Catchment Trilogy – Part 3: wildlife wonderland

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Alex Cripps – Catchment Partnership Officer I’m the Catchment Partnership Officer for the Esk and Coastal Stream Catchment and I love rivers! A big part of my role is surveying along the River Esk and its tributaries. I get to … Continue reading

A to Z – a deluge of Ds

D

DAFFODILS

The true wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is the only species of wild daffodil that is native to the UK. Wild daffodils thrive in partially shaded areas such as woodlands, on river banks and in fields with clay or loam soils that are not too acidic. It Wild daffodil, Rosedale - copyright NYMNPAis locally abundant in the North York Moors, with Farndale being a well-known location.

The wild daffodil differs from the varieties we are so used to seeing in our gardens; the plants are smaller and the flowers are a pale yellow. Despite their diminutive size, there is always an impressive display each spring at locations across the National Park. We aim to promote the importance of the wild daffodil and there are guided walks each spring led by our Voluntary Rangers to explain the wild flowers to visitors and to present them in all their glory.

The National Park Authority’s Species Action Wild daffodils - copyright NYMNPAPlan for the daffodil also includes a target to monitor the population of wild daffodils within the National Park. Monitoring takes place each spring time in Farndale and Rosedale to record the size and extent of the population. Dedicated volunteers take photos from a fixed point each year when the daffodils are at their best; this is a great way to compare populations year by year. The daffodils in Farndale have been monitored for many years and a baseline survey was undertaken in Rosedale in 2013 so that monitoring can take place in subsequent years. Threats to the wild daffodil include invasive non-native plant species, incompatible grazing regimes and trampling by stock and people; we work closely with land owners and managers to make sure that the daffodils can be conserved and encouraged.

DEER PARKS

Deer Parks were essentially mediaeval game reserves, enclosed by an internal ditch and outer bank to make escape for the animals more difficult, the latter often topped with a wooden fence or even – as time went on – a wall. The boundaries would generally also include deer leaps which made it easy for deer to jump into an emparked area but very difficult to jump out again – thus increasing the size of the ‘trapped’ herd. Some early parks are thought to date from the Anglo-Saxon period but the number increased greatly under the Normans, where they were used as hunting preserves principally for sport. The name ‘park’ and also ‘hay’, a term also used, refer to the fence or hedge which enclosed the parks, and thus came to also mean the area enclosed. Initially largely a royal prerogative, members of the nobility and landed gentry also came to be allowed to hold and maintain Deer Parks which would also be valued as additional sources of winter food from a self-supporting herd of deer. These exclusive game reserves meant that an important potential food supply was legally denied to the local common people.

Creation of a Deer Park generally seems to have required a royal licence (for which payment would, of course, be due) but many examples are known for which no licences have yet been found. It is thought that if your land was remote from the monarch’s deer parks and forests, you might chance your arm and create your own prestigious park without seeking royal permission. Although more exotic animals are recorded at times within certain royal parks, the ‘beasts’ within would normally be fallow and red deer.

In the North York Moors we have records of at least 20 Deer Parks, varying in size from c.51 acres at Danby Old Park up to c.2,240 acres at Duncombe Park, considered at one time to be the 6th largest Deer Park in England. The parks are likely to have varied in size over time – both shrinking and enlarging as their boundaries were moved to better fit the landscape, using valleys and rivers, and to reflect changes in land ownership, wealth and taste. The post-medieval representation of Deer Parks on maps is likely to portray their later function as prestige structures within managed landscapes alongside great houses. They were considered to be of sufficient importance in the early days of national surveying in the 16/17th centuries to be mapped by Christopher Saxton, John Speed and others – a good indication of their viability and continued existence – although Saxton’s survey did miss out a number of important local Deer Parks in this area which were almost certainly still in existence at the time (such as Carlton, Fylingdales, Ingleby Greenhow, Kildale).

DIALECT

Some local dialect words tend to hang on in some way despite of or because of the universality of modern communication, and new words are always being invented and adapted, whilst others just seem to disappear.

From a Dialect Glossary of words and idioms in use in the North Riding of Yorkshire by Richard Blakeborough published in Saltburn by the Sea in 1912, here are some past (?) examples:

A Pig is a Dakky, a Swift is a Devil-screamer, and a Ladybird is a Doody or Dundy-cow.

A Donnot is a dirty-bottomed (untrustworthy in every way) immoral female and is no doubt a daudle (a slovenly idle person) as well, probably bedecked in danglements (superfluous trinkets) and all set on an evening of dilldrum (boisterous merry making).

At darkening, dal’d oot ‘n dowly Daytalman mayk’s ‘is way ‘oam down’t road through drazzle, ‘n feels t’ deeath-smear as ‘ee stumbles on’t dozzen’d deear-stan ‘n lays deeazment ‘n deafly.

DOORS

The North York Moors provide a variety of architectural characteristics and influences which add to the special qualities of our built heritage which can be seen today. Whilst there are many distinguishing features to talk about, for the purposes of this particular blog post (i.e. things starting with D) we are looking at doors and the array of different styles throughout the National Park.

Panel Door, notice the unequal width of the planks. Copyright NYMNPA.Planked doors – The earliest timber doors were of a simple planked construction consisting of vertical planks, sometimes up to 12 inches wide and unequal in width, with a simple pencil mould detail fixed to horizontal timber ledges. These types of doors are characteristic of the small moorland farmsteads and cottages where buildings were simple and functional. The more modern equivalents are often made up of narrower boards (around 6 inches) with a plain v-groove (rather than a traditional pencil mould detail) surrounded by a frame and lack the character, detail and interest found with the older doors.

This door shows a typical bolection mould, where the moulding projects beyond the face of the frame. Copyright NYMNPA.A typical Georgian period door with raised and fielded panels. Copyright NYMNPA.Panelled doors – These styles of doors are a feature within our villages and towns as home owners often remodelled their properties to keep up with the then current architectural style. Panelled doors are used to describe the doors from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras and are usually divided into four or six sections with some panels filled with glass. Unlike the modern off the peg doors of today, a joiner made door can incorporate traditional details such as ‘raised and fielded’ panels or the use of a ‘bolection mould’ which are distinctive features of good quality historic door.

1930s style doors in Staithes - copyright NYMNPANon-vernacular style doors – The coastal villages of the North York Moors such as Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay are perhaps where you find the greatest variety of styles. It is clear to see in Staithes that the village underwent somewhat of a 1930’s re-vamp as these styles of doors are common throughout the village and now add to its architectural character and interest.

Robin Hood’s Bay is perhaps more unique with a host of different styles incorporating elaborate panelling, frames and canopies.

Robin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPA

 

Robin Hood's Bay house doors - copyright NYMNPA

In order to help protect these features, many of the designated Conservation Areas within the North York Moors are covered by an Article 4 Direction which means that planning permission is required for the alteration or replacement of doors and other features such as windows and boundary treatments. If you are thinking on carrying out alterations to your property it is always best to seek advice first from the Local Planning Authority.

DRACULA

Needing a local celebrity starting with D, and it being around Halloween, and although Whitby isn’t actually within the National Park it is an iconic town in the North York Moors, and although he is a fictional rather than a real character …Bram Stoker was real, and he definitely visited the environs of the North York Moors.

“(PASTED IN MINA MURRAY’S JOURNAL)

From a correspondent.

Whitby.

One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced here, with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewhat sultry, but not to any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturday evening was as fine as was ever known, and the great body of holiday-makers laid out yesterday for visits to Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood’s Bay, Rig Mill, Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips in the neighborhood of Whitby…

…Shortly before ten o’clock the stillness of the air grew quite oppressive, and the silence was so marked that the bleating of a sheep inland or the barking of a dog in the town was distinctly heard, and the band on the pier, with its lively French air, was like a dischord in the great harmony of nature’s silence. A little after midnight came a strange sound from over the sea, and high overhead the air began to carry a strange, faint, hollow booming…

…Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which, at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed. The waves rose in growing fury, each overtopping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster. Whitecrested waves beat madly on the level sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs. Others broke over the piers, and with their spume swept the lanthorns of the lighthouses which rise from the end of either pier of Whitby Harbour.

… The wind suddenly shifted to the northeast, and the remnant of the sea fog melted in the blast. And then, mirabile dictu, between the piers, leaping from wave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner before the blast, with all sail set, and gained the safety of the harbour. The searchlight followed her, and a shudder ran through all who saw her, for lashed to the helm was a corpse, with drooping head, which swung horribly to and fro at each motion of the ship. No other form could be seen on the deck at all.

A great awe came on all as they realised that the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour, unsteered save by the hand of a dead man! However, all took place more quickly than it takes to write these words. The schooner paused not, but rushing across the harbour, pitched herself on that accumulation of sand and gravel washed by many tides and many storms into the southeast corner of the pier jutting under the East Cliff, known locally as Tate Hill Pier.

There was of course a considerable concussion as the vessel drove up on the sand heap. Every spar, rope, and stay was strained, and some of the `top-hammer’ came crashing down. But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand.

Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight.

…Already the sudden storm is passing, and its fierceness is abating. Crowds are scattering backward, and the sky is beginning to redden over the Yorkshire wolds…”

From Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897.

DROVE ROAD

Along the western edge of the North York Moors are the Hambleton Hills which form an escarpment edge to the plateau of the Moors. Running along this edge is the Hambleton Drove Road part of a long distance north-south route used by Drovers moving herds of cattle down from Scotland and through England to market towns, the biggest destination being Smithfield Market in London.

Moving cattle (i.e. wealth) around  has gone on for 1000s of years. Where more animals could be raised than were needed for subsistence a value could be realised and hence a trade developed and it was only sensible to move the cattle alive under their own steam to where they would raise the best price. Large scale droving reached its peak in Britain in the 16th to 18th centuries before changes in agriculture and transportation negated the need.

The Hambleton Drove Road route itself is known to be a prehistoric ridgeway valued for its panoramic views by subsequent Drovers as well as the original Iron Age farmers. The Drovers appreciated the same higher ground for security from wild animals and dangerous people. The uplands also provided wide verges and free grazing, and to some extent softer ground for the cattle’s feet. In the 18th century when toll roads were built, the green trackways of the uplands remained unobstructed and free of charge.

Section of the Hambleton Drove Road now surfaced - copyright NYMNPA

The Hambleton Drove Road survives as a trackway route worn by feet, hooves and cart wheels over centuries of droving.

DRYSTONE WALLS

Drystone walls (or dykes in Scotland) are walls built without any mortar to bind the stones together. The skill in their construction comes from interlocking stones and using compressional forces to construct a solid boundary (hence why if building a wall on a slope you start at the bottom and work your way to the top). They are typically seen in areas where there is abundant stone in the landscape or where the weather conditions are unfavourable for supporting a hedge boundary. Drystone walls are part of the heritage of the North York Moors, having crisscrossed the landscape for generations.

Farmed landscape - Rosedale - copyright Ami Walker, NYMNPA

Drystone walls vary from location to location. Even within one area such as this National Park there are many different building styles. Most walls consist of a layer of foundation stones at the bottom, with stone then built up in layers and finished off with coping stones at the top. Every join on the wall should be bridged by a stone above. Double skinned walls have two outside ‘skins’ of stone which are filled with hearting stones. The two skins should taper from bottom to top (this is known as the batter) and throughstones should be used which help bind the wall together. Single skinned walls on the other hand consist of only one skin of stone, and therefore don’t use heartings.

Side view of rebuilt drystone wall - copyright NYMNPA

Coping stone style varies from wall to wall as well. Some walls use large upright coping stones, whilst others use thinner pieces laid at an angle. Some even use coping stones laid face down.

There are many features of interest often built into drystone walls. Smoots (or bolt-holes) are used to give water and small animals passage through the wall. Sheep-creeps (or lunkys) on the other hand allow larger animals like sheep to pass through the wall, and in historic times would be blocked off or opened up with a large stone as and when needed.

Gap built into drystone wall for beck - copyright NYMNPA

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

And spills the upper boulders in the sun,

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

Robert Frost’s words in Mending Wall strike a chord for many of our drystone walls in the North York Moors. Although a well-built drystone wall will usually stand for at least 20 years, the sheer number of walls in our National Park means that at any one time many are in a state of disrepair. The National Park Authority’s Traditional Boundary Scheme aims to help land managers conserve some of the most visible walls in the North York Moors.

Broken down wall - copyright NYMNPA

It is common practice when building a wall that will be used as a stock-proof boundary to also use either top wire or top netting. This helps ensure that cattle or sheep don’t cause unnecessary damage.

There are miles of drystone walls across the North York Moors, with some believed to demarcate boundaries going back to the Iron Age. It is certain that they are of historic and cultural importance to the area so here’s hoping that they will still be standing in another thousand years!

Drystone wall - Farndale - copyright NYMNPA

DUKE OF BURGUNDY (Hamearis lucina)

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is found in scattered colonies in central southern England, but isolated colonies also remain in the south of Cumbria and the southern edge of the North York Moors.The species is in decline nationally; at sites monitored by transect, numbers have decreased by 49% between 1979 and 2012 (source: www.ukbms.org.uk). It is now one of the rarest butterflies in Britain.

Duke of Burgundy female - www.britishbutterflies.co.ukThe Duke of Burgundy likes a habitat mosaic either scrubby grasslands or sunny woodland clearings, and requires large lush cowslip or primrose plants where the female can lay her eggs on the undersides of the leaves and which the larvae eat when they hatch. The sun can make a real difference – following warm spring weather the butterfly can emerge 2 to 3 weeks earlier on south facing slopes compared to north facing slopes and so extend the season.

The butterfly faces a series of threats, in particular inappropriate habitat management (e.g. too much/not enough scrub control, too much/not enough grazing), habitat fragmentation and population isolation. Habitat stepping stones and corridor connections between sites are important to improve gene transfer between the small populations and to enable recolonization within the local range.

Butterfly Conservation has been leading a project in the south of the North York Moors aimed at stabalising the existing Duke of Burgundy colonies, re-colonising extinct sites and establishing new colonies through re-introduction. Work undertaken has included an extensive programme of habitat management to open up sites and establish the conditions best suited to the species.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C

Linking Landscapes latest

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

We’re always looking to make our grant budgets go as far as possible, and for our Linking Landscapes habitat connectivity programme this involves using a mix of delivery mechanisms to undertake the necessary habitat management on the ground. So working alongside land managers that means making use of local contractors, apprentice teams, and volunteers.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAVolunteers from the Rosedale community were hard at work at the end of August with the annual management of the Rosedale churchyard mini-meadow. The conservation site in the churchyard of St Mary and St Laurence in Rosedale Abbey was initially established in 2011. Since then it has developed into a wonderful mini-meadow, with beautiful pockets of wild flowers buzzing with pollinator insects such as bees, butterflies and moths, which in turn support many birds. The site is also providing a home for small mammals and slow worms.

Once a year the mini-meadow needs a helping hand – after the flowers have all died back and set their seed, the excess vegetation needs to be cut and raked off the site to ensure unnecessary nutrients do not build-up. It may seem strange not to want a build-up of nutrients however wild flowers favour poor nutrient-rich soils. Additional local seeds from established meadows nearby were also scattered at the end of the day to encourage even more flowers such yellow rattle, red clover, stitchwort and knapweed to establish and grow.

Keep up-to-date with Rosedale news and events – such as next year’s volunteer day – on their community blog.

Hand cutting - Rosedale Churchyard conservation areaSANYO DIGITAL CAMERABird's Foot Trefoil

Near Oldstead, National Park volunteer teams have been getting stuck in to revitalising an important habitat mosaic area. The Conservation Volunteers spent a whole day pulling up Himalayan balsam (non-native invasive plant species) which was covering a small wooded site and stifling the ground flora. As usual, continued balsam bashing will be required over the next few years in order to have a lasting impact, but it was a good start. The MAD volunteers – MAD means Making a Difference – then braved a thundery wet day
to pull creeping thistle (invasive plant species) from a nearby pasture field. This field contains a diverse mix of habitats comprising calcareous, neutral and acidic grassland;
mire communities and rush pasture; and areas of woody blackthorn scrub and hazel MADs volunteers with giant thistle!coppice. The site is grazed by Exmoor ponies who are great at conservation grazing but they needed a helping hand to deal with these particular thistles which are detrimental to this particular site. This sort of management which needs repeat commitment is picked up in Land Management Agreements between the National Park Authority and the land manager. The Agreements last five years – it’s an EU/NPA State Aid notification requirement (click here if you’re especially interested) – and five years of repeat annual control of invasives and pernicious weeds will make an impact on the ground and enable better quality habitats to survive and flourish.

MAD Volunteers - thistle pulling MAD Volunteers - thistle pulling The MAD Volunteers

We have a Land Management Agreement with the land manager of a site near to Scawton. This particular farm includes a wild flower area where the species include orchids. Often on a farm such sites would be grazed by stock and this would keep the vegetation in check and open up the dense matt of vegetation by the act of trampling. However in this case the area isn’t suitable for grazing because the Cleveland Way National Trail runs through it. So to avoid the site vegetation becoming tall and rank our Conservation Volunteers strimmed back the dead vegetation after all the flowers had set seed and then raked off the debris. This was the first year this task was carried out so it will be really interesting to see how the site responds over the next few years. The site was one of those surveyed earlier in the year by our new Grassland Volunteers in order to establish a baseline species list. This monitoring will be carried out each year, along with the management, and will hopefully demonstrate an increase in abundance of the existing species, and maybe one or two new species as well.

Conservation Volunteers  at workConservation Volunteer - strimmingConservation Volunteer raking off the cut vegetation

 

 

Conservation VolunteerCommon spotted orchidsExmoor ponies can be very effective conservation gaziers

 

 

 

Betony & Common Spotted Orchid  Common Spotted OrchidSelf-Heal & Yellow Rattle

 

 

Ami Walker – Lead Land Management Adviser

The first year of the ‘Linking Landscapes – Grassland Volunteers’ worked really well. Each of the initial Volunteers adopted sites where they will carry out an annual botanical survey. In all –

  • 9 volunteers surveyed 14 sites, a total of 35 hectares of grassland.
  • 140 quadrats were surveyed and 159 different plant species were recorded.

One of the measures for determining if grassland is actually species rich is that it must have at least 15 different species per 1m2 quadrat. 7 of these sites already have these characteristics, and 1 site had 25 species recorded in just one quadrat. Our ultimate aim is to see an increase in the number of plant species at each site, year on year. The results from the Volunteers are essential to identify if this is happening.

Linking Landscapes - Grassland Volunteers, practice surveying at Sutton Bank in the summer

As usual, a big thank you to all our volunteers!

All creatures, great and very small…

Kirsty Brown – Conservation Project Assistant

Bugs – do you love them, or hate them?

Skipper butterfly - Kirsty BrownI love them. Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve been keen to have some random creature in my hand, and because of their usual accessibility and small size, these creatures have usually been insects.

Larval stage

Growing up in Houston in the USA, magical fireflies blinking at dusk were amongst the first to take my fancy, and I’d happily gather them gently into my bug-barn (as built by my Dad) and watch their eerie green glow. They sometimes accompanied me on the yellow school bus to take pride of place during show-and-tell. The large, green tomato horn worms (hawkmoth caterpillar) were also a favourite of mine to collect. I guess I must have been reasonably cautious in my collecting as, despite the many poisonous/stinging/biting/hairy creatures around Houston and picked up on various camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, I am happy to say I am still alive, intact, and fascinated!

Six-spot Burnet Moth - Kirsty Brown

When my family later moved to Eglwysbach in North Wales, my bug-barn was constantly filled with a variety of invertebrates, though I soon discovered snails didn’t make good guests, as they slimed up the inside, creating a sticky trap for my next ‘pet’. Gerald Durrell’s book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ was a great source of inspiration. Although there weren’t quite so many bright and shiny insects here compared with the USA, I raised caterpillars – impressive mini-snake-like Elephant Hawk moths, fluffy Yellow-Tail moths, and notorious Cabbage White butterflies – poring over bug books to determine their food-plants, life cycles and characteristics, watching as the caterpillars turned into chrysalises, and the magical metamorphosis into butterflies and moths. I also kept stick insects in a tank and ants in an ant-farm (which was not quite escape proof, to my mother’s delight!).

Pupation and Adult stages

At University, my dissertation was on seaweed flies – ironic because being at the University of Leicester, I was pretty far from the coast! Following graduation from University, I secured a job with a company near Edinburgh, and identified over 70,000 invertebrates as part of a project studying insect growth regulators. These insecticides disrupt pest insect development, and had been applied to livestock. The study assessed for any effect on beneficial invertebrates in the field, with particular attention paid to dung and those insects such as dung beetles and dung flies, which help break it down. I usually had the whole laboratory to myself, due to the wonderful aroma.

I’ve also worked at the Central Science Laboratory (now Fera), and helped raise a variety of invertebrates, including springtails, cabbage white butterflies, lacewings, soil mites and Eisenia fetida (tiger or compost worms). The worms were kept in huge containers, about 4x3m in size, filled with soil, and we fed them with oats, lettuce and Matilda the Mantis - Kirsty Brownother vegetable matter. Each summer, I identified aphids as part of the Aphid Monitoring Scheme, to help farmers decide whether insecticide sprays were required, as several species are vectors for plant diseases. I also kept a ‘pet’ praying mantis, whose head swivelled as she watched me with her huge iridescent eyes…

Insects continued to be a theme when I joined the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust as a trainee. I was able to delve into the identification of our native British species, and learned about the threats from habitat fragmentation and climate change. And now I’m working for the North York Moors National Park Authority.

At the North York Moors National Park, I see a great diversity of invertebrates almost every time I venture out to grant aid the restoration of walls and hedges, and to advance our habitat connectivity programme. This summer has been warm and dry, and so has been particularly good for butterflies and moths.

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle - Kirsty BrownOne of our regular volunteers found a lovely Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn beetle up at Sutton Bank when we were surveying the species rich grassland. The beetle was particularly interesting as they are usually found in the south of England and not this far north.

Another unusual beetle is the strange red-breasted Red-Breasted Carrion Beetle, Oiceoptoma thoracicum - Kirsty Browncarrion beetles, which we found near Lockton, on some dung.

The lovely red-headed cardinal beetle and coppery click-beetle, are amongst the prettier beetles to be found in this area.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis - Kirsty BrownCoppery Click Beetle, Ctenicera cuprea - Kirsty Brown

 

 

 

 

Even on holiday…

Costa Rica has proved to be an excellent holiday destination for someone interested in entomology. I saw a click beetle with glowing ‘eyes’ in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a terracotta-coloured longhorn beetle posed for a picture, and during a night walk, I photographed a most incredible web-casting spider. A scorpion also decided to bed down for the night in our suitcase…I couldn’t have been more delighted.Scorpion in suitcase, Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

Leaf scale bug in Costa Rica - Kirsty BrownOrb web spider in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown  Tiny mantis in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

 

 

Longhorn beetle in Costa Rica - Kirsty BrownMoths in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown Net casting spider in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

 

 

Rhinoceros beetle in Costa Rica - Kirsty Brown

On a trip this summer to Gran Canaria, I couldn’t help photographing some of the local insects, though this huge robber fly got a bit close to my head, even for my liking! Robber flies ambush other flying insects, and even eat bees.

Robber fly, Asilidae sp in Gran Canaria - Kirsty Brown

Never ending fascination

Over the summer, I attended the Royal Entomological Society’s European Congress of Entomology, in York. The speakers were world-class, and discussed all sorts of issues such as controlling mosquitoes to rid the world of malaria, stepping in to help the last few endemic water beetles trapped in the Sierra Nevada as Spain becomes hotter and drier with climate change, and how incredibly useful Citizen Science has become through websites and apps such as iSpot.

I know I can’t go for a walk without carefully lifting (and replacing!) various stones and logs, to see what I might find. You might be the same. You might like to have a go at building a bug hotel in your garden, then you can attract your own local mini-beasts.

Green Tiger Beetle, Cicindela campestris - Kirsty Brown

We have our own North York Moors National Park wildlife recording system, and we’re always keen to know what people have seen so we can build up a picture of what is about in the North York Moors. The information you give will help us conserve these amazing and vital creatures.

Hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii- Kirsty Brown

We have our own Discovery Days, here in the National Park – the next one is 29 October 2014. If you’d like to get more involved with bugs in the United Kingdom, the Amateur Entomological Society and Buglife have lots of information, activities and events. Watch out for National Insect Week events, such as bio-blitzes.

Oak Eggar moth caterpillar,Lasiocampa quercus - Kirsty Brown

There is no getting away from it, I love bugs.

Linking up Landscapes and Volunteers

Gallery

This gallery contains 30 photos.

Ami Walker – Conservation Land Manager Adviser    The objectives of the Linking Landscapes (Habitat Connectivity) Project are to ensure that the best bits of habitat in the National Park are as good as they can be, and to extend … Continue reading

Make your own mini-meadow

Ami Walker – Conservation Land Management Adviser

Following on from our previous posts about mini-meadow management – here’s how to do it yourself.

How to create a wildflower mini-meadow in or around the North York Moors

1.  Where to position your mini-meadow

  • Your wildflowers will thrive best in a relatively poor soil and a sunny spot.
  • Please be mindful that wildflowers should only be planted on land belonging to you or with the land owner’s full permission.
  • Make sure the area you decide on is well-drained and as weed free as possible.

2.  Preparing the ground for your mini-meadow

  • Dig out any weeds such as ragwort, thistles and docks by hand.
  • Remove any large tussocks of vigorous grasses such as Cock’s foot.
  • Close-cut any remaining vegetation and remove the cut material from the site.
  • Don’t incorporate manure or fertiliser as high fertility encourages excessive vigour in unwanted weeds and grasses that then crowd out the wildflowers.
  • Scarify or rake the area to make bare patches of earth for the seeds to germinate on, between 30-50% is ideal. This can also be achieved by removing small squares of turf (try to only remove grass not flowering plants already established in the mini-meadow area).

3.  Sowing your mini-meadow (late Aug/early Sept)

Native locally sourced wild flower seed is always best.

  • Large areas can be sown by hand quite easily, but it is important to get an even distribution and ensure that it falls on to bare earth.
  • Some seeds such as Yellow rattle need light to germinate therefore there is no need to bury it, just ensure that it is not loose on the surface. This can be done by lightly walking over the entire site; a roller could be used if the site is big.
  • There should be no need to water, provided the ground was damp prior to sowing and it stays damp until the seed germinates. If the surface of the soil dries before the seeds germinate, water the area with a sprinkler or a watering can.

4.  Maintaining your mini-meadow

Year 1

  • Do not cut the grass on the mini-meadow again after the seeds have been sown.
  • Keep an eye out for weeds; try to weed them out by hand as soon as possible.
  • Do an early cut in February and remove all the cut material – this is to reduce the vigour of the grasses allowing the flowering plants to thrive.
  • Leave un-mown from February to September.
  • Introduce any plug plants that you have grown, into the mini-meadow during the spring.

Year 2 (and in subsequent years)

  • In September when all the flowers have gone to seed cut the mini-meadow. This may need to be done with a strimmer as the vegetation could be too thick for a mower.
  • Mowing or strimming is best done in dry weather. The cut material should be left for a few days for seeds to be shed for next year before removing the ‘hay’.
  • Do an early cut in February as in Year 1 and then leave un-mown from February to September.
  • If there are still other individual flower species that you wish to establish do this by incorporating seed or planting plug plants into the established meadow.
  • Once established a mini-meadow doesn’t require any additional watering or feeding.

What to expect

  • The annual wild flowers such as the Yellow rattle should flower in the first year but the biennials and perennials such as Ox-eye daisy will flower in the following years.
  • Expect the unexpected! It’s tricky working with nature – bad weather conditions could result in your seed not germinating but on the other hand an area of amenity grassland which has been subjected to regular cuts could be full of flowering plants just waiting for a chance to thrive.

Make the most of your new mini-meadow

  • Create a bug hotel nearby to provide homes for overwintering insects.
  • Collect seed from your mini-meadow. If you are gathering seed from areas other than your own mini-meadow make sure you have the landowner’s permission first. Don’t take seed from the same place every year and never take more than a third.
  • Extend the mini-meadow, start a new one, create one in your garden!

Flowers you might find in your mini-meadow

Bird’s foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Cowslip Primula veris

Knapweed Centaurea nigra

Meadow buttercup Ranunculus acris

Ox-eye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare

Pignut Conopodium majus

Red clover Trifolium pratense

Sorrel Rumex acetosa

Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor

Your mini-meadow will also be full of bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

Good luck.

Getting off to a great start

Alasdair Fagan – Conservation Graduate Trainee

I’m a recent MSc graduate from the University of Leeds and I began working for the North York Moors National Park Authority as a Conservation Graduate at the beginning of this month.

During my time at the Authority I will be assisting with a number of woodland projects involving Juniper (Juniperus communis), Veteran Trees and the restoration of PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites) i.e. replacement of conifers with native broadleaves through natural regeneration or planting. I will also be offering additional assistance with any work to do with the endangered White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) because I’ve had previous experience of working with the species in the Yorkshire Dales.

During my first weeks I’ve been getting to grips with the different projects I will be assisting with and I’ve had the opportunity to go out into the Park with a number of other staff members. This included taking part in a volunteer task with the Forest Volunteers (and Kirsty) at Dalby Forest.

The task involved providing some much needed maintenance the Forest Garden (near to the Visitor Centre). The Garden was planted and designed last year by the same group of Volunteers.

The Forest Garden has clearly been a success, it was well established with many of the plants growing well, and there were pollinators everywhere.

I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity to work within such a diverse and beautiful National Park. I look forward to keeping you up to date with my progress, and progress on the projects I’ll be involved with.

Looking after Levisham Estate

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

I recently carried out the Levisham Botanical Survey for this year with the help of Dawn Rothwell, our current Volunteer Service Assistant and a keen Volunteer herself, and Sam Lightfoot, LEADER Volunteer.

Levisham Estate is one of the very few areas in the North York Moors actually owned by the North York Moors National Park Authority. It’s just north of Pickering and the land holding is made up of c. 1,360 ha of moorland, woodland, and upland farmland..The overall aim of management on the Estate is to maximise the contribution of the Estate to National Park Purposes

The purpose of the annual Levisham Botanical survey is to ascertain if bracken/scrub encroachment and over grazing are still having a detrimental effect on sites which had been identified as being species rich and of high botanical interest in the past. The Survey has been carried out most years since 2006 and the results help inform us on further management, or suggest changes to the current management, in order to improve the botanical value of the sites.

Three specific exclosures (4m x 4m) have been set up in Levisham Bottoms, the Hole of Horcum and on Levisham Moor. The exclosures are monitored each year to compare species diversity within the exclosures where grazing is eliminated compared to the surrounding area where grazing continues.

Over the years since 2006 the areas outside the exclosures have greatly improved due to the change in grazing pressure on Levisham Estate. A balance is needed between over grazing/management and not enough management allowing scrub to build up at the expense of other habitats.

Ragged RobinRagged Robin 2Ragged Robin 3This year six additional sites were surveyed that hadn’t been monitored since 2007. These sites had previously had an indication of over grazing and bracken encroachment/shading. Some of these additional sites are still species rich but others are suffering from overgrazing, resulting in species being miniature in appearance. Some sites are under severe threat from bracken and gorse encroachment and have reduced in size since they were previously surveyed.

All in all however sites have greatly improved as a result of active management – bracken and scrub clearance – that has been carried out in the last few years. These sites, such as a species rich flush in the Hole of Horcum and a roadside flush near Levisham Station, are really special. A flush is an area of wet ground fed from ground water. Plant species such as Black bog-rush, Round-leaved sundew, Common butterwort, Bog pimpernel and Ragged robin have been found in good numbers. These areas are also attracting other species such as the Small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly, Golden-ringed dragonfly and the Common lizard.

Better, bigger and more connected

Simon Wightman – Head of Natural Environment

The State of Nature report was recently published and represents the first time the UK’s wildlife organisations have joined forces to undertake an assessment of how nature in the UK is fairing. If you haven’t had a chance to have a read, you can find a copy of the report here.

The overall message is a bleak one. Of the species that we have enough data to analyse a trend – the reasonably common or well studied ones – 60% of species have declined over the last 50 years. One in ten species are considered to be under threat of extinction in the UK.

Farmed landscape  - Rosedale

However, something else struck me and offered some cheer. England still supports a fantastic diversity of wildlife that inspires us and enriches our lives every day. Many of these species are in trouble, restricted to tiny islands of suitable habitat in an inhospitable countryside, but they are still here. It is a huge challenge but if we can find a way of making our towns, villages and countryside friendlier for wildlife then it’s not too late.

Coastal slope at Boulby

If we cannot start to address some of these weak links even in our National Parks then it will be much harder in the wider countryside. But there are a huge number of people and organisations working to protect and enhance the fantastic wildlife of the North York Moors. There are farmers and woodland owners who care passionately about the plants and animals they share their land with.

Grassland in Summer - Danby Dale

The North York Moors National Park Authority has launched a new ‘Connectivity’ Programme, which has identified key areas where we feel the landscape could be improved to make it more wildlife friendly. This might be planting trees and hedgerow corridors, or connecting up old farm buildings to help bats. It might be buffering species-rich grasslands or creating new habitat patches to help rare butterflies. It might be planting woodland to link up fragmented, isolated patches. We have set aside money to support landowners and land managers in developing these networks along four simple principles:-

  1. Ensure that existing habitat patches are managed as well as possible
  2. Enlarge existing patches wherever possible
  3. Create new habitat
  4. Improve the surrounding habitat to make it easier for species to move between patches

Hay Meadow close up - RosedaleIt is early days but the response and enthusiasm from farmers and other land managers has been fantastic.

I was mulling over the challenge facing us last weekend whilst digging a pond in the garden with my son. He wants to see tadpoles but we decided to wait and see what comes along by itself. If ours was the only garden with a pond then we would never see a frog but we know that our neighbours have tadpoles so I’m confident we’ll have frogspawn next year.

So securing a future for wildlife is not just about having great habitat, it’s ensuring that there’s enough of it and that species can move Duke of Burgundy butterfliesabout between the patches. Of course, a lot of the species and habitats that we are trying to help in the North York Moors National Park have much more specific requirements than the common frog and need it provided on a much bigger scale than garden ponds. It won’t be as easy but the principles are the same.

It would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas about how our new Connectivity Programme could improve the North York Moors for the special wildlife that lives here.