Plumpton Rocks visit 21st June 2017

Seven of us enjoyed a relaxing visit to this interesting location, led by Nick Gaunt. Nick introduced the group to some common woodland mosses: Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans, Hypnum cupressiforme and Mnium hornum were the dominant species in the mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland surrounding the lake.

The extensive millstone grit outcrops held some extensive patches of the liverworts Lepidozia reptans and Diplophyllum albicans. They also supported a few ancient specimens of yew and oak, their large gnarled roots delving into the many crevices. There are some notably tall trees – pedunculate oak, ash, beech, cherry and holly in particular.

The lake has some extensive rafts of Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea) that were home to families of Moorhen. The lake margins supported a variety of wild flowers and blue damselflies (species not identified).

A search for some  uncommon bryophytes recorded here over a century ago (Cynodontium bruntonii, Orthodontium gracile, Tetrodontium brownianum and Jungermannia exsectiformis), will have to wait for another visit when the rocks are not so dry!

Nick Gaunt

See a list of birds and bryophytes: Plumpton Rocks HDNS visit observations

Nightjars and Roding Woodcocks 15 June 2017

I am always a little wary about going on birding events largely because whilst everybody else is intent on watching and discussing a rare bird, I am usually struggling to find the bird (any bird) through my binoculars.  However, I had never seen nightjars nor woodcocks before, and so I could not turn down the opportunity.

I was not entirely sure about the meaning of the word ‘roding’ and felt I should first investigate.  It means to fly on a regular circuit in the evening as a territorial display, making sharp calls and grunts.  It appears to be only woodcocks who do this, according to the OED.

The instructions for the event stated that midge repellent would be essential.  I investigated the household midge repellent.  By referring to the date on the packet and by use of higher mathematics I calculated that this item must have been purchased in the dark ages.  So having invested my life savings in buying a new spray repellent, I then discovered that I was wearing so many clothes on the night that there was no skin available for its application.

Thirteen intrepid souls turned up for the evening walk at Stainburn Forest which was very ably led by Robert Brown.   Walking along the track the first thing we saw was a roe deer.  This was followed by woodcocks flying overhead and above the trees, their shapes and beaks clearly visible even to me.  These sightings continued as we walked along.

Then we came to a clearing surrounded by trees, where we waited.  And waited.  Suddenly an osprey appeared.  This was just the warm-up act for what was to follow.

More waiting.  Then we heard the churring sounds of the nightjars.  More waiting, and then suddenly as if out of nowhere a nightjar appeared.  Much white handkerchief waving was undertaken, whereupon this utterly beautiful creature began flying low over our heads to investigate us.  I was spellbound, and I suspect that my companions were as well.  Then, just as suddenly, the nightjar disappeared.  We stayed awhile but did not see it again.  No matter, we had experienced a rare treat.

Feeling happy and privileged, we wended our way back to the cars, by which time darkness was falling.  Grateful thanks go to Robert for organising the event, and for having the stamina and patience to put up with amateurs such as myself.  And I really do not mind about the unused spray repellent, because I shall definitely be going to Stainburn Forest again.

Sonia Starbuck

Trip to Raptor Viewpoint and Bempton June 6th 2017

Minibus outing to the Wykeham Raptor Viewpoint and RSPB Bempton.

What could possibly go wrong? Knowing that raptors don’t like flying when it rains however didn’t dampen our spirits and we carried on in hope rather than expectation, and had a total bird count of 61!  There was definitely no chance of raptors at the Viewpoint, when we got there it was far too wet and the cloud base was very low over the North York Moors beyond. A walk along the forestry fringe had to suffice for alternative sources of entertainment. The conifer nurseries provide excellent habitat for Skylarks which were in abundance, Thrushes and Lapwings too. Sadly as there has been a nationwide crash of Turtle Dove population they are so very hard to see or hear in Wykeham these days and apart from a very distant glimpse of a dove sp we drew a blank.  Anyone who hadn’t been on a fine day could be forgiven for thinking why is the Raptor Viewpoint is so named, but on a good day the views are fantastic and given a slight breeze the raptors, including Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Goshawk will soar over the ridge giving an amazing day’s raptor watching.

Onward to Bempton and hopes of us arriving before the rain. Well, we did and for half an hour had stunning views of Barn Owl, Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Shag. But the inevitable happened and we retreated back to the new visitor centre at Bempton to dry off!

Thinking hides at Filey Dams may be our salvation we persuaded the driver to divert back there for a final fling. Jason our named driver was, as ever, very tolerant of 15 slightly soggy birders and was amenable throughout. By the time we got to Filey the wind was up and  the rain was really lashing down. As a new habitat for the day we ran for the hide and added Little Grebe to our list, but then headed home to dry out properly.

Many thanks to June for her leadership on a challenging day.


Sue Coldwell


It is with great regret that the 70th Anniversary celebrations due to be held on Sunday 16th July have been cancelled due to lack of bookings from members.

The Council thanks the organisers, Colin Slator and Ruth Upsall, for their hard work in preparing for the day.


Gouthwaite and Scar House, Tuesday, April 25th

In Search of Ring Ouzels – Tuesday, April 25th

Leader – June Atkinson

It was fine but very cold, with a poor forecast, when the 12 naturalists foregathered at the Gouthwaite viewing point. With plenty of expert eyes trained on the mud at the top end of the reservoir we soon found Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, a Common Sandpiper and the usual quantity of black headed gulls – and then June spotted a Knot which was very much the colour of the mud. A few duck and grebes were swimming on the wave-tossed water, but the clouds were gathering and June decided to move us quickly up to Scar House before the predicted precipitation arrived!

Ring Ouzel  Muff Upsall;

Ring Ouzel Muff Upsall;

As soon as we got into the car park at the top of the valley, we noticed a raptor flying overhead, which treated us to a great display of diving steeply then swooping up again. After much discussion of male goshawk versus female sparrowhawk, the experts confirmed that it was a Goshawk! Most of us were thrilled but June pointed out that it had probably terrified all our target species into hiding. However, only a few minutes later, the first Wheatears appeared, the male in fine breeding plumage, then Ken spotted the first Ring Ouzel, a male with its dazzling white bib, which stayed in view for some time, posing for photos and occasionally joined by a female. A really excellent display, despite the strong northerly wind which was now bearing snow.

This was a hard act to follow but we walked across the dam, spotting Siskins and Mistle Thrush and another Common Sandpiper; too early and/or too cold probably for housemartins. We ventured up the west shore of the reservoir, noting a small copse which might shelter redstarts, but noticing mainly that we were all in danger of hypothermia. A strategic retreat to the cars for lunch!

The afternoon was spent working our way down the valley stopping at various sites well known to June – our main target was pied flycatchers but the weather was not cooperative; June eventually spotted a bird going into one of the nesting boxes and we waited and watched hopefully for it to emerge. She explained that male birds arrive before females and prepare the nest, presumably this one was still waiting for no further sightings were seen. There were several other interesting sights in the valley, including a pair of song thrush feeding fledged young, some bivalve fossils found for us by David, a mallard duck with 8 newly hatched ducklings and a brief sighting of a redstart by June. The rest of us were insufficiently attentive to catch it (allegedly we were chatting!) We finally visited a beautiful little waterfall overlooked by a bridge where we had good views of a Dipper preening, feeding, and swimming and a Grey Wagtail.

We finished the trip with a further visit to the Gouthwaite viewpoint, where Little Ringed Plover and Common Tern were added, before a ferocious hail squall sent most of us scurrying for the cars. Those stalwarts who remained clocked up several more species including Black Grouse (and were very smug next day) – bringing the total to a magnificent 65 species. (For a full species list, click here)

An excellent day, despite most unseasonable weather, many thanks to June for her extremely knowledgeable leadership.  Click for plant list, bird list.


Muff Upsall

Hackfall Woods – Wednesday 29th March 2017


Toothwort David Holmes

On Wednesday 29 March Nick Gaunt led a group of 9 other members on a field trip round Hackfall Woods near Grewelthorpe. 

Alum Spring   Valerie Holmes

Alum Spring Valerie Holmes

The meeting was primarily to introduce members to the study of mosses and liverworts and to take in any other natural history along the way.  We followed the path down to the river finding many species of mosses and liverworts.  We lunched at Fisher’s Hall which is not quite so glamorous as you might think. We carried on to the Alum Spring which is an interesting area  of Tufa limestone with cascading water running over it. Several members climbed to the top for a closer inspection.

Alum Spring Yvonne Ward

Alum Spring Yvonne Ward

We saw Palmate newts in the Fountain Pond. The water was clear and we could see the big webbed feet of the males.  We also recorded Common Newt and Common Toad. Just  a few Spring flowers were in bloom. Toothwort, Wood Anemones, Wood Sorrel, Early Dog-violet  and Celandines.

Toothwort Sonia Starbuck

Toothwort Sonia Starbuck

Before long there will be carpets of Wild Garlic as the leaves were very much in evidence. We also recorded 13 birds, including Nuthatch and  24 Bryophytes.


 Click HERE for Nick’s species list and map.

Valerie Holmes

NB click on photo for full size.  Click back button to return.

YNU AGM 18th November 2017

YNU AGM – to be held on Saturday 18 November 2017 at the Learning Centre, Harlow Carr Gardens.  As it is our 70th Anniversary Year, the HDNS has the honour of being the “host” society for this event.  All HDNS members and affiliated societies are welcome to attend (you don’t have to be a member of YNU!).  Full details will be put on the YNU website nearer the time and those wishing to attend can book on-line via the YNU website.  There is a charge for lunch (provided by Betty’s of Harrogate).  Click HERE for their website


There is some very interesting news about all three woodpecker species. This was set up by Ken Smith, a retired RSPB scientist and recently-retired Chairman of the BTO’s Ringing Committee, who has been running a long-term study on Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Hertfordshire, and has published papers in British Birds and other journals about this declining species.  Click HERE for the link.

Gouthwaite news

Those of you who use the car park and raptor viewing point on the road past the reservoir will be interested to hear the following. It is proposed to construct  a large building towards the water in front of the viewing point.  An information centre, hide and a wildlife garden are part of the plans.  For more in formation click HERE for a link to the nidd birdwatchers blog.

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