Birds in a Cage – 8th March 2017

This is a reminder about a lecture that is a little different from our usual selection. Derek Niemann is a freelance writer with an unusual tale to tell about events in 1940.  Click HERE for details of his talk.

Pateley Bridge and Guisecliff 25th October 2016

Fungus and Mosses Foray.

Leaders: Nick Gaunt ( mosses and liverworts )  and Andy Woodall  ( fungi )

We assembled in Nidd Walk Car Park and headed off beside the River Nidd towards Glasshouses. The walls
along the track had a good selection of mosses and liverworts while several species of fungi were showing in the
bordering fields and woodland. After lunch by Glasshouses Dam we ascended through Guisecliff Wood, a damp
hillside habitat dominated by birch, to reach Guisecliff Tarn. This small lake was surrounded by trees in full autumn  colours, a magnificent sight. As anticipated, the woods had a profusion of fungi, mosses and liverworts.

Nick Gaunt




Click HERE for the full report and list of species.

Click HERE for a link to HDBAG gallery of more photos from the outing.

Spurn Point 13th September 2016

The group on watch  Will Rich

The group on watch Will Rich

A sellout bus load was greeted by a glorious autumn day for Colin’s last field trip as leader. The wind was a light South Easterly, which kept the temperature bearable, unlike parts of Britain which were experiencing thirty degrees, temperatures not seen in September since 1911.

A visit to the Canal Scrape hide produced a Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. Whinchat numbers achieved double figures very quickly which was an absolute treat! Wheatears and Hirundines were there in good numbers too. Notable by their absence however were the warblers, it was very quiet on that front.

Pied Flycatcher juv Peter Thomson

Pied Flycatcher juv Peter Thomson

The Crown and Anchor car park produced, as ever an excellent opportunity, this time for a juvenile Pied Flycatcher, launching itself from a telegraph wire to feed up before its long journey. We on the other hand had a short trip to Kilnsea Wetlands.

Wood Sandpiper Peter Thomson

Wood Sandpiper Peter Thomson

Not all of us knew Beacon Ponds which lay behind the Kilnsea Wetland lagoon, where we paused to see a wonderful Wood Sandpiper and a cracking Curlew Sandpiper amongst the multitudes of Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Terns, Black Headed Gulls and Oystercatchers.

Interestingly, there is an acoustic mirror on the horizon which was used to listen out for approaching Zeppelins in WW1 and subsequently planes, before radar was invented.


Lunchtime Sue Coldwell

Lunchtime Sue Coldwell

Beacon Ponds is quite a large body of water which by all accounts had changed from several small ponds to one big one over the years of inundation from the North Sea. Most waders were over on the far shore but we managed to pick out a Little Stint and another Curlew Sandpiper as well as Sanderling and Ringed Plovers. The weekend’s Kentish Plover had perhaps already relocated sadly. There was an influx of waders as high tide approached. Amongst them were several magnificent Grey Plovers still in their monochrome breeding plumage.

Mediterranean Gull  Peter Thomson

Mediterranean Gull Peter Thomson

The North Sea was slightly misty and bird movement was sparse. Sea watching revealed plenty of immature Gannets feeding offshore, only one Great Skua, a few sea ducks, Common Terns and a Red throated Diver.

A high tide on the estuary afforded good views of wader murmurations as birds which were clinging to the last bit of salt marsh were finally displaced by the waves.

At that point, we were ourselves finally ready to be relocate back to Harrogate.                                                                                                                                        mikewest

The group had presented Colin with a card and book token in appreciation for all the trips which have been many and varied over the years, but one common theme…..Colin’s unerring enthusiasm and determination to make sure we all learnt something while having a great day out!

Many thanks as well to all the photographers who have done sterling work to capture the moments which have been so special.

Sue Coldwell

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Proposed Field meeting , Pateley October 25th 2016

The following trip has been added to the calendar.

A walk along the bank of River Nidd from Pateley Bridge to Glasshouses, then up into  Guisecliff Wood, looking for fungi, mosses, liverworts and other wildlife. Weather permitting, this will be a full day outing covering at least 6km of paths, the first half on the level, later expect some moderate inclines. Meet in the long term pay and display carpark in Nidd Walk (OS GR: SE 15846547) at 10am. Bring packed lunch. Leaders: Nick Gaunt and Andy Woodall.   Click HERE for pdf of proposed route.  This item is on the calendar.

Please confirm your intention to attend with Nick Gaunt (email or text). e: drnickgaunt@gmail.com  m: 07587 226336

Alkborough Flats and Blacktoft Sands 16th August 2016


Greenshank Mike Smithson

A full mini bus set off from Harrogate on this fine day with great hopes of finding Waders. Our first port of call was North Cave which happened to be en route to the main destination. Not only did we get our first dose of birds – including a nicely challenging cryptic juvenile Ringed Plover – some of us also topped up with bacon sandwiches and coffee (in my case missing a Greenshank and a Snipe!) There was also a lone Common Tern who must surely soon be off soon considering I saw 7,000 pass by Spurn on the previous Friday evening!


Avocets Peter Thomson

After crossing the Humber we took our chances to cross the busy road and scan back across the water towards the ever-changing shape of Read’s Island. We were rewarded with spectacular displays of hundreds of Avocets who breed there in relative safety from predators ( although Colin informed us that deer are now established there having swum across). There were large numbers too of Shelduck, Lapwing, Redshank, Golden Plover and fewer numbers of Curlew.

Spoonbill Peter Thomson

Spoonbill Peter Thomson

Alkborough Flats is situated at the confluence of the rivers Trent and Ouse which form the Humber. At least half of the vast stretch of low-lying arable land (nearly 990 acres) has been given a new intertidal habitat by the breaching the old flood defences, allowing tidal water to flood the area providing reed beds and lagoons. The hope is that low-lying towns along the Ouse and Trent will now avoid flooding. Here, despite a poor breeding season due to the wet Spring, we saw Amazing Amounts of Avocets! 753 were counted by one member. A very special sight which greeted us on our arrival were 12 Spoonbill with two demonstrating their swishing fishing technique with their remarkable bills.


Ruff Mike Smithson

There was altogether a delightful mixture of waders all preening and relaxing: still colourful Black Tailed Godwit, elegantly delineated Ruff, delicate-looking Greenshank and a pair of turbulent Turnstone. The duck were harder work being in eclipse but gave us several different species. Those with enhanced optical equipment ( including very good eyesight) were able to spot Bearded Reedling and Yellow Wagtail in the base of the reeds beyond the water’s edge.

A pleasant walk to the Tower hide provided an excellent site for lunch and an extensive view of the reserve. Unaware of our gaze, a Water Rail confidently worked the area in front of us allowing us to see at least two of its young – one second  brood and one first brood (little and large). They were also watched by a pair  of young Marsh Harrier who were, fortunately, not quite on form yet.

On the way back we had further excitement of two Hobbies that seemed to be the subject of a hidden photographer’s gaze. Then we were encouraged by Brenda to experience a moment’s contemplation at the site of St Julian’s Bower where there is an ancient Labyrinth. Here we also had amazing panoramic views of our last destination – Blacktoft Sands.  A similar collection of birds awaited us here but also we found a Dunlin at last to complete our wader list. By the end of this marathon trip, once more expertly led by Colin, we had 80 species in total which included 14 species of wader.

Sue Harrison

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Thorne Moor 12th July 2016

Large Red Damselfly Mike Smithson

Large Red Damselfly Mike Smithson

It was a fine morning as 12 naturalists, having managed to outmanoeuvre the Great Yorkshire Show, set off for East Yorkshire. Whilst negotiating the M62 Colin was casually identifying stock doves, buzzards and other tiny dots on the horizon. Arrived at Thorne village, some time was spent selecting a sufficiently salubrious location to leave the minibus, since we did not want it to suffer the fate of the nearby solar farm which had been pelted with rocks! Our respectable side-street also had the benefit of House Martins and Swifts.

After a history of exploitation, Thorne Moor is now managed for wildlife, as part of the Humberhead Levels NNR. It is the largest area of raised bog in the lowlands, an SSSI and an SPA.

Emerald Damselfly  Will Rich

Emerald Damselfly Will Rich

The acidic peat of the moor has been interspersed with limestone from human activities and as we entered the site we found typical flora of calcareous grassland such as Yellow-wort, Centaury, Hop Trefoil, Hairy Tare, Restharrow and plentiful Common Spotted orchids and a few Pyramidal – the dry margin of the moor was a veritable garden of colourful flowers. Ringlet butterflies abounded and Small and Large Skippers were seen.

Large Skipper  Richard Bion

Large Skipper Richard Bion

Walking on into the moor the surroundings became more marshy and the beautiful Emerald Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly, Southern Hawker and Four-spotted Chaser were observed although in very small numbers. Colin alerted us to the purring of Turtledoves in the adjacent sallows but of course they were impossible to see, but those at the front of the party were rewarded with two glimpses of Adders which had been basking by the path, then a common lizard nearby.

Marsh Orchid  Will Rich

Marsh Orchid Will Rich

The route now led between open ditches of peaty water with Sphagnum and Polytrichum Moss in abundance, Phragmites reeds and Marsh Pennywort. Deer were spotted in the distance and Marsh Harrier, Red Kite and Whitethroat were seen but there were generally few birds, and no sign of the (probably extinct) Mire Pill Beetle or the (probably terrifying) Giant Raft Spider.

Cheviot Goats  Richard Bion

Cheviot Goats Richard Bion

We then retraced our steps and travelled around to the Lincolnshire side of the moor which seemed more cultivated and drier.  We were beginning to get an impression of the huge area the Moor covers. There were some interesting Cheviot goats being grazed here as part of a conservation project and Linnet and Yellowhammer were added to the bird tally, Climbing Corydalis to the plant total.


To round off the day we hopped over to Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve and did a whistlestop tour of the hides, yielding good glimpses of Bearded Tits and immature Water Rail, a Barn Owl in its box, Little Grebe with chicks, some good close views of Marsh Harrier, and Teal, Lapwing, Little Egret, Heron, a Spotted Redshank and a Black Tailed Godwit – altogether few waders, which seem to be in short supply everywhere this summer. The vegetation here as everywhere was particularly luxuriant with Hemlock plants as tall as trees – a result of this wet summer?

Ringlets  Mike Smithson

Ringlets Mike Smithson

Many thanks to Colin for his planning, driving, instruction and entertainment, and to Will for navigating, both in forward and reverse gear!

Muff Upsall

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Foulshaw Moss 28th June 2016

We set off from Harrogate in glorious sunshine, knowing that if the met. office had got it right, we had until lunch time before we hit the deluge coming in from the west. We stopped off at Hellifield Flash where there were Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Common Gulls, Black Headed Gulls and Shelduck with two well grown ducklings.

Looking over Devil's Bridge Will Rich

Looking over Devil’s Bridge Will Rich

Our next stop was near Kirkby Lonsdale at Devil’s Bridge spanning a beautiful stretch of the River Lune. We saw Goosander, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Grey Heron and brief views of Spotted Flycatcher here.

Onwards and westwards to Foulshaw Moss, a raised peat bog run by Cumbrian Wildlife Trust. This is a huge area created by felling trees and made accessible by a board walk. Improvements also include a small warden’s hut which has a screen running a video of the reserve’s most famous summer visitors………a pair of breeding Osprey. Cameras had recorded the story of the three eggs and the two remaining chicks. From the viewing platform we saw one adult bird fly from the nest and perch near its partner some distance from the nest, through our scopes. As we walked along the board walk we also got great views of Tree Pipit, singing from its perch at the top of a birch tree.

Boletus Purpureu  Jack Muff

Boletus Purpureu Jack Muff

This is the point where naturalists and rain collided. A smattering at first, causing a retreat back to the bus and an early lunch. Later at Warton Crags we took shelter under trees to view two of three juvenile Peregrine Falcons, both sitting it out hoping for better weather.

RSPB Leighton Moss with good hides seemed the obvious place to carry on the expedition. The rain eased from time to time allowing us a chance to race between hides. Timing is everything and our bedraggled arrival in Grisedale hide witnessed the fact that our timing was a little out of sync! The pair of Spotted Redshank, so recently seen from there, were obviously not impressed either and had disappeared, leaving only a very smart Black – tailed Godwit for us to enjoy.

Coffee and cake and a rummage through the second hand books in the cafe rounded the trip off nicely and a surprising 66 birds were seen. Sadly no dragonflies or butterflies due to the rain, but a good trip nevertheless, what else would you do on a wet afternoon?

Many thanks to Colin for getting the best out of the day and driving us home in trying conditions.

Sue Coldwell

Scotton Banks 23rd June 2016

Some of the group.  Nick Gaunt

Some of the group. Nick Gaunt

Nine of us walked down the track from Scotton Banks car park and eastwards through Scotton Banks woodland to the ‘Drummerboy Seat’ where there is exposed Magnesian Limestone. From there we scrambled down to the bank of the River Nidd where we enjoyed lunch before returning via the riverside footpath.

Floral highlights included Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata), Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) and Wood Dock (Rumex sanguineus). Bryophytes included the ancient woodland indicators Thamnobryum alopecurum and Eurynchium striatum; calcicoles such as Ctenidium molluscum, Leiocolea turbinata, Anomodon viticulosus and Rhynchostegium murale; and river littorals Mnium marginatum and Fissidens pusillus.

Click HERE for a full pdf summary, map and list.

We also found this (fallen) birds nest made almost entirely of woodland mosses!

Bird's Nest Nick Gaunt

Bird’s Nest Nick Gaunt

Nick Gaunt

Spa Gill Wood May 12th 2016

A wander up the valley of River Skell from Fountains Bridge, through Skell Bank Wood towards Spa Gill Wood, in search of mosses, vascular plants and other wildlife. On a fine spring day there were several flowering plants showing well, including Nodding Rush, Ramsons, Bluebell and Comfrey. Bird Cherry were in full blossom.


A good variety of bryophytes were found, including a fine cushion of Didymodon tophaceus on a retaining wall with seepage, Neckera complanata and Mnium stellare on an old stone bridge parapet, and some nice epiphytes  including Zygodon conoideus and Orthotrichum pulchellum. The river hosted typical species including Fontinalis antipyretica and Platyhypnidium riparioides.

Nick Gaunt

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