Wildlife Field Visit group's blog

WFV, Bastow Wood, Grassington, 25th July 2017

The main interests of today's visit were the butterflies and flowers of this open limestone pasture; so not really a wood at all?

The forecast promised a dry day with periods of sunshine and our party of ten were not to be disappointed. After a toilet stop at the National Park Centre we parked on Wood Lane at the bottom of Grass Wood. We then proceeded slowly uphill all the way. Many plants were seen such as Enchanter's Nightshade,which was prolific, Valerian, Herb Bennet, St John's Wort & delightfully a couple of Common Fragrant Orchids. The only butterflies seen inside Grass Wood were Ringlets.

After we had climbed over the impressive stile that leads out of the wood and into Bastow Wood the flora changed instantly. Suddenly we were looking at swathes of Betony, Rockrose, Wood Sage and the occasional Bloody Cranesbill.  Lunch was immediately taken on a nearby hillside carpeted with eyebright, trefoil & Wild Thyme. An Antler Moth was soon spotted and many more Ringlets.  The temperature was now rising as we walked along the main path that eventually leads out of Bastow and meets up with the Dales Way. Many more plants were now being sighted; Milkwort,Common Spotted and Heath Spotted Orchids, Hoary Plantain and Lorna found the only Birds Eye of the day. It was very small and right in the middle of the path, so very lucky to still be intact!

There were numerous grasses and sedges but alas without our botanical specialists we struggled to name many. A few fungi were noticed; Suede Bolete and several Clitocybes, most likely 'gibba' the Common Funnel. Birds were few and far between though every now and then a small flock of finches? would fly from tree to tree. We were undecided if they were Linnets or Redpolls. A solitary Green Woodpecker was seen by Robert and Stuart sighted a distant Redstart.

With the warmth came the butterflies; Meadow Browns, more Ringlets, Small Heaths, Small Skippers, a white, a single Common Blue and best of all several usually fast flying Dark Green Fritillaries. I was fortunate enough to see a freshly emerged one still drying its wings so most of the group were able to view this magnificent insect at very close quarters. Not all the group managed however to get there in time as we had earlier scattered when a herd of brown cows padded along the path in our direction. They soon passed by and vanished from sight however.

It is most pleasing to see that grazing has been re-introduced after a gap of many years. The site had become more and more overgrown with birch scrub so hopefully the decline will now have been arrested and the site can return to its former condition to the benefit of the plants and butterflies. Unfortunately no Scotch Argus were seen, possibly we were to early in the season?  

Grass moths abounded as did Antler Moths which were to be found on almost every Ragwort. I captured and identified a micro moth Eana osseana. On the way back through Grass Woods several Common Hawker Dragonflies were on the wing.

Many thanks to our driver Stuart and to Robert for bringing his 8 year old Grand daughter Eden who was a delight throughout the day and a added a different dimension to our experience.  We departed the wood just before 16:00. A most enjoyable day.

John Gavaghan

WFV, Anglers Country Park, 18th July 2017

Common CentauryCommon Centaury

Today’s trip took us to Anglers Country Park near Wakefield for the first time since we visited for a fungi foray there and in nearby Haw Park Wood in 2011.  The weather forecast was for a fine sunny day - for once the forecast was correct and our small party of eight enjoyed lovely weather throughout the day.

Our blogging leader had planned to walk round the lake and then pay a visit to Haw Park Wood after lunch.  He had forgotten that at Bees pace two miles can take four hours – Haw Park will have to wait for another day!

In the first few minutes we came across one of the highlights of the day – Broad-leaved Helleborine, and Joan continued to record a total of 103 plants in flower or fruit which included Common Centaury, Ploughman’s Spikenard, Bristly Ox-tongue, Water-pepper and Common Water-plantain.

On the wing throughout the day were scores and scores of Damsels – all Azures Common Blues - and four species of Dragonfly – Emperor, Ruddy Darter, Black-tailed Skimmer and Brown Hawker.  We kept on adding new species of butterfly to our list which had an impressive eleven species by the end of our day with Meadow Brown being by far the most prolific.

The time and heat of the day were not the best conditions for bird spotting but we did record a total of 23 including a number of singing Reed Warblers around the edge of the lake and Reed Buntings feeding a nest in the same area. A handsome young Black-headed Gull had us guessing as to its identity for a while and a family of Mute Swans, including four cygnets, sailed gracefully around the lake.

The cafe in the visitors’ centre was a welcome relief from the heat of the day and was patronised by the majority of our members who all agreed that it had been a very worthwhile and enjoyable outing.

Thanks to Robert for driving today.

 

Stuart

WFV, Gisburn Forest and Black House Farm Meadows, 11 July 2017

It was a wet morning when our minibus left Bradford with 14 hardy souls aboard.  Our destination today was the beautiful Forest of Bowland for a much anticipated wildflower bonanza.  The weather was still not on our side as we arrived at the Gisburn Forest Hub but, undeterred, we donned our waterproof gear and headed out through the mixed woodland plantation.  We were not to be disappointed as sneezewort was quickly spotted along with slender marsh bedstraw.  There was much along the pathway to keep our botanists busy with their recording but little birdlife, apart from one chaffinch heard singing as we made our exit from the woodland and entered the churchyard of St James where lunch was taken.

By now the rain had abated and our afternoon was greeted by an ever increasing brightness in the sky and so, suitably replete, we took the path leading us up the hill that afforded excellent views of the extensive Stocks Reservoir.  Bird sightings picked up and included meadow pipit (obviously feeding young), swallow, swift, reed warbler and wildfowl on the reservoir itself - unfortunately too distant to identify without a scope.  Butterfly activity was also noted predominantly ringlets, whilst moths recorded were Silver-ground carpet, Large Yellow Underwing and Latticed Heath moth.

We then walked through the delightful Black House Farm Meadows, a designated SSSI.  This was a truly wonderful site, with an abundance of flowers and grasses,  I think what made it such a delight was the varying heights of the vegetation giving a rippling effect to the whole, rather like waves on the sea.  The burnet and knapweed particularly stood out today and looked simply stunning.  A rather waterlogged route then took us back to the main path where we retraced our steps back to the minibus.  Notable here was Robert's sighting of 4 kestrel over the trees on the hillside.

A total of 111 plants in flower plus 4 ferns were recorded.  Special mention must be made of the wood ragwort and common valerian seen on route.  The grasses were particularly impressive today and samples of a number were taken by Alice for consideration at home!  Thanks must go to Julia for driving so safely and for leading us round this impressive site.

Sally Tetlow

WFV Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit & Rifle Butts Quarry 4th July 2017

Marbled WhiteMarbled White

A bonanza of botany and butterflies with apologies to the birders. Today a party of 12 enjoyed a very successful day's outing visiting Kiplingcotes Chalk Quarry near Market Weighton in the Yorkshire Wolds followed by a visit to Rifle Butts Quarry. Both are YWT reserves and benefit from management. The weather was cloudy all day with one or two spots of rain, nothing significant to distract the happy band. We covered several habitats, the old railway track, the quarry floor, scree slopes and grassland above the quarry. There were an overwhelming number and variety of plants (111 recorded) in this oasis also butterfly species in good numbers.

Todays "specials" included Pyramidal orchid, Basil Thyme, Centaury, Red Hemp Nettle, Carline Thistle and the leaves of Autumn Gentian. In the woodland ride we saw Meadow Cranesbill, Perforate St John's Wort, Eyebright, Elderflower, Crosswort, Comfrey, Wild Strawberry and Toadflax. On the quarry floor were Birds Foot Trefoil, Fairy Flax, Lady's Bedstraw, Pyramidal orchid, Common Spotted orchid, Wild Basil, Yellow wort, Carline Thistle and Twayblade. The scree slopes yielded Teasel, Creeping Cinquefoil, and Red Hemp nettle. In the grassland above the quarry were Greater Knapweed, Field Scabious, Quaking grass, Restharrow, Yellow Rattle, Marjoram, Agrimony, Hop Trefoil and Oxeye Daisy.

The highlight of the day was to view the armada of Marble White butterflies, in flight or feeding with wings spread on their favourite nectar sources Knapweeds and Scabious.The butterflies varied in size depending on whether they were male or female. We were thankful in having Sue with us to capture these memories. Other butterfly species included Ringlet (in good numbers), Red Admiral, Green Veined White, Small Skipper, Common Blue male and female, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown at Kiplingcotes, also Comma at Rifle Butts Quarry. There were a variety of moths of interest including Plume and Burnet, also a Common Hawker dragonfly tantalised the group on leaving the reserve.

Bird sightings were few in comparison and included Yellow Hammer, Gold finch, Buzzard, Red legged Partridge and Pheasant. Bird song was plentiful. 

Our second destination- Rifle Butts Quarry was a surprise! Its interest is in the unconformity in the rock sequence which is exposed and protected by a shelter. However we were greeted by a mass of Giant Bellflower and a patch of magenta coloured Bloody Cranesbill. 

I couldn't finish without a mention of those ants that took a shine to Maddy's bright yellow fleece and hair such that she reverted to wearing her wooley hat as a protection.

 Thanks go to our leaders and driver for a splendid day out. 

See the photos here. 

Margaret

WFV, Sefton Coast, 27 June 2017

Early Marsh Orchid cocciniaEarly Marsh Orchid cocciniaA group of 12 left the Unitarian Church on a very wet morning to make our annual outing to the Sefton Coast.  We had a smooth journey there and on arrival at Formby we were warmly greeted by our hostess for the day, Pat Lockwood.  Lunch was eaten at Pat's and suitably refreshed we set off for Selworthy Road from where we could access the Birkdale sand dunes.  Fortunately by this time the rain had stopped and it was to remain fine for the duration of our visit.

This area is truly blessed with an overwhelming variety of plant life.  Everywhere you turned there was something to catch the eye, so much so that at times it was difficult to take it all in.  Our botanists were in their element and, ably led by Pat, who is also an experienced botanist, we began our recording.  Of particular note amongst many were yellow-eyed grass, bog pimpernel, sea milkwort, orchids (early marsh, pyramidal and southern marsh), rest-harrow, strawberry clover, sea club-rush and brookweed.  Mention must also be made of flat sedge (Blysmus compressus), a rare find.  The umbellifers were out in profusion with fool's watercress, parsley water dropwort, wild celery and hemlock water dropwort being recorded.  Portland and sea spurges were also noted, giving a total for the day of approximately 130 species.

Birds seen totalled 13, the most notable  being the classic display flight given by a tree pipit.  Butterflies seen were small skipper, meadow brown and small heath.  Moths noted by John were silver Y and narrow bordered five-spot burnet.  Anania crocealis was also identified, this being a new one for John.  This moth feeds on common fleabane and ploughman's spikenard and is found on marshy habitat and coastal locations. Drinker moth caterpillar was also seen on the footpath as we returned to the minibus.

As I reflect on the visit, I can see in my mind's eye the colour of the rest-harrow and kidney vetch, the beautiful flowers on the dewberry and the standout display by the everlasting pea.  The colour of the Duke of Argyll's teaplant, which we noted on our arrival at the site, was so striking as well as the profusion of rushes and sedges swaying gently in the breeze.  What I do take away though are the wide open skies and the expanse of beach and seascape in the distance reminding us all of the abiding power of nature.

Our thanks go to Pat for looking after us so well, Joan for organising our visit, Julia for driving and our bakers who provided such an array of treats for us to eat before we left for home.

See more pictures here

Sally Tetlow

WFV, Dealburn Rd, Low Moor and Railway terrace, 20th June 2017

Bee OrchidBee OrchidOur group of ten met up with our leader for the day Martyn Priestley. He led us around this local nature reserve; created from reclaimed industrial land. It is still surrounded by industry such as chemical and engineering works and there is a constant backgound noise.

Although we were in the middle of a heatwave, on this particular day it was overcast throughout with a cooling easterly breeze. The temperature therefore stayed below 18c. Despite this lowish temperature we still managed to spot the following butterflies and moths; Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Small Heath, Large Skipper, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnets, Celypha lacunanas and a wing of a male Ghost Moth. The majority of these were found roosting and numbers of all were low.  Grass moths were however in abundance, all seemed to be Chrysoteuchia culmella.

Joan and Alice recorded 75 plants in flower. The star species were the freshly emerged Bee Orchids, at least 14 separate plants were located. Other plants of note: Melilots, Hairy and Smooth Tare, Common Spotted Orchid.  Bird's foot trefoils and clovers were seen all over this impressive and rather large site.  

Lunch was taken inside Woodlands Cricket Club. This excellent venue had been thoughtfully arranged for us by Stuart who wasn't even with us. The comfortable highbacked chairs looked very like the type of furniture to be found in a Nursing home for the elderly!  After lunch we again met up with Martyn, this time outside Railway Terrace (Raw Nook). This reserve used to be railway sidings so is very flat.  We heard singing Song Thrushes and Blackcaps. Martyn took us to the areas of heather where he explained that without constant upkeep would quickly become crowded out by birch and bramble. A Clouded Border moth was seen and also a solitary Cinnabar on the path(shielded by Alison to ensure it wasn't stood on by the group).

We went to the small pond where we saw Fringed Water Lily but no dragonflies as it was probably too cool for them.

Our 3rd and final destination was Toadholes Beck. We were shown several splendid Southern Marsh Orchids. These were almost the colour of Northern Marsh but the lip shapes were certainly Southern M.

Our driver for the day was Julia. Joan had kindly co-ordinated the arrangements with Martyn. 

John Gavaghan

WFV, Foulshaw Moss and Latterbarrow, 13 June 2017

Drinker Moth CaterpillarDrinker Moth CaterpillarWe returned to Foulshaw Moss a month earlier than our visit last year. 

Last year our timing was for fledged osprey chicks, whilst today it was all about the insects. Although it was a rather overcast day, warming up later in the afternoon, we did see a couple of the specialist butterflies and other insects. Large Heath butterflies were active over the bog where its caterpillar’s foodplant, Hare’s-tail Cottongrass, grows. We spent an excited 10 minutes watching a newly emerged dragonfly perched above it's exuviae, thinking it might be the rare White-faced Darter. However, as it showed itself more clearly, we identified it as a Four Spotted Chaser, and had to accept the White-faced Darter would encourage us to make a visit in another year (also a new section of boardwalk to be explored in the future).

The Azure Damselfly was the only other Odonata seen today, but other insects included an obliging Drinker Moth caterpillar on the boardwalk, an attractive Longhorn Beetle and Gold Swift and Grass Wave moths.

There were several sedges in the bog that we do not come across very often; Bottle Sedge, Hop Sedge and Tussock Sedge. Marsh Cinquefoil was seen in a number of places as we circled the reserve on the boardwalk. The diminutive Cranberry, both with flower and fruit, was creeping through areas that also supported Bog Rosemary. Bog Myrtle, Sundew, lichens, Crossed-leaved Heath and Narrow Buckler Fern added to the floral mix. 88 species were recorded in flower or fruit. 

Through the Cumbria Wildlife Trust telescope, we could see an adult Osprey perched on the nest but no aerial action today. CWT believe chicks have hatched as they think they have seen feeding taking place. We had good views of Redpolls near the raised platform. Other birds seen and heard included Reed Bunting, Blackcap and Tit species.

We then made a short hop across the A590 to Latterbarrow Reserve, a contrasting habitat of limestone grassland. The gentle hillside was covered in flowers, with areas of beautiful rock ‘gardens’ on the outcrops. Numerous examples of Common Spotted Orchid and several slightly aged Greater Butterfly Orchid were seen. Common Rock Rose, Aquilegia, Common Gromwell, Cut-leaved Cranesbill and Lady's Bedstraw were just some of the 80 species in flower. And with flowers come butterflies; Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Northern Brown Argus, Large Skipper and Meadow Brown were on the wing. 

Before our journey home we refreshed ourselves with drinks at the Derby Arms and ice cream from the Witherslack Community Shop.  You can see the photos in the gallery

Julia

 

WFV, Scar Close 6th June 2017 - Cancelled

I am very sorry that we decided to cancel this trip. There were weather warnings for rain and wind in place; not weather that is conducive to exploring limestone pavement. 

An additional problem was the minibus. The windscreen had been smashed so were going to have to use a borrowed minibus and didn't want to risk getting it wet and muddy. 

Although it was the correct decision for the day, we missed a treat and I hope we can go next year instead. 

I took some photos when I recced the site last week, so I have included this here to give you a feel of the place. 

Julia

 

WFV, Ox Close Woods, 30th May 2017

Banded demoiselleBanded demoiselleFourteen members explored Ox Close Woods and most also visited nearby local sites in East Keswick. The few spots of rain were easily ignored. Those travelling by minibus had clear sightings of Red Kites which compensated in part for, or possibly resulted in, the low bird count for the day. Soon after arrival Oyster Catchers were seen mobbing a Red Kite and John spotted a Yellowhammer. Bullfinch,Blackcap and Green Woodpecker were heard but not seen. Did the birds know that without Sue there was little chance of appearing in the gallery?

Botanically it was a different story. In view of the recent heavy rain we avoided the riverbank habitat yet over hundred species were recorded in flower or early stages of fruit formation. The less colourful species ignored by many, although not by Bees of any kind, boosted our list. Ten flowering grasses were seen including Wood Melick and Wood Millet. Wood sedge was abundant accompanied by some Glaucous sedge and both Great and Hairy Wood Rush were found. The seven ferns recorded included the less common Hard Shield Fern and Lady Fern.

An impressive example of regeneration was admired; twelve flourishing oak trees growing upright from a felled trunk.

Colour was provided by amongst others Yellow Pimpernel, Yellow Archangel and a few specimens of Goldilocks Buttercup. White was well represented by five of the Umbelliferae including Sanicle and Rough Chervil and by Ox-eye Daisy in the Reserve meadow. White flowers also predominated in the woodland shrubs with Spindle and Alder Buckthorn being ones we see less often. A patch of Common Spotted Orchid, growing in a prime position for trampling, took top place for pink but was challenged by the Dog Roses. Common Vetch, not as common as its name suggests,flourished in the meadow. The finest discovery was literally the last. Leaving the East Keswick Reserve several yet to open more fully spikes of Thistle Broomrape made the botanists' day.

Fungi sneaked into the exhibits; St. George's mushroom (a bit late for 23rd April) and Glistening Inkcap.

Insect life was represented by Speckled Wood and Large White butterflies and various moths including Green, Common and Silver Ground Carpets, Silver Y, Straw Dot and Nettle Tap. Brighter colour was provided by the brilliant green sheen of the male Banded Demoiselles and a selection of beetles.

Thanks to Lorna and Madeleine for their leadership and spotting prowess, to Margaret for giving some of us lifts to and from the reserve and to Robert for delivering and returning us safely again. A busy day for the plant enthusiasts but we will be ready for the next one!

View the gallery to see more photos

Alice

WFV, Strid Woods, 23 May 2017

NuthatchNuthatchll as a goosander on the far bank of the river.  A peacock butterfly alighted nearby giving Sue an excellent chance to gain her first of many photo opportunities.  Pied wagtail were also seen here as well as a mallard with 3 youngsters. As we progressed along the path green veined white and orange tip butterflies were seen and a cuckoo was also heard calling.  Mandarin ducks were very much in evidence, the male looking resplendent in his breeding plumage.  A carpet moth was spotted by John, flushed by Sue as she went to take a photo of an orange tip.  Stuart also noted herb paris among a patch of dog's mercury.  A little further along, up the hill, a pied flycatcher was seen entering one of the many nesting boxes dotted around the estate.  Grey wagtails were also seen darting about down on the river.

Some of the group made a stop for lunch at the seating area used as a bird feeding station.  There they were joined in their repast by several mandarin ducks, one female watching from a nearby tree.  The rest carried on, meeting up with a fellow birdwatcher, who had spotted a redstart high up in an oak tree.  Not easy to see and even less so to photograph.  Lunch was taken by the remainder of the group immediately on leaving the woods by the riverside.

 Our walk then continued on the far side of the bridge with hopes for sightings of spotted flycatcher and wood warbler.  However, in spite of everyone's best endeavours, none were noted and as we arrived back at the Pavilion some of the group took the opportunity to partake of a little refreshment.  

In total the day produced a tally of 36 birds, 5 butterflies - a small copper, seen by Janet, being a welcome addition to our list.  Unfortunately none of our botanists were able to be with us today so we did the best we could between us all and recorded an impressive (well we thought so!) 46 species in flower and 6 ferns.  Undoubtedly we missed many but our endeavours produced much animated discussion. A big thank you to Stuart for driving, John for leading and to Sue, good luck in your new job and many thanks for all the wonderful photographs you have taken for us over our many visits.  Come back soon, we will all miss you.

See the photos here. 

Sally Tetlow

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