2019 Field Meeting Reports

 

Bellflask Private Reserve 19th August 

Members joined their hosts, Brian and Susan Morland, for their annual visit to the private nature reserve at Bellflask. There is always something new and this year it was a vociferous avocet guarding a clutch of young chicks. In contrast, neither seen nor heard were two pairs of nesting bittern deep in the reed bed. These secret birds were once nearly completely lost in the UK but numbers are gradually increasing and it is heartening to know that Bellflask, with its ample supply of small fish, is supporting two pairs.

Over the still, open, water damselflies and dragonflies darted about, butterflies fluttered above the flower-rich banks and tiny toadlets clambered over the rough ground. Pink centaury dotted the path and swathes of yellow ragwort and blue viper's bugloss attracted a host of invertebrates.

Back at base camp Brian had filled a small aquarium with a collection of aquatic invertebrates. Case cadis larva, snails and a leach smooched about the tank but it was a tiny vertebrate that was the star turn. At just an inch long the immature newts still had their external gills sticking out like large feathery ears.

Hudswell Woods 10th July

Contrary to the forecast nineteen members and guests enjoyed superb weather and guidance from Seb Mankelow, ranger for the National Trust, regarding the management of their part of the Lower Swaledale Woods and Grasslands SSSI.

As we walked we explored vigorously the Trust's evolving policy and targets for them, now better benefiting from winter grazing with Belted Galloway cattle. These crop the rank and tussock-forming grasses and invading suckers from Blackthorn, their heavy hooves cutting holes for sheltered germination.

After reaching better public relations with the many dog-walkers, improvements now allow for many educational visits, from primary school children to Leeds University MSc students, the meanwhile biodiversity increasing.

The semi-natural ancient woodlands contain some of the most northerly Broad-leaved Limes, relics from soon after the end of the last Ice Age.

Marsh Tit called and an old Nettle-retting pond was passed: and certainly there were plentiful nettles. Here we found, for most a first, Birds-nest Orchid, on our way up Round Howe; whilst, overhead Buzzard called.

We had been threatened with 250 Hudswell Steps, but time had simply flown by too fast, and now we had to say goodbye. 

Glebe Field Butterfy Count July 3rd 2019

17 members of the Yordale Natural History Society met in Wensley. In perfect conditions, ie bright sunshine and low wind, we set off to record butterflies in Leyburn Old Glebe Field.

A butterfly count of species and numbers is done every week from 1stApril to the end of September for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation. Using similar counts from throughout, all fed into a National Data Base, UK Butterfly Conservation are able to measure the progress of each species every year.

Walking through the green desert of silage fields little was spotted until we reached the Glebe Field. This was in full summer glory, with Bee Orchid and Twayblade, and hundreds of Spotted Orchids, flowering among the usual meadow flowers.

Our most numerous butterflies were Meadow Brown (40), Ringlet (15),and Common Blue(13). This is a good year for Painted Lady(16), one of our European visitors, some looking very tattered after their long flight. Red Admiral, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Small and Large White, Small Heath and Small Skipper completed our Lepidoptera list.

Add in the odd Banded Agrion Demoiselle, Orange Underwing, and Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnet Moth meant we had a most successful day.

 

Common Blue paired photographed during the count. Copyright Christine Whitehead.

Wildflower Identification in Swaledale June 29th 2019

On a fine Saturday five members led the annual Keld Heritage Centre walk, with a score of visitors.

As usual we started down the lane, now Swale Trail, with a goodly selection of flowers, including showy Melancholy Thistle just in bloom. After descending steeply to cross the Swale we climbed to the top of East Gill Force, where last year we found orchids in the grass by the path: but this year none. Thereafter the dry bank above the path was, as usual, a convenient place to identify inconspicuous miniature beauties such as the lead-tolerant Spring Sandwort. A strong colony of Rock Rose and, later, Yellow Pimpernel was encountered.

After our picnic, with a discussion regarding lead smelting, at the Swinnergill Smelt Hearth, we continued the Trail keeping to the valley floor to Rampsholme Bridge, finding Ragged Robin and Monkey Flower. Then we admired the famous Muker hay meadows, which were as good as ever, with Wood Cranesbill prominent among the many other flowers and grasses.

We also saw birds: Buzzard, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper; and butterflies: Painted Lady and Red Admiral. Though the day was very warm more than half the visitors returned to Keld led by Helen Guy of the Centre.

Arkengarthdale June 12th 2019

On a wet Wednesday a select band of members met near the CB Inn, Arkengarthdale: but the very wet conditions were good for the flowers! On the road verges were many Northern Marsh Orchids and in the ditch delicate Butterwort, in flower.

Alongside the path by the Arkle were more flowers with Ragged Robin, abundant Lousewort and, in a fenced off area, more Orchids including Common Spotted.

Our target was two fields of rough pasture with Globeflowers at their best, swathes of Mountain Pansy, Marsh Valerian, Milkwort in different colours: dark blue, pale blue, and white; and a pair of Grey Partridge with 6 tiny chicks.

To the east of the Arkle we explored fine floral meadows toward Whaw, with Changing Forget-me-not, then downstream, wonderful lichens in the little acid wood, and on the west bank Meadow Saxifrage.

On the right verge of the road back from Eskeleth Bridge were more fine orchids, including clumps of Twayblades. A Song Thrush explored the mining waste, and Redstart was encountered close to the beck.

 

 Twayblade Orchid

 

Swaledale Festival 5th June walk

For our second Swaledale Festival walk we left Richmond Green Bridge in fine weather.

The pastures to the south of the river were in very much better condition than last year, with Meadow Saxifrage, a Common-spotted Orchid, fragrant patches of Sweet Rocket, and new paths that allowed us to see the effect of dense patches of Yellow Rattle.

Below the Station we saw Wood Stitchwort and Three-veined Sandwort before following the old railway track to Easby.

By the church we enjoyed sandwiches while exploring the flora of the old walls.

Sadly the meadow above the Abbey has lost most of its flora (a change of agricultural practice) but the north river bank beyond was fine, with Large-leaved Limes, Mountain Currant and the tufa-forming streams.

Above the Mercury Bridge the amenity value of the bank was admired. Ice creams by the weir restored us for the Georgian Theatre.

Teesdale 3rd June 2019 

It is hard to beat a stroll up the River Tees on a fine, if somewhat blustery day in early June.

Parking at the Bowlees Visitor Centre 16 of us made our way across the Wynch Bridge, completed in 1830, to where Low Force tumbles over the whin sill, passing a large patch of Good King Henry near the Centre.

Members, lead by Ann Luxmore and Caroline Stott, enjoyed finding some lovely flowers, highlights included Alpine Bistort and Mountain Everlasting. Rock Rose were starting and Melancholy Thistle were soon to open. Early Purple, Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids were seen as was Common Twayblade. We also found patches of Sanicle, Birdseye Primrose and Butterwort. The beautiful Globeflower appeared along the river bank throughout.

Finally, as we were nearing High Force, swathes of Mountain and Field Pansies decorated the grassy bank in profusion and in such a variety of colours - absolutely stunning. Green-veined White Butterfly and Cinnabar Moth were seen as were Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Mallard plus ducklings. Some very young Lapwing added to our enjoyment as did the sound of a Cuckoo.  

Teesdale flower list

Water Avens, Wood Avens (Herb Bennet), Alpine Bistort, Bistort, Bluebell, Bugle, Meadow Buttercup, Butterwort, Red Campion, Catsear, Red and White Clover, Cow Parsley, Cowslip, Crosswort, Daisy, Wild Garlic, Wood Geranium, Globeflower, Good King Henry, Ground Elder, Mountain Everlasting, Foxglove, Herb Robert, Wood Horsetail, Lady's Mantle, Lousewort, Marsh Marigold, Milkmaid, Milkwort, Common Mouse-ear, Common Spotted, Early Purple and Heath Spotted Orchid, Mountain and Field Pansy, Pignut, Yellow Pimpernel, Sea Plantain, Primrose, Birdseye Primrose, Golden Rod,) Rock Rose, Sanicle, Silverweed, Common Sorrel, Germander and Thyme-Leaved Speedwell, Greater Stitchwort, Melancholy Thistle, Creeping Thyme, Tormentil, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Twayblade, Marsh Valerian, Bush Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Violet, Willowherb. 

 

 Mountain Pansy

by Leonard Shepherd 

Swaledale Festival June 2nd 2019

Each year the Yoredale Natural History Society offers two nature walks to the Swaledale Festival: our first started from Langthwaite car park in Arkengarthdale.

Some half-dozen members mingle with the punters so providing opportunities to discuss what we see. Heavily grazed enriched sheep pastures without flowers contrasted sharply with floral hay meadows where the sheep were excluded a month or more earlier, so we could guess the order when sheep were removed.

The influence of terrain was clear: with an acid sandstone and shale based wood with Bilberry and Wood-rush contrasting limestone base Ash copses, and again so different the lead-tolerating flora around the CB smelting hearth. Cuckoo was heard. Drifts of Mountain Pansy of all colour combinations adorned the grass near Scarr House, arranged almost as if on an allotment. On the whole the weather was kind.

Our destination, not just for picnic, was a few pastures at our highest point on the Arkle's west bank. Here was a floral feast: Globe Flower, Early Purple and Northern Marsh Orchids, more Mountain Pansy, differently coloured Milkworts, and abundant Lousewort, to mention a few.

All these stimulated more questions than answers, so both guides and the guided left stimulated and pleased.


Burton Leonard Lime Quarry - 18th May 2019 

On  Saturday 18thMay Yoredale Natural History Society with visitors from as far away as Doncaster and our Chair's daughter Rebecca visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at the former magnesium limestone quarry near Burton Leonard. 

The afternoon was warm, the air was still , there was a cacophony of bird song including skylarks high in the sky and in shaded places the pungent smell of wild garlic.

Closer to the ground 47 flowers, 7 grasses, 2 trees and 1 sedge plants were identified in flower, including hawthorn in a riot of blossom and an old elm that had somehow avoided the ravages of Dutch Elm Disease.

Rarities included Sanicle, a small white though tall flower and the first Twayblade orchid, that can grow two feet tall on this site, were just coming into flower. The most common flower was crosswort, in thousands throughout most of the reserve. This was despite the site being dry following recent lack of rainfall

Chris Meeks, following her recent specialist course, was able to identify several red campion had large black centres caused by fungi and we found a nettle that had a huge bulbous orange base from an attack of nettle rust.

Butterfly on the wing included a single Brimstone, Green-veined white paired, Speckled Wood and Tortoishell.

King Alfred's Cake and Turkey Tail fungus were recorded.
Members left happy, jackets off in the warm weather, with thanks to leader Leonard Shepherd.

  

A Wet afternoon - 25th April 2019

Members of the Yoredale Natural History Society met Di Bell at Lord's Bridge on 25th April for a circular walk via Wensley Bridge.

The trees coming into leaf looked very pretty with their different shades. Almost every common kind of spring flower was seen: ground ivy, greater and wood stitchworts, marsh marigold, primrose, cowslip, false oxlip, butterbur - to name just a few.

Bluebell fragrance filled the air. Parts of this path are very wide just like a motorway, but others treacherous with gnarled roots: but it is rightly a very popular walk.

A few fish rippled the river's surface. Orange-tip butterflies were abundant. During the recent floods many tree roots had been washed clean out, making delicate shapes like coral as would be found on sea reefs.

Birds included goosander, common sandpiper, sand martin and many calling warblers. Perhaps the highlight was a couple of healthy morels for Di and Lenny's tea!


Harmby to Spennithorne 16th April 2019

Eleven members of the YNHS set off from Harmby Village Hall down Middleham Lane, which is surprisingly dry these days.

We spied the recently rescued slurry tanker, which had been swept from above Middleham Bridge to dock on a sandbank 1/2 mile lower down the river.

Due to the recent cold snap of weather plant life had been on hold for a couple of weeks, however the eagle eyed soon were spotting the usual early spring and some mixed flowers ie Greater Willowherb, Creeping Buttercup, Lesser Burdock, Red Campion, Wild Arum, Fools Water-cress and the aptly named Townhall Clock (Muscatel) - which has faces on all four sides.

Bird life was sparse but the Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls and Rooks were busy.

A Peacock Butterfly and Red-tailed Bumble-bee were seen enjoying the sun.

As we walked past the ford and up Harmby Beck Wood members spotted Wild Garlic, Peppermint, Cow Parsley, Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Butterbur, Creeping Jenny, Butcher's Broom, Sweet Violet, Angelica, and other woodland species.

The walk concluded by walking back from Spennithorne to Harmby admiring the gardens, which had some magnificent Aubrieta displays. 

Autumn Colour walk, October 2018

On Saturday October 27th., the last day of British Summer Time, members gathered on the village green in West Burton for our traditional "Autumn Colours" walk.

After walking in Walden as far as Cote Bridge, the party returned to the edge of the village and followed field paths, with fine views across to Castle Bolton, skirting Newbiggin to the main Bishopdale road. The route continued on quiet lanes and paths around Thoralby and along Eastfield Lane to Eshington Bridge.

We returned across the fields to West Burton and ended the walk with a visit to the falls. They were spectacular with the autumn colours. Birds seen included French partridge, a kestrel and a wren. Fungi noted were shaggy parasol, snowy and field waxcaps. Some late flowers were seen including yarrow, white dead nettle, herb robert, red campion and meadowsweet.

Finally, on the wall at the entrance to the falls, a few very late fairy foxgloves were admired. Here too Deborah pointed out the very rare Leers' Many-leaved Sedge, often referred to simply as either Leers' Sedge or Many-leaved Sedge: Carex divulsa var leesii.

It was a very enjoyable walk to end our 2018 program of field meetings.