Wildlife Field Visit group's blog

WFV, Foxglove Covert, Catterick Garrison, 17th July 2018

BetonyBetonyWe were so impressed with this reserve last time we visited that we ‘vowed to return next year’ according to the blog of the day.  Well, eight years later we did return and were equally impressed!

The fine warm weather of recent weeks continued as we left Bradford with a full minibus but increasingly it clouded over as we journeyed North up the A1 to Catterick Garrison so that when we arrived there was a much fresher feel to the weather which was fine for humans but not so attractive to the smaller flying beings.

Having surrendered a driving licence for a pass at the guardhouse we were allowed into the reserve to be welcomed by head warden, Steve, who gave us a very interesting introductory talk and an even more interesting guide to the ringing centre which is one of the foremost in the country.  This, together with the extensive visitor centre, is built to very high standards and both are most impressive.  Part of the criteria for funding for the reserve (they have two permanent staff and many volunteers) is that they should provide education facilities and they welcome over 100 schools each year.

Steve then walked us round part of the reserve before leaving us to pursue our own activities after lunch.  Many of our members availed themselves of the tea/coffee making facilities on site and marvelled at the quality of the toilets.

We then split up into different groups to explore the 100 acres or so of the reserve which comprises grassland, wetland, scrub and heath and therefore a rich diversity of species. Alice recorded 135 species of plant, 130 of which were in flower of fruit, and 5 ferns.  The highlights were: betony (in profusion in places), opening common fleabane, water plantain and both greater and lesser spearwort.  Top of the rarity list of ferns was the uncommon pillwort which failed to excite all but the most dedicated of botanists due to it’s looking just like lawn grass!

The coolish weather kept the numbers of butterflies down – we recorded seven species and there were not too many birds about either although the coming and going of the Army’s Chinook helicopters did put up a snipe at one point and this, together with siskin provided the ornithological highlights.  Sue’s intuitive lens located both emerald and azure dragonflies, unseen by most of the group and we also logged five day-flying moths together with lots of grass moths.  Purchases were made from the well-stocked shop including honey from bees whose active hive could be viewed from the centre.

An uneventful trip back to Bradford completed another very interesting outing.  Thanks to Alice for organising the day most successfully. See the photos here.

Stuart

WFV, Sefton Coast, 10th July 2018.

Crosby BeachCrosby BeachOn arrival in Formby eleven members were warmly welcomed by Patricia Lockwood who again put her house at our disposal. Lunch in the garden soon followed. After Philip Smith's arrival we travelled to Crosby Coastal Park.This site occupies the southernmost area of the Sefton Coast. Philip and Patricia led us through the calcareous sand dunes their knowledge shortening the distance from one plant of interest to the next.

Due to the drought plant identification sometimes was a case of not, "What is it?" rather "What was it?". However, with our experts to help, we recorded a hundred species but with fewer in flower and more in the fruiting stage than would normally be expected at this time of year.

Crosby Coastal Park is renowned for its population of Evening Primrose. We concentrated hard as Philip showed us the diagnostic features of six types. Three were hybrids including the Triple Hybrid Evening Primrose, a rarity identified only as recently as 2016.  (For anyone wanting details of the hybrid crosses a sheet is available.)Sea Holly was prolific on the dunes not only producing a spectacular display but also supporting a huge colony of Common Broomrape. Patricia had counted over a thousand spikes of the parasite this year. Although its flowers had been a casualty of the heatwave, a few remaining florets showed the structure well. Another early dune coloniser, Sea Spurge, was plentiful. We were fortunate to see excellent specimens of the national, (and international), highlight - the Isle of Man Cabbage.  My 'Star of the day', a less colourful but equally splendid plant, was the Dune Wormwood. Discovered here in 2004, it is nationally rare and rare too in our identification books!

Other plants of interest were a deep purple Lucerne, White Melilot, Sea Radish and Hoary Mustard. The dried panicles of Sand and Sea Couch Grass were examined as was the even drier Rush Leaved Fescue. Finally the diminutive Sea Sandwort looking as fresh as ever with shiny green leaves in this hostile environment surely deserves a mention. Non-native species some most probably originating from local gardens added to the list.

We were so privileged to have Philip as our guide.

There was other wildlife present!  Seven butterfly species were seen: Common Blue, Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Painted Lady.  Moths were represented by Silver Y and a large number of Six Spot Burnets flying, mating and in pupal form.  Beetles and Grasshoppers put in an appearance.

Not surprisingly few birds were on the wing. Among the seven species mentioned were Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Reed Bunting.

To end the record, mention must be made of the Smut around today. Did you see it on the dune grasses?

This was our hottest and driest visit yet to the Formby Coast.  On return to Patricia's house the tea refreshed us and the cakes sustained us for the journey home. We arrived in Bradford shortly before 8pm.

Thanks to Joan for organising the day, to Sue and Julia for coping admirably with the busy motorway traffic and to the cake makers for their tasty offerings. Again we are indebted to Philip and Patricia for all their input into a wonderful day. See the photos here

Alice

 

 

 

 

Wildlife Field Visit, Barlow Common, Selby, 3rd July 2018

Mullein Moth CaterpillarMullein Moth CaterpillarThe June heatwave is still with us. Although the day began cooler than recently it soon warmed up but with a gentle breeze. However, as the day progressed the temperature rose to the mid-twenties. Luckily there was enough tree cover along sections of the site to provide our group of nine with much needed shelter.

The site has a toilet block. We ate lunch at the nearby tables.

This is the first time we have visited this YWT reserve, though I do remember coming here in the early 1990's with Butterfly Conservation. It is much changed since then as I don't remember any of these facilities.  There is a wonderful array of heathland plants due to the site once being used as a rubble dump from bomb damaged Hull. Plants just love this type of environment!

Over 100 plants plus 3 ferns were recorded, the highlights being: Viper's Bugloss, Dark Mullein, Yellow-wort, Agrimony, Evening Primrose, St John's Wort & Common Centaury. Some of these plants were seen in great numbers as were Teasels, Brambles and Nettles. Four species of thistle (Creeping, Spear, Welted and Marsh) also seen.

Butterflies were plentiful; Large,Small and Green-veined Whites, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeepers, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. Moths = Silver Y and Mint Moths (Pyrausta purpuralis). A lovely caterpillar feeding on Dark Mullein was instantly ID'd as that of the Mullein Moth. Not one I have come across before.

Dragonflies seen were Common Hawkers, Blue-tailed and Common Blue damselflies.

We left the site just before 15:00 which fortunately gave us enough time to make it home, via the awful traffic on the M62, in time to watch England's World Cup match. If we had left it till after 16:00 would we have still made it? 

Many thanks to Julia who did the driving; not easy when motorways are involved.

John Gavaghan

WFV Bingley South Bog 26 June 2018

Common Spotted OrchidCommon Spotted OrchidSUPER HOT just two words to describe the conditions for Bees first visit to Bingley South Bog. The temperature was 24 C with no wind, sunny and little shade. 12 people arrived by car/train/bus at our meeting point on John Escrick road. We were joined by Val Shepherd. Val and Susan Stead of BUWG have taken a keen interest in this site together with Les Barnett over many years. Joan gave us an introduction to this site which is a SSI and an area of fen to neutral grassland which developed behind a lateral moraine deposited by the glacier coming down the Aire Valley. The alkaline, alluvial soils here are extemely deep. The Bog supports a wide range of plants including sedges and grasses also the comparitively rare (for Yorkshire) Marsh cinquefoil and Marestail. Little management has been done of late. The tenant farmer brings his cattle to graze on the field from time to time. The Bog is fed by underground water from the River Aire and becomes  increasingly wet as the viaduct carrying the A650 Bingley relief road is approached. A pool of stagnant water was observed beneath the viaduct.

We descended into the Bog from the gate fighting our way through the dense vegetation of grasses and Meadow sweet. Insect life was very much in evidence with Chimney sweeper moths dancing over grasses. Large Skipper butterflies and Narrow bordered five spot Burnet moths were seen in good numbers. The flora was a mix of grassland plants and those which enjoyed a wet habitat. We recorded Marsh woundwort, Marsh bedstraw, Common spotted and Southern marsh orchids and hybrids, Square stemmed St John's wort, Ragged robin (one in a white form), Greater Birdsfoot trefoil, Floating sweet grass and Marsh cinquefoil (in a diminutive form). Honeysuckle was observed climbing the branches of a nearby tree.

Unfortunately while returning to the gate I was overcome by heat and needed to rest and seek a shady spot to recover. The others in the group proceeded to the pond where Alice and Joan recorded Broadleaved pond weed, Celery leaved buttercup, Lesser Spearwort (again in a diminutive form) Greater Bulrush, Field, Water, and Marsh Horsetail also Marestail.  70 plants were recorded in flower.

Following some discussion it was decided not to proceed to Bingley North Bog in view of the heat. We variously made our way home or proceeded to the shade of Bingley park to enjoy our packed lunches. It was suggested that a visit to Bingley North Bog combined with a canal walk could be arranged for a future date. Very many thanks to Sally for her supervision and support to myself. Apologies for the brevity of this account also the limited pictures in the Gallery due to unfortunate circumstances.

Margaret

 

 

 

WFV, Waitby Greenriggs and Little Asby Outrakes, 19 June, 2018

Lesser Butterfly OrchidLesser Butterfly OrchidOn a fine, albeit dull day, 13 of us left Bradford for our extended day out to Cumbria. Our first port of call was Little Asby where the search was on for the Small White Orchid and after a hasty lunch our quest began in earnest. The area in which this orchid grows was carefully walked by our team of eagle-eyed spotters but alas to no avail. In evidence however were fine examples of northern marsh, heath fragrant and heath spotted orchids with common blue butterfly being seen on the wing.

Waitby Greenriggs Nature Reserve was our next destination. This reserve was carved from the underlying carboniferous limestone during the construction of two railway lines between 1856 and 1861. One line was built to carry coke from the Durham coalfields to iron furnaces at Barrow. Both lines ceased operation in the early 1960's and the reserve now has a wealth of species-rich grassland habitat. On the lower branch line, conditions are wetter and hence increase the range of species the site supports.

As expected the site afforded an orchid bonanza: heath spotted, fly, lesser butterfly, northern marsh, common spotted, heath fragrant, marsh fragrant, common or chalk fragrant, common spotted and hybrids of northern marsh and common spotted orchids were seen in addition to marsh helleborine and common twayblade. The range was truly breathtaking and it was such a privilege to see the fly orchid at close quarters. From a personal perspective, the most impressive sight was of the marsh helleborines, not quite yet at their peak but nonetheless it was possible to appreciate the potential magnificence of their display in a few weeks' time. Truly wonderful.

Alice recorded 122 species in flower. Saw-wort was noted coming into flower, along with sundew buds opening in the wetter areas. Adderstongue fern was also seen. A ringlet butterfly was seen by Julia and there were plenty of chimney sweeper and Yellow Shell moths on the wing as well as an azure damselfly.

Our day finished in Settle where the majority of us enjoyed an excellent plate of fish and chips. Many thanks must go to Julia and John for their successful leadership and to Kevin, and Julia once again, for driving us so carefully to our respective destinations. See the photos here.

Sally Tetlow

WFV, Troller's Ghyll and Tibet Wood, 12th June 2018

The Way to The GhyllThe Way to The GhyllOur forecast for the day was dry and sunny and we were not to be disappointed. The full bus went via the B6265 and this allowed a toilet stop at Grassington NPC and an easier route towards Parcevall Hall. We were also kindly allowed to use the car park inside the gardens so avoided having to park on the rather narrow roadside.

Our first and main destination was Tibet Woods which was a very short stroll back up the hill. This is a conifer plantation which is part of the PH estate and is said to contain a rare plant 'Chickweed Wintergreen' (neither a chickweed nor a wintergreen!). We had hoped to be met by the Head Gardener Phil Nelson, who had given us the permission to visit the site, but we did arrive later than planned so missed seeing him.

The only entrance is over a stone stile but all the group successfully overcame this first obstacle. We then headed upwards and went up and up and up; so much so that several members felt unable to carry on and retreated back down again. They had also been plagued by midges which didn't help. There were two zig zag paths to the top (where the plant was said to be located) and our group initially split into those going up the left hand route and those including myself who took the right hand path. Apart from the pine trees and splendid pink and yellow Rhododendrons there was little in the way of plantlife to be seen. However as we got higher the wood opened out and we then had great views of the surrounding area. I began to understand why it was called Tibet Wood!

It was Kevin, our new driver, who found what we were looking for. I had sent him out scouting with the single instruction to shout if he found any white flower! Well done to Kevin. We were soon joined by most of the others, some of who we only met as we were heading back down. All who reached the top did however get to see the rarity. The plant formed an extensive patch on the needle litter but only a handfull were in flower and looked rather small. I later learned that this patch is double what it was 2 years ago but this years flowering is poor, probably due to the dry conditions in May and June.

Our next destination was Troller's Ghyll, a site we have visited before and this is where we all ate lunch, albeit in four separate locations. This is a marvellous limestone valley full of interesting wildflowers such as Rockrose, Thyme, Common Spotted Orchids, Biting Stonecrop and Watercress. A total of 84 plants in flower were recorded by Alice plus 10 ferns in contrast to only 11 in flower at the previous location.

Lepidoptera seen = Chimney Sweeper Moths, Small Heaths, Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Copper and Green-veined White. Birdlife highlights were Redstart and Curlew.

We rounded off a lovely day (the sun was still shining) in the cafe gardens where most of us partook of beverages and the excellent cakes. Our return route by way of a change was via Barden Bridge and Addingham. This route is definitely busier and therefore a trickier drive than our way there.

Many thanks to Kevin for driving.

See photos here.

John Gavaghan

WFV, Scar Close and Ashes Pasture, 5th June 2018

Heath Spotted Orchid var.leucanthaHeath Spotted Orchid var.leucanthaWell, what a treat. And what a perfect weather day, especially with the memory of having had to cancel last year due to wind and rain. 

Scar Close is an enclosed area of limestone pavement on the lower slopes of Ingleborough, and we are grateful to Natural England for giving us a permit to visit. Keeping the sheep out enables a wealth of flowers, sedges, rushes, ferns and trees to grow in the grikes. These are the deep fissures between the clints, the pavement blocks. Some of the grikes were very deep, but we all trod carefully, and safely, on this challenging terrain. 

We had lunch a few metres from the entrance, though these few metres were full of interest and took a while to traverse. Butterwort, Bird’s-eye Primrose, the leaves of Bog Asphodel, rushes and sedges. After food, we slowly explored the grikes around the area, we didn’t have to walk far to see a whole range of plant species. Bloody Cranesbill, Lily of the Valley, Baneberry, Common Rockrose, Green Spleenwort, Limestone Fern, Carnation Sedge…the list goes on. There were several species about to come into flower including lesser meadow rue and saw-wort.

As well of a number of Small Heath butterflies, we were excited to see quite a few Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. They really are quite small - if you look at the pictures in the gallery you can judge their size against the wild thyme they are sitting on. 

I led a few people on a fruitless search for some Moonwort (yes, did I really think I could re-find this tiny fern just because I had seen it a year ago!), but it gave us the chance to have a wander and see that the whole site is covered by a great diversity of plants. It feels like a very special place. 

This was undoubtedly a day for the flowers, but there were birds about; willow warblers, maybe a sedge warbler, kestrels, meadow pipits and a cuckoo was heard. 

We descended the hill back to the minibus and made the short transfer to Ashes Pasture near Ribblehead. Lack of time and energy meant we could really only have a glance at this site, but we now know what it is like and can plan a return visit to pay it the attention it deserves. There were hundreds of Heath Spotted Orchids including the pure white variation 'leucantha', Northern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchid. There were swathes of Bugle amongst the rushes as well as Marsh Ragwort and Ragged Robin. I think it would be good to go back next year so we can explore the original reserve and the adjacent land which Yorkshire Wildlife Trust managed to buy after a big appeal last year. 

Thanks to Stuart for driving. 

Julia 

 

WFV, Cross Hill and Salthill Quarries, Clitheroe, 29th May 2018

Ox Eye DaisyOx Eye DaisyBoth sites visited today are owned by Ribble Valley Borough Council and were leased to the  Lancashire Wildlife Trust in 1989.  Each site is a former limestone quarry and covers twenty acres.

Salthill Quarry has SSSI status for its geology. Vast numbers of crinoid fossils are embedded in large boulders and fragments are to be found in the loose soil of the meadow floor. 180 plants, including mosses and liverworts, are listed for the site. Today, Joan and I recorded 104 in flower and 4 ferns. Bird'sfoot trefoil and Wild Strawberry were in profusion in the meadow area, Lady's Bedstraw was just opening and Common Milkwort and Thyme added variety in colour.  The woodland had white blossom of Hawthorn, Guelder Rose, Dogwood and Rowan. On the path side the one orchid we found remains unnamed; we missed John.

We walked along a very short stretch of the Ribble Way as it passed through the nearby Cross Hill Quarry.   Tiredness was setting in and a change of plan to reduce the distance we recced meant that we did justice to neither the plants there nor to the exhibits along the Bungerly Park Sculpture Trail. Some plants different from those at Salthill were noted: Black Bryony, Ground Elder in profusion, Red Campion and patches of Wood Speedwell. The two orchids we saw were most likely hybrids between Northern Marsh and Common Spotted. (Information from a Reserve employee) Once again, books were needed to check it was Buckthorn, and not Alder Buckthorn, we found in fruit.

Eighteen birds put in an appearance during the day. The most noteworthy were Swifts and Warblers.

In view of the flower bonanza perhaps it was the lack of sunshine that resulted in a disappointingly low butterfly count. Common Blue, Small Heath and both Small and Green Veined White did flutter past; one each of the first two and hardly more of the Whites.

As one of these reserves flanks an industrial site and the second is near a cement works, the variety of wildlife and the beauty within them is remarkable. I can only think that the 13 year delay in BEES returning to these sites is due to county rivalry!

Twelve members had a most enjoyable day, albeit over the border. Thanks to Sally for her efficient leadership and to Stuart and Sue for safe journeys there and back. See the photos here. 

Alice

 

Wildlife Field Visit, Malham Tarn Boardwalk, 22nd May 2018

BogbeanBogbeanOur three previous visits to this site, all in the month of August, were all abandoned before we ever got near to the boardwalk area! The plan this time was (A) go at at different time of year & (B) start at the boardwalk, rather than the mire at the southern end of the tarn. The plan worked perfectly as we had a dry day with warm sunshine throughout. There was however a keen north-easterly breeze which always kept the temperature below 20C.

The temperature was high enough however to tempt out lots of Orange Tip & Green-veined White butterflies. We also saw several Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies and Large Red Damselflies. Luckily we also managed good views of a solitary Green Hairstreak. The site doesn't hold much of its bilberry foodplant so only supports a small colony.

We heard lots of birdsong but they stayed mostly hidden from view. We did though manage to see a Sedge Warbler and a Tree Pipit. A few of us were very lucky to see a Short-eared Owl burst out of the undergrowth and just as quickly vanish out of sight. We didn't know what the large raptor was until we were told a few minutes later by two birders that they had just seen a shortie!

Whilst we were sat on the boardwalk having our lunches we were passed by a very large and well marshalled group led by two folk we know very well; Hugh and Lisa Firman. The group were all staying at Scargill House, a religious retreat near Kettlewell which our group has visited several times.

The boardwalk goes over Tarn Moss and Tarn Fen. Although set in a limestone area, a raised bog with an acid-loving flora has developed, so the site is botanically exceptional. Alice and Joan recorded 60 plants in flower plus 6 ferns and emerging Water Horsetail. These included Early Purple Orchids,Globe Flower, Bogbean, Cranberry, Sundew, Marsh Marigolds, Marsh Valerian and Lousewort plus English Scurvy Grass and Dioecious Sedge (both newplants for our two botanists). Additionally they also encountered an odd form of Water Avens just as they had done a week earlier at Threshfield Quarries.

We left the site at 14:30 and headed a short distance to the sink hole area near the large car park, hoping to see the Yellow Wagtails which nest there every year. Alas, no luck on that front! but we did get to see Mountain Pansies, Birdseye Primrose and Meadow Pipits. We left for home at 14:50.

Many thanks go to our joint drivers, Stuart and Sue. We also welcomed two newcomers, Sue and Jean who we first met when we visited Denso Marstons in April. Hopefully, if they enjoyed their day out, they will join us again. See the photos here. 

John Gavaghan

 

Comment.  The peculiar Water Avens flowers we have seen on our last two visits are not hybrids. They are caused by naturally occuring mutations. It seems that there are many more of them this year than is normal. Alice.

WFV Threshfield Quarry 15 May 2018

Dryad's SaddleDryad's SaddleBeautiful weather - warm and sunny, splendid trees in full flower, a lovely display of colourful flowers, these were the ingredients of todays walk. Our walk was in the environs of Threshfield near Grassington and involved walking down country lanes, up a grassy flower strewn hillside, through a disused limestone quarry and a visit to historical lime kilns. The group of 12 divided into a party of two, myself and Maddy being the appointed leaders. Unfortunately we were not able to come together to enjoy lunch overlooking a superb rock garden behind Long Ashes caravan park as planned and remained out of touch (other than by mobile phone) for most of the day but thankfully not lost!

My party was able to enjoy the spring flowers that surrounded us. We saw Goldilocks buttercup, Ramsons, Bluebells, Bird Cherry, Primrose, Cowslip, Bugle, Field Mouseear, Dog violets, Early Purple orchids (in good numbers and at their best), Water avens and hybrids, Salad Burnet, Wild and Barren Strawberry, Hairy Rockcress, the leaves of St John's Wort also Common and Green Figwort. The ferns present included Brittle Bladder and Harts Tongue fern. Alice recorded 76 flowers for her group.

  Butterflies were on the wing in good numbers specifically Orange tip, Green veined white and Speckled wood. 

The bird count was 19. Birds were heard rather than seen although a Curlew was spotted by Donald flying overhead, nesting Jackdaws were seen patrolling the quarry and a female Pheasant was seen with chicks. Lapwing and Oystercatcher were seen on the journey home. 

The industrial archaeology of the abandoned quarry including the trucks used for transporting limestone ballast and lime kilns was of considerable interest in particular to Jane whose husband is an enthusiast.

 The countryside was in pristine condition and we were afforded with some lovely views of Lower Wharfedale. If the weather remains the same as today for the rest of the summer we will be truly blessed. 

Thanks go to Stuart for driving and to Maddy for her support. 

See photos here. 

Margaret

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