As daughter Laura returned from holiday on the 1st July, we were preparing for our own holiday in Yorkshire, so we had a drive over to see her and Douglas and to return the cat from its own ‘summer holiday’. It was nice to record a 10-spot ladybird in their garden and to catch up with good numbers
of tree sparrows that breed and feed around their garden. I had been having problems with my wee Lumix TZ60 camera, a faithful companion over many years, but, with various electrical faults developing it was time for a new one. The first replacement came via Amazon (John Lewis ordering procedure too confusing) and, after a few days of use I realised that the function that allowed the camera to switch from image on screen to built-in viewfinder was causing the camera to not provide an image on either, so it was returned. The arrival packaging also left something to be desired with the camera, in its box, sliding around inside. However, arriving just 3 days before the holiday there wasn’t time to send back so I just had to put up with the fault. When working the camera was just as good as the earlier model though one of the iA options had changed to something much poorer when adjusting to allow for colour enhancement. The camera went straight into use and on the evening
|Lesser butterfly orchid and large emerald moth|
when it arrived accompanied me to an orchid count on the local golf course with half a dozen BSBI members. Lesser butterfly orchids appear in small numbers each year in the areas of un-cut rough between some of the holes, and places where the course was extended many years ago into an area where the orchid was known to be present. The green-keepers are aware of the orchids presence and manage the sites sensitively. In this dry summer a couple of dozen flowering spikes were found along with a few greater butterfly and fragrant orchids. Bonuses were a new location for the six-spot burnet moth and a nicely resting large emerald moth (Geometra papilionaria).
The following evening saw me carrying out my last count of one of our local lochs, a great evening just sitting, watching and recording. Nothing too unusual but another useful bit of information to add to the BTO database from a slightly remote loch. On the way quite a few heather beetles were seen (Lochmaea suturalis) along with a wee moth I hadn’t seen for a number of years: the Rannoch looper (Macaria brunneata). A white ‘spot’ on the side of a plant when checked turned out to be a crab
|Rannoch looper moth|
|Crab spider with chimney sweeper moth evening meal|
spider (possibly Xysticus cristatus) holding its evening meal, a chimney sweeper moth (Odezia atrata). These spiders are often seen on the tops of flower-heads with legs outstretched, waiting for unsuspecting prey items to land. This spider was to make another catch in August which turned out to be very special! At the loch mallard and teal were feeding and agitated calling close by suggested there was a water rail with young. A little grebe also was seen with a youngster demanding food and, without seeing or scenting me, a roe buck wandered out to the edge of the loch to feed. All told, 13
bird species were recorded and, once again, I was treated to a brilliant sunset as I was making my way home. As mentioned last month, permission had been given for me to protect the stumps of hazel trees which had suffered quite a heavy bit of felling. Some trees were left as just stumps whilst others had a single stem and all were trying to regrow but were suffering from heavy grazing by roe deer. Sheep were excluded from this important aspen/hazel wood over a decade ago so installing a rylock fence circle round the hazels could give them a chance to re-grow. Unlike hazels in the south of England, coppicing wasn’t a practice carried out very often in the Highlands and the north and west of Scotland and the mature trees in some areas are home to common and rare lichens. Davie, a local fencing contractor, had given me several end of rolls of rylock, but several whole rolls would also be needed to protect most of the hazel stumps, along with suitable wooden stakes to hold the ‘rings’ in place. David Mills at the local BSW sawmill in Boat of Garten was also very helpful and provided the last 30 stakes I needed to complete the job. In the few days available before heading south, there was just time to add additional stakes to the trial ‘circle’ and to order the wire and stakes with most of the installation work taking place next month. The visit to add the extra stakes was
|Twayblade top and wild basil|
beneficial in another way allowing me a chance to check on the population of twayblades growing, but hidden away, in the deep bracken and grasses next to the River Spey. After a bit of searching 22 flowering spikes were found and, on the way back to the car I popped over the roadside barriers to find that a population of wild basil was still present and flowering really well, along with a tiny population of small nettle (Urtica urens). With the sun shining the next day there was just time to walk the monthly butterfly transect near Grantown on Spey (same route as the breeding bird survey) before finally packing up for our holiday. Four species were seen, green-veined white (5), small tortoiseshell (1), small heath (1) and ringlet (30) with the temperature averaging 220C.
Our recent trips south have benefitted from having an early start to make reasonable progress down the A9 whilst keeping a careful eye on the first 100 miles being watched over by ‘big-brother’ average speed cameras. Good progress was made until we turned onto the dreaded A66 from the M6 at Penrith where, in front of us, we could see the traffic starting to queue. After sitting in the queue for over 20 minutes Janet got out the map and suggested we turn around, head just a few miles back along the A66 before turning off towards Appleby, stopping for our lunch in Colby, just on the edge of Appleby. Brilliant. A quiet road (though quite a few folk were using it to avoid the problem on the A66) and a first chance to record a few flowers whilst sitting on the village green enjoying our
|Lunchtime knapweed (Centaurea nigra var radiata)|
butties. We spent about an hour in Appleby to stretch our legs and, with map on my navigator’s lap, we enjoyed a leisurely drive along country lanes via Kirby Stephen, over the tops of Birkdale Common where we stopped to admire the views and find round-leaved crowfoot (Ranunclulus omiophyllus) in a pool next to the road. Keld, Gunnerside and on into Reeth where we were to spend the next couple of weeks. The
rented house where we were staying was up a wee ginnel running between two pubs, and, having managed to get the car close to the house front door, we off-loaded all our gear before parking up on the village green in front of the two pubs. This would be the last time car and house would meet again until it was time to depart. Just time for a walk around the village to do a bit of shopping before heading to one of the pubs (a real pub!) for drinks and an evening meal.
We explored Reeth a bit more and then headed off to Richmond. Janet spotted a craft fair in the town hall so we popped in to check out the competition and enjoyed tea and cakes before following the paths around the castle. High above the River Swale and on the path right below the castle ramparts
|Small tortoiseshells top and pollen beetles below|
were lots of ragwort flowers several of which were covered in small tortoiseshell butterflies along with the occasional green-veined white and ringlet. On many other flowers there were masses of tiny black beetles and it was only after a few days that we realised these were pollen beetles (Meligethes aeneus). The path options eventually took us down to the river and, being a hot, sunny Sunday, the river was full of folk either on the river bank or floating about in the water with the maddest sets of inflatable buoyancy rings some of which must have taken most of the day to blow up! We thought a visit to the castle would get us out of the sun for a while, so we paid the entrance fee and made our way into the castle and up to the top to admire the views. Looking down, we could see the outline of
|Richmond Castle and the drought-exposed foundations|
the foundations of some old buildings caused by the sun as the dryness killed off the grass growing on the shallow soil above the remains of the foundations. One of the guides told us that this was the location of an army barracks, built around the 1850s and knocked down in 1931. A cell block though has been retained and inside there are walls of graffiti from prisoners, mainly conscientious objectors from the 1st World War. Sadly, the cell block was closed to visitors due to work being undertaken to repair and preserve the graffiti, so we were only able to see a selection of photos showing some sections of it. Back at the house we had a couple of flies which kept annoying us and, yes, these were the annoying house flies (Musca domestica)!
A none car day and a walk along the River Swale. A footpath by the river took almost into the village of Healaugh where a set of stepping stones allowed us to cross the river and return along the other bank. Early on, a fairly natural field produced big populations of betony (Betonica officinalis), salad burnet (Poterium sanguisorba), red campion, and the choke fungus (Epichloë baconii) on an Agrostis species of grass. By the river a kingfisher was heard but not seen and a tall yellow plant turned out to be yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris) something I can’t remember seeing before.
Almost back at Reeth and just below the bridge taking us back across the river was an enormous bank of river shingle which was covered in flowers so as Janet sat on the riverbank enjoying the sun and a passing family of goosanders, I visited the shingle. The shingle bank was quite amazing, a big mix of native plants but also a mix of garden escapees. Most of the latter would have been washed down from riverside gardens during river spates and perhaps the most unusual ones were early pampas-
|Early pampas grass top and giant scabious|
grass (Cortaderia richardii) and a new vice-county record) and giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea ) just the second VC record). The plant species were so diverse that as England played Croatia in the World Cup on the TV in the following evening, I made a second visit to the site to try and list as many species that I could identify and ended up with 65, with a 7-spot ladybird and alder tongue fungus adding to the total.
Listed in my notebook as ‘up’t thill day’. From the village green in Reeth you can see an imposing hillside called Fremington Edge to the north-east. Lots of the disturbed hillside is visible where Chert quarries were worked in the past, and the road/track from the village headed up through several of these. It was a hot day and in full sun, so wide brimmed hats and sun-cream were the order of the
|Looking down on Reeth and Janet descending|
day. We passed a couple coming down the track as we made our way up and, to avoid the heat, they had set off hours earlier and were on their way back down! Highlights of the day were seeing lots of carline thistles (Carlina vulgaris) and field after field with nests of the yellow meadow ant (Lasius flava). However, despite checking many nests, once again no active ants were seen. Small copper and red admiral butterflies were also seen. A pint in the Buck Hotel was most welcome once back in Reeth.
On arrival in Reeth I typed “nature reserves in Richmond area” which produced an interesting site, Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve located in the Catterick Army Garrison. Working out the way in on the map was fun and as we got to the garrison we had to stop at a sentry point and explain where we were going. Once in the garrison we met another soldier who unlocked the gate to let us drive into the reserve. Despite being just 100 acres in size the mix of species rich habitats is pretty amazing, natural and plantation woodland, moorland edge, flower-rich meadows, small streams and a small lake. The reserve is also used regularly as a mist-netting site to catch, ring and monitor breeding and
|Small skipper on betony flowers|
|Alder tongue on alder cone|
migrant birds. 23 species of butterflies have been recorded from the 2680 species of plants, birds, butterflies and other animals so far recorded, so it was nice to see small skippers, small tortoiseshell, large white, ringlet, speckled wood and meadow brown. Lunch in one of the hides overlooking a reed-bed produced a brief sighting of a stoat and on a small lake there were families of little grebe and tufted duck. Conversion of farm fields to wildflower meadows was very impressive and though at an early stage, the populations of the grass-suppressing yellow rattle were immense. In the alder wood the seeds were developing the red, alder tongue fungus (Taphrina alni) and something growing in the small stream had us scratching our heads until we realised it was the greater spearwort (Ranunculus lingua) and the “odd aquatic” listed in my notebook turned out to be an introduced species Canadian waterweed (Elodia canadensis), a submerged aquatic originally native to North America. Close by we could hear members of the army practicing on the shooting range or possibly on an active exercise.
We spent the morning inside due to RAIN, quite heavy between 12 and 2pm. As it eased, we headed to Barnard Castle just a few miles up the road. We parked up and explored the main street through the town before heading towards a wood by the River Tees popping into a garden allotment along the way. However, with a hosepipe ban, the vegetables looked to be struggling a little. An information
|The 'burdock fly' Terellia tussilaginis|
board told us we were entering Flatts Wood and by the sign I noticed a few flies visiting flowers on a burdock plant and just out of interest took a photo. Probably less than a hundred metres into the wood Janet was pointing at something growing from the masses of enchanter's-nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), a helleborine, a rare plant on this holiday. Checking the plants features we had found a single broad-leaved helleborine though sadly the flowers hadn’t yet opened. A wall by the small
|Enchanter's-nightshade top and broad-leaved helliborine|
Percy Beck stream was well-off for ferns with brittle bladder, hart’s-tongue and maidenhair spleenwort with the find of the day close by, remote sedge (Carex remota) and with an orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata) thrown in for good-luck. Back at the house a laptop search for ‘flies on burdock plant’ turned up the name Terellia tussilaginis, a gall fly, with few records this far north (Yorkshire). By the end of our holiday we had probably tripled the number of locations for the fly in this area, so obviously not rare!
The day’s outing to Marske Beck and Clints Wood proved to be one of the best days out for species seen and recorded. The wee burdock fly was seen again and during the walk six species of butterfly were recorded the best being comma and as we left the woodland to walk between farm meadows lots of yellow meadow ant nest mounds could be seen many actually along the track verge. As we
|Yellow meadow ant and nests top and Janet with fungus|
stopped for lunch Janet took shade under and ancient, hollow ash tree whilst I hopped over the fence to explore an old quarry area. With the very dry weather a patch of rockrose was hardly identifiable being so small, but a blue cranesbill type flower had me puzzled and turned out to be musk mallow (Malva moschata). As I approached Janet, she appeared to be wearing a very strange ‘hat’ which turned out to be an enormous bracket fungus having fallen from the ash tree, Dryas saddle (Polyporus squamosus). The meadows had good populations of carline thistle and a few small skipper butterflies were seen. At Orgate Farm we turned to walk back along a minor road where goat’s beard (Tragopogon pratensis) was found, similar in appearance to a tall, stately dandelion but usually quite difficult to see amongst the roadside grasses. Close by was a yellow shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata) and a fast flying red admiral. The find of the day though was found as we left the road to
|Small-leaved lime leaf and galls|
cut-back across fields and woodland where a lime tree caught my eye, and, remembering finding an unusual gall on the leaves of a lime near Grantown, I started to check the leaves on this tree. Amazingly, there were the galls but, with the lime leaves looking rather small I wondered if I was dealing with small-leaved lime and therefore a different gall (Tilia cordata and the gall Aceria lateannulatus). I found out later that there were just 5 previous records in the UK, only 3 of which have been confirmed as ‘correct’. Phew!
17 – 19 July
The last three days saw us continue to enjoy the hot dry weather with a visit to the River Swale at Keld, with my map-reading seeing us both almost requiring ropes to get up the steep hillside and
back to the track we should have been on. The river by this walk is famous for it three waterfalls, one of which requires a bit of a scramble to see the best of the waterfall. Though nothing too unusual was found over 70 species were recorded just as we walked along and it would have been good though if time had allowed to spend half a day right up by the limestone cliffs just to see what we might find there.
The next day we headed to the edge of Richmond and, convincing Janet that there wouldn’t be steep hills to climb (again) we head off towards Whitcliffe Wood and Scar. The first half an hour was a steady plod up a track(!) towards the wood where we saw several comma butterflies along with 8
other species of butterfly, several red admirals and a peacock. The burdock fly was recorded again and, in the wood, small teasel (Dipsacus pilosus), a new species for us. Exiting the wood, we were back into yellow meadow ant territory with lots of nest mound and, at last, nests were the ants were seen. In the distance we could hear the thud, thud, thud of the rotor of a big helicopter and sure enough a chinook appeared almost overhead and appearing to land/hover on a hillside on the other side of the River Swale, well into the military exclusion area. A few minutes later it reappeared and
hanging below it was a landrover and trailer! There was obviously an exercise taking place and half an hour later two ‘normal’ helicopters passed overhead and spent the rest of the time we were on our walk popping up and disappearing in the same area as the chinook. As we walked it was becoming obvious that we had another hill to climb (up to 1000’) to get to the path that would take us back along the top of Whitcliffe Scar before dropping us down to our starting point.
For our last day out we really should have had a good look at our map, again. The woodland on the map (Hudswell Wood and Calfhall Wood) probably disguised the contours and once again we climbed steadily through the National Trust woodland until we reached the road into Hudswell
village and the George and Dragon pub where we had an enjoyable lunch. However, we had seen a footpath sign which said there were a couple of hundred steps to follow to get back to the river – and they weren’t joking. Along the way we saw the biggest individuals and populations of hart’s-tongue ferns ever and another patch of musk mallow. Oh, and don’t forget the wee fly on the burdock plants!
The next day we packed up and headed north driving across country to Brough and the dreaded A66 and yes, it happened again, a long tailback of vehicles so we turned off and followed a minor road running parallel to the A66. Then it was Penrith, M6 and heading north arriving home at 6.30pm. Janet then sorted everything out for a craft fair in Aviemore on the Sunday ensuring we dropped back into the run of the mill tasks as though we hadn’t been away.
Three days later and we were back on the A9 at 7am heading back to Lancashire for a family wedding (niece Abbie marrying Mike) on the 28th. Early in July Janet’s mum had been in hospital to try and cure a serious foot infection the outcome of which meant she would be moving into care just
|Janet's mum and the family visit|
before we arrived for the wedding. A couple of days were spent helping to sort out her flat along with daily visits to the care-home and then it was time to dust off the best clothes and drive off to Immanuel Church to join all the family members awaiting, with Mike, the arrival of the bride. What
|The brilliant wedding and a happy grandson Harry at the wedding feast|
a day, an amazing church service complete with a live orchestral quartet and wedding bells and then off to Waddington for the wedding meal, speeches, celebrations and toasts to the bride and groom. A day later and we were all heading back north again to be greeted by four pine martens on the house deck in the evening. A replacement Lumix camera had also arrived via Amazon whilst we were away, the package having been left on the back-door step where it had got damp before a neighbour rescued it. Once again, the box was open and there was no packing inside. It was returned to Amazon the next day without being unpacked!
That’s it for another month, and still trying to catch up!
Stewart and Janet
Richmond Castle including the cell block
Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve
Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group
Mapmate recording database
Fungal Records Database of Britain and Ireland (FRDBI)
BSBI – Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland
|Town crier in Richmond|
|Aspen watering has ended!|
Photos © Stewart Taylor