Leader: Charlie Philpotts
The 8 naturalists were undeterred by the drizzling rain and the poor forecast as we got ready in the car park, at one of the most unlikely places to begin a natural history field trip. Surrounded by derelict mining buildings in a potholed wasteland of a car park beside an arterial road, none of us apart from Charlie our leader had ever been here before. Things did not look any more promising when we set off through a rubbish -strewn gap in the hedge and appeared to be crossing the back gardens of a terrace of houses. Then suddenly, through a gate up a wooded bank and we were into the Ledston Luck nature reserve, relatively recently regenerated from the old coal mine by a team of volunteers including Charlie. Here there was a profusion of flowers, in particular the yellow Tall Melilot which in places formed an almost impenetrable forest; the Pea family was well represented generally with both Hairy and Smooth Tare and masses of Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil, which seems to be having a very good year at all sites. The orchids were well past their best, apparently the season is much in advance of normal, but we saw the relics of many thousand Common Spotted, also Southern Marsh, and some hybrids, but none of the Bee Orchids which would be seen there earlier in the year. There were several small ponds which were well vegetated with different species of rushes, sedges and reeds and should be good for Odonata in better weather. The plant list was growing rapidly and we set off back to change locations.
By remarkable luck the only real rain which fell in the whole day now occurred as we drove to the next site, Townclose Hills, where we lunched on the picnic benches then set off onto this SSSI magnesian limestone outcrop. Here there were many of the same flowers but also many new ones; the overwhelming impression was one of ‘bioabundance’. Fields of marjoram were knee-high, dotted with Clustered Bellflower, Agrimony and a vivid purple background of Greater Knapweed. There were positive thickets of Restharrow, both spiny and not, and Yellow-wort, Field Scabious and lots of those yellow hawk-somethings which we did not have time to identify. The orchids again were more or less finished but the remains of hundreds of Common Spotted and hybrids were visible. This is quite a large site and the flower recorder was developing writer’s cramp by the time we returned to the car park to move to our final location, Ledsham Bank.
This site is described in the YWT book as “a botanists’ dream”; a small secluded north-south valley on the magnesian limestone. Here we found, amongst much more, abundant Pyramidal Orchid, still more or less in full flower, and plentiful clumps of the relatively rare Dyer’s Greenweed. Any one of these three locations could have occupied us a whole day!
The plants dominated this trip, but we did see other orders – several butterflies, including skippers, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and at Ledsham Bank a beautiful Marbled White which posed for close-up photos. One specimen of the blue- bruising boletus Boletus purpureus was found, and a livid white Coprinus-type fruiting body. Birds were mainly heard rather than seen but there were yellowhammers at Townclose Hills. And Keith saw a toad.
This was an excellent day and we owe thanks to Charlie Philpotts of the Hardy Orchid Society who organised these trips so efficiently and led them with his infectious enthusiasm. Everyone felt that these were sites to be returned to in another year.
Leader: Kevin Walker
A splendid turnout of 15 enthusiastic botanists assembled at the entrance to the quarry on a fine sunny morning, under the leadership of the Head of Science of the BSBI, Dr Kevin Walker. The disused Duck Street Quarry is a habitat of both biological and geological significance that, in common with the lead mine which we visited later in the day, is a good example of how Britain’s old industrial sites have given us many important wildlife habitats.
As soon as we came through the gate we became aware of the richness and diversity of the limestone flora. Kevin amazed us all with his knowledge of the plants, not only recognising them from tiny portions, but giving us tips for identification, showing us the commoner grasses and sedges and how to recognise them, and demystifying some of the daunting yellow dandelion-type flowers.
The naturalists scrambled up spoil heaps to admire frog orchids, ventured underground for close encounters with the pallid and starfish like green spleenwort, and viewed from a respectful distance the intractable genus of Hawkweeds. There is a full plant list attached, but other highlights and specialities included the delicate Knotted Pearlwort, Limestone Bedstraw – easily identified by its completely invisible backward pointing prickles – Brittle Bladder-fern and a truly gigantic Southern Marsh orchid, probably a hybrid, with a 20cm spike.
After such a dry season, mosses are not at their best, but some typical limestone specimens were found by Nick, such as Ctenidium molluscum, Entodon concinnus, Ditrichum flexuosus and the liverwort Scapania aspera.
The sun also brought out some butterflies – David’s search for a dark green fritillary was eventually successful; there were flocks of Common Blue males (where were the females?), also Green-veined White, the increasingly rare Small Heath and many Ringlets and Meadow Browns.
After lunch we walked to the disused lead mine in the valley bottom, on the way admiring (with binoculars) a stand of Melancholy Thistle; less popular was a narrow track completely full of shoulder-high nettles, a challenge for those wearing shorts! We walked down the moor to the beck, over typical moorland vegetation dominated by Heath Rush, to reach the old lead workings, where the challenging conditions favour certain tolerant species such as Leadwort and Spring Sandwort. Remarkably, Kevin managed to find what was apparently the only example of Leadwort (or Alpine Pennycress) which was easily visible – with a powerful hand lens. Other specialities found here were Mossy Saxifrage, Rustyback Fern and Rigid Buckler Fern, and the moss Philonotis fontana which grows in waterlogged areas.
Finally we climbed out of the valley, all feeling we had learned a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Many thanks to Kevin for his very knowledgeable leadership and instruction, and to Colin Slator for kindly giving us access to the quarry.
Nidd Gorge Biodiversity Project 1999 – 2018, Bio-Blitz Day
A biodiversity project will be held in Nidd Gorge on Saturday 22 July 2017, comprising a Bio-Blitz day. This will be an all day event continuing into the evening. It is being held to improve knowledge and awareness in our area. The data should help in combatting proposed developments or roads at or near Bilton Fields and Nidd Gorge since it should comprise hard evidence of different and sensitive habitats in the area.
This will be a community exercise and is intended to harness the spotting skills (amateur and professional) of the general public in order to indicate the presence of all forms of wildlife: botany, entomology, ornithology and mammals including an evening bat walk.
A hub with tables and gazebo will be set up on the south bank of the viaduct at Bilton, close to the Greenway. Individuals will be encouraged to look for wildlife in the area and report back to the hub. Every scrap of wildlife data will be valuable, from the mundane to the rarity. In this digital age, we will be asking people not to pick flowers, but to take photographs and to use plastic cases to contain insects and bring them back for identification and study.
On the day we will need the help and expertise of as many individual HDNS members as possible. If you would like to come and help with identification (if only for an hour or so), or to help in any other way, then please contact Keith Wilkinson MBE, Honorary Chairman, Nidd Gorge Advisory Partnership, contact details as follows:
Tel: 01423 564708
Visit led by Charlie Philpotts on Sunday 25th June.
Our focus was on orchids, and 13 species (including hybrids), were found, but as we explored, the diversity of other wild flowers growing in these 2 reserves was a delight and our tally, including other wild flowers, was over 100 species. Augill Pastures, SSSI, lies 260m above sea level, and is a rare area of ‘unimproved neutral northern grassland’, including a steep bank down to Augill Beck. Waitby Greenriggs reserve is a section of the old Stainmore Railway and Eden Valley branch line. A diverse grassland flora has developed on the limestone, including Bird’s-eye Primrose, Herb Paris, Greater and Lesser Butterfly orchids and three sub-species of fragrant orchid growing together. Charlie was a knowledgeable, enthusiastic leader, who was always ready to share his passion for orchids. He particularly loves these 2 reserves and has visited them for some years. His wife loves scouting ahead for good specimens.
At both sites we were treated to swathes of orchids, with perhaps the bank at Waitby Greenriggs being the most memorable example. The least frequent orchid was the Northern Marsh Orchid, Fly and Bird’s Nest orchids numbers were a little higher, and other orchids were frequently numerous. The list of other plants seen is not comprehensive as this was beyond our small group, but certainly some ‘gems’ were spotted, rarely or not seen before, by members of the group. Our thanks again go to Charlie Philpotts and his wife Julie, for leading this visit on one day of their ‘holiday’.
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!
See a list of birds and bryophytes: Plumpton Rocks HDNS visit observations
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.
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.
For this 70th Anniversery we have a short history of the Society from its earliest days.
This is a personal view compiled by Ann Mettam, aided by Dr. John R. Mather. pdf version
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.
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!
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)