A brief trip to Scarborough had been organised with the idea of seeing some rather pleasant butterflies. Obviously, we couldn’t just do one thing at a leisurely pace so the Saturday quickly became a sordid effort to do as much as possible in a long hot day.
Upon arriving on the Friday evening we quickly made for Wykeham Forest, with the intention of seeing some nightjar. Not long after getting out the car a turtle dove could be heard purring in nearby trees. With my recent forays into panlisting an easily found pine ladybird (which actually turned out to be kidney-spot) was seen as welcome addition to the spreadsheet. A pair of jays made some odd noises and gave us brief but distant views.
Kidney Spot Ladybird was a new one for me as well, bringing my ladybird list up to reasonably hearty 14 species. If anyone knows any reliable sites for Heather Ladybird, Water Ladybird, Larch Ladybird or Striped Ladybird please let us know.
Upon entering the fields, turtle doves could be found feeding on grain piles at the side of the track but none were confiding enough to allow a photograph. At least 6 were seen at once while more could be heard calling from distant trees. The fields were teeming with lapwing and singing skylark and pied wagtail was found nesting in an apparently disused barn.
We headed back to the car for the main show. Whilst we waited for the nightjars to show up, woodcocks could be seen passing overhead, occasionally making their low roding call, which I can only describe as sounding like cheeky sky trumps. Sadly the nightjar decided not to play ball, and besides the best effort of James wafting his dish clothes, the best we managed was hearing some distant calling. We left defeated, blaming the clear, cool skies.
We got up at 5am the next morning, because we are idiots. It was mainly as Rachel needed to go to work, but our being idiots also had a big part to do with it. We headed straight for the site, nestled deep within North Yorkshire. Sadly, I can’t go into further details about the site due to the rarity of the target butterfly species; the duke of burgundy. I can say it was certainly an interesting site though. One edge was grouse filled moorland which quickly turned into lush grassland bordered by deciduous trees. It made for a pleasant mix of species. As we walked up the red grouse and meadow pipits seemed ubiqutous but as the trees became present James heard an unfamiliar call. After scanning the top of some nearby oaks a pipit was picked out which eventually launched in a quite lovely “parachute call”. We came to the conclusion that it was in fact a tree pipit, a new species for myself, it having alluded me last year.
I have a keen ear for bird calls it turns out. Cuckoo, Quail, Cockerel, Chiffchaff, I can identify them all by sound alone.
We sat by some oaks, hoping for some more woodland bird species as the weather warmed up. Whilst no avian life of particular interest made itself seen, eventually a single butterfly quickly skipped (HA!) by. It was decided to be a dingy skipper (Do you get the ‘HA!’ now?), a species we had only come across once before (although when we did it, it turned out to be a site first).
The insect life then began in earnest. It didn’t take long for James to spot a duke of burgundy hidden amongst some grass.
When he says I spotted it that is exactly what he means. I didn’t see it fly or land, I just saw a smudge of dukey goodness amongst the grass about half a mile along the path. I felt like a god.
What happened next was an hour of relentless chasing as I tried to get an acceptable picture of ‘His Grace’, the high point being when I managed to rest my hand in a relatively fresh mound of bird ploppings. Luckily the butterflies were out in force so there was plenty to choose from, the burgundies and dinghy skippers proved numerous and were joined by small heaths, small coppers, green veined white and a lone tortoiseshell. Having had our fill of lepidoptera for the time being we made our way to the next site.
Fen bog was the destination with the idea of seeing golden ringed dragonfly. This idea was inspired by my dragonfly book which insisted their flight season began in late May, but after speaking to a gentleman there we discovered that they wouldn’t be on the wing until July. Fortunately there was plenty more to keep us occupied, including my first ever green tiger beetles (they had been a long time coming), along with adder, common lizard, a pair of whinchat and a cuckoo being mobbed by meadow pipits. A pregnant oak eggar was also seen emerging from heather and it kindly allowed us to take some pictures before we left it to its eggy (eggy because it’s pregnant and because it’s called an eggar. God bless my Oscar Wilde-esque wordplay) business.
Just got to add my own photo of the Eggar because it may just be the nicest picture I have taken this year. Complete fluke. The picture is huge because huge things are the best things.
Onto Ellerburn Bank we went. I think it’s our favourite site. I struggle to think of a time we’ve gone and not seen something horrendously interesting. The visit started well with finding 6 slow worms, including a stunning hatching and a young adult with strong blue markings on the underside. Butterflies showed well, with brown argus, dingy skipper, wall and a few common species being on the wing. My personal favourite was the fly orchid found on the new part of reserve, along with the yet to flower common spotted. There was also several damselflies on the wing, including blue-tailed, azure and common blue.
After a brief but fruitless trip to forge valley we parted company for the day, I believe both of us happy with the results.
I will add some pictures and change my horrendous attempts at using the english language shortly.