British Trust for Ornithology – conference

Once again the BTO are running a Birdwatchers’ Conference in Yorkshire, this time at a bigger venue, Askham Bryan Agricultural College, York. in 2012 we met at Weetwood Hall in Leeds with a maximum capacity of just over 100, this time we can accommodate 300.
Come and join us on Saturday 14th. March, just £20.00 per person, tea, coffee and a buffet lunch included. The Keynote Speaker is Sir John Lawton, plus Stephen Murphy (Natural England), Keith Clarkson (RSPB Bempton) and Gareth Jones (North Yorkshire Police). We will also have two presentations from BTO staff members.
Advanced booking only via Samantha Graham at BTO HQ, – samantha.graham@bto.org  – 01842 750050. The programme and a booking form are now available on the BTO website: www.bto.org click on “News and Events” and you will see the link

You do not need to be a BTO member, everybody is welcome!

Regards, Mike Brown,
BTO Regional Rep for Yorkshire-Central,
01423 567382
07900 301112

South Yorkshire Reserves – Tuesday 16th December 2014

South Yorkshire  Will Rich

South Yorkshire Will Rich

Wigeon ♂ Will Rich

Wigeon ♂ Will Rich

It was the week before Christmas and ten members took time off from festive preparations (?) to visit RSPB Old Moor and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr. The weather was more reminiscent of October than December, warm breeze and fantastic light.

We counted a total of 67 birds over the day.  In the morning at Old Moor the winter ducks and waders looked fantastic in the sunshine, every feather showing up, giving the ubiquitous Magpie a splendid appearance and the eponymous Golden Plover lived up to its name. Other waders included  Snipe, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing and Ruff.

Teal   Will Rich

Teal pair Will Rich

Gadwall pair  Will Rich

Gadwall pair Will Rich

The mixed tit flocks were foraging through the birch woodland duringour afternoon walk at Potteric Carr and as we approached the lagoons, four species of gull came in to roost, a Kingfisher played a cameo role across the front of the hide, and our first Great Crested Grebe of the day was seen.

 In fading light, there were distant views of a huge influx of Starlings.  The shortest day was only a few days away and we walked back to the car park with the beautiful light which had enchanted us all day going fast.

S Yorks Wildfowl 008

Stock Dove Will Rich

Thanks to Colin and Will for the organisation and leadership. We had a fantastic day and some of us didn’t have to break off from Christmas shopping, the well-stocked Old Moor shop was just too tempting, wasn’t it?

Sue Coldwell

Wildlife-Friendly Gardens Field Meeting November 15th 2014

Nine of the usual suspects met Colin at Ripley Car Park on a dank misty morning.

Sharing cars, we first visited Colin’s garden in Kirby Hill, near Boroughbridge, where he is creating a wildlife haven amidst an agro-industrial wasteland.  He has installed approximately 30 nestboxes, which have encouraged House and Tree Sparrows, Tits and Starlings to nest.  Swift nestboxes have unfortunately been taken over by the above more common species, but Colin was pleased to report that this summer Swallows have nested for the first time in his back porch.  Areas of grass in his lawn have been left to grow long to encourage the growth of wild flowers and to provide a refuge for small rodents.  In fact, recently a Harvest Mouse was found to have taken up residence.  We were all getting rather chilled after touring the garden, so a hot drink provided by Colin’s wife Claire was very welcome.

Our next visit was to HDBAG member Sandra Mason’s woodland garden at Sawley.  The principle behind the garden is to provide layers of vegetation ranging from treetop height to ground cover in order to attract the maximum number of invertebrates.  The garden, which is influenced by the woodland garden at Old Sleningford, is still in its early stages but is attracting large numbers of insects with its mixture of native and more exotic species.  Goldfinches fed in the nearby alders as Sandra explained how she established the garden in an area of rank grass using layers of old carpet and manure!

We next moved on to HDNS member Sue Harrison’s garden between Pateley Bridge and Wath.  Sue was unfortunately unable to be present, so Colin showed us around.  There was much activity, mainly Tits, at the ingenious squirrel-proof feeders and a Greater-Spotted Woodpecker was also present.  A pond containing Carp and Sturgeon is apparently a good breeding ground for various amphibians.  Spotted Flycatchers have nested in previous years and Tawny Owls are frequently seen.  Sue has tried to develop the surrounding fields, which she owns, for wildlife and has planted trees and erected an owl nestbox.

Many thanks to Colin, Claire, Sandra and Sue for an interesting and informative morning.


Will Rich

Field Trip to Hartlepool Headland and RSPB Saltholme 23rd September 2014

Ornithologically speaking, September on the north east coast is a good month for migrants and sea watching.  An easterly wind and a rough sea is ideal but when we arrived at the Headland the sea was flat calm and the wind which had been in the east for days had deserted us.

Little Egret

Little Egret

However there were waders and gulls on the shore to sift through and reports of Yellow-browed Warbler at the Borough Hall. There was plenty of choice for everyone and the party spread out depending on their interest.

A brief sea watch provided views of several Red-throated Divers flying south, also Gannets, Scoters, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and later a juvenile Pomerine Skua north.

Interest quickly concentrated in the Borough Hall for the Yellow-browed Warbler.  Still in full leaf, the trees provided this lovely little gem with plenty of cover, flitting Robins and Chiffchaffs keeping us on our toes. But persistence paid off and we had several excellent views eventually, complete with the eye stripe and wing bars.

A brief stop at the beach at Newburn was amazing for comparison views of three Tern species,  Sandwich, Arctic and Common standing among the Oystercatchers.  The white winged Mediterranean Gull among the smaller Black-headed Gulls provided another good comparison view.  Colin was eager to show us the recently drained Dorman’s Pool and new hide.  Waders were certainly gathered in numbers, mainly Dunlin, also Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Ruff and two Little Stints, one right in front of the hide. Rob Adams spotted a Whinchat and a pair of Stonechats around the fence posts.

Group of Watchers

“I spy a Great White Egret!”

Little Egrets are now almost ubiquitous in marshland habitat but it’s the Great White Egret which has the scarce but increasing status which the Little Egret had fifteen or twenty years ago. Colin’s pager flagged up that we were only a few wing flaps away as the Great White Egret flies, which had been seen around Cowpen Marsh recently.  Sure enough we located it quickly and saw it fly briefly. Their size makes them unmistakable, especially in flight.  All this and we hadn’t even been to RSPB Saltholme yet.

Hartlepool 003

Fox at Saltholme

The fox cubs seen earlier in the year at Saltholme are now fully grown and very evident, much to the delight of visitors and photographers.  The hides at Saltholme are roomy and well appointed, as is the coffee shop, and we finished our day equally divided amongst them.

Snipe Saltholme


Winter ducks are starting to assemble, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler and a Red-crested Pochard in eclipse, just to test us! Waders included Golden Plover, Dunlin and Lapwings and Snipe but with fading light levels and the reserve about to close we headed off back to the minibus and home, pencils poised to tick our life or year lists.

Many thanks to Colin, the man with the plan and Will, the man not so much with the van, but a very nice new minibus actually.   A great day out!

 Sue Coldwell

Duck Street Quarry 9th August 2014

IMG_6288eNine members met Colin at Pateley Bridge car park, from where we continued to the privately owned, disused quarry near Greenhow.  In the past, limestone was quarried here and towards the end of the last century it was bought to manage the flowers and butterflies that thrive there.

Unfortunately it was a very windy afternoon but the rain held off and we were able to walk round the whole site.  Despite the conditions we saw a total of nine butterfly species – at least 25 Small Tortoiseshells and 20 Common Blues, with smaller numbers of Peacock, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Green-veined White, Red Admiral, and Small Heath. Finally when we had nearly given up hope we saw four Dark Green Fritillaries amongst the knapweed on a sheltered sunny bank.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Frog and Common Spotted Orchids had faded, as had the Common Twayblades, but the Autumn Gentians were just opening and there were quite a few Sandwort plants, a speciality of the quarry.Entrance to adit

We had excellent views of a Spotted Flycatcher catching and devouring a Peacock butterfly. We also saw Linnet, Buzzard, Kestrel and more than 15 Goldfinches.



On the north face of the quarry the entrance to an old adit was visible – a relic of the past lead-mining industry, and good examples of the calcite and barytes minerals associated with the lead veins could be seen.  (All photos by Robert and Cynthia Chandler)

Many thanks to Colin for an informative afternoon and a chance to see a site not normally open to the public.

Cynthia and Robert Chandler

Field Trip to Arnside/Silverdale AONB July29th 2014

Another successful day under the leadership of Colin Slator (The Mountie – always gets his target species).

Arnside Trip 29/07/2014 Will Rich

Arnside Trip 29/07/2014 Will Rich

Eighty different bird species were seen, including Great White Egret (GWE), and at least ten types of butterfly, including Grayling and, well, read on to find out.

The day dawned cloudy and cool with light drizzle, which was disappointing considering the mini heat wave we experienced in the days before.  However, the 15 of us travelled hopefully, even though we were heading west, where the weather is usually worse.

Our first port of call was Hellifield Flash, which curiously was almost empty of water though this did not deter several species associated with mud and water, including Little Ringed Plover (LRP), Snipe, and Teal from using it.

Arnside Trip 29/07/2014 Will Rich

Arnside Trip 29/07/2014 Will Rich

Colin decided that, given the cool conditions, which were unsuitable for butterflies, it was best to visit Leighton Moss first before pursuing our main quarry, the High Brown Fritillary (HBF).  A couple of hours were pleasantly spent in the various hides which were accessible from the visitor centre, the highlights being distant views of the aforementioned GWE, several Cream-Crown Marsh Harriers and young Water Rails, which seemed quite happy in their naivety to feed in the open.

Parking the minibus in a rough field (Sorry, Budget!) because it would not fit under the low bridge, we next took lunch in the Morecambe and adjacent hide, where we saw a flock of 14 Little Egrets, some Greenshank and yet more LRP as well as many more common waders.  Leaving the hides we were then able to add to our list several passerine species which were showing well in the nearby bushes.

The sun was beginning to come out now so, extracting the minibus with difficulty from the field, we headed for Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve to search for the elusive HBF. Taking the so-called Limestone Trail through the trees we came upon some extensive stands of Hemp Agrimony which held disappointingly few butterflies but we were able to find Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Small Skipper, as well as Emperor Dragonfly.

The trail led us to an unimproved meadow where Dan spotted and photographed a fritillary, which had disappeared by the time the rest of us caught up with him.  We all went searching and were able to flush several other fritillaries, at which point shouts of “High Brown” went up.  This was when Colin was thought to have scored yet another success with his target species and was christened The Mountie by Sue.


Dark Green Fritillary Gait Barrows 29/07/2014 Peter Thomson

However, disappointment was soon to follow, for on netting one of the fritillaries and examining it closely, it was found to have green underwings and was clearly a much more widespread species, though no less beautiful for that, the Dark Green Fritillary.  Disappointment was followed by elation shortly after when, scouring the limestone pavements further along the trail we were able to find and photograph several Graylings – a first for some of us.  ( See Photo Gallery for another photo of this butterfly. )


Grayling Gait Barrows 29/07/2014 Will Rich

Returning to the minibus we headed for home, calling at Milnthorpe to try and find the Glossy Ibis which is seen regularly on the River Bela there.  We were unlucky on this occasion but superb views of a herd of Fallow Deer more than compensated.  Our next stop was for fish and chips at Kirkby Lonsdale whence, replete, tired but happy we returned to Harrogate.

Will Rich


SUNDAY 20th   JULY   2014

With the temperature rising, it was a good start to the day as we began by concentrating on butterflies among the creeping thistles; Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell being the most noticeable.  A superb Comma was admired and photographed and a late Cinnabar moth flew by.  Carpets of Common Centaury, Yellow-wort, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and Self-heal provided a colourful backdrop to the scene.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer, Farnham GP 20/07/2014 Will Rich

A visit to the lakeside was very productive  for dragonflies with an Emperor patrolling close by, a Black-tailed Skimmer posing on the shoreline for the photographers, with Common Darters and Four-spot Chasers within feet of the members.

After lunch, we searched the area around the pond for the four species of damselfly present, the main attraction being Emerald damselfly, which was soon seen.  Brown Hawker dragonflies zoomed overhead and Four-spot Chasers held territory. The site for the White-letter Hairstreak was the next stop but, due to the prolonged hot weather, the bramble flowers on which the butterfly can usually be seen at close range, were almost over.  After much searching, several were seen at the top of the elm tree.  Soon after this, the afternoon’s observations were brought to a speedy conclusion with a tremendous downpour that lasted 30 minutes.

Not forgetting the birds, a Common Buzzard surveyed the scene from its perch on the pylon, four Common Redstarts were present and, on the lake, were family parties of Common Terns, Mute Swans, Great Crested and Little Grebes, while the constant activity of the Sand Martins all added interest to an excellent day – though the heat was too much for some!

June E. Atkinson      Honorary Warden

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