Harrogate and District Naturalists' Society


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.

Hartlepool Headland and RSPB Saltholme Tuesday 14th February 2017

Minibus trip to   Hartlepool and Saltholme –  Leader : June Atkinson

After a weekend of grim easterly winds off the North Sea, the day dawned warm and spring-like, with a very light breeze and broken cloud. On arriving at Hartlepool Headland, we noticed the sea was still very agitated, but with a receding tide we  started scanning the intertidal zone for waders.

This was easier said than done as there were very few, and no Purple Sandpipers to be found, just Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Redshank, Curlew, Ringed Plover and a single Knot. There were Eiders, Common Scoters, Cormorants and a Red-throated Diver on the sea.

Mergansers  Jack Upsall

Mergansers Jack Upsall

With rough seas, it is often wise to check the marina at Hartlepool for sheltering birds and so it turned out to be :splendid Red-breasted Mergansers, one male and two females.

We then sent Mike to talk his way into the Fish Dock, a quick resume of health and safety near deep water and we were greeted with a lovely 1st winter Iceland Gull and soon afterwards, were watching two beautiful Great Northern Divers.



Our next stop was Newburn Bridge for lunch and Mediterranean Gulls. We had excellent

Mediterranean Gull Jack Upsall

Mediterranean Gull Jack Upsall

views of the gulls, especially when they noticed we had brought our lunch with us. They are gulls after all and will readily swoop uninvitedly for food and for us birders, close up views of a white winged gull isn’t to be missed.

At Saltholme we were disappointed that the Long- tailed Duck appeared to have moved on, but were consoled with a male Pintail, some 70 White Fronted Geese, huge flocks of Curlew, Wigeon, Golden Plover and Lapwing. Two Short – eared Owls and a Stonechat were seen along the Kestrel route, oh yes and a Kestrel, what else?

Stonechat Jaqck Upsall

Stonechat Jaqck Upsall

Our thanks to June for leading a great day out and our driver Andrew, who was patience personified as he parked here, there and everywhere as we pursued our quest, totalling well over an amazing 70 species.  Bird List.pdf

Sue Coldwell


YNU news February 2017

Click HERE for the latest news brief from the YNU.   An article on recent wildlife sightings is written by Richard Baines who revently gave a talk to us at the HDNS


























Nosterfield LNR and Lingham. Tuesday 10th January

Wild Goose Chase Nosterfield LNR and Lingham.  Tuesday 10th January 2017 Leader June Atkinson

Golden Plover Nick Gaunt

Golden Plover Nick Gaunt

This was the first meeting of the year and 7 members joined Jill Warwick at the car park at Nosterfield. Jill explained that the water level is very low, but this was not deterring large numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Wigeon and Curlew, as well as some Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, and Mallard, not to mention a  very nice female Goldeneye.

There were no other waders except Redshank and even Passerines

Robin Nick Gaunt

Robin Nick Gaunt

were very scarce. There were reports of a Little Egret but it was not seen on the day. Jill had said that some of the numerous Greylag Geese had been seen wearing BTO neck collars which proved that they had come from Windermere. Raptors included 2 Common Buzzards and a Kestrel at the reserve and a Sparrowhawk at Flasks.


Canada Geese Nick Gaunt

Canada Geese Nick Gaunt

After we had lunched at Lingham we scanned the lake and then walked down to Flasks Lake, stopping to see a Little Owl sitting in its usual area with winter thrushes in the hedgerows. Great Crested and Little Grebes were feeding up on Flask’s Lake.

There was intelligence that there were big numbers of wild geese out in the fields near Carthorpe, so we set off in cars to test the theory. We befriended a local farmer who said that indeed they were a wonderful sight when they all came into his fields. However they weren’t there just now and with darkness falling we decided to leave the empty fields to fill up with geese after we had gone! The weather contradicted the forecast and got better all day, as we evaded the rain and wind, which must have slipped South.   A good start to the year, thanks to June for leading.

Sue Coldwell

Supported by:

Change Font Size