Common Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers displaying, Dunlins trilling, Common Redshanks and Oystercatchers forever flying and calling. A fine drake Pintail gave excellent close views. A Common Buzzard and a Red Grouse were seen on the western hillside.

We moved on to Lofthouse and the Scar road, stopping beside the Fire Station building to look for the Dipper which is usually seen there, but the water level in the Nidd was extremely low and the rocks were well above the water. No Dipper was present but a Grey Wagtail was eventually found. A Stoat crossed the road as we drove up to Scar House Reservoir. The weather was exceptionally warm for Scar House! After much searching, a pair of Ring Ouzels was found along with several Wheatears. Two Common Buzzards were also seen on the skyline.

After lunch, the group walked to the dam and continued along the road where a cuckoo called from across the reservoir. A search for Crossbills seen recently in the area was unsuccessful but a pair of Siskins obliged. As we returned along the Scar road, our first stop was at Newhouses to look for Pied Flycatchers in woodland where nest boxes have been placed for them. A fine male was found immediately, giving everyone close views as it sang — the photographers were very happy! A stop at the tunnel was unproductive and so we moved on to stop again at the Gouthwaite viewing area for a final look. Scanning the hillside across the reservoir two birds were seen perched above the skyline. Two years ago Black Grouse had been seen and they were a possibility. The site ruled out Red Grouse and, thanks to a member with some high-tech. optics, Black Grouse was confirmed when white underwings were seen as they dropped down and flew up again from time to time.
An excellent end to a most productive day in glorious weather. A great team effort producing 65 species on the day
June Atkinson

Nidderdale Species List

RSPB Fairburn Ings, Tuesday 7th May 2019

Common Pochard and Red-crested Pochard (Nick Gaunt)

Common Pochard and Red-crested Pochard (Nick Gaunt)

As we travelled south, we left the dismal wet morning behind to arrive at Fairburn where it was bright and dry. From the centre car park, Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing in the reed beds and Whitethroat was seen. Many Swifts were circling overhead; Blackcap and Garden Warbler were also singing and Tree sparrows were busy at the feeding station. From the centre, our first stop was at the hide from which we saw Sand Martins at the wall. Next along the stream to the Kingfisher screen, just in time to see the hoped-for species before it flew off. We then made our way up onto the coal tip trail where four Little Grebes and a Pied Wagtail were on the first lagoon while three Spoonbills flew overhead. Red-legged Partridges were seen across the river. Sky Lark and Willow Warbler were singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch called.
Little Egret (Nick Gaunt)

Little Egret (Nick Gaunt)

As we approached the two lagoons, a Bittern was booming and a good look around produced a drake Red-crested Pochard, Little Ringed Plovers, several pairs of Little Grebes, numerous Common Pochards, Great Crested Grebe with young with several singing Sedge Warblers and a Reed Warbler. A Cuckoo called and was seen as it perched on a fence post before flying towards the group, this was the first of two sightings there. Looking across the reserve to the moat, a pair of Spoonbills was at the nest site with a Grey Heron, while a Little Egret was seen in a nearby field. A shout of ‘Bittern’ excited us all, the bird obligingly flew across in front of us and dropped into the reed bed to everyone’s delight! Another Cuckoo flew across and landed on a nearby post. An Egyptian Goose was located in a distant field. On our return, a strange ‘chack, chack’ call was heard from the trees and then the mystery bird flew out — a Green Woodpecker, which had been heard calling previously!
Avocet (Nick Gaunt)

Avocet (Nick Gaunt)

After lunch we drove to Lindyke and, as we walked along the track, three Avocets flew over and two later dropped in front of the hide. From there we saw a Common Tern, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Shoveler, Shelduck and Gadwall. Further along, a burst of song announced a Cetti’s Warbler, it was so close and at first we could not see it, but we persevered until we did! A Lesser Whitethroat perched up well for us too. As we walked along the embankment a Kingfisher was seen but a Garden Warbler refused to show but, on our way back, a Peregrine Falcon flew overhead. A splendid end to a great day’s birdwatching and in perfect weather. Well done to the team for finding 76 species, exceeding last year’s total of 75 species.

June Atkinson

HDNS Fairburn Ings 7May19 Species List

Spring Wildlife at Eavestone Lake – Wednesday 10th April 2019

Group lunch break (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Group lunch break (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

The 10 participants of the Spring Wildlife Field Trip were well wrapped up as they assembled under a cherry tree with Nick Gaunt, the Leader. This tree alone, which you would pass without a second glance, provided us with some 15 minutes of exploration – it was covered with a green algal-like growth which on close inspection was seen to be the liverwort Metzgeria fruticulosa. (See link below for full Bryophyte list). There were several other Bryophytes and a large thallose growth which was probably Bleeding Broadleaf Crust fungus. As we were slowly freezing to the spot it was necessary to move on down into the rocky gorge which holds the lake, an artificial fishing pond constructed by the monks of Fountains Abbey. There are impressive gritstone outcrops colonised by old twisted trees.

Rhizonium punctatum (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Rhizonium punctatum (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

The path down provided mosses in abundance, particularly the young green shoots of Mnium hornum – with gratifyingly large leaves – and the ubiquitous Kindbergia. A particular favourite with us beginners was Rhizomnium punctatum which is easy to recognise and whose cells are big enough to see with a hand lens. Also common and fairly distinctive is Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans which forms a silky green downward-pointing mat which invites stroking. With a x10 lens we could see its numerous minute branchlets that break off to propagate the plant. A highlight was the uncommon sight of a patch of the liverwort Pellia epiphylla with sporophytes – unlike in mosses, these structures are ephemeral. Their weak straggling setae bear a “capsule” which splits into four to release the spores within a day or so, after which it all shrivels, so we were lucky to see them.
It was interesting to see the different ecological niches exploited by the Bryophytes – there were specialists for vertical rock faces, the lower part of tree trunks, tree branches, acid soil, water or deep shade.

Large Bee Fly (Bombylius major) Nigel Harcourt-Brown

Large Bee Fly (Bombylius major) Nigel Harcourt-Brown

We reached the lake and meandered along the footpath, admiring abundant Great Woodrush clothing the bank. Bluebells were just beginning to flower and there were big patches of garlic-scented Ramsons; on the lake itself there was little birdlife but our lunch spot was brightened by a family of newly hatched mallard ducklings. By now the sun had broken through and it was very pleasant in the sheltered valley. Nigel found, or was found by, a Bee fly with its impressive proboscis and huge eyes, while Alder flies were also in evidence. We admired the old stunted oak trees with their roots squeezed into the fissures in the rock; large trees sprawled into the lake and they and the rocks were clothed in Bryophytes. Here Nick showed us epiphytic mosses of the Orthotrichum and Ulota genera, demonstrated the strongly scented Conocephalum conicum, also with its impressively large sporophytes, and located Tetraphis pellucida with its little cups holding tiny round gemmae.

Conocephalum conicum (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Conocephalum conicum (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

We reached the dam and the picturesque dry stone bridge at the end of the lake where the stonework offered yet another habitat for Bryophytes, bringing the total to 48, and a few more flowering plants were found. We returned in bright sun after a most enjoyable day – many thanks to our Leader, Nick, who continues to amaze us with his knowledge!


Eavestone Lake species list

Hartlepool and Teesmouth – Tuesday 12th February 2019

Ringed Plover & Purple Sandpiper (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Ringed Plover & Purple Sandpiper (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

We arrived at Hartlepool Headland as the tide was going out, parking in an area where the rocks were exposed. The usual Turnstones were in good numbers and the wader everyone hopes to see, a Purple Sandpiper, was quickly found; they have been more numerous this winter all down the east coast. Also seen were Curlew, Common Redshank, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Oystercatcher.
On the sea, large rafts of Common Scoters were seen, also groups of Great Crested Grebes and several Red-throated Divers. Further along the headland, three Shags gave close views and 20 Eider Ducks were counted. A short stop at the Marina, which is always worth a look, produced a drake Red-breasted Merganser.

Whilst we had lunch at Newburn Bridge, the usual Mediterranean Gull and more Great Crested Grebes were seen.

The next stop was at Seaton Common NNR and North Gare but, because of a cold and very fresh wind, the Short-eared Owls were keeping their heads down. We walked to North Gare and the estuary where a Grey Plover was found in a tidal pool. Moving to the newly revamped Greatham Creek car park and viewpoint, we found that looking through a metal screen over the new flood pain was difficult, but a Marsh Harrier was seen briefly and a Little Egret flew into a creek and disappeared. A walk to Seal Sands was discounted due to the state of the tide and so we moved onto the RSPB Saltholme Reserve.

Pintail and Shelduck (Nick Gaunt)

Pintail and Shelduck (Nick Gaunt)

As we walked down to the Main Hide, a Peregrine Falcon flew over putting up all the birds from the ground. From the hide, Pintails, Shovelers, Goldeneye and a good flock of Barnacle Geese were seen. The new upward hide extension of turret design, did not impress and was not birdwatcher-friendly; one of our members was not pleased when her tripod leg was bent as it became stuck in the internal iron railings!

A good day overall and a good team effort to produce 70 species in the far from ideal conditions.

June E. Atkinson

Bird list for Hartlepool and Teesmouth 12 Feb 2019

Nosterfield Complex & Nicholson’s Lagoons, Tuesday 8th January 2019

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.

Bird list for 8Jan2019

HDNS pre-Christmas walk and lunch 2018

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.

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

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.

Curlew (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

Curlew (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

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.

Goosander male

Goosander male (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

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.

Xmas Robin

Xmas Robin (Nigel Harcourt-Brown)

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.

Colin Slator

Nidd Gorge 29 September 2018 – Looking for Fungi

Leader: Andy Woodall

Andy Woodall demonstrating to the group (Malcolm Jones)

Andy Woodall demonstrating to the group (Malcolm Jones)

Our 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.

Earth Ball cut open (Kerry Morrison)

Earth Ball cut open (Kerry Morrison)

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.

Dryad Saddle (Kerry Morrison)

Dryad Saddle (Kerry Morrison)

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.

Sonia Starbuck

Nidd Gorge Foray list

Goyden Pot and Upper Nidderdale, 26th September 2018

Leader: Nick Gaunt

Moss group in the Nidd _DSC0159 web
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.

Acrocarpous moss

Polytrichastrum formosum

Polytrichastrum formosum

Pleurocarpous moss

Hypnum cupressiforme

Hypnum cupressiforme

Thallose liverwort

Lunularia cruciata

Lunularia cruciata

Sticky Groundsel

Sticky Groundsel

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.


A list of bryophytes and flowering plants encountered


Nick Gaunt
All photos courtesy of Nigel Harcourt-Brown

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