It is now becoming something of a tradition or pattern that I organise some birding (other biological orders are usually hidden away at this time of year) on some date in December, within the Society’s area and with some eatery nearby. And so it was that on the 11th December at 9am 16 members of the Society met outside (yes) the Black Lion in Skelton, just NW of Boroughbridge. The heavy cloud cover made for moderate light conditions but at least it was dry and with little wind.We first of all explored the intensive arable fields just outside the northern end of the village, with the intention of finding some bunting and finch flocks. Walking on hard farm tracks, some under a Stewardship access scheme and others on PRW. Looking across some active sheep breaks (fattening sheep fenced on stubble turnips) we spotted, at distance, some large flocks of Woodpigeons which eventually alighted in tree tops. Whilst looking at these pigeons we spotted several flocks of smaller birds whirling around over some standing barley, left around a field headland probably to hold game birds. Some of these smaller birds eventually landed in nearer large deciduous trees and we could get a look at them through bins and scopes; and to the delight of us all these birds proved to be Corn Buntings and lots of Yellowhammers. After a good look we moved on nearer and in so doing flushed some Red-legged Partridge and a Hare, as we set off. A Red Kite flew low over a distant field and probably had disturbed a lot of the small birds we suddenly started to see – a single Song Thrush, a nice flock of Linnets flipped over the hedge and out of view, some Redwing and then more, and nearer, Corn Buntings and Yellowhammer. On reaching the barley headland more finches were seen closer, also a Tree Sparrow, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a covey of 13 Grey Partridge took up near us and landed out of sight in the middle of the stubble turnips. As time was of a premium at this stage I decided to walk back towards the village diagonally across a ‘bare’ field and was pleased to find up to 60 each of Linnet and Pied Wagtail with a few Meadow Pipits mixed in. Back in the village a Jay was seen to drop into someones garden feeders – in my lifetime I can recall the ‘keeper’s gibbets’ in nearby woods full of Jay (and other) carcasses. Back to our vehicles and a short drive to the parking area, adjacent to Hewick Bridge. En route some of the group had seen about 80 Lapwing in a winter corn field. The bacon butty/café trailer on the parking area was tempting but resisted, by all! We then proceeded to walk down river to look at the ex-quarry site and large developing reed bed soon to be handed over to the YWT come March next year. This site looks like an exciting habitat but little was seen over or in the reeds today. On the open water 40 odd Tufted Ducks, about a dozen Gadwall, four Goldeneye and eight Shoveler were observed. Eleven Cormorants were loafing on the dry spit. On the walk back to the cars, along the riverside, a few Long-tailed Tits were seen whilst looking through the alders for finches. A resting Buzzard was observed being harassed by a Carrion Crow. But the highlight was a flock of 43 Curlew coming low and calling – wonderful to see and listen to.
From Hewick Bridge a short drive towards Ripon and into a parking area near the Canal Marina allowed us to make a quick and short walk down the Canal side, to what is known locally as Nicholson’s Lagoon. In some winters this site can hold a substantial Starling murmuration – but not this year, and anyway we were too early in the day. But, as usual, this site always seems stuffed with birds, mainly waterfowl. Over a hundred Mallard, six Shoveler, a single Shelduck, four more Goldeneye a few Gadwall and six more Cormorants; a Snipe put in a brief appearance. It was obvious here and at the previous site that no geese were in evidence at all.Time was moving on (13:00 hrs) and so back to the cars and make for the Weir Car park at Langthorpe (Boroughbridge) for a quick stop at the weir and search for any Goosanders lurking below, in the river. The drive from Skelton to Langthorpe, through some arable farmland produced two Red Kites, a Buzzard and a Kestrel. On the river bank near the weir, some lucky members of the group had a Kingfisher nearly take their hats off as it made from the river to the Canal. Initially no Goosanders could be found near the weir but three were found below the bridge – the drake in the group then flew upriver, landed and drifted back down stream, right in front of the happy photographers. Just before 2pm all sixteen of us plus one other arrived at the Royal Oak in Staveley for a splendid lunch and convivial chat. After which, feeling replete, some of the group departed, but some hardy souls stayed on, and departed in the murk around the Staveley Nature Reserve hoping for a sighting of Barn Owl; six of us were soon rewarded with an observation of a perched bird in the Orchard and nearly in Muff and Jacks garden! A walk out to the Public Reedbed Hide and back produced another Barn Owl and two Water Rails seen from the first Hide. By this time, on the edge of darkness, an offer to call around at Muff and Jacks for mince pies and coffee was too tempting. So the six of us called around, and with other members of the group, rounded off a wonderful day sat around the log fire eating delicious mince pies and talking birds – what else!
Thanks to Muff for her organising this day and the hospitality towards the end; to Nigel Harcourt-Brown for the pictures (all taken in poor light) and to all attendees who made the day so enjoyable.
Happy Christmas and New Year to all.
Leader: Andy WoodallOur annual fungus foray began at the Woodland Trust car park on Ripley Road with some fine, bright autumn weather. At this spot the gorge comprises broadleaf woodland in a lovely steep-sided valley and there certainly was no shortage of fungi there for us to see. Ownership of this land passed to the Woodland Trust in 1995.
A group of 8 of us set off into the gorge to look for fungi, under the expert eyes of Andy Woodall and co-leaders Mike and Joyce Clerk of the Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group.
Some of the first fungi we found were Sulphur Tuft and Oak Stump Bonnet, which unsurprisingly was growing on dead oak. We also found plenty of Honey Fungus, a dangerous parasite of trees and shrubs which spreads by long, black cords resembling bootlaces. And as usual, the Elder trees provided some fine examples of Jelly Ear and Elder Whitewash.Andy showed us how to identify fungi by several means including cutting them open, and using our senses of smell and taste and touch, although care had to be taken! He explained the distinction between Earthballs which are inedible, and Puffballs which are edible, cutting them open to show the spore mass. Some fungi need to be identified by a spore print. He also showed us some perennial bracket fungi which he left untouched in order for them to grow outwards the following year.
We then found two different species of Inkcap, and saw the different stages from edibility to messy deliquescence! The Common Inkcap has a striated, silky surface. It should not be eaten with alcohol – the result is severe nausea, so that it was once used as an aversion therapy for alcoholics! It was pleasurable to find several groups of people including family members stopping to ask about fungus species that they had themselves found in the woodland. Some people even brought specimens up to Andy to ask him to identify them.
We followed the path and reached the riverside, where some invasive Himalayan Balsam was growing, although fortunately there was not much to be found there. Then some of us enjoyed our lunch sitting on Thora Hird’s bench beside the River Nidd, whilst the majority who could not fit on to the bench enjoyed theirs equally despite sitting on the ground.We then crossed Burgess Bridge (opened in 1988) only to find a fabulous show of Fly Agaric below the birch trees. Nearby was found the uncommon Green Elfcup, which was prized for its effect staining wood. The green-coloured wood, called ‘Green Oak’ was once much used in the manufacture of Tunbridge Ware. Surprisingly fungus-like were some slime-moulds, including an orange, squirtable variety to be kept away from small children.
Other fungi we found included Amethyst Deceiver, False Chanterelle, Brown Rollrim, Holly Speckle, Dryad’s Saddle, Weeping Widow and Blushing Bracket. In total we found 39 species of fungus (see list attached) with prizes being awarded as follows:
Best dressed fungus competition – Fly Agaric
Best named fungus competition – Dryad’s Saddle
Best spooky fungus competition – Amethyst Deceiver
Many thanks to our leaders for providing such a fascinating day of mycology. We are already looking forward to a 2019 Fungus Event.
Leader: Nick Gaunt
Ten members met at the car park near Manchester Hole in Upper Nidderdale. Starting in the car park and using the fascinating limestone landscape and lime-loving flora of the area, Nick demonstrated some of the essential features of mosses and liverworts, and explained the first steps towards unravelling their identities. Technical terms that split these small plants into major groups – acrocarpous and pleurocarpous mosses, thallose and leafy liverworts – were demonstrated using examples on the rocks, soil and trees of the area, including the pleurocarps Anomodon viticulosus, Kindbergia praelonga and Thuidium tamariscinum, acrocarps Fissidens dubius, Bryum capillare and Polytrichastrum formosum, and thallose liverworts Conocephalum conicum, Lunularia cruciata and Marchantia polymorpha. A brief descent into Manchester Hole fascinated us all with its profusion of ferns as well as mosses and liverworts.
After lunch, our attempt to look at moorland flora around Scar House Reservoir was abandoned as the strong wind blew us back to the car park, so instead we headed down the valley to Lofthouse, where we spent some time exploring the flora on the rocky river bank. Here we found Musk (Mimulus moschatus) and very robust Procumbent Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) in flower. Sticky Groundsel (Senecio viscosus) was also in flower by the fire station.
All photos courtesy of Nigel Harcourt-Brown
Leader: June Atkinson
Sea-watching began at 9.15 a.m., as soon as we arrived at Hartlepool Headland: high tide was at 8.15 a.m., which brought the seabirds closer to us. Razorbills, Common Guillemots and three Red-throated Divers were soon found. There was a continual movement of Common and Sandwich Terns offshore, with Gannets moving through constantly and packs of Common Scoters flying north. The local birders were helpful in alerting us to a Peregrine Falcon over the sea which gave an exciting display as it chased Fulmars and Kittiwakes.
Some of our members had taken a walk along the front where they found a Whimbrel on the rocks, unfortunately it took off before the rest of us arrived, but Turnstones were seen by all and Eider Ducks were located in the harbour entrance. As the local gardens were very quiet for passerines, we left for Newburn Bridge which was our lunch stop. Sanderlings were on the beach, Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and more Turnstones were found among the rocks. This location is the most reliable wintering site for Mediterranean Gull and, just before we left, one was seen. A few leftover lunch crumbs thrown out brought it down to give us good views, which pleased the photographers.
A view through the telescope to our next stop at distant North Gare, revealed an Arctic Skua, our next target species, chasing a seabird. Seaton Common and North Gare are always worth a visit, for Whinchats particularly. The initial quick scan was negative, but the Arctic Skua was found as it flew briefly chasing a Sandwich Tern, before settling on the water for the duration of our stay as the Sandwich Terns present failed to catch any food to attract the skua to move. Some members walked to the shoreline where they found a Wheatear. As we returned to the car park, one of our photographers showed us a picture of a Whinchat which he had just taken and so we aIl began to search for the bird and eventually found two.
Our next stop was RSPB Saltholme Reserve from where there were reports of Curlew Sandpipers and Garganey. The female Garganey was found, along with Black-tailed Godwits and Little Egret, from the Phil Stead hide. The staff informed us that the main hide was closed during the building of an upward extension and so our only option was to view the main pool from the main road. A Merlin perching on the ground was pointed out to us by local birders. Ruff and Golden Plovers were seen but the Curlew Sandpipers were elusive. A shout of ‘Spoonbill’ had us looking up to see it flying across the pool giving us great views. The Merlin took off disturbing all the waders, which was fortunate as then a Curlew Sandpiper was found close by the road, giving everyone excellent views. A satisfying end to a good day’s birdwatching.
A total of 70 species was a credit to the efforts of all the members; we were short on passerines more of which may have been added with a walk around Saltholme, but we concentrated on quality species.
June E. Atkinson
Our day started with Colin Newlands giving us a brief history of this quarry. Colin is Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager for the Ingleborough NNR, and we were delighted that he had offered to lead us for the day. In 2000 English Nature (now Natural England) took over the care this former limestone quarry, which had been worked from 1943 until the 1960s. Since then the quarry has been managed as a Nature Reserve, with minimal management and tree planting, in order to watch over the progress of natural regeneration.
We were quickly absorbed by the diversity of plantlife at our feet and, as usual, had not moved far from the parked cars by lunchtime. In many areas the soil was thin, yet numerous species seemed to be thriving: from tiny Autumn Felwort (Gentianella amarella) to sizeable stands of Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) reaching 70-80 cms in height. The recent rainfall had replenished the ponds and Colin pointed out the Northern Spike Rush (Eleocharis mamillata) (Nationally Rare), growing with the Common spike rush (Eleocharis palustris). Towards the western edge of the quarry, with nesting ravens ‘croaking’ at us, we found Rigid Buckler Fern (Dryopteris submontana), a single Rustyback Fern (Asplenium ceterach), numerous Bird’s-eye Primrose (Primula farinosa), and Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) to name but a few species found.
By the end of the day our plant list totalled 157 species. We had a great day and certainly benefitted from Colin’s knowledgeable leadership. The trip was a very enjoyable way to celebrate ‘Yorkshire Day’.
A perfect hot and sunny summer day welcomed members and friends to Farnham Gravel Pit on Sunday 15th July 2018.
The day started very early, in fact overnight, as the moth trappers Jill Warwick, Charlie Fletcher and Whitfield Benson set up their equipment to catch the moths. The reward was 100 macro moths and 30 micro moths with 77 new species to add to the Farnham list. Poplar Hawk, Drinker, Coxcomb Prominent, Swallow Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Beautiful Hook Tip, Common Footman, Scarce Footman and Beautiful Hook-tip to name a few.
HDNS Mammal Recorder, Richard Stobbs, set traps the previous evening and early arriving visitors, including some youngsters, were able to walk round with Richard to watch him open the traps. The species captured were 10 Bank Vole, 5 Common Shrew and just one Wood Mouse.
Mike Smithson led the Butterfly walk. Fifteen species were on the wing. Small Skipper (10), Brimstone (1) Large White (20), Small White (40), Green-veined White (10) Small Copper (3) Holly Blue (2) Small Tortoiseshell (10) Peacock (10) Comma (3) Speckled Wood (2) Gatekeeper (50) Meadow Brown (50) Ringlet (10) and Purple Hairstreak (2) a new record for Farnham.
David Alred showed visitors several Dragonfly and Damselfly species. These included Ruddy Darter and Common Darter which were on the lake and also at the pond and we had good views of them. Black-tailed Skimmers were flying low over the lake. We saw an Emperor female laying her eggs directly into the lake. The male was close by fertilizing the eggs as she laid them in the water and making sure no other males came near. Emerald, Common Blue, Bluetailed and Azure Damselflies and Common and Brown Hawkers were also seen.
The flora is struggling in places this year due to the hot dry weather. In spite of this there have been some good numbers of Pyramidal Orchid and also scattered patches of Bee Orchid and just one Fragrant Orchid. Twayblade and Common Spotted Orchid have been present in good numbers. All were over before Open Day. The Reserve still has quite a lot of colour with Field Scabious, Tall Melilot, Knapweed, Agrimony, St John’s-wort and Upright Hedge-parsley. Plants of note are Equisetum Variegatum, Variegated Horsetail. First recorded in 1986 and found again in 2015. The only locality in the HDNS study area and lowland parts of vice-county 64. A full list of Farnham plants is available on the website.
A pair of Common Terns were feeding two chicks on the platform, bringing in small fish at regular intervals. A late breeding Little Grebe was on its nest and the Great Crested Grebe had a small young one on its back. The Sand Martins were having a good year thanks to the weather and occupying the wall for a second brood. A pair of Reed Warblers with a nest in the Phragmites bed were feeding young and Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were still in song.
June Atkinson and Valerie Holmes
Leader: Kevin Walker
14 members met in Pateley Bridge, focusing on botany, in particular ferns.
Upper Nidderdale was a known fern hotspot to the Victorians, who dug up specimens for their ferneries, unfortunately causing the decimation and even local eradication of some rare species in the process. However there was still much for us to see.
We walked to Fish Pond Wood for instruction from Kevin on the fern life cycle, morphological features, habitats and tips on how to identify common species, illustrated by the examples surrounding us. We then continued to Skrikes Wood for more unusual species including beech fern (Phegopteris connectilis) and oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris).
Interesting sedges, rushes and other plants were also pointed out.
The wood contains deep ravines which we negotiated after a somewhat perilous and exciting adventure scaling collapsed giant boulders and decaying trees. Everyone delighted in observing Wilson’s filmy fern (Hymenophyllum wilsonii) growing in its highly specialised habitat at the end of the assault course.
Leaving the wood we sidetracked to see a large area of chickweed wintergreen (Trientalis europaea).
The final treat was a visit to Heyshaw Moor for a completely different flora including lesser twayblade (Listera cordata) growing in saturated sphagnum despite the weeks of drought. It survives in a tiny moorland island surrounded by species poor grouse moor where managed burning prevents growth of most plants.
Thanks are due to Kevin for sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge and time so generously.
See separate species list for a fuller recording of what was seen.
13 of us attended at FGP on this fine morning, and spread ourselves out around the lake in the marked areas previously mapped by the organising team, led by Sonia Starbuck. We proceeded to record all the flowering plants possible – fortunately, fresh from our training session on grasses, sedges and rushes with Kevin Walker on the previous day.
FGP is a particularly rich site – it has the largest species count of all the HDNS sites surveyed – and at this, the peak flowering season, it was a feast of flowers despite the preceding weeks of drought. Speaking for myself, it was a useful exercise to have to key out all those Willowherbs, St John’s Worts & Forget-me-nots which I normally ignore!
We amateurs got nowhere near to the full species tally but we did record 197 plants between us, and we did enjoy ourselves. 9 plants appeared to be new or previously overlooked. Some of the areas were not covered – you just can’t get the staff! – so the project may be continued in future years. See below for the list of plants recorded.
Shortly before 3:00pm there was a general exodus in the direction of the World Cup England match…
Many thanks to all those who attended, to June for hosting the event and to Sonia for organising it.
Leader – Kevin Walker
This was Kevin Walker’s identification workshop day at Staveley Nature Reserve, teaching us about grasses, sedges and rushes. These are topics which I had previously managed to avoid, by using the lame excuse that my botany book did not include grasses. But knowing that such an opportunity should not be missed, I somewhat nervously put my name down for the event, along with eleven other HDNS members.
We assembled first at the Paddocks, right next to Staveley reserve. Before we set off, Kevin produced an excellent selection of useful ID guides to help us on our ID way.
We began our foray in the orchard of the reserve where an astonishing array of meadow grasses were to be found. Although it was suggested that we should try and use the Latin names, it is difficult when the English names are so attractive – Sweet Vernal Grass, Meadow Foxtail and Golden Oat Grass all sound so Summery!
We then progressed into the wetter(?) areas, walking through to Upper Marsh, to find rushes and sedges, which were plentiful despite the very dry weather.
Of course a visit to Staveley would not be complete without including some orchids, so following on from grasses, sedges and rushes we then went in search of marsh and dune helleborines, and even spotted one bee orchid. On the way back Kevin fitted in a session on willow identification, and then finally a few very keen members found time for a spot of birdwatching on the East Lagoon.
A wonderful day in a wonderful location. Thanks to those members who took part and to Kevin for sharing some of his extensive knowledge and for his patience in dealing with our questions. I am sure we are all looking forward to his next trip at Skrikes Wood which will also include ferns.
13 enthusiastic would-be botanists were punctual at the visitor centre on Sutton Bank, where the temperature was already in the 20s. Shared out into 4 cars, we parked in the restricted space at YWT Ashberry and set off through the tall vegetation to the crystal clear stream fed by calcium rich springs which runs through the reserve. There were many plants typical of limestone marsh and grassland, the first we noticed being extensive patches of Marsh Lousewort; Marsh Valerian, Marsh Pennywort and Marsh Bedstraw were also found – it was marshy! There were abundant sedges such as Glaucous, Carnation, Hairy and Bottle and at least four species of rush, all providing useful practice for those of us who were trying to improve our identification skills. Butterwort was plentiful but most not flowering; similarly the Bird’s-eye Primroses had more or less finished. A full plant list is attached.
We were charmed by the beauty of the location and the variety of plants, although full exploration of the site was rather beyond our botanical skills and time allowance.
So after a couple of hours we headed off to Ellerburn Bank where we were met by the YWT site manager Kate Yates. This reserve is a small but stunning meadow which has never been interfered with by agriculture. We were impressed before we even went through the gate by the enormous and exotic looking Woolly Thistles which guarded the entrance. Kate described the management strategies, which included chasing the butterfly orchids around the meadow with anti-rabbit corrals, and showed us the Fly Orchids, slightly past their peak flowering. A huge list of other plants was accumulating – see attached list – highlights included Dropwort, Pyramidal orchids, Musk Thistle and many beautiful grasses which were at their best, particularly Purple Moor grass and Yellow Oat grass.
The hot sunshine brought out a bonanza of butterflies – blues, skippers, marbled whites, a beautiful dark green fritillary and many others (see attached list.) The site is also notable for reptiles but to see adders and slowworms we would have needed to search the dry stone wall and once again our time was limited. Many of us felt we would like to return to these sites again with more time!
Thoroughly sunned and overloaded with new plant names we set off on the long drive back after what felt like a quite intensive day. Many thanks to Kate and the YWT, they do a fantastic job in saving and maintaining these important sites.
Storm Hector blew itself out during the early evening to leave a perfectly calm night for the trip. The wild weather had greatly weakened the midge population which was a bonus for us, but the lack of moths, the food for Nightjars, was a concern. 16 members joined Mike Smithson for the walk up to the clear fell area. Before the sun went down Tree Pipits entertained us with their parachuting antics and as dusk gathered the Woodcocks began to rode.
There were several sightings, quite a few coming very close to the group and giving excellent views of their distinctive profile and rapid wing beats. As darkness fell and the sunset faded, a single Nightjar gave us good views and started to churr quietly. There followed sightings of a pair sitting on a dead tree outlined against the sky. The churring started up again and in the increasing darkness a single bird was observed again outlined against the ever darkening sky. The track back to the carpark was thankfully made from limestone chips which showed up well in what by now was total darkness, approaching midnight.
Thanks to Mike for leading.
Seventeen members met at the Bowlees visitor centre for a botanical field meeting to study the flora of the area. The visitor centre is located in an old Primitive Methodist Chapel. The walk was led by HDNS long time member Richard Campbell who knows the area very well.
We walked from the car park, behind the visitor centre along Bow Lee Beck to an old quarry. We found very many plants in a short space of time. Many were in their early stages of flowering as we were further north than Harrogate and at a higher altitude. A full plant list is attached to this Field Trip report. To pick out a few we saw Twayblade, just at the two leaf stage but it is very distinctive and we saw hundreds of plants over the day. We also saw Common Spotted Orchid, Arum Lily, Wood Anenome, Barren Strawberry, Wood Forget-me-not, Marsh Marigold, Butterwort, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage and Welsh Poppy.
We returned to our cars and drove a couple of miles further west just the other side of the river from the Pennine Way. On the more acidic roadside verge we saw the distinctive silver leaves of Melancholy Thistle. We were to see very many more leaves of this abundant plant during the day. Greater Knapweed was growing nearby and also Water Avens. We followed a track across the field down to the River Tees. There was a cold wind blowing and young lambs in the fields. We saw Heath Wood-rush, Birdseye Primrose, Common Scurveygrass, Spring Gentian, Creeping Willow, Cowslip, Sweet Vernal-grass, Marsh Valerian, Early Purple Orchid and many more. There were Sand Martins by the river. We drove back to the Visitor Centre for lunch.
After lunch we walked from the car park. We crossed the road and walked by a wood. We found Great Wood-rush, Winter Aconite, Bluebell, Wood Sorrel, Common Whitlowgrass. Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Slender Speedwell, Globe Flower and Bitter Vetch, Lathyrus montanus. We crossed the river at a very interesting geological feature where the river washed down over rocks and small waterfalls to reveal a polished limestone platform revealing many fossils. David Holmes was able to explain the Geology and also about a large intrusion in the river, the size of a house, we came across later which had been washed down by the molten Whin Sill 320 million years ago. We walked back along the river bank in the direction of the Wynch Bridge and Low Force where the plant life was verdant. We saw good numbers of plants we had already seen and one new one for the end of a great day – Goldilocks.
On the way home some of us stopped off at Eggleston Abbey where we were treated to the sight of thousands of plants of Meadow Saxifrage.
Many thanks to Richard Campbell for a really wonderful Field Trip.
Leader: June E. Atkinson
A sunny day was very welcome for the ten members who met in the reserve car park and a good start was made from the observation platform with Reed and Sedge Warblers, a pair of Common Whitethroats choosing a nest site and an Avocet which came into view just in time for a tick. During a walk from the centre to the first hide, House Sparrows were noted at the feeding station and, continuing on, a few Greylag Geese were seen with a Moorhen, while Blue and Great Tits were on the feeders. We continued our walk along the streamside where a Large Red Damselfly was found, Orange Tip butterflies were on the wing and Chiffchaffs were singing. On our way up to the coal track, a Willow Warbler gave good views and, once on the coal track, a Sky Lark and a Green Woodpecker were heard and an Oystercatcher was at a pool. News of Black-necked Grebes on the new pool quickened our pace and we had excellent very close views of five of them in breeding plumage; Little Grebes and Pochard were also present.
We moved along to the highest point which overlooks the reserve towards the main road, our main objectives being Great White Egret and Spoonbill. It was essential to use a telescope to view both species some distance away at their breeding site in the willows. A Cuckoo flew by then perched obligingly for us and, before we left, a Bittern began booming from the reedbed. Well satisfied with our morning, we made our way back to the centre for lunch before taking in Lin Dyke, as Egyptian Geese had been reported there. After much searching, a single goose was found. Due to the heavy rainfall in this area recently, the water level was very high. Gadwall, Shoveler and Shelduck were among the ducks present, two Common Terns gave good views as did a Little Egret. From the willows, a Cetti’s Warbler gave us a few bursts of song but remained elusive, as usual!
We continued towards the canal bank where a Willow Tit was seen by two lucky members. Garden Warbler and Common Whitethroat were present along the way and another Common Tern and Avocet were on Higson’s Pool. On our return, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and Greenfinch were added to the list and, as we approached the car park, a singing Lesser Whitethroat was heard and eventually seen. Few raptors had been seen during the day and so an effort was made in the car park to find some. After much sky-watching, a Common Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk were found and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen from the bridge — a fine end to the day.
Thanks to the weather and a great team effort by the members, a total of 75 species was seen.
Leader: June Atkinson
Our minibus driver, Keith, got us off to a good start, arriving at Hartlepool at 9.15 a.m. on a sunny morning with a receding tide that had been high at 6.30 a.m. Our first stop was along the seafront where the rocks were just beginning to be exposed and our target wader species, Purple Sandpiper, was quickly found. The usual Turnstones and Oystercatchers were in good numbers but a very good find was a single Knot. We next moved on to the Headland to sea watch as, in the past, this had always produced a good number of species but today it was extremely quiet and two flying Red-throated Divers with one on the sea, two Common Scoters and a Common Guillemot were all that were seen. As we walked past the breakwater, a Mediterranean Gull was sitting on the rocks and a party of Eider Ducks was on the sea, close to the entrance to the fish docks. Moving on to the Marina, which like the Headland is usually a good location, did not produce anything today. The report of a Black Redstart at the entrance to the docks was worth a try, but in vain, though a diligant member did find a Little Owl which gave a flying view to some of the group.
Our lunch stop at Newburn Bridge gave us the usual Mediterranean Gull, also a lone Sanderling on the beach. A Lapland Bunting, with a large flock of Linnets across the road from there, was worth investigating; as usual the flock was constantly on the move but some members did have a brief view of the bunting. A short stop at North Gare provided us with a Grey Plover, before we reached RSPB Saltholme Reserve where a strong northerly wind greeted us. Fourteen species of waterfowl were seen, highlights being Pintail, Red- breasted Merganser and Goldeneye. Hundreds of Wigeon were feeding in the fields with Curlews, Golden Plovers and a close Little Egret, while a hunting Marsh Harrier gave excellent views. A Stonechat was located and Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch and Reed Bunting were some of the species at the feeders.
Well done to the 18 members who worked hard to provide such a good list of 73, which equalled last year’s trip — a very enjoyable day.
See the bird list
Leader : Colin Slator
Eleven of us braved the early morning icy conditions to enjoy a walk starting at High Batts NR. After a brief visit to the hide on the reserve where we saw a good variety of birds at the well- stocked feeders, we started walking along public rights of way towards Ripon through Ripon Parks. Colin shared his encyclopaedic knowledge of the locality in relation to future and past gravel extraction activities, changes in the course of the River Ure, and changes in land use and ownership that he has witnessed over his long association with the area since the reserve was first set up in 1973. We scanned the hedgerows for Yellowhammers, Bullfinches and Tree Sparrows and the copses for mixed flocks of Goldfinch, Redpoll and Siskin. A small flock of Curlew flew into view several times. A very dark Buzzard was the first raptor we saw sitting in the emerging sunlight, but that was soon followed by a fantastic sighting of a large sub adult Peregrine Falcon sitting on a fence post preening. Bird of the day, it sat for several minutes allowing us to photograph it before flying off. By now the sun was warming us up and it was a beautiful day with small pockets of mist floating across the winter fields. As we walked we could see how different land management strategies over the years had changed the fortunes of several species, none more so than Otter.
After a festive lunch at the Golf Club we just about timed it right to witness a spectacular Starling murmuration over the reed beds near the river, viewed from the bridge over Ripon Canal. Although they were distant, the sheer number of birds was astounding. The numbers increased for about fifteen minutes, each time it looked like that there were no more to come, even more arrived to swell the ranks and put on an extended display. Nicholson’s Lagoon had a large number of Mallard, a single male Pintail, several Goldeneye, and a Goosander. Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck completed the line-up.
Many thanks to Colin for leading and to Muff for organising the meal booking.
Leader: Nick Gaunt
On a cool, overcast but dry day nine members were shown around High Batts Nature Reserve by Will Rich. Given the time of year, flowering plants weren’t particularly memorable, but a few fungi were identified such as Birch Polypore, Candle-snuff , Dead Man’s Fingers, Jelly Ear and the only puffball to grow on wood, Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme).
Thankfully, there was a good number of mosses and liverworts including some in a calcarious ‘scrape’ that are restricted to base-rich areas, such as Entodon concinnus, Ditrichum gracile and Thuidium assimile. The dominant ground cover in the burnet rose scrubland was of the mosses Hylocomium splendens, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus and Pseudoscleropodium purum. Trees on the river bank held the flood-zone mosses Leskea polycarpa and Syntrichia latifolia, which looks black and shrivelled when dry but instantly unfurls bright green leaves on moistening.
Elsewhere the trees supported the pleurocarps Hypnum cupressiforme, Rhynchostegium confertum, Cryphaea hetermalla, acrocarps including Orthotrichum affine and Zygodon viridissimus, and the liverwort Metzgeria furcata.
After lunch, which we took in the ‘Hotel’, Will led us ‘off piste’ to the northern edge of the reserve to see a small waterfall that held, amongst others, the semi-aquatic moss Platyhypnidium riparioides and the liverwort Lunularia cruciata.
Members listened intently as the features of some of the mosses were described and did their best to come to terms with the scientific names!
Bird life was sparse but good views of goldcrest, redwing and a couple of kingfishers were had. Sadly, the hawfinch recently seen in the reserve didn’t show.
Overall, a good day was had by all.
Leader: Andy Woodall, Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group
Our day in Hackfall Woods got off to a promising start, with the morning’s weather being mild and bright. A group of twelve of us set off (one was following) with our fungi books, magnifying glasses and packed lunches at the ready.
Although Hackfall appears to be a natural wood, the landscape is in large part a result of design and work undertaken by the Aislabies in the eighteenth century. It is now an English Heritage Grade 1 listed garden.
We had scarcely left the car park when we had our first fungus sighting – Ergot Claviceps purpurea formed in the inflorescences of some of the grass. It is very poisonous. We did not need to venture much further before finding other species such as Jelly Ear, Angel’s Bonnet, Elder Whitewash, Honey Fungus and Turkeytails. Several of these were growing on dead elder trees. Nearby, found on ash were Cramp Balls or King Alfred’s Cakes Daldinia concentrica. Then we found Dead Man’s Fingers and Candlesnuff, weird and creepy fungi to find at this time of year around Halloween.
We lunched on Kent’s Seat at Alum Spring, where we also had the chance to admire the lichens, ferns and mosses which were growing very profusely around us. As well as fungi we had a few diversions such as tiny tree snails and slime mould.
We then found more of the dreaded Honey Fungus Armillaria mellea. This is a dangerous parasite of trees and shrubs and spreads by long, black cords resembling bootlaces. Other common fungi included The Deceiver (so-called because of its variable appearance, not because it is poisonous), Sulphur Tuft, Common Inkcap, Oak Stump Bonnet and Coral Spot.
In total we found 44 fungi. A few of us were interested in tasting the edible species (although this did not apply to me).
Later in the afternoon it began to rain and as we headed back towards the cars it rained more and more, and the paths became very muddy. Fortunately, our health and safety contact telephone numbers were not required and we each got back in one piece. The rain certainly did not spoil our day.
Many thanks to our leader, Andy Woodall from the Mid-Yorkshire Fungus Group, for a lively and entertaining day of mycology, and for patiently answering all our questions. I was sorry that we did not find any magical Earthstars (my favourite fungi) but those can wait for another day.
After a good run through in the minibus, a Merlin was seen flying over a field as we approached Spurn on a bright day with a fresh southerly wind. A sea-watch first at the Warren produced Arctic Skuas, Gannets, Fulmars, Sandwich and Common Terns and a Brent Goose, while packs of Common Scoters and Teal were moving through. Near the sea-watching hide, a Whinchat was found on a fence where it gave close views, a good start! As we walked along the road from the Warren checking the bushes, it was obvious that there was a distinct lack of passerines with only Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler seen. During a lunch stop by the Crown and Anchor Inn a Wheatear was found below the sea wall and the report of a Pied Flycatcher in the car park was worth investigation, but the bird did not oblige. After lunch we visited Kilnsea Wetlands, with the prospect of seeing both Pectoral and Curlew Sandpipers our main objective. The Curlew Sandpiper gave good views along with Greenshank, Ruff and Dunlin but the Pectoral Sandpiper remained elusive, though we did cover all the possible sites. Seven species of duck were also seen including Pintail, Shoveler and Wigeon. High tide was approaching as we returned to the centre to obtain close views of waders in the estuary. We were greeted with a fantastic display of Grey Plovers and Knots, some still in their breeding plumage, Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings and Dunlins, there were thousands of waders all along the tide line, together with 12 Little Egrets. Speculation was made of the possibility of a Whimbrel and one member persevered until he found one! A great ending to an excellent days birding with 80 species being recorded.
Many thanks to all the members who worked hard to produce such a good list. See: Spurn Point Species List 03Sep17
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.
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)
On Wednesday 29 March Nick Gaunt led a group of 9 other members on a field trip round Hackfall Woods near Grewelthorpe.
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.
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.
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.
NB click on photo for full size. Click back button to return.
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
Wild Goose Chase Nosterfield LNR and Lingham. Tuesday 10th January 2017 Leader June Atkinson
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
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.
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.
This is a reminder about a lecture that is a little different from our usual selection. Derek Niemann is a freelance writer with an unusual tale to tell about events in 1940. Click HERE for details of his talk.
The latest newsletter from this reserve is published. Click HERE to read about lectures, AGM and OpenDay.
Fungus and Mosses Foray.
Leaders: Nick Gaunt ( mosses and liverworts ) and Andy Woodall ( fungi )
We assembled in Nidd Walk Car Park and headed off beside the River Nidd towards Glasshouses. The walls
along the track had a good selection of mosses and liverworts while several species of fungi were showing in the
bordering fields and woodland. After lunch by Glasshouses Dam we ascended through Guisecliff Wood, a damp
hillside habitat dominated by birch, to reach Guisecliff Tarn. This small lake was surrounded by trees in full autumn colours, a magnificent sight. As anticipated, the woods had a profusion of fungi, mosses and liverworts.
Click HERE for the full report and list of species.
Click HERE for a link to HDBAG gallery of more photos from the outing.
A sellout bus load was greeted by a glorious autumn day for Colin’s last field trip as leader. The wind was a light South Easterly, which kept the temperature bearable, unlike parts of Britain which were experiencing thirty degrees, temperatures not seen in September since 1911.
A visit to the Canal Scrape hide produced a Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Meadow Pipits and Linnets. Whinchat numbers achieved double figures very quickly which was an absolute treat! Wheatears and Hirundines were there in good numbers too. Notable by their absence however were the warblers, it was very quiet on that front.
The Crown and Anchor car park produced, as ever an excellent opportunity, this time for a juvenile Pied Flycatcher, launching itself from a telegraph wire to feed up before its long journey. We on the other hand had a short trip to Kilnsea Wetlands.
Not all of us knew Beacon Ponds which lay behind the Kilnsea Wetland lagoon, where we paused to see a wonderful Wood Sandpiper and a cracking Curlew Sandpiper amongst the multitudes of Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Terns, Black Headed Gulls and Oystercatchers.
Interestingly, there is an acoustic mirror on the horizon which was used to listen out for approaching Zeppelins in WW1 and subsequently planes, before radar was invented.
Beacon Ponds is quite a large body of water which by all accounts had changed from several small ponds to one big one over the years of inundation from the North Sea. Most waders were over on the far shore but we managed to pick out a Little Stint and another Curlew Sandpiper as well as Sanderling and Ringed Plovers. The weekend’s Kentish Plover had perhaps already relocated sadly. There was an influx of waders as high tide approached. Amongst them were several magnificent Grey Plovers still in their monochrome breeding plumage.
The North Sea was slightly misty and bird movement was sparse. Sea watching revealed plenty of immature Gannets feeding offshore, only one Great Skua, a few sea ducks, Common Terns and a Red throated Diver.
A high tide on the estuary afforded good views of wader murmurations as birds which were clinging to the last bit of salt marsh were finally displaced by the waves.
The group had presented Colin with a card and book token in appreciation for all the trips which have been many and varied over the years, but one common theme…..Colin’s unerring enthusiasm and determination to make sure we all learnt something while having a great day out!
Many thanks as well to all the photographers who have done sterling work to capture the moments which have been so special.
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The following trip has been added to the calendar.
A walk along the bank of River Nidd from Pateley Bridge to Glasshouses, then up into Guisecliff Wood, looking for fungi, mosses, liverworts and other wildlife. Weather permitting, this will be a full day outing covering at least 6km of paths, the first half on the level, later expect some moderate inclines. Meet in the long term pay and display carpark in Nidd Walk (OS GR: SE 15846547) at 10am. Bring packed lunch. Leaders: Nick Gaunt and Andy Woodall. Click HERE for pdf of proposed route. This item is on the calendar.
Please confirm your intention to attend with Nick Gaunt (email or text). e: email@example.com m: 07587 226336
A full mini bus set off from Harrogate on this fine day with great hopes of finding Waders. Our first port of call was North Cave which happened to be en route to the main destination. Not only did we get our first dose of birds – including a nicely challenging cryptic juvenile Ringed Plover – some of us also topped up with bacon sandwiches and coffee (in my case missing a Greenshank and a Snipe!) There was also a lone Common Tern who must surely soon be off soon considering I saw 7,000 pass by Spurn on the previous Friday evening!
After crossing the Humber we took our chances to cross the busy road and scan back across the water towards the ever-changing shape of Read’s Island. We were rewarded with spectacular displays of hundreds of Avocets who breed there in relative safety from predators ( although Colin informed us that deer are now established there having swum across). There were large numbers too of Shelduck, Lapwing, Redshank, Golden Plover and fewer numbers of Curlew.
Alkborough Flats is situated at the confluence of the rivers Trent and Ouse which form the Humber. At least half of the vast stretch of low-lying arable land (nearly 990 acres) has been given a new intertidal habitat by the breaching the old flood defences, allowing tidal water to flood the area providing reed beds and lagoons. The hope is that low-lying towns along the Ouse and Trent will now avoid flooding. Here, despite a poor breeding season due to the wet Spring, we saw Amazing Amounts of Avocets! 753 were counted by one member. A very special sight which greeted us on our arrival were 12 Spoonbill with two demonstrating their swishing fishing technique with their remarkable bills.
There was altogether a delightful mixture of waders all preening and relaxing: still colourful Black Tailed Godwit, elegantly delineated Ruff, delicate-looking Greenshank and a pair of turbulent Turnstone. The duck were harder work being in eclipse but gave us several different species. Those with enhanced optical equipment ( including very good eyesight) were able to spot Bearded Reedling and Yellow Wagtail in the base of the reeds beyond the water’s edge.
A pleasant walk to the Tower hide provided an excellent site for lunch and an extensive view of the reserve. Unaware of our gaze, a Water Rail confidently worked the area in front of us allowing us to see at least two of its young – one second brood and one first brood (little and large). They were also watched by a pair of young Marsh Harrier who were, fortunately, not quite on form yet.
On the way back we had further excitement of two Hobbies that seemed to be the subject of a hidden photographer’s gaze. Then we were encouraged by Brenda to experience a moment’s contemplation at the site of St Julian’s Bower where there is an ancient Labyrinth. Here we also had amazing panoramic views of our last destination – Blacktoft Sands. A similar collection of birds awaited us here but also we found a Dunlin at last to complete our wader list. By the end of this marathon trip, once more expertly led by Colin, we had 80 species in total which included 14 species of wader.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Many thanks to Colin for his planning, driving, instruction and entertainment, and to Will for navigating, both in forward and reverse gear!
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
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This should be re-titled as , ‘Signs of Spring in Ripon’………
A group of eight members, including Leader Colin, set off by car to scour the Ripon area for the target species. We were being guided by Colin’s intimate knowledge of the patch he has worked all his life. Starting at Skelton-on- Ure, we quickly came across Hares which were easily visible in the large rolling fields. Training our binoculars to follow the beautiful sounds that filled the sky we were delighted to find three Skylark. These birds continued to appear at nearly all locations throughout the day. Other species to be found here were flocks of Fieldfare and Yellowhammers. This location also gave us our first sighting of Buzzard – again a bird that seemed present all day- but this was a nesting pair!
Moving on to land near Marton-le-Moor we examined a muck heap ( apparently one of the few places a bird can find seed in today’s farm land – even if it has been previously digested by cows). We were rewarded by finding a small flock of Corn bunting along with Chaffinch and Yellowhammer (a Wren, a Greenfinch and two Robin were also present at this little oasis!). Nearby was another site with panoramic views to the west and north allowing us to see as far as the Dallowgill moors where the heather was being burnt. Here we had more close views of Hares and distant views of Buzzard, Lapwing and Gulls in large numbers on wetlands along with two Shelduck.
We had lunch on home territory at High Batts accompanied by Marsh Tit, Redpoll, Siskin and Great Spotted Woodpecker (as well as the usual suspects). On to Middle Parks (Mistle Thrush on the way) where Colin pointed out the effects of adverse land management and its impact on wildlife. Our final port of call was Middle Farm at Ripon Parks. The once thriving habitat of the lake is now surrounded by an Otter fence. However, we were able to find Teal and Tufted duck as well as Shelduck ,Canada Geese and Moorhen. We were able to exercise our sleuthing skills in working out the architects of numerous old nests visible in the hedgerow ( with Richard’s guidance). An interesting log pile peppered with beetle holes and matching Woodpecker drills also captured our interest. The main species of interest however was a flock of Linnet , initially fairly camouflaged amongst the keys of an ash tree, but undermining this by the amount of chatter that the flock was making. Other finches were mixed with the flock – the most notable being a Brambling. As we made our way back to the cars, our departure coincided with the arrival of six Curlew and a Kestrel. To round things off nicely, as we said our goodbyes at Quarry Moor and thanked Colin for a brilliant delivery of all target species, a female Sparrowhawk flew over.
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The Curlew has declined in Britain to such an extent that it is the bird most in need of conservation action and is on the Red List of Birds of Conservation concern. The BTO are hoping to raise £100,000 in the first year to do extensive research in to the reasons for the decline of both breeding and wintering Curlew.
Nidderdale Birdwatchers are running a coffee morning on March 12th to support this appeal.
Click here for details
We have available copies of the Annual Review (2014) of the North of England Raptor Forum. This is essential reading for anybody interested in the fortunes and welfare of raptors in a massive area of the North of England and represents the work of ten study groups covering Northhumberland to Derbyshire and Lancashire across Yorkshire to the North York Moors. 114 pages of summaries, charts, tables and photographs in A4 format and “perfect binding”, so all in all a very professional product for £8.00 (cost of post and packing on enquiry).Available from the Chairman: Paul Irving email – firstname.lastname@example.org or see contact on membership form.
BTO Regional Representative for Yorkshire-Central.
The 2014 Bird Report is ready! They can be purchased from Jill Warwick (contact details on the HDNS membership card – Moth Recorder) at £5.00 plus £1.30 p&p. There will also be some to purchase at the next meetings. Posted ones are on their way.
As usual; following the Introduction and weather summary there is a full systematic list followed by notes, articles, photographs, drawings and a list of species requiring a description if submitted to BTO Records Committee. Useful maps of the recording area are to be found within the covers.
This was the driest, coldest day of the year so far but the recent deluge was evident in all the fields and on the paths. Setting off from Roecliffe, we walked through a small copse where Colin showed us a huge, active badger sett, unusual in it being on flat ground, not into a bank. On leaving the wood the six of us slithered and slipped our way round field edges and footpaths. It was very pleasing to see good numbers of Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammers, Skylarks, Chaffinches, Fieldfares and Redwings, along with a few Song and Mistle Thrushes feeding in stubble and sheep fields.
Raptors were limited to several Buzzards and a Kestrel but strangely, no Red Kites. Yellowhammers, Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings formed small flocks at the Staveley Nature Reserve, and on the feeders were Blue, Great and Willow Tits. By the end of the walk we had seen several Hares and a buck Roe Deer with three hinds.
Muff and Jack very kindly hosted us for lunch at The Paddocks and while eating our picnics in comfort and warmth, we watched Nuthatch and Coal Tit come to their feeders, amongst the Tree and House Sparrow flock.
Setting off after lunch we walked back through the reserve adding Long-eared Owl, more Goldeneye and a Kingfisher to our list. By the time we had reached Roecliffe again our bird count had gone up to 56 and we had evaded the wintry showers which had been forecast for the late afternoon. Our finale was a flock of about 200 mixed Fieldfares and Redwings, with a ratio of 75/25.
Excellent! Many thanks to Colin for a very interesting and informative look at farmland and ings management. It was clear that some farming practices can provide for, and allow for, wildlife while others completely disregard it. Thankfully there was some winter food to be had, but many, many fields were sadly bereft of all birdlife and lay barren and sterile awaiting another intensive crop to be sprayed and manicured. Colin’s recollections of times gone by, when copses and fields weren’t used for Pheasant rearing were only to be marvelled at.
On arrival Simon Warwick gave us a resume of recent conditions at Nosterfield. High rainfall had increased water levels and this had attracted huge numbers of Teal and Wigeon as well as good numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover.
Due to foggy conditions, we more or less had to take his word for it!
We picked out three Goldeneye, a Little Grebe and a lot of ghostly duck/goose shaped shadows. One was singled out as a Barnacle Goose amongst the Greylags. A Sparrowhawk glided silently past the hide window and into the fog. Sadly, with no wind this fog was going nowhere. Passerines included Nuthatch, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Marsh Tit and Goldfinch. The weather wasn’t very Christmassy, but nevertheless, we retired to a local pub for a Christmas lunch and to await The Greatest Show on Earth! No, not Sue’s flashing Christmas tree hat, but Colin had received information about a Starling roost at Ripon Racecourse.
The birds certainly played their part, even though the visibility was a bit challenging. Some of the Starling flocks were so dense it was breathtaking. They arrived in their hundreds and merged from left and right building up to an ever bigger flock, interrupted briefly by a cruising Sparrowhawk which created a Starling-free zone for just a few seconds. No sooner had one flock plummeted to the reed bed than others came to replace them. This continued for a full 40 minutes. As the light fell over Nicholson’s Lagoon, a pair of Goosander flew in, followed eventually by several more. An easterly wind picked up and we realised the Starlings were proving to be noisy neighbours to the quietly roosting Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Wigeon and a Great Crested Grebe. Time for us to leave for home too.
Many thanks to Simon and Colin for a really interesting day and Happy Christmas to all our readers!
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Nigel Heptinstall used to write a very popular column in local papers. Recently these were cancelled by the editors. Nigel however is now active again via a website and will welcome contributions.. We received an email from Simon giving contact details and links to his twitter, website and blog at How Stean Gorge. Click HERE for the emails and the links.
Friday 30 October 2015
The awards, organized by former Mayor Councillor John Fox, and the Harrogate Advertiser Series, celebrate the work done by volunteers in our community.
Audrey Summersgill won the Lifetime Volunteer award, and was also highly commended in the Wildlife Volunteer section.
Simon Warwick won the award for Environment Volunteer.
Congratulations to both.
This is always an eagerly anticipated trip. A full minibus, driven as usual by Colin, set off in good time from Harrogate, leaving behind the mist and fog.
The weather at Spurn was cloudy with light south, south easterly wind. The Spurn Bird Observatory Website reported that recent arrivals had been Pallas’s Warbler, Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler and an American Golden Plover remained on Kilnsea Wetlands. On our arrival, there was more good news, a Jack Snipe at Canal Scrape. So, there was everything to play for as we set off to look for one or all of the above. The Pallas’s and the Firecrest showed very well, standing out, as they do, against the numerous Goldcrest. The Jack Snipe was very obliging and was conveniently feeding next to a Common Snipe, giving good comparison views. The Yellow-browed Warbler at the Crown and Anchor car park was a bit more elusive, but showed briefly in the end.
The sea watching was very disappointing, there was just nothing moving, so we wasted very little time in getting back to the Warren area, which was alive with birds. Winter Thrushes and Starlings were gathering, the latter systematically clearing the orange Sea Buckthorn berries. The incoming tide gave rise to a wonderful aerial display of waders, Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin, Curlew and Grey Plover.
The well documented breach in December 2013, caused by the biggest tidal surge for 60 years has left the tip of Spurn cut off at high tide. However, there is still plenty of habitat at the northern end, and our visit was wholly rewarding.
While we were in the Kilnsea Wetland Area watching the American Golden Plover snooze the afternoon away, we got fantastic views of at least two Short-eared Owls, three Little Egrets, five grazing Roe Deer and later, a perched Merlin. What a finale! 75 species in total and many of us with one or more ‘lifers’. Click HERE for birdlist.
Many thanks to Colin for leading a superb day out and my fellow passengers for providing the onboard entertainment, while we were stationary on the M62 for an hour in the dark.
Excellent Turnout for Ian Wallace Commemorative Tree Planting on October 20th 2015
More than 25 people turned out to celebrate the life of Ian Wallace by witnessing the planting by members of Ian’s family of a wild service tree in Seven Bridges Valley, Studley Royal.
The tree was planted close to the spot where Ian discovered a naturally occurring wild service tree whilst conducting a plant survey for the National Trust.
The tree was delivered and the preparatory work undertaken by members of the National Trust Estate Management Team. They also erected a substantial deer-proof metal guard around the tree on completion of planting.
Colin Slator and Valerie Holmes represented HDNS Council, of which Ian was once a member, whilst Colin also attended in his capacity as Chairman of High Batts Nature Reserve Committee. Ian was for many years Mosses and Liverworts Recorder for High Batts as well as Botanical Recorder for HDNS.
He was also heavily involved in the Bilton Conservation Group which was represented by Keith Wilkinson, and in the University of the Third Age, many of whose members were present.
A stone inscribed with a replica of Ian’s signature was laid in the bottom of the hole and the tree was then planted by Ian’s widow Mavis, his son Nigel and daughter Fiona.
The assembled company was addressed by Mike Ridsdale of the National Trust, who paid tribute to Ian’s botanical work over many years on the Fountains Abbey/Studley Royal estate. Mavis then thanked all those who had generously contributed to make the tree planting possible and Mike and his team for their assistance and for allowing the tree to be planted on the National Trust estate. She finished by thanking everyone for turning out in such good numbers.
For those wishing to see the tree, it is on the right-hand side of the valley just past the second bridge over the Skell when approaching from the Studley Royal car park.
Account and photographs by Will Rich.
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We arrived on Redcar seafront and immediately felt at home as we spied the ‘Stray Café’ . A Bettys by the sea, wonderful! But first things first, sea watching. High pressure over the UK was dragging in low cloud and drizzle from the North Sea and reducing the visibility with it.
An hour’s watch saw Teal and Common Scoter flying north in quite large numbers, along with small groups of waders, Gannets, one Red-throated Diver, and one or two Arctic Skuas. There were Sandwich and Common Terns on the beach along with Turnstones and Ringed Plovers. Most skuas, shearwaters and divers were further out to sea with light winds, unlikely to push them inshore.
Next, we went to South Gare, which has its own charm. Conditions were ideal for the high tide roost at the tip. We picked out Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Oystercatcher, but still very little was moving on the sea. The local fishermen were not having a very good day and commented that the water was dirty, presumably from a fuel spill. After lunch the River Tees tidal estuary was exposing estuarine mud as the tide ebbed away. There we found a Bar-tailed Godwit, a juvenile Knot and Whimbrel and more Redshanks, none showing any inclination to do anything but sleep. They must have had a long flight to get this far.
South Gare is an area of reclaimed land and breakwater on the southern side of the mouth of the River Tees.
It has a uniquely diverse habitat. The land is made of from thousands of tons of basic slag from blast furnaces. The high limestone content of the slag produces a base rich soil that is attractive to lime loving plants. The area consists of tidal mudflats, scrub, grassland, sand dunes, rocks, freshwater and salt pools. This is one for the botanists! The group quickly spread out to search the area. We found unusual species and some stunted versions of common plants. The plant list ( click HERE to view) was finalised by Muff Upsall and Sonia Starbuck. This vegetation can be very good for attracting migrants such as warblers and flycatchers. This day we saw a pair of Stonechats and small flocks of Linnets, Goldfinches and Starlings.
En route homeward, we called in at Scaling Dam on the A171. This is a shallow reservoir attracting both dabbling and diving ducks. We saw Tufted Duck, Mallard and Heron with Willow Warbler and another Stonechat on the moorland edge, bringing the total bird count to 53.
Many thanks to Colin for leading a greatly enjoyable trip with some really interesting places, birds and plants.
The field trips for 2015-2016 are now on this website under Calendar , or click here. There is also a list (and booking forms for the bus trips) in the printed copy of the Autumn Newsletter. Or click HERE for the electronic copy. Colin Slator has done a sterling job arranging these for us and they are always worth attending. Reports of past excursions can be found on this website (under NEWS items).
Please note the usual precautions: Stout footwear and suitable outdoor clothing should always be worn. Unless otherwise stated a packed lunch is essential. Members take part entirely at their own risk and are responsible for their personal safety and the security of their belongings.
Colin gives the following message regarding this autumn’s outings:
Make sure you read the details about the outings especially regarding times and food! Of course the weather can’t be guaranteed, so some events may be altered slightly to work around any inclement precipitations!
Enquiries to Colin Slator: 0793535 2890
Our Autumn newsletter is now published. As usual it is an excellent read giving details of past and future events in our society. Well worth settling down on one of these rainy days to enjoy it. All members will get a copy or to read it here follow the links – ‘About HDNS’ –> ‘Reports and Publications’. Or click this shortcut!
This year we have included a list of the lecture evenings offered by High Batts see page 71 in our newsletter. For more details of the High Batts Society click here
We gathered as usual at Trinity Methodist Church and mounted a rather splendid nearly new minibus. Colin Slator, our leader and driver, welcomed us aboard. There was plenty of room for us as our party only numbered eight including Colin, unfortunately Sue Harrison and Jack and Muff Upsall were unable to attend.
By the time we reached Top Hill Low Water Treatment Plant the weatherwas quite pleasant so as we walked to the first of the marsh hides we were able to enjoy plenty of insect activity. By the time we had visited all the hides we had recorded ten species of butterfly including Painted Lady, three species of bumblebee and numerous Common Darters one of which hitched a lift on Colin’s cap! On the HDNS visit to Top Hill Low in January 2011 we were obviously looking at a range of winter birds so the pools and scrapes were not of as much interest as at this time of year.
A full morning in all the hides rewarded us with good views of three Green Sandpipers,
other wader species were scarce but brief views of a Kingfisher and Sedge Warbler added to our list which by then included Mallard, Shoveler, Shelduck, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe and 85 Greylag Geese. Drama was provided by a female Marsh Harrier that put everything up several times.
The “O” reservoir held 27 Great crested Grebes and the “D” reservoir had a good range of waterfowl including 37 Tufted Ducks and one Red-crested Pochard, one of our number said it “had a bill like a carrot”, a good description! Five species of Gull were also on the reservoir.
A change of plan took us to Sammy’s Point at Spurn in pursuit of a Red- footed Falcon, no luck there but we did pick up on the tail end of a big movement of Pied Flycatchers along with Redstarts, Whinchat, Wheatear and several Willow Warblers. Seven Swifts hurried southwards down the point whilst the estuary side provided us with 70 Golden Plovers and the calls of Whimbrel. There was a Spoonbill on the ponds at Kilnsea Wetlands.
Finally on to Hornsea, first the sea front, good numbers of Little Gull over the sea and better still two birds on the beach with Black headed Gulls. Common Tern and unspecifiable “comic” terns passing all the time going south.
By the time we visited The Mere the light was failing but our glorious leader was determined to locate the reported White-winged Black Tern, plenty more Little Gulls but sadly not the elusive tern. Another Marsh Harrier was our final bird of the day, so into town for Fish and Chips with a check list total of 72 species of birds.
Thank you to Colin for an excellent day out.
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There have been some very good views recently of a juvenile cuckoo being fed by the foster parent. At one point the meadow pipit perched on the cuckoo to feed it. The photos below are courtesy of Nidderdale Birders, taken near the carpark at Scar House.
A few photographs from the recent Members’ Day
It was a pleasant morning as the six naturalists met up at Quarry Moor car park and distributed themselves into three cars. First stop was the National Park Centre on Sutton Bank where we practised parking-fee avoidance thanks to Will’s inside knowledge. The usually rewarding birdfeeders were empty so we proceeded to a small wildflower meadow which was rich in Common Spotted Orchids; Twayblade and Yellow Rattle were also to be found and then Colin’s sharp eyes spied the single Bee Orchid. Ringlet butterflies fluttered among the plants, presumably scattering their eggs on the grass.
From this limestone grassland we crossed to the other side of the site to an area of typical heathland with Bilberry, Silver Birch and heather. Dan pointed out some of the plants we might otherwise have missed, such as Sheep’s Sorrel and Wavy Hair Grass; however there was again no sign of the elusive Turtledoves.We then proceeded to YWT’s Fen Bog nature reserve. This splendid site is part of the SSSI of Newtondale, and is also an SAC on account of its many special plant communities. Click HERE for website. (See http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/fen-bog-nature-reserve )
Before we even entered the reserve, a Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary was spotted and successfully netted by Colin; it was a beautiful male and settled co-operatively in Colin’s jar so that the black outlines of the cells on the fringes of its underwing could be seen, confirming that it was not a ‘large’. 6-spot Burnet moths were also plentiful and an Orange Underwing was seen. As we walked towards the reserve entrance a Dark Green Fritillary fluttered around us – 2 of our target species already achieved!The valley bottom of Fen Bog is dominated by Purple Moor grass, Bog Myrtle and Common Cotton grass, with stands of open water populated by Bog Bean and Lesser Spearwort.
The sloping sides of the valley are heather clad and we followed a reasonably dry peaty path, with muddy patches where we soon found Common Butterwort, Round Leaved Sundew, Twayblade, Heath Milkwort and Bog Asphodel. Cross-leaved Heath and Bell Heather gave a beautiful purple background against which we posed for a group photo.
There was an exciting flyover of Crossbills, presumably travelling between one stand of coniferous woodland and another – Colin counted 16. Both Sue and Will got glimpses of lizards – or were they the tail end of adders….?
We then ventured down the steeply sloping and heavily vegetated sides into the
valley bottom, where the tussocks and Bog Myrtle made for difficult going, especially for those with short legs!
The first small pool yielded a beautiful powder-blue Keeled Skimmer, the first of several. Dan wandered off botanizing and soon produced the Bottle Sedge and identified the scattering of Orchids as Heath Spotted. Sue then spotted a Whinchat which treated us to some good views.
We began to return along the valley and added Cranberry, the curious Marsh Arrowgrass and either Star- or Flea- sedge to our tally, then decided to try the northern corner of the valley bottom for the Large Heath, our only remaining target species. There was plenty of Common Cotton Grass, its food plant, and soon we encountered our first, passing close with a leisurely fluttering flight. Two more were seen as we exited the reserve.Our next stop was a brief visit to the Hole of Horcum, where our target species were ice creams and giant flies. Jack managed to spot the fly on top of a hogweed plant at the edge of the car park and a quick photo was snapped, from which Jim identified it as Tachina grossa
.The final destination was Ellerburn Bank, a tiny limestone grassland reserve nearby.Click HERE for website. Unfortunately, the map was far from clear and there were no signs so that we took a track which led only to a barley field.
But on the way Dan, who was walking in the grass down the centre of the track, disturbed an Adder! Colin deftly netted it and we were all able to examine it closely. The diamond markings were pale, indicating a female, and it was apparently not full-grown. It attempted to strike the inside of the net and its orange-red eyes and pale mouth could be easily seen. We all took a few steps back as Colin released it from the net but it lay poised to strike, immobile, for several minutes before tasting the air with its tongue and finally slithering away.
Half the party then reluctantly set off to return home, whilst the remaining three embarked on a determined attempt to find the missing nature reserve. Not only were they successful, but also added a possible Fly Orchid to the specialist plants tally, uncovered 3 Slow-worms of various sizes, found a very large Common Lizard and saw 2 Marbled Whites. Altogether a splendid and varied species list for the day.
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Despite the dire forecast of persistent rain, six hardy members met our leader Bob Orange at West Tanfield for the onward journey to Bellflask, which is a working Hanson Heidelberg gravel quarry in process of restoration for wildlife.
Luckily for our party the rain failed to materialise and we had a very pleasant walk accompanied by Brian and Susan Morland, who live on-site where they run a trout fishery and also record the wildlife to be found there, including extensive moth trapping.
At Bellflask we were joined by Bob’s No. 2 Richard in suitable camouflage gear and his son Harry, who seems to be taking an interest in the natural world. These youngsters definitely need encouragement – there are too many of us old fogies in the conservation movement and we’ll soon be pushing up daisies, so we need the younger generation to take up the baton. Apologies for the mixed metaphors but you get the message!
Bob, who manages this quarry amongst others, showed us how the gravel is extracted and water levels are managed, whilst Brian gave us the conservation angle. Brian always has some interesting views and he was particularly critical of the propensity of some managers of nature reserves to put tit nest boxes up everywhere. He felt that this was detrimental to the tits themselves and led to an imbalance. When the food ran out the tits would be unable to feed their chicks and the invertebrate population would have suffered severe losses.
The working quarry at Bellflask supports good numbers of Sand Martins (c350 pairs) and nesting Oystercatchers and Little-ringed Plovers. The restored gravel pits are home to Great-crested Grebes and other water birds, with the reed beds supporting Reed and Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings and the occasional Bittern. Avocets and other waders also breed. Harriers, Ospreys and Little Egrets are regularly seen on passage. This is an ever-changing environment but nature takes advantage of the niches it provides. We are lucky that Bob, who is a keen naturalist, is in charge of developments at Bellflask, though I should add under Brian’s critical eye!
During our walk Brian showed us the contents of one of his moth traps, which included the beautiful Elephant Hawk Moth. He also let us enter his sanctum, the so-called naughty house, where he can work on his projects in peace listening to his favourite sixties music.
Many thanks to Bob, Brian and Susan for a very enjoyable and informative morning.
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The forecast was for showers, some thundery with hail, but it was hoped we may escape some of them. Having arrived at Wykeham, we watched the dramatic westward advance of storm clouds filling in the view over Fylingdales Moor. We were still hoping to pick out a raptor in the sunshine at this point from our vantage point on the sunny side of the valley. Inevitably the storm caught up with us and Colin became insistent we retreat, with haste, to the minibus. As if to impress upon us the urgency, an enormous crack of thunder helped clarify the situation! Hefty hailstones accompanied the ensuing deluge. Had this trip been in March we might have been disappointed with the weather. In May, we were astonished!
This was the pattern for the day, look, listen and make for the minibus!
However, the species total for the day was an impressive 75. Highlights were, from Sutton Bank, Siskin and Garden Warbler. Filey Dams provided Barn Owl, Little Grebe and Common Sandpiper and Cuckoo (heard). From Filey Brigg Country Park we walked along the top of the Brigg, the southern side of which has seen three recent landslips in the boulder clay. On the northern side we saw a good variety of nesting seabirds, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill. Even at a distance it is possible to see the sheer numbers of Gannets on the cliffs at Bempton.
A fine evening and stop at Scarborough was notable for the summer sound of Sandwich
Terns traversing the bay, reinforcing that it was in fact May, not March. The roofs of Harrogate may have been white over with hailstones and 3degrees showing on the thermometer, but we arrived home warm and dry, having seen some amazing weather. The bird list was as varied as the habitats we had visited, despite everything.
Once again many thanks to Colin for leading an unforgettable trip to sites in North Yorkshire which were new to some members and favourites to others who have been there in better weather and know the magic of a day’s raptor watching at Wykeham.
Our first stop was WWT Martin Mere which is known for its collection of global ducks which have been pinioned and afford close range views, which is not how many of us usually get to see ducks! They also run a breeding programme for these species, which was interesting to hear about. The same fences which keep the ducks safe from predation also provide a haven for small passerines, nesting with impunity close to the public path on the other side. Here we listened to a Blackcap, in full voice and watched a Chaffinch nest-building at close range. A good selection of waders were on the marsh pools, including Redshank, Lapwing, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, the latter two were starting to acquire their breeding colours, many of the Godwits in full summer plumage looked wonderful.
Three stunning Mediterranean Gulls in breeding plumage were also viewed from the hides. A few Whooper Swans, Pintail and Wigeon were still enjoying the mild waters around the Mere. Acting on a tip off, as they say, we were directed to a site, high in an ivy clad tree, where two Tawny Owls were roosting side by side, which is quite unusual for this time of year. Buzzard and Kestrel were seen over the marshes. After lunch we called in at RSPB Marshside, north of Southport. Here they were in the process of installing an electric predator proof fence which will hugely increase the breeding success of the spectacular number of birds out on the marsh. A large assemblage of Golden Plover, and a second summer Little Gull added to our tally of 69 birds for the day.
We then sought our next habitat, the dunes of the Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve.
It is one of the largest areas in Britain of dune ridges and valleys, containing coastal slacks, wet hollows with an ecosystem all of their own, rich in unusual plants and home of Natterjack Toads and Sand Lizards. Both species are threatened by habitat loss and are protected by British and European law, as they were once more widespread, and have suffered from habitat destruction over the last hundred years. They are both very habitat specific and as we walked on the boardwalk and explored the dune slacks, there was a noticeable feeling of a being in a micro-climate, sheltered from the onshore winds. The lizards require a sunny habitat and open undisturbed warm sand to lay their eggs. The toads similarly rely on the warmth of the coastal slacks’ shallow warm water to breed. It was an absolute delight to wander about these dunes, plant- spotting and listening to Willow Warblers marking out territory. We also saw a Stonechat and two Wheatears. Sadly we saw no lizards or toads, but now it’s on the radar, who would not look forward to another visit to such a wonderful site for another look?
Many thanks to Colin for driving and guiding us round such an interesting day.
Martin Mere is probably not as well known for its wild side, but more the captive fowl. The Fylde dune system is perhaps similarly overlooked by many, overshadowed by the famous championship golf courses, and fish and chips shops. But for no longer, we all learned a lot, including where to get the best fish and chips, and thoroughly enjoyed the day!
The field trips for 2015 are now on this website under Calendar , or click HERE. There is also a list (and booking forms for the bus trips) in the Spring Newsletter. Colin Slator has done a sterling job arranging these for us and they are always woth attending. Reports of past excursions can be found on this page (under NEWS items).
Colin gives the following message regarding this summer’s outings:
Some trips could return quite late in the night for this period. I am sorry but it’s the nature of the species we are targeting. Please don’t book if you are wanting to return early for any reason, an early return cant be guaranteed for the trips where it is stated – expect a late return.
The Society now has the use of a good quality telescope and tripod (a legacy from Rodney Waddilove). Various field guides are also available on most trips. Of course the weather can’t be guaranteed, so some events may be altered slightly to work around any inclement precipitations!
Enquiries to Colin Slator: 0793535 2890
Arriving at Seahouses just before 10am the visibility was crystal clear, with excellent views of the Farne Islands. We met up with Muff and Jack who were staying in the area, making eight in total. Low tide enabled us to scan the rocks for waders, revealing Purple Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlews and Turnstones. Goldeneye and ‘Cuddy’ ducks were on the sea and in the harbour, both looking resplendent in the sunshine.
The Eider Ducks are locally named after St Cuthbert who established a chapel on Inner Farne 600 years ago. The weather was perfect for a trip to the Farne Islands, and unable to resist the chance to see them at close range, Colin went to enquire. He came back with the news that the ‘Glad Tidings’ was sailing at noon from Seahouses, passing the aforementioned St Cuthbert’s chapel, the cliff nesting sites, the seal colony as well as the Longstone Lighthouse of Grace Darling fame. The Fulmars, early nesters, had paired up and claimed their breeding sites, and Kittiwakes had also returned for the breeding season. Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Cormorants, Shags, Guillemots and a few Razorbills came close to the boat and we got a very satisfying view of the very first returning Puffins. There is a notable colony of about 6000 grey seals which includes 1000 pups born each autumn, and many were basking in the sunshine.
There were also spectacular views looking back at the coastline and our intended destinations once back on shore.
We drove to Budle Bay where the water was still low, but highlights included Red-breasted Mergansers, Wigeon and Little Egret.
The hide at Fenham-le-Moor gave views over to Lindisfarne and a relatively quiet estuary but a fleeting glimpse of Twite and Linnet made up for that. Stag Rocks, north of Bamburgh was our last stop and proved very rewarding, straightaway there was a pair of Long-tailed Ducks and a Black-necked Grebe was close in too. The light was stunning and a scan further north revealed at least 20 Slavonian Grebes amongst the Common Scoters. There were several Red-throated Divers to add to the list, smaller in size than the Black-throated Diver which had been seen flying earlier on in the day.
We drove home with long shadows enhancing the beautiful Northumberland scenery and Sue Harrison started the bird count, 68 species seen! Many thanks to Peter and Colin for driving and thanks also to Colin for leading what was an absolutely superb day out. This trip was definitely worth the travel time and the chance to see a good selection of grebes, sea ducks, waders, gulls and the Farne Islands at close range was not to be missed.
Hawfinches are best seen in winter when the trees shed their leaves, and can be seen in the high branches of the trees around the visitor centre at Sizergh. Disturbance from visitors can scare them off but we arrived early enough, even with a stopover at Hellifield Flash en route. 16 pairs of eyes scanned the Hornbeam trees, but it was Colin who heard and then spotted the first Hawfinch and got the telescope onto it. As we all gathered round, another flew over, which gave the rest of us a brief but good view. Target Species achieved once again! For anyone who missed this trip and would like to see a Hawfinch, visit email@example.com for free Ranger events in March and April.
There are many other woodland species to see, Nuthatch, Tits, Woodpeckers etc. but our trip continued to Foulshaw Moss, a 350 hectare raised mire SSSI, Cumbria Wildlife Trust site noted for its Harrier roost in winter and Ospreys, Adders, Green Hairstreak Butterfly and Emperor Moth in summer. This was a new site for many of us and one to note for future visits.
The next good sighting was a Peregrine Falcon at Warton Crag, sitting high on a ledge,
spotted by Robert Chandler. We were also entertained by a Buzzard being mobbed by a Kestrel. This is a nationally important, Lancashire Wildlife Trust site of limestone crag, grassland and woodland.
The forecast had predicted rain for the afternoon but we arrived in the dry at the Allen Hide at Leighton Moss, prompted by Sue Harrison’s Bird Guide report of Eurasian White –fronted Geese. We got an excellent haul of waders there, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Avocet, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, etc., plus, the aforementioned geese were scoped on the grassland overlooking Morecambe Bay. Our duck tally, which started at Hellifield, increased.
More Pintail, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pochard etc and the last, but not least, bird of the day was a Marsh Harrier over the lagoons of the main reserve at Leighton Moss.
With the promised rain arriving too late to spoil anything, Colin started the long drive home and Sue Harrison recorded the 69 species seen. Many thanks to Colin and yet again to his Wingman, Will, for a really excellent days birding and tour of the area.
report : Sue Coldwell
Colin’s shaggy-dog stories came thick and fast as the fourteen of us walked from Ripon’s North Bridge up the River Ure on a dry and intermittently sunny morning. As usual Colin proved a canny observer when he rescued a torpid Great-crested Newt from a drain and deposited it in a place of safety.
He next took us to the HBC nature reserve at Little Studley, where Teal and Mallard were seen but the Snipe for which the reserve is noted were unfortunately not in evidence. As we left, a passing Sparrowhawk elicited alarm calls from a number of small birds.
Colin showed us the ruins of some bathing cubicles on the riverbank but it was difficult to envisage on a cold winter’s day how anyone could ever have enjoyed taking a dip in the murky and fast flowing waters.
Our next port of call was the YWT reserve called The Loop, where the river takes a huge meander, threatening to break through and undergo yet another of its many historical changes of course. Reaching the reserve required climbing over several fences and gates, which proved a great trial for some of the old crocks amongst us. We ate our lunch seated rather uncomfortably on an old bowser then proceeded upriver, where the reluctant sun illuminated the Hazel catkins and Silver Birches in spectacular fashion.
Whilst walking along the river, Colin found a muddy bank where he was able to show us the difference between footprints of Otter, Badger and Mink, all of which were imprinted in the same short stretch of mud.
Colin next pointed out the outcrops of gypsum (cause of many a house subsidence in Ripon) on the cliffs overhanging the Ure. After further fence climbing we finally arrived at High Batts Nature Reserve, where carpets of Snowdrops were in full bloom and giving promise of spring.
Our walk had taken us through the Ripon Parks SSSI, an area of wet woodland and watery meadows bounded bythe spectacular River Ure and its floodplain. Highlights of the walk were two large flocks of Curlew, numbering perhaps 300 birds, several Buzzards and a Hare which sprang from its form in the grass at our feet.
Many thanks, Colin, for an entertaining and informative day.
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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, – firstname.lastname@example.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,
The date for the trip to Nothumberland is now Tuesday 10th March 2015 – not Sunday 22nd March. See the Calendar for more details.
The illustrated talk on February 4th will be given by Paul Irving. It is titled “Naturalist with a camera”.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The Autumn Newletter is now available from our Regional Representative
Click HERE to read it
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.
Saddleworth Moor, despite its grim reputation, was looking beautiful in the bright sunshine as we arrived at RSPB Dove Stone. Walking up Chew Road towards Chew Reservoir we were treated to excellent views of a female/juvenile Kestrel which perched for long intervals on a rock beside the track. Further along, our keen-eyed leader Colin spotted far off across the moor a white blob which, to the unpractised eye, might have been a stray plastic bag. Looking through the scope, however, this was definitely what we had mainly set out to see – a Mountain Hare in full winter regalia. Shortly afterwards, on the other side of the track, we obtained much better views of an equally beautiful animal, which provided some good photo opportunities. The hare seemed unperturbed by a helicopter which was passing almost directly overhead transporting stone to fill in the moorland grips (drains). A huge area of the moor is now managed by the RSPB and there are healthy breeding populations of Dunlin, Golden Plover and other waders.
Colin’s pager was now beeping repeatedly, telling him that there were Two-barred Crossbills (quite a rarity) at Broomhead Reservoir on the other side of the Pennines near Stocksbridge. We set off in the minibus along the A635, past those places which will live forever in infamy, towards Holmfirth, then along some tortuous country lanes to Broomhead. Unfortunately, it was the usual, “You should have been here an hour ago,” because the birds were nowhere to be seen. They had been there since August and are there still (14th January). In fact, the more enthusiastic of our members have been back subsequently and seen them. As it was now beginning to get dark we had to give up the hunt, return to the minibus and wend our way home. Many thanks to Colin for “delivering the goods” yet again (at least as far as our main quarry, the hares, was concerned).
After an 8 am pick up in Harrogate I drove to Ripon in the hired mini-bus to collect a further three participants, to make a total group of eight members. Driving north up the A1(M) towards Newcastle and then skirting around the south side of the City and passing under the Tyne via the tunnel. About 15 miles north of the great river, on the A189 our first (two) brief stops were specifically to look for the reported two juvenile Greenland White-fronted Geese feeding in a field of rape, amongst a group of Grey-lags. These birds were quickly located but required very careful observation to confirm identification – the key word here is juvenile not immature ! A short drive further north eventually brought us to the coast at Cresswell, which lies on the south end of the seven mile long Druridge Bay. From Cressswell we looked out over the sea, which was flat calm, and with excellent visibility we soon picked out Red-throated Divers ( which numbered 20 plus during the day ), single Gannet, fly past Long-tailed Duck and drake Eider. From this point one could easily pick out Coquet Island which lies at the northern end of the Bay.
The shore and adjacent sand dune system could be seen in its golden glory and the immediately inland complex of habitats ranging from wet grassland, small and extensive water bodies, reedbed and various types of woodland were all laid out in front of us waiting to be explored. Some of these habitats are quite young, especially the post opencast coal mining complex of the Chevington area. At least six sites within the area are Northumberland Wildlife Trust sites. During the course of the day, in glorious sunshine albeit with a cool westerly breeze, we looked out over the sea at several points, Cresswell Pond (twice), Druridge Pools and the large East Chevington complex.
Other than birds little else was seen of note. With regard to birds passerines were very much in short supply, especially buntings and finches. Waders were few and of the common species. Raptors were also scarce – the lack of Short-eared Owls was most disappointing. But ample other sightings made up for the perceived loss. A small skein of Pink-foots coming in high off the sea, against a powder blue sky and calling as much as they could muster lifted the spirits no end. A superb drake Velvet Scoter close into the shore with Red-breasted Mergansers and Red-throated Divers around it for good measure. Then towards the end of the day, with the sun at our backs, a beautiful Bittern flew nearby into a bed of scrub and reed – don’t they look so big and tail-less in flight (?)
I often regard Northumberland as my second home. Today’s trip did not diminish my enthusiasm for the County and especially this site one bit.
The homeward drive was uneventful but to track back into a lay-by and locate an earlier lost flat cap was all part of the service !
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 01423 567382, mobile: 07900 301112. Website: www.bto.org
Bird Atlas 2007-11
One of the most ambitious volunteer projects ever undertaken, to map all our birds in both winter and the breeding season and from every part of Britain and Ireland. Over 40,000 volunteers spent four years scouring the countryside in search of birds, submitting their records to the BTO to integrate local information on bird numbers into coherent national pictures on the state of Britain and Ireland’s bird populations and finding some startling results along the way.
Over the last 40 years the British breeding areas for 74 (8%) of our bird species have expanded beyond their previously known range, whilst for 72 (37%) of them the range has shrunk and for 47 (24%) it has remained relatively unchanged. But what is rather surprising is that for nearly all of them there has been a shift in where they live. Every species has a story to tell.
For those species that spend the winter months with us the changes have been very different. Over three quarters of species were found in more areas than three decades ago. Improved coverage of remote areas explains some but not all of these gains, but the 8% of species now found in fewer areas are of real concern.
So, what are the surprises? Forty years ago the Little Egret was very much a bird of the Mediterranean but in 1996 this small white heron bred here for the first time. Since then it has increased its range in Britain by a whopping 16,350% and has become a familiar bird for many and one that our children will grow-up with and associate with British wetlands.
The charismatic Green Woodpecker exemplifies the complex changes we see. It has become more common in eastern England and has spread northwards into parts of eastern Scotland. Meanwhile, it has begun to disappear from western Wales, an area that is also losing its Lapwings, Kestrels and Starlings.
The “little bit of bread and no cheese” of the Yellowhammer is a sound that is disappearing from our countryside. Forty years ago the species could be heard singing in almost every village in Britain and Ireland. But Yellowhammers are now missing from large swathes of Ireland, western Scotland, southern Wales and northern England, representing a 32% contraction for this formerly widespread breeding bird.
The new Atlas is considerably larger than previous editions running to just over 700 pages packed with invaluable data and illustrated with numerous excellent photographs. Copies can be obtained directly from the BTO at £69.99 plus p.&.p.
Please contact me if you are interested in current BTO surveys, e.g. The Breeding Bird Survey, Garden Birdwatch or Winter Thrushes.
Reports of a Pallid Swift and Western Bonelli’s Warbler made the minibus trip to Hartlepool a hopeful prospect. We arrived with rain abating and a fresh SE wind. We all looked skyward but no Pallid Swift. It had been seen earlier that morning so surely it would return! Having conducted a thorough search we turned our attention to the sea. The first challenge was differentiating between two divers, one Red Throated and one Black Throated. On a receding tide, coastal waders were playing hard to get, two Purple Sandpipers, a couple of Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers and a single Bar Tailed Godwit flew over. Among the Black Headed Gulls was one Mediterranean Gull. Sea ducks were scarce, apart from Scoter and a male and female Eider on rocks. Still no Pallid Swift so we moved on, which is precisely when the swift made a re-appearance back at the Headland
U turn accomplished, Colin drove back and some of the sharper eyed of us spotted it at distance over the bay. It was to finally return to roost on the church while we were well on our way home.
We called in at Newburn Bridge and got a much closer view of a Mediterranean Gull on the beach and a single Ringed Plover. Our next stop was North Gare and then the Zinc Road. The grass was quite long but careful searching revealed good numbers of Curlew, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and several Ruff and on the river we saw Red Breasted Merganser and Red Throated Diver.
In the area around Greatham Creek were Shoveler, Dunlin, Little Egret and a visit to Dorman’s Pool gave us Pintail and Marsh Harrier, with Kingfisher in one of the creeks.
72 species seen and all worked quite hard for, but no one said it was going to be easy!
Thanks to June for leading and Colin for driving, making a most enjoyable trip.
Red squirrels, part of our countryside for 10,000 years, used to number 3.5million in the UK. In the 19th century the larger grey squirrel, introduced from North America spread relentlessly, out competing the red for food and spreading a deadly virus which left the greys unaffected. Snaizeholme is one of a handful of sites in NE England which is being managed to encourage the reds. After a longish drive and a short walk we had amazing photo opportunities of these delightful animals scampering about eating and ‘squirreling’ away the nuts which we had brought for them.
At the reserve there is a feeding station and information about how tree species such as Larch and Scots Pine are being planted to provide the cones which the reds prefer to eat. Sycamores are weeded out as they attract the greys to cross the buffer zone created by the wild fells of Widdale. Stick piles encourage stoats and weasels to nest as they help to keep rabbit numbers down.
Once we had all filled our cameras’ memory cards with cute squirrel photos we drove to Ribblehead for lunch. Whernside and the viaduct looked stunning in the sun, so quickly delete several squirrel photos!
The drive down Ribblesdale showed off Ingleborough and Pen y Ghent equally well and as we had time, Will introduced us to a hidden gem. An industrial archaeology site, the huge Hoffman lime kiln, just outside Settle, the back drop to which is a vast quarry wall where Raven and Peregrine breed.
Tea at the Ye Olde Naked Man Café in Settle and we were back in Harrogate for 5.30pm.
This is the last of the field meetings which Will Rich is organising after many over the past few years. Many thanks to him for so many successful trips. Colin Slator has taken over the planning for this coming year and I hope there will be continued support for what will be a great itinerary. Will is still going to drive the minibus when he is available, so watch this space!
Thanks to good weather, about 30 members attended Members’ Day this year on Sunday 14th July. An optics and camera display, supplied by Marcus Grover from Northallerton, provided additional interest for those seeking new equipment.
Butterfly species produced an excellent display with many Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Ringlets recorded. The White Letter Hairstreaks obliged, giving good opportunity for photographers.
Dragonfly species were also numerous with Emperor and Black Tailed Skimmer, Brown Hawker and four species of damselfly. Many thanks go to David Alred who helped members to identify each species.
Ornithologically, the Common Terns were busy feeding their young on the islands, which are at last beginning to appear again as the water level recedes.
Eight stalwarts braved lashing rain as we were conducted through fen and bog at the reserve, which being at 1200ft can be rather uninviting in these conditions.
However Peter Welsh, our articulate and knowledgeable guide, compensated for the weather with his sunny disposition as he described the various plant species encountered, including Northern Marsh Orchid, Bogbean, Marsh Cinquefoil, Cranberry, Sundew and (not so) Common Wintergreen. Unfortunately the weather ruled out sightings of any flies of the dragon, damsel or butter variety.
Lunch was taken in the old orchid house at the Field Studies Centre after which the rain abated though the wind whipped up white horses on the water as we toured the meadows and wetlands on the tarn shore. There we enjoyed the sight of more orchids, mostly Northern Marsh but one or two Early Marsh and Heath Spotted. Also of interest were Bird’s Eye Primrose, Butterwort and Marsh Lousewort. Finally Peter showed us the drier limestone meadows on the higher ground, where species such as Milkwort, Mountain Everlasting and Fragrant Orchid flourish. Very little bird life was seen during the day, the highlight being a number of Spotted Flycatchers,one of which gave particularly good views.
Just as we were saying our farewells the sun emerged, so we headed for tea and cakes in Malham village where the weather was considerably balmier by this time. Many thanks to Peter, the National Trust and Natural England for an enjoyable and instructive day.
Eleven of us set off from Trinity in bright sunshine which fortunately persisted all day. Prior to meeting Ian, our leader, we called in at Nosterfield, where the highlight was a distant Garganey.
Ian and wife Mavis were waiting for us at the Old Glebe Field near Wendel’s Lea (nowadays known as Wensley) and we were not disappointed in our quest for Burnt (Tip) and Green-winged Orchids (see photos), the latter of which were growing in profusion, mainly purple specimens but also some paler forms. Ian informed us that this YWT reserve is the northernmost outpost of the Burnt Orchid, which is sporadically distributed across the country but mainly in the south. There was also a good display of typical meadow plants here, including some nice stands of Bugle and a few Twayblades. Some of us nearly trod on a Pheasant chick which was hunkered down in the grass but eventually scurried off to join its siblings in the hedge bottom. After a lunch stop at Berry’s Farm Shop in Swinithwaite (Wensleydale) we drove over the top to Muker in Swaledale via Askrigg. Unfortunately the brakes on the minibus were proving none too reliable and the descent into Swaledale in low gear was somewhat nerve-wracking. We followed Ian and Mavis to Yellands Meadow, another YWT reserve, with another superb display of flowers, including Wood Anemones which surprisingly were growing in the open field. There was also a traditional hay barn with many original features inside.
Our last stop was Muker village itself where some of us strolled across the meadows to the River Swale, obtaining distant views of a Cuckoo which was being harassed by a much smaller bird, probably a Meadow Pipit. The rest of the party waited in the sunshine in the village, where at least one was tempted to sample the delights of the local hostelry, The Farmers’ Arms. On returning to Harrogate the minibus brakes finally packed up completely and smoke billowed from the front of the vehicle, so it was abandoned at Trinity. Our thanks to Ian and Mavis for a great day out.
A good turnout of 18 members arrived at Bellflask on a brilliantly sunny morning to be greeted by Brian and Susan Morland. Brian showed us around this fascinating gravel quarry which is being restored and is already a haven for wildlife. He treated us to his robust views on habitat management (intervene as little as possible) and was extremely critical of the destructive practices which have severely impacted on wildlife over the past 50 years. He showed us the agro-chemical polluted and wildlife-depleted River Ure which runs through the middle of the quarry. By contrast the Bellflask lakes were pristine and full of life.
In the sunshine we were able to see into the depths of the crystal clear water, where trout and perch patrolled. We also had close-up views of perch and gudgeon, Brian having netted some the day before.
He showed us the contents of his moth trap which were meagre due to a frost the previous night. Nevertheless we were able to see some interesting species such as poplar hawk moth. Later Brian pointed out an albino rabbit, which was a sight new to most of us. After a couple of hours pleasantly spent some of us were beginning to feel the heat (that makes a change!) so we returned to the car park for our departure. Many thanks to Brian and Susan for a splendid morning.
The forecast threatened cold, strong winds and with rain later in the morning. Absolutely correct, but despite this seven optimists met at Barley car park before moving on to a suitable parking spot near the foot of the hill. The walk to the top was steep and Ann received a well-deserved round of applause for reaching the top of the path. Once near the summit we spread out and headed towards the trig point looking for Dotterel, without success.
We then moved on, spread out like a line of skirmishers, by this time not too hopeful of finding the birds. But within ten minutes Sue in the centre of the line spotted a Dotterel and stood still, arm raised, to summon the rest of us. We got excellent views of three birds, although we think there were more, and gently worked our way towards them, one of our group nearly treading on one in the process.
All of us managed to get quite close to the birds without upsetting them and some good photo opportunities resulted, despite the high winds and frozen fingers.
A retreat to the car park at Barley for some much needed warmth and refreshment was followed by a visit to Stocks Reservoir where the rain was driving horizontally. Despite this, the Swallows and Sand Martins were struggling against the wind over the water in a search for food. We also saw a flypast by a male Merganser and some distant waders, geese and gulls.
We saw in all eleven bird species at Pendle and twelve at Stocks Reservoir; not a great total but in view of the conditions we were delighted by our success and proud of our survival. My thanks to everyone who turned up.
This event was well attended, thanks largely to our leader’s reputation as a consummate bird finder. Fifteen of us set off in the minibus, followed by four in a car. Our first stop was North Cave Wetlands, where species including Avocet, Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover were seen. We next headed over the Humber Bridge to Far Ings National Nature Reserve, where Cetti’s Warbler was heard but little was seen to cause excitement. Leaving Far Ings, we stopped on a busy main road (see photo) to train our telescopes on the distant Read’s Island, where the highlight was a Spotted Redshank in breeding plumage. Fortunately none of our party fell victim to the speeding traffic and we proceeded in the minibus to Alkborough Flats, where a number of hides overlook an extensive reedbed at the confluence of Trent and Humber. Several species were added to our list here, including Marsh Harrier, Bar-tailed Godwit and Little Egret. The long drive round the upper reaches of the Trent was accompanied by numerous back seat drivers shouting contradictory instructions, but despite this we managed to find the RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands, where those of us lucky enough to retain some hearing were treated on arrival to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling. We also had excellent views of Marsh Harriers. Leaving for home at 5.30pm and sharing sightings, we found we had amassed an impressive total of nearly 90 species. Many thanks to our leader Colin Slator.
As some of us waited in the sunshine for others to arrive in the car park at King Rudding Lane, a very pale Buzzard flew directly overhead, with a pair displaying further away towards Selby. Eventually ten of us set off for the “Bomb Bays” and a photographer in the distance alerted us to two Grass Snakes sunning themselves between a concrete ruin and a rose bush – utterly splendid views and lots of photos taken. These snakes were a first for some and the first live British ones I had seen since I was a teenager.
Another photographer told us where he had been seeing Woodlark, a short walk away. Whilst listening to a distant lark we saw Brimstone butterfly and Orange Underwing moth – spring at last! The lark duly appeared singing splendidly, then landed on the crown of a small oak, giving us great telescope views before it dropped to a ditch side to feed, still in view. We could not have asked for better. Lunch was taken back at the car park before we left for Bank Island, Wheldrake, where we enjoyed a drake Garganey, Swallow and Chiffchaff with plenty of other wildfowl and some Snipe. One or two then left us while the rest went to North Duffield Carrs where the scene was much more like winter with four Scaup, two or three Whooper Swans, two Marsh Harriers and lots of Wigeon; Teal and Pintail for support. All in all a great day out. You should have been there!
As usual, a sprinkling of snow led to traffic chaos in Harrogate and we were 30 mins late setting out. The snow fizzled out north of Ripon and it was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at Hartlepool. It was high tide at the Headland and we were treated to the sight of a raft of Common Scoters very close inshore. Further out there were Red-throated Divers and Great-crested Grebes, as well as a Harbour Porpoise. Walking along the sea wall we enjoyed close-up views of Purple Sandpipers, Knot and other waders; sheltering behind a breakwater were many Eiders. Moving along to the fish dock, we were disappointed in our quest for white-winged gulls and the only bird of interest was a Red-breasted Merganser. At the Marina we obtained excellent views of a Black-throated Diver (a “lifer” for me) but the hoped-for Slavonian Grebe did not materialise. At Seaton Carew lunch was shared with a couple of Mediterranean Gulls who were eager to swoop on the titbits offered and gave excellent views. Luckily, the only shower of the day occurred whilst we were sitting cosily (ha-ha!) in the minibus, though we never saw the sun again after lunch. Whilst walking towards Seal Sands we were lucky enough to see a hunting Barn Owl; Greenshank, Stonechat and Rock Pipit were also “bagged”. The biggest treat was in store when we arrived at the hide, from which Sue spotted the elusive Slavonian Grebe (another “lifer” for me), which was very obliging, demonstrating all its salient features. Later, at North Gare we missed out on the large flock of Snow Buntings, which seemed to have absented themselves from their usual haunts. Pursuing a tip from a local birder that there was a large number of Long-tailed Ducks at Dorman’s (?) Pond, we bypassed Saltholme and went thither, only to find that said L-t D were in fact Pintail – a pretty sight, but not exactly in the same league. By this time Saltholme was closed so we departed for home, very pleased with our final tally of 66 species. Many thanks to our leader, June, for keeping us in order and finding so many interesting birds.
Note: Thanks to Mike Neate who kindly agreed to let us use his photo as an example.
Fourteen of us assembled outside the gates of Ripley Castle and were greeted by the sight of two Nuthatches in a nearby tree. We then entered the castle grounds, where unfortunately a shoot was in progress, so we could not enter the deer park. Nevertheless, the disturbance created by the beaters caused several groups of deer to sweep majestically across the far side of the lake. The birds on the lake seemed unperturbed by gunfire and we counted 4 Goosander, 33 Shelduck., c50 Mallard, c300 Black-headed Gulls, two Herons and four Cormorants. A dozen Curlew were feeding in the deer park. After perambulating the near side of the lake we had an uneventful stroll back through the woods and thence into the walled garden, where it was gratifying to see feeders provided with many small birds in attendance, including another Nuthatch. We were also intrigued to see a Monkey Puzzle Tree in fruit, which is apparently a rare event in this part of the country.
Leaving the castle grounds (many thanks to Sir Thomas for allowing us free admission) we proceeded up Birthwaite Lane, where unfortunately the Bramblings were not present this winter. However, we were rewarded with excellent views of a pair of Bullfinches feeding on nettle seeds. We once again ran into the shoot as we approached Cayton Gill, but they were kind enough to allow us free passage. In the gill itself we enjoyed the spectacle of at least four soaring Buzzards and three Red Kites, one of which was seen to dive bomb another, inoffensively perched in a tree. Having run the gauntlet of two very frisky horses, the walk back through fields on permissive paths (thanks again, Sir T) was uneventful.
A total of 41 species was seen, for which our leader Rob Adams and our telescope bearer Andy Hanby are to be congratulated.
The weather was kind to us and we enjoyed sunshine for most of the day, whilst nearby Hull appeared to have been afflicted by heavy showers.
Disembarking the minibus, we were told in no uncertain terms by June, our leader, to stop talking and start stalking. Obediently scanning the bushes for rarities we turned up a Chiffchaff, which gave good views, a small party of Goldcrests and a nice male Stonechat. A woodcock flew up out of a ditch and disappeared into a stand of trees. Very little else was seen at the landward end, so we took our lunch in the minibus and then headed for the point. There we spent some time observing the Heligoland trap into which a Brambling (a lifer for some of us) was desperately trying to get, for reasons best known to itself.
There were also Redwings in the elder bushes. One of the highlights of the day were the two Black Redstarts which were showing well as we made our way back landward along the road. The main “tick” however was the Yellow-browed Warbler, whose presence was indicated by the gaggle of twitchers gathered at the side of the road. It gave as good views as we could have hoped as it flitted in and out of the bushes, clearly displaying its pale supercilium and double wing bar. As the state of the tide was favourable, the day ended with some wader watching, which turned up Bar-tailed Godwit as well as the more common species.
We also did some sea watching, where a raft of Common Scoters was the main attraction. Unfortunately the wind direction was not tending to bring birds close inshore. A species tally in the region of 70 was cause for great satisfaction and all declared it to have been a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to June.
We drove across the Pennines into Cumbria to the Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve, one of only two English sites of the Scotch Argus butterfly, a species in flight during late July/August. We might also be lucky to see another English butterfly rarity, the Northern Brown Argus. Also, the reserve was home to Red Squirrels, and there were a number of orchid species that should still be in flower. When we arrived the weather was dull and overcast, with a forecast of rain; the books had advised that the Scotch Argus only flew in sunshine, so we were keeping our fingers well crossed.
After an hour and a half, or so, we stopped for lunch in an old quarry. On the way we had noted Common Spotted and Fragrant orchids among the many wild flowers, but had not by then seen a single butterfly. While we were still eating our sandwiches, we met up with another group being led by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust warden for the reserve, who told us that Scotch Argus’ were definitely around, and where we might see them; he confirmed we probably would not see the Northern Brown Argus as it was finished for the year.
During the afternoon, as the weather improved, butterflies could be seen flying over the moorland grasses. It was soon apparent that these included a number of Scotch Argus. We were particularly fortunate that the weather was dry, but still cool and overcast. In these conditions the butterflies preferred to rest in among the grasses to taking flight, which presented us with the great opportunity to take close-up photographs; and to capture specimens to examine in-hand. We were thus able to admire the striking, velvety, dark chocolate-brown, with an orange band, of the upper wing of a newly emergent Scotch Argus. Similarly, we were fortunate to capture and closely examine another of the reserve’s less common species – Dark Green Fritillary.
It was raining steadily by the time we returned to the minibus, but everybody had thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We never saw the red squirrels, but we did see seven species of butterfly: Small Skipper; Common Blue; Dark Green Fritillary; Scotch Argus; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Small Heath.