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2012 Summer Programme ReportsUploaded: July 7, 2012, 9:09 am
FOR REPORTS PRIOR TO 16 JUNE 2012 SEE "SUMMER PROGRAMME REPORTS 2012" under "PROGRAMME" heading
Darlington and Teesdale Naturalists Field Club
Outing to Teesmouth 30th September 2012
10 Members gathered in Abbey Road at the start of a rather unpromising day. We drove over to Saltholme in drizzle but by the time we were ready to start this had more or less stopped thought he wind was troublesome at c force 6. We drove to the zinc works road to look in the bushes for migrants but drew a blank so moved on to Greatham Creek where we walked down to the Seal Sands hide to look at the mudflats exposed by the low tide. Here we saw a few Black-tailed Godwits, some Redshanks, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. There were c16 Common Seals on the mud and when we started to walk back to the cars the rising tide allowed these to swim up the creek in line astern formation. Most of them giving us a nice ‘eyes left’ salute as they passed. Their dark, liquid eyes and their obvious curiosity in us were very appealing.
We then drove to back to Saltholme where refreshments from sandwiches to full Sunday dinner were enjoyed. Lunch was curtailed by the appearance of a Marsh Harrier which appeared over the reserve for several minutes. The party then broke into two groups. The Botanists went off to look around the area near to the visitor centre, while those of a more ornithological bent headed out to the more distant Saltholme Pool hide. From the hide we were able to see a nice selection of ducks, 2 Little Egrets some Barnacle Geese, and another Marsh Harrier,
We then moved to the Phil Stead hide where there were more ducks, 3 Little Grebes and at least 3 Common Snipe.
We left for home at c 16.15hrs. fairly satisfied with the day. Those staying at home because of the forecast rain lost out because by and large it didn’t.
Birds seen at Zinc Works road area. Map Ref. NZ53 27
Rook NZ51 26
Jackdaw NZ51 26
Greatham Creek and Seal Sands. Map Ref. 52 25
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Seal (16)
Saltholme reserve Map Ref. NZ50 23.
Barnacle Geese (c50)
Great Black-backed Gull
Sept 18 – Bat Watch at Cleasby Pond NZ2513
Leader - John Turner
On a clear but cool evening (9deg C) 9 members gathered on Cleasby Village Green, armed with torches and a selection of bat detectors. We proceeded along a bridle path behind some houses, across a field with grazing sheep and on to the shore of Cleasby Lake, a flooded gravel pit developed into a nature reserve.
There was just enough light when we arrived to identify a family of Mute swans, 4 Great crested grebes, a flock of Mallard and a pair of Tufted duck on the lake. House martins and Swallows were hunting over the lake and we thought we heard a Tawny owl
Ian Bond was our guide to bat identification and we soon heard a common pipistrelle bat flying over the lake-side trees. A Noctule bat was heard and then seen flying over the sheep meadow. Shortly after this we identified a Soprano pipistrelle hunting around a clearing in the trees. At the lake-side we came across a group of very active Daubenton’s bats hunting low over the lake surface and detected their very distinctive staccato calls.
I would like to thank Ian Bond for giving his time to lead us in this bat watch.
Visit to Binchester Roman Fort, County Durham DL14 8DJ Sunday 16th September 2012.
Location: Nr Bishop Auckland, County Durham. Map Reference: NZ2083
Leader - Steve Keeney
10 members and 1 grandson made the visit to Binchester on a day that rain was forecasted but for the majority of the visit the weather remained dry. A volunteer guide Alan Partington kindly gave our party a guided tour and provided a fascinating background history of the site as well as an overview of the archaeological remains including the visit of Time Team in 2007 and the findings to date of a five year excavation project that ends next year.
The first fort at Binchester (Vinovia) was built in c.75 AD and was 17.66 acres in size and was the largest in northern Britain. This was demolished and a new, smaller fort was built on the same site c.150 AD. This was around 11.16 acres in size and remained a roman military base until Britain ceased to be part of the Roman Empire in 410AD. The Roman road we call Dere Street from York in the south ran through the fort and continued north to Corbridge and in to Scotland. The excavations have revealed that long after the end of the Roman Period the site was occupied and burials spanning from the 6th Century to the 11th Century have been found. Alan explained that coins dating from AD69 to 1720 have been found on the site. The silver denarius dated AD69depicting Emperor Otho found recently is one of only 3 known and is destined for the British Museum. It is a rarity because the Roman Empire was plunged in civil war with 4 Emperors that year and it was only after a yearlong struggle that Vespasian emerged as the victorious emperor.
Until the recent excavations only a small area near the centre of the fort which contained part of the residence of the commanding officer and his impressive bath house had been excavated. It is the remains of these buildings including a small section of Dere Street which runs alongside that can be viewed today. As it started to drizzle Alan took us inside the wooden building that protects the impressive bath house buildings and explained the layout and use. Heated by two separate furnaces with flue tiles built into the walls and tile pillars supporting a floor an arrangement known as a hypocaust the baths are similar to a sauna. There is a warm room (tepidarium), a dry hot room (laconicum), hot plunge baths (caldarium) and separate cold room and bath (frigidarium). Alan pointed out the footprints of an adult and child still preserved in the Roman mortar floor. We then visited the adjoining exhibition and education building and Alan provided additional background information and pointed out materials and artefacts on display. We thanked Alan and he received a round of applause for making our visit so enjoyable and informative
Sept 8 – Low Barns Nature Reserve NZ1631
Leader – John Turner
Nine members visited Low Barns Durham Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve on a pleasant, rain-free day to walk around the various water bodies that, with the bordering vegetation and boggy areas, make up the major habitats of the reserve.
As was expected at this time of the year, bird activity was subdued although 22 species recorded. Unusually we had both Chiffchaff and Willow warbler calling. A Robin was singing and various members of the tit family were flocking through the trees giving their contact calls. Notable species were Snipe (4) on an island, Marsh tit in the bushes and a kingfisher flying over the water. Five Heron were seen foraging in the reed beds and damp grassland. 65 plant species were recorded with Water figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) as the most notable. We noted the presence of Himalayan bolsam (Impatiens glandulifera) generally throughout the reserve.
Few insects were seen, possibly because the “butterfly patch” had been cut back and only had the odd damsel fly to offer. 3 Speckled wood butterflies wee seen in the wooded area around the lake shore
SMARDALE - 11th August 2012 - Leader Don Griss
Unusually this summer, the visit to Smardale took place on a perfect summer’s day and was enjoyed by 11 members.
Smardale is an NNR managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. The underlying limestone supports a rich variety of plants, which we saw in abundance. On previous club visits we have approached this linear reserve from the eastern end, just south of Kirkby Stephen. On this occasion, however, we entered near Newbiggin-on-Lune further to the west.
Field Scabious and Salad Burnet growing together in swathes were spectacular. Other highlights included Jacob’s Ladder, Grass of Parnassus , Small Toadflax, Hoary Plantain, Large Thyme and Black Bent. Frog Orchids which had been pointed out to us on our recce were found again, but were no longer in flower. 166 plants were recorded by Fal Sarker.
Butterflies are another special feature of the reserve but were not as abundant as usual. However, species seen included Common Blue, Small Heath, Small Skipper, several Green Fritillaries and many Scotch Argus.
Bird sightings were few but included Redstart and Buzzard.
The afternoon ended with welcome refreshments at the Cafe/garden centre in Newbiggin.
Maidendale Local Nature Reserve, Darlington NZ3113
Leader – John Harding
Despite a consistently wet day, 6 members met at Maidendale car park at 2pm. The reserve can be superb on a fine day with its various ponds and diverse habitats for birds, butterflies and dragonflies. However today insect life was not to be seen. One of our heroines described it as a botanist’s paradise and despite the poor conditions we were not disappointed. About 50 flowering plants and grasses were recorded, including Hairy Tare (Vicia hirsute), Jointed Rush (Juncus articulates) and Canary Grass (Phalaris canariensis).
Birdlife is also very god here, most of the common warblers nest on the reserve, with Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting etc usually in residence. One of the most pleasing sightings on this visit was the number of Green Finches heard and seen as they have been scarce lately. Three male Song Thrushes singing over their territories hopefully indicated three nest sites.
Unfortunately the visit had to be cut short due to the poor weather, but no doubt another trip can be arranged.
Great Dun Fell NY7132 and National Trust’s Oak Bank NY6128
Leader – John Turner
The weather forecast was not good but 12 members gathered by the green at Dufton village to consolidate into 3 cars for the drive up the private road to the summit of Great Dun Fell, where we parked in the enclosure around the NATS Radar Station. It was immediately obvious that we were not going to find very much wild life but plenty of wild weather with a force 8 gale blowing heavy clouds over the summit. A quick look round showed that most plants had finished flowering and there were no birds to be seen.
A summer day on Great Dun Fell
We drove back down the road to an area where we were able to look for plants
in an “exclosure” erected to protect a marshy area from grazing sheep and rabbits. Here we recorded 11 flowering plants, including the rare Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus), Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) and Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustris). A lone Wheatear was also seen.
Due to the poor weather conditions we returned to Dufton for a picnic lunch and were tempted by the offer of a group discount to visit an exhibition of work by local artists, two of whom were known to members.
We then moved on to the National Trust property of Acorn Bank where we walked through the wooded valley. With better weather we recorded 30 flowering plants, including Broad Leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) and Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata).
Three species of butterfly were seen, 2 Specked Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Small White. As usual this summer butterflies were scarce. A Song Thrush, Blackbird and Blue Tits were heard in the wood and Swallows and House Martins were foraging over the grassy areas.
We would like to thank the management of NATS for permission to drive up their private road and park in the radar station enclosure at the summit. Thanks are also due to the staff of the Moor House Reserve for telling us where and when to find the Marsh Saxifrage in full flower.
Tuesday 31st July 2012
9th July 2012 - Report on Early Summer Field Trips
Despite the absence of a summer the Field Club managed to hold all of its seven planned walks in June.
The first was to Sandsend, on the Yorkshire coast where we had the assistance of a marine biologist from the marine and coastal section of the Yorkshire Naturalsts’ Union. An exciting find was a short-spined sea-scorpion. Also seen were ‘golden’ ammonites, coloured with deposits of iron pyrites. Away from the sea shore, along the railway track many species of flowering plants were recorded, including hairy tare, green alkanet and tall common spotted orchid. A few days later, the Tuesday evening walk along the Tees bank from Low Coniscliffe had the primary purpose of recording areas of non native and invasive species – giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam were seen. Much more satisfactory were the birds seen and heard; chiff chaff, curlew, oystercatcher, tree creeper, grey partridge and whitethroat.
The next outing was another full day trip to Staveley nature reserve near Boroughbridge, a wetland reserve run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The lake, formerly a gravel pit, is home at this time of year to several bird species; swifts and sand martins swooping over the water, a great crested grebe on its nest, reed buntings in the reed beds, oystercatchers and common terns in flight. Flowering plants seen were bee orchid, common spotted orchid, lesser water plantain, dropwort and marsh helleborine. Despite the weather, one blue damselfly and a few bumble bees were seen.
In a change to the advertised programme, the next outing was to Ballowfields nature reserve in the Yorkshire Dales. Plants seen here were thrift, meadow sweet, common spotted orchid and rock rose. Unusually this summer, two butterflies were recorded: green veined white and small copper. Thorp Perrow Arboretum, near Bedale, was the next place to be visited. Trees of all kinds were obviously of interest, particularly the national walnut collection and a large number of limes. Purple toothwort, a parasite, was found under crack willow and grey poplar. If confirmed as occurring naturally, this will be a new record for the area.
The Brick Train local nature reserve in Darlington was visited on the last Tuesday evening of June. In an area of mixed conifer and broadleaved woodland and reed bed a number of flowering plants were seen: Flag iris, ragged robin, red campion, dog rose, guelder rose and common spotted orchid. Birds recorded were long tailed tits, skylarks, goldcrest and swallows. Predictably, in such a wet season, black slugs were everywhere. The last outing in June was to Helmsley Deer Park. Of particular interest were the very old oak trees, some over 400 years old. Blackcap, wren, willow warbler and buzzard were some of the birds recorded. The site is particularly well known for its bat colonies, including one rare species only recently discovered.
Future outings are; July 14th- Teesmouth salt marsh, 17th-Croft circular, 22nd- Allen Banks, Allendale, 24th – Abbey Bridge, Teesdale, 28th- Great Dunn Fell, 31st- Spoilbank Wood, August 11th- Smardale and September 2nd- Cowpen Bewley and Saltholme.The next indoor meeting of the Field Club is on Tuesday 4th September when we will receive reports from these outings and be given details of the remaining September outings. This meeting starts at 7.30 pm at Walkington House, Vane Terrace, Darlington. Further information about these outings and the Club can be found at www.dtnfc.org or by contacting the general secretary, Cliff Evans (01325 46647