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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Nine 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.
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
Another successful day under the leadership of Colin Slator (The Mountie – always gets his target species).
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.
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.
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. )
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.
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.
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
In spite of a gloomy weather forecast a full minibus of 15 members plus Colin Slator as leader set off for the upland RSPB reserve of Geltsdale in Cumbria. The route took us via Upper Teesdale to look for Black Grouse, and although persistent drizzle had set in we were fortunate to see around 20 males feeding on the grazed grassy areas at Langdon Beck, plus a brief sighting of a single female. Other upland species were also present, including Curlew, Redshank, and displaying Snipe and Lapwing.
We continued on to Geltsdale RSPB Reserve, and while we ate our picnic lunch in the Visitors’ Centre Steve, the RSPB warden, gave us information about the reserve and issues affecting its management. We were also entertained by live CCTV footage of a pair of Barn Owls that were nesting in the loft above our heads in the Centre.
The reserve covers over 5000 hectares, and consists of blanket bog (which is being restored by blocking of artificial drains and reducing sheep grazing and heather burning), heath, upland farmland, and woodland (which is being extended by natural regeneration and extensive planting of over 100,000 native trees), making it an important site for breeding upland birds such as Golden Plover, Curlew, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat, and Black Grouse. After lunch Steve accompanied us for a walk along one of the trails to look for these species, but unfortunately the weather had deteriorated to alternating drizzle and heavy rain, so birds were conspicuous by their absence! However we did see Skylark, 2 more male Black Grouse, and some of the group had good views of a Ring Ouzel.
With the weather showing no sign of improvement it was decided to leave further exploration of the reserve for a better day, and head back home via Saltholme RSPB Reserve! We arrived there an hour before it closed, in very murky conditions but at least the rain had stopped. From the first hide a drake Scaup and drake Garganey were quickly spotted, and near the next hide we had close views of a fox with 3 cubs. On leaving the reserve, a female Long-tailed Duck was seen from the main road on Saltholme Pool, along with excellent views of a Black Tern feeding over the Pool. Stopping off at Dormans Pool a Sedge Warbler and Water Rail were heard, giving a total of 67 species seen or heard on the day, which was a good total considering the weather conditions.
We arrived back in Harrogate shortly before 8 pm, a long but interesting day with some excellent sightings, and our thanks go to Colin for leading the trip, and also to Will for a long day’s drive of 300 miles.
Robert and Cynthia Chandler
The 2012 Yorkshire Bird Report has just been published this week. It’s still £12 (plus £2 P &P) and is the most accurate picture of the status of Yorkshire’s birds! Some stunning artwork by some nationally famous artists, some amazing photographs in the Gallery section (all taken in Yorkshire and not just rarities!) and a fascinating map depicting where ringed birds have come from or gone to, from our county. Copies of the report will be available at the HDNS AGM (April 23rd 2014)
Reminder: The AGM will be at St. Robert’s Centre at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23 April.
Followed by two short films by David Tipping, featuring wildlife around Harrogate, the Scottish islands of Islay and Mull and the Channel Island of Alderney.
‘Quality not quantity’ was the initial theme for our trip to Skipwith on Tuesday 25th March –I’m referring to the four members who accompanied our guide for the day, Colin, rather than the birds! The weather hadn’t shown great promise, (hence the small numbers?) but as we neared our destination things began to improve.
Or at least the Woodlarks thought so! As we peered through the drizzle amidst the continuous yaffling of some energetic Green Woodpeckers we heard the tell-tale sonorous, rippling sound of Woodlark. At first they were not visible, but our patience was rewarded when, after searching further afield, we were treated to a close sighting of a singing Woodlark on a nearby tree stump. Mike moved quickly to mount his camera onto his scope and managed to track the bird along the ground. Then the bird flew off so we made our way back to the cars with mutterings of ‘Lifer’ and ‘First Yorkshire Personal Sighting’ and ‘pure quality’
Duffield Carr was the next site and here we did indeed experience copious quantities of wild fowl. Some numbers were recorded, including 15 Ruff, over 20 Dunlin, 32 Whoopers, as well as multiple Gadwall, Pintail, Shovelers, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal along with calling Snipe. It seemed that our trip today had been perfectly timed to greet the arrival of the Whoopers whose progress had been reported by various messaging services earlier in the day.
At East Cottingwith we heard our first Chiffchaff of the day and found plenty of Tree Sparrows.
Our final destination was Wheldrake YWT where this winter’s bad weather had left its mark with demolished hides and jetsam-strewn walkways. The conditions didn’t seem to bother the local Water Rail as they conducted their territorial squabbles to the accompaniment of frenzied squeals. And although we didn’t manage to find the reported Great White Egret, we enjoyed the search. Before we left, we had more Whoopers and views of four Buzzards climbing a thermal and combing the skies above us. We finished with a decent number of species ( 63 in all ! ) and even a little bit of Gold (in the form of Goldeneye and Goldfinch!). Thanks again to Colin
Report by Sue Harrison
This is an occasional newsletter from your BTO Regional Representative, it will be updated from time to time with information relevant to the Harrogate and District Naturalists’ recording area. Contact me by email: email@example.com or by phone: 01423 567382, mobile: 07900 301112. Website: www.bto.org
New for 2014 a Nationwide Peregrine Survey, the last one being in 2002. In common with most BTO surveys these days the main fieldwork is based upon visiting randomly selected squares ( in this case 5 x 5 km), these are backed up with on-going visits to known sites mainly by local Raptor Study Groups, casual sightings of Peregrines can be submitted via the BTO’s BirdTrack website.
The Harrogate and District Naturalists’ recording area is within my BTO Region and a couple of random squares are located within it, I have already allocated those squares to volunteers but the opportunity is still there for casual records from anybody and should ideally be notified via BirdTrack, however, if you do not wish to use that facility you can always contact me directly. It is already becoming evident that people are aware of sites that are well know by monitoring organisations, this is not a problem and I am happy to hear about any site either within or outside my region, I can then have them checked with the appropriate people, you never know, you might have located a hitherto unknown breeding pair!
Please contact me if you are interested in current BTO surveys, e.g. The Breeding Bird Survey, Garden Birdwatch or Winter Thrushes.
I wondered how Colin was going to cope with us all (16 in total) as we gathered eagerly at Brimham Rocks, energized with the promise of a fine day and clear skies. But, obviously used to instilling a sense of order and purpose, Colin established ground rules and commenced by outlining our target species for the morning (Stonechat) and even remembered to add some health and safety advice.
Our morning stroll over the moorland was, for me, uncharted territory and quite a contrast to the area of Brimham Rocks where I normally walk. We were soon treated to fine views of deer: four Reds, two Roe and a Sika buck with a magnificent pair of antlers. It was whilst we were examining these creatures that we became aware of at least two Stonechats in the foreground. Their colours stood out beautifully against the surrounding pale ochre of the dead grasses and echoed the russets of the distant deer.
There was a distinct lack of other passerines but we were accompanied at several points by the clear, loud and melodious trills of various Wrens. And we enjoyed the unexpected zigzag flypast of a Snipe which had obviously decided that an approaching army of 16 was rather too many to risk. Not so a Red Kite which drifted directly overhead, giving excellent views. Further along, from an elevated position, we had a panoramic view of seven Buzzards soaring and occasionally clashing with each other.
After returning to Brimham car park, we relocated to Sawley High Moor for lunch. Following a short game of musical cars, half of which were positioned at one entrance point and half at another, we were privileged to explore yet another area new to me. The land, being part of a shooting estate, had vast tracts which were promising heathland habitat and Colin expressed the conviction that in future some interesting species might take advantage of the area.
Our target species (Crossbill and Redpoll) were sadly lacking. Sounds of Coal Tit and Goldcrest were all that we could hear, though Colin discerned a distant Kestrel. As we stood straining eyes and ears, a Sparrowhawk swept over the trees. Indeed it seemed that raptors were the order of the day as we were able to count another six Buzzards in the eastern sky with a view that encompassed the A1 in the distance.
It was a great day out, despite the small number of birds, and we were very grateful to Colin for giving his time when he should have been packing for his holidays.
A good number of members (seventeen) turned out for the first, mercifully dry, field meeting of the year. This was very gratifying for our leaders, Colin and Brian, who had put in a considerable amount of work placing and setting the twenty-nine mammal traps. Colin was his usual jovial, witty self as he gave a very entertaining introduction to mammal trapping. He also had some Barn Owl pellets and a display board showing the skeletons of the typical species on which they prey. Meanwhile, Brian arrived with a Bank Vole and a couple of Wood Mice, the latter of which escaped into the car park and ran off. We were not disappointed, however, as once we were in the reserve, we had ample opportunity to inspect and photograph several other Wood Mice.
Colin showed us his collection of mammal and bird traps, some of them now illegal, and gave a quite horrifying account of the huge numbers of Stoats and Hedgehogs are trapped and killed by gamekeepers.
The main species trapped during the day was Bank Vole but we were also able to see Common Shrew and, the highlight, a Harvest Mouse. Bank Voles and Wood Mice seemed content to sit on people’s shoulders for a short while whilst being photographed.
All mammals were released back into the areas where they were trapped Colin also showed us skulls of various larger mammals, including Grey Seal, as well as casts of footprints. No larger mammals were seen, despite traps being set for Water Vole and Mink, though there was evidence of Otter. Many thanks to Brian and Colin, also to Bobby Evison and YWT for allowing us to place the traps on the reserve.