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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
See this page for further details
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.