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

Rossett Local Nature Reserve – Saturday 9th July

This is notice of a Pond Dipping session at the reserve. It will be from 10:ooam until 11:00am.

Open to tne public – all welcome. Equipment provided.

Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Click HERE for the reserve’s website

Northumberland Coast and Coquet Island 22nd May 2016

Common Tern

Common Tern CoquetIsl,Mike Smithson

This was an eagerly awaited trip because of the superb habitat along the coast and the promise of Roseate Terns along with thousands of nesting seabirds on Coquet Island. As luck would have it, a pair of Whiskered Terns were lingering at RSPB Saltholme so a quick detour there got the trip off to a great start. They are uncommon Marsh Terns and were a lifer for quite a few of us. They are wonderfully agile and have shorter tail and wings than their sea tern cousins.

Little Tern

Little Tern, Kath Beeken

The next stop was Crimdon Dene for more terns, this time  the Little Tern.  The air was full of their calls, high up in the blue sky and a few were just starting to nest along with Ringed Plover in the heavily protected area, fenced off from predators.

As we got back to the coach a few drops of rain were the precursor to a thoroughly heavy downpour, and away in the west we saw the incredible sight of a ‘twister’ stretching from the cloud base to ground. Seen in the UK, that was another lifer for many too.

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern, David Beeken

We met Jack and Muff at Druridge Bay where we had lunch to the accompaniment of the chatting of a family of Stonechats and a good variety of water birds were on the lagoons.  This was a quick visit as we had a rendezvous with the boat in Amble. After forging our way around the narrow streets, counter-intuitive one way road system and a Sunday market in Amble we finally got to the boat.

Eider Drake

♂ Eider, David Beeken

The weather was perfect and Eider Ducks were everywhere in the harbour. As we got nearer the island squadrons of Puffins flew past and tern activity increased, Arctic, Common and the most prized of all, the Roseate! They are quite distinctive at close range, beautifully pale, long tail streamers and when perched show the most subtle rose coloured chest. Distinctively they plunge dive from a greater height than the other terns.


Fulmar, Mike Smithson

To complete the tern tally, Sandwich Terns were on the island nesting along with Fulmar, Kittiwake, Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill and Canada Geese on this wardened site. The terns have been encouraged to breed in specially designed nest boxes, all numbered for ease of surveying by the RSBP wardens who protect them round the clock all through the breeding season. There were Turnstones, Purple Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit and Dunlin on the shore line. The skipper of the boat, said there were no totals for Roseate Terns yet this year, but Coquet Island holds 90% of the UK population of this, one of our rarest breeding seabird.

Along the harbour wall at Amble Colin counted 64 Ringed Plover which he suspected were bound for breeding sites further north and just resting up there.


Seal, Kath Beeken

We thanked both Young and Old Dave, for a very interesting boat trip. Back in the coach, Colin drove us to the northern end of the coastal reserves near Hauxley and then down the dune complex to Cresswell where our final stop was very interesting, not least because we saw a rare survivor of the government backed Ruddy Duck eradication programme, one of only an estimated 150 left.

With our bird count well up in the 90’s we drove home, still yet to see a Kestrel, whereupon several were seen, where else but, hovering over a roadside verge?

This was a spectacular trip with an excellent ‘tern out’, thanks very much to Colin for the planning, booking and leading.

Sue Coldwell

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Great Whernside 17th May 2016

Golden Plover Will Rich

Golden Plover Will Rich

After an operation worthy of the Royal Logistics Corps 10 walkers started from Kettlewell to trek over Great Whernside, back to Scar House. After a quick scan of Gouthwaite Reservoir for a reported Red Phalarope  –  operation Dotterel began.


Gt Whernside summit  Will Rich

Gt Whernside summit Will Rich

We summited about 11.45 after the steep walk up the Wharfedale side, stopping to watch the first of several Golden Plover, a striking bird in summer plumage, and we examined some interesting plants including a club moss.

Kevin Walker, HDNS Botanical Recorder, has surveyed the Great Whernside area, so using the list he produced we tried to identify as many as we could.


Fir Club Moss  Jack Upsall

Fir Club Moss Jack Upsall

As we lunched at the trig point Colin heard a Dotterel flight call, and looking up, we saw the bird fly over and land some way off. This was the wader we had been most hoping to see, as they are rare, or at least under reported, for this area. They are more likely spotted on the neighbouring, more frequented hills of Ingleborough or Pendle each May as they migrate up to their breeding grounds further north. They are a confiding bird on the ground and can be approached quite easily, but first you have to find them!! This proved impossible on this occasion as we were unsure where it came down.

The top of Great Whernside was surprisingly hard and dry with rain run off evident. Fences have been erected in an effort to eliminate over grazing. We were pleased to see a female Dunlin, which was obviously protecting young.

Curlew Nest  Jack Upsall

Curlew Nest Jack Upsall

As we descended into Nidderdale more Golden Plover and Curlew were viewed but there were far more waders breeding around the reservoir and moorland edge than on the upper moorland. Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper and Wheatear were seen.  As well as the ubiquitous Meadow Pipit we spotted a rather less obvious male Ring Ouzel, singing in a tree across the valley and a distant cuckoo was heard.

Our day finished as it had begun on the shores of Gouthwaite, with great views of Red Knot, Ringed Plover and  Little Ringed Plover. Raptors were scarce, only one buzzard the whole day!

Many thanks to Muff Upsall and Clare Slator for their help in getting cars in place for the beginning and end of the excursion. Also thanks to Colin for the planning and leading a really great day, with a total bird species of 64 and a good botanical tally, with Dan McAndrew and Sonia Starbuck doing the identification.

Sue Coldwell

Field Trip to Potteric Carr and Hatfield Moors – Tuesday 12th April 2016

Potteric Carr

Potteric Carr

Our party of thirteen set off from Trinity Church in overcast weather, hoping for a dry day.  In this, however, we were to be disappointed since, shortly after we arrived at the Potteric Carr Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve, the heavens opened and subjected us to a thoroughly miserable couple of hours weather-wise.
The birds brightened our spirits somewhat, especially when we heard Cetti’s Warbler singing and Bittern booming.  Later we had good views of a pair of Black-necked Grebes and a drake Garganey.

  Garganey  Potteric Carr    Peter Thomson

Garganey Potteric Carr Peter Thomson

A brisk march through the puddles took us back to the minibus for lunch, following which we set out for the National Nature Reserve at Hatfield Moors.  The hide near the entrance yielded little, which was not surprising given that a couple of yobboes in two cars were spinning their  tyres on the car park gravel and then let out a couple of barking dogs which were allowed to run free around the reserve.
The rain had abated somewhat by this time as we walked to the viewpoint overlooking the bleak expanse of peat bog which is the main feature of this Natural England reserve.

Hatfield Moors Viewpoint

Hatfield Moors Viewpoint

Unfortunately there was little to see apart from a drake Mandarin Duck which gave good views.  Barry got bitten by an insect, of which there were many.
Retracing our steps to the car park, Colin got wind of a Little Gull which was supposed to be present at a nearby lake.  However, by the time we arrived it had disappeared, which was our signal to turn for home.  After a brief coffee stop in Hatfield village we joined the motorway network and headed for Harrogate.
Sue totted up the species total for the day which was 66, surprisingly good considering the weather.  Many thanks to our driver and leader Colin for doing his best in trying conditions.

Will Rich

Spring Newsletter and Annual Report

The 2016 Spring Newsletter is now available.  Go to Reports and Publications from the Home Page or click here.
This is full of interesting facts and features including the latest programmes and reports of past outings.

Our 2014 Annual Report is also available ( members area only – you will need your password). This web version includes the photos from the report, collected towards the end.  Click here for the  members area.

Fairburn Ings and St Aidans – Tuesday15th March

A cold and slightly overcast day heralded our minibus trip to Fairburn where we hoped to find some wintering birds. At our first port of call we met up with two more members (so twelve in total) and walked to Charlie’s Hide on Village Bay where we heard that Smew had been reported. This diminutive Sawbill which breeds in Fenno Scandinavia and Russia over-winters in North West Europe. The bird was to prove very elusive but we were content with our views of Goosander, Snipe, Pochard and beautifully singing Song Thrush. Moving on to the Centre of the reserve, the Pontoon near the car park offered an opportunity to scrutinise the reeds more closely. There, we were lucky to find a Water Rail (thanks Barry) a bird which usually reveals itself only by its call but we had close views for quite a while.

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting Peter Thomson

At the Centre Feeder, along with the more common birds, we enjoyed Tree Sparrow, Reed Bunting and a resplendent male Bullfinch. Moving on to the Pickup hide we still had no sign of Smew but, following the line of flight of a Little Egret we found a large communal breeding colony which included Cormorant and Heron. Our final attempt with the Smew was at the Lin Dike Hide where we watched displaying Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe. However, as one member put it, we remained ‘Smewless’. Leaving the hide we were informed by a local that there were Peregrine on the two towers in the distance. It felt as if the three Peregrines sitting there were returning our gaze as we looked through the scopes. It was just then that persistence was rewarded as Colin announced that a distant, ‘Teal-sized’, red headed, white cheeked bird was indeed a female Smew. It revealed itself for at least ten seconds before disappearing behind the reeds. I subsequently learnt that they favour flooded landscapes (and Fairburn certainly qualified on this count).


Dragline St Aidan’s Will Rich

We also added Pintail to our list here and then set off to St Aidan’s – another reclaimed landscape but with more obvious signs of its industrial heritage. Here, we had been informed, we might find a Greenland White-fronted Goose if we were lucky. Looking at the vast expanse before us, the term ‘needle in a haystack’ came to mind. However, the weather brightened, Skylarks sang, myriads of Gulls screeched and we enjoyed a long walk through the wetlands adding Stock Dove, Wigeon, Gadwall and Lapwing to our growing list. After scanning the large number of Canada and Greylag Geese and almost losing the will to look at another goose, Colin found our quarry. It was on the brow of the hill with its back towards us, making identification as difficult as possible but, once seen, never forgotten!

Whitefronted, Peter Thomson

Whitefronted, Peter Thomson

The Greenland White-fronted Goose with its beautifully deeply scored underbelly and prettily white-edged bill, together with a slighter and darker appearance, enthralled us all. By the time we had left, we had 67 species for the day (which seems to be the magic number for recent trips) and Colin had certainly earned his stripes!


Sue Harrison


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