Cosy and warm

John Beech – Land Management Adviser

Hygge (pronounced hoo–gah) has been a major trend for this Christmas period. It’s a Danish ‘concept’ of living cosily e.g. wearing thick socks whilst drinking hot chocolate and watching Murder She Wrote – which can make us feel better about the icy and harsh season outside.

For a number of wild animal species, they have their own version of hygge except for them it’s a necessary survival mechanism. Hibernation is an extended period of deep sleep, or torpor*, which allows animals to survive the winter extremes. By reducing their metabolic rate and lowering body temperature this enables them to sit tight, conserve their energy and survive through the cold periods when food is scarce or has little energy value. *Animals in a state of torpor rather than sleep can venture out to try and find additional supplies during warmer winter spells.

In autumn as the temperature begins to fall and the nights draw in, many of the small mammals that live in our fields, woodlands and hedgerows forage for extra food to store over the winter and look for a suitable site (a hibernaculum) to hole up in for the coldest part of the year. Autumn months are often one of the better times of year to see small mammals in the North York Moors such as mice, voles, shrews and Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) out and about eating vast quantities of food to build up fat reserves which will carry them through to the spring.  Following this period of feasting they retreat to somewhere suitably warm and undisturbed and begin to enter into a period of hibernation, which can last for up to four months of the year depending on the harshness of the weather. Also in autumn bats relocate to hibernation roosts looking for a constant temperature and to avoid frosts and freezing e.g. caves, trees and built structures.

And it’s not just our small mammals that hibernate:  Queen bees dig in for the winter and also some species of moths and butterflies, like the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) which hunker down in grassy tussocks. Many of our reptiles and amphibians also hibernate. Adders find warmer crevices under boulders or in dry stone walls. Newt species spend the winter in the muddy banks of ponds, under paving slabs, piles of wood or in a handy compost heap. Common Toads (Bufo bufo) sleep out the winter buried deep in damp places such as leaf piles or compost heaps, before emerging to travel back to their traditional breeding sites in early spring. The Common Frog (Rana temporaria) which needs to keep damp is able to partially freeze in its state of hibernation before thawing out in spring. Occasionally such species come out of hibernation during any short sunny spells in the winter to make the most of the weak sunshine, only to return to their hiding place when the temperature falls again.

Malkin Bower, Bilsdale - in winter - copyright NYMNPA.

So as you’re reading this, hopefully somewhere cosy and warm, spare a thought for our wildlife that’s out there sleeping through the winter, hidden away from view deep in their retreats, practising their own life saving hygge and waiting for the first signs of spring.

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 bounty of Bs

B

BEES

It’s estimated that bees contribute £651 million a year to the UK economy – largely through pollination of crops such as apples and strawberries, of which a large percentage depend on pollination by bees. Unlike other pollinators, such as wasps, mosquitos, ants, moths, flies and beetles, bees rely solely on pollen as a food source, just as plants rely on the bees to reproduce. The resulting co-evolution of the two has meant that bees are especially efficient pollinators and can pollinate a vast range of species. These plants then provide animals (including humans) with a rich variety of fruit, nuts and seeds to feed on. Contrary to popular belief, only 4 out of the 250,000 species of bee in the world produce honey.

Bumblebee - NYMNPABees are in decline due to various cumulative reasons such as intense grazing regimes, use of some pesticides, loss of field margins and hedgerows. At the moment there is a lot of interest in bees and their future e.g. see Defra’s National Pollinators Strategy. In the National Park our efforts are going into conserving, extending and connecting species-rich habitats (through the Habitat Connectivity project) to help support the migration of bees between nesting and feeding sites. The Cornfield Flowers Project and the management of species rich roadside verges help to provide the vital ‘stepping stones’ and ‘corridors’ for bees and other pollinators moving across the landscape. Gardens can do the same thing.

BEE BOLES

Bee bole wall, Glaisdale - NYMNPA

Bee boles are cavities or hollows built into walls to provide shelter for bee skeps which were woven baskets used before the development of bee hive structures you see today. One of our best examples is in Glaisdale and consists of a drystone wall forming the boundary between enclosed (farmland) and common (moorland) land since at least the 17th century. The north face of the drystone wall is crudely constructed from drystone rubble but the sunnier south face contains about 77 recesses or remains of recesses. These recesses vary in size and are formed from two stone dressed uprights and a lintel – in many cases the uprights are shared between adjacent recesses. Each recess would have accommodated a skep or two. The intention was probably for the bees to access the flowering heather on the moorland during the summer. The feature is associated with a farmstead just to the north which is linked to the common land by a ‘driftway’ forming a funnel like track which was probably once paved. The wall has been repaired over time indicating it was valued – it was most recently repaired in 2013/14 because it is still valued as a local cultural and historical asset.

BIODIVERSITY – what is it?

‘Biodiversity’ encompasses all life, from the birds singing outside your window to the bacteria growing on your keyboard. The interaction between animals and plants within a habitat (your garden, for instance) is called an ecosystem in which various food chains interlink. The larger and more diverse the ecosystem, the less likely animals within it are going to be affected by environmental changes, and the more likely the community is to thrive. Not only does a biodiverse ecosystem have intrinsic value, but it also provides social and economic benefit. Supply of food, water and the fresh air all rely on biodiversity in nature, as well as more obscure necessities such as the discovery of new medicines, protection against natural disasters, the pollination of crops and the regulation of our climate.

Biodiversity 2020 is a worldwide agreement, signed in 2010 by over 190 countries, to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2020. Here at the North York Moors National Park, we’re doing all we can to live up to the agreement but we can‘t do it alone; local landowners, farmers and other members of the public are involved in practical conservation to help secure and improve the local biodiversity of the North York Moors – a small but integral component of the world’s biodiversity.

BLUEBELLS

The UK is home to almost half of the world’s population of the British bluebell, Hyacinthoides nonscripta. They are important enough to the nation to have been protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which means it is a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells.

It can easily be distinguished from its Spanish relation by looking at the flowers; whereas Spanish plants are upright with bell-shaped flowers on either side of the stem, British plants are much droopier, with darker, narrower flowers falling on one side of the stem. You need to watch out though, for hybrids of the two are becoming increasingly common and aren’t so easy to classify.

Woodland near Hawnby - NYMNPA

Bluebells are usually found in shady habitats such as broadleaved woodland and emerge in spring, flowering before the trees gain all their leaves and block out the majority of the sunlight. They’re actually extremely slow at growing so some ecologists believe that if bluebells are present and yet there are no young trees or any trees at all, it could indicate that it was once a site of ancient woodland where the trees have been lost or have declined but the associated ground flora lingers on. Where there are no trees at all anymore, remnant bluebells are known as “orphans”.

Not all bluebells are blue - photo from Dalby area, North York Moors

BOBBY SHAFTO…

Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,

Silver buckles on his knee;

He’ll come back and marry me,

Bonny Bobby Shafto.

 

Bobby Shafto’s bright and fair,

Combing down his yellow hair,

He’s ma man for ever mair,

Bonny Bobby Shafto.

This is a nursery rhyme, particularly associated with the north east of England. Robert Shafto was real; he was an 18th century Member of Parliament first for County Durham and then Wiltshire (he had family connections in both places). The rhyme is probably an electioneering song sung by his supporters. And this historic celebrity’s particular association to the North York Moors? He married the daughter and heir of Thomas Duncombe of Duncombe Park, Helmsley; so he and his rhyme are part of our local history.

BRACKEN (Pteridium aquilinum)

Bracken is incredibly wide spread in temperate zones across the world and remarkably persistent. We have a bit of a dual relationship with bracken here at the National Park. Notorious here for its rapid colonisation of moorland and moorland edge habitat, bracken can often create a monoculture which can be bad for biodiversity and take over productive agricultural land, and don’t get our Archaeology Team started on what destruction bracken can inflict on archaeological features. Bracken mainly spreads through underground stems, or rhizomes, with each stem producing active or dormant buds. Whilst active buds can be destroyed by environmental stresses – such as herbicide or cattle grazing/stamping – the dormant buds will remain immune until they become active in a couple of years on a potentially never ending cycle. Annual management is needed just to keep bracken under control, and a lot of money is spent on trying to do this.

Bracken - NYMNPA

It’s important to remember though that bracken isn’t all ‘bad’. In some areas it can act as a surrogate to trees in providing cover for woodland ground flora such as bluebells and violets. It can also provide nesting, feeding and roosting habitat for birds such as Ring ouzels, and Whinchats; and shelter for butterfly eggs such as Pearl-bordered fritillary. People have long been trying to turn this prolific plant into something useful, such as bedding for animals, thatching for rooves and now as mulching.

Walter H BRIERLEY

Walter Henry Brierley (1862–1926) was a highly-reputed architect who practised in York for 40 years. Sometimes known as ‘the Lutyens of the North’, he designed buildings in the fashionable styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century including the Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne Revival styles. Brierley designed many public buildings such as County Hall in Northallerton and a large number of schools in York, as well as being highly sought-after by the Yorkshire aristocracy and gentry for country-house work, such as the reconstruction of Sledmere following a catastrophic fire in 1911, and Welburn Hall.

Mallyan Spout Hotel, Goathland - http://www.mallyanspout.co.uk/But perhaps a lesser known fact is that much of the village of Goathland was also designed and built by him – including many of the houses around the green, the hotel and St Mary’s Church were his – all of which reflect the Arts and Crafts aesthetic. These buildings are now well-known to the public because if you watched the television series Heartbeat, many of Cottages in Goathland - http://www.rightmove.co.uk/Brierley’s buildings ‘star’ alongside the actors!

Arts and Crafts architecture represented a reversion to a simpler more functional style of building which elevated craftsmanship and honesty in design and materials, influenced by vernacular buildings and folk art. The style was a reaction against the elaborate detailing and Gothic architecture of the Victorian period, with its fussy, often-manufactured ornament, but also of the classical styles based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture which had characterised the Georgian and Regency periods. The preference for local slate, handmade clay tiles and red brick, for English oak fixtures and fittings, and for the inglenook fireplace, all defined the Arts and Crafts style. Architects like Brierley used local materials and traditional styles to create something that would not jar with its surroundings, but at the same time distinctive and of its time – an ideal which the National Park promotes today.

BUILDINGS AT RISK REGISTER

The National Park’s Buildings at Risk Register was established in 1995 when the Authority engaged consultants to complete a structural and photographic survey of the Park’s 3014 listed buildings. The survey was subsequently updated in 2004/2005 and we are now in the process of carry out another survey with the help of our volunteers, this time using our prize winning ‘app’ and tablet to capture information electronically.

A lot of time and resources have gone into this area of work over the years and although the final figure is constantly changing (as buildings are removed from the register, more are always added) our running total currently stands at 39 buildings on the At Risk register. When compared to 200 buildings in 2009 we can’t help being pleased with such an achievement, to have helped secure the long-term future of many of the North York Moors’ most important buildings and structures. We have no intention of stopping though and will continue to work towards securing the future of all such buildings.

BEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPABEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPABEFORE Listed Building repair - NYMNPA

 

 

AFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPAAFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPAAFTER Listed Building repair - NYMNPA

 

 

The success so far has been achieved in a variety of ways, often involving a collaboration between the Authority’s Building Conservation Team and the land or property owners, galvanized by the availability of grant or assistance in kind (such as the provision of professional architectural services). Other routes to repair have included working with owners to find alternative viable uses for disused buildings. The Authority only use listed building enforcement action as a last resort.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A

A to Z – starting, unsurprisingly, with A

We thought we’d try something new, new for us anyway. Now and again we’re going to post bits and pieces on conservation. the National Park and the North York Moors – under each letter of the alphabet. That’s the plan – we’ll see how far we get.

A

AFFORESTATION

The North York Moors includes large areas of forest owned and/or managed by the Forestry Commission. These forests were planted at the beginning of the 20th century when in a time of uncertainty following World War One it was decided that the nation needed to create and maintain its own timber resource. This afforestation had a dramatic long term effect on the landscape of the North York Moors which continues today. Timber and other wood products from both public and private enterprises in the National Park remain economically important to the North York Moors.

Boltby Forest - Southwoods - NYMNPA

Boltby Forest - Southwoods - NYMNPA

This is using the word afforestation as it is understood nowadays – turning land into forest by planting trees. In medieval times afforestation meant designating land as forest and therefore placing it under forest law, separate from common law. A forest meant an area for hunting belonging to the Crown; so heathland and grassland as well as woodland, wherever deer and boar and other game animals would live.

ALCATHOE BAT Myotis alcathoe

This bat was first identified as being in the United Kingdom in 2010 – in Sussex and in the North York Moors. It could have been here for years it’s just that it’s difficult to distinguish from other bat species. The Alcathoe bat lives in woodland and swarms with other bats to mate before hibernation. One of the records in the North York Moors was from the autumn swarming at one of the Ryedale Windy Pits.

Alcathoe bat. From www.batconsultancy.co.uk.

ALUM

Alum was one of England’s earliest chemical industries, operating in the North East Yorkshire region from c.1604 until 1871. Alum (aluminium sulphate) was important in textile production which was our main export in the 17th century, and was used as a compound with potassium (e.g. seaweed) and ammonia (e.g. urine – at first collected locally and later also shipped in from coastal towns) to make vegetable dyes colour-fast. With the exception of one Alum Works in Lancashire, North East Yorkshire produced the entire supply of English alum until the early years of the 19th century. The main Alum Works and Quarries were along the coast, which provided better exposures of the mineral together with the most practical means of transport to markets when travelling by sea was a much better prospect then setting off across country. Although softened by over a century of weathering and coastal erosion, the extracting and processing industry has left huge imprints on the North York Moors landscapes which can still be seen today for example at Ravenscar, Saltwick, and Kettleness.

Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA





Saltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPASaltwick Nab Alum Works - NYMNPA

(WILD) ARUM (Arum maculatum)

Also known as Lords and Ladies, Cuckoo Pint etc.

Grows on hedge banks and on woodland edges in the leaf enriched soil. Common throughout Britain and Ireland.

Looks like something from science fiction and has a life cycle to suit.

Has large shiny green leaves sometimes with dark blotches, followed by a thin leaf like cowl growing up through the centre and partially opening to reveal a smelly purple-ish central spike (March/April). This smelly heat emitting spike attracts insects which then slip down into the plant and are temporarily trapped in the base where they pollinate the tiny hidden flowers (female) and collect pollen from the male flowers to carry elsewhere once released. The leaves and initial spike wither away and are replaced by another spike growing upwards topped with the female flowers as small berries which turn from green to red (July/August). Birds eat the berries – but they’re unpalatable and poisonous to humans, as is most of the plant.

Wild Arum. From easywildflowers.wordpress.com/tag/arum-maculatum/Wild Arum. From easywildflowers.wordpress.com/tag/arum-maculatum/

ATLANTIC SALMON (Salmo salar)

The Esk is the principal Atlantic salmon river in Yorkshire. The whole of the River Esk catchment is within the North York Moor National Park.

The rod catch on the Esk in 1923 was 950 fish per year, this number has declined to about 170 fish in 2010. The National Park Authority’s Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project has been running since 2007 and its aims include reversing the decline in the Atlantic salmon population in the river by improving water quality, improving in-river and riparian habitats and removing barriers to vital fish migration.

Atlantic salmon. From www.thesundaytimes.co.uk - picture by Thomas Kitchin & Victoria Hurst

ATTITUDE

i.e. the right attitude to work positively with people in the National Park to listen to what others have to say; to try and tackle concerns; and to take forward National Park purposes together.

The latest example of this attitude in action has been the Dales and Moors Farm Innovation Pilot Project where the North York Moors National Park worked with the Yorkshire Dales National Park and neighbouring Areas of Outstanding Beauty across the wider area and used skills funding through the local LEP to provide free business and environmental advice to guide local farmers into producing their own whole farm plans and tailored proposals for sustainable ways forward for their farms.

AUSTROPOTAMOBIUS PALLIPES

White-clawed crayfish - Helen Webster, NYMNPAAustropotamobius pallipes are native White-clawed crayfish. The upper tributaries of the
Yorkshire River Derwent in the National Park still support populations of this nationally declining species. What with needing clean aquatic habitats, competing with non-native aggressive signal crayfish, and suffering from deadly crayfish plague, the White-clawed crayfish are in a perilous situation. Just when you thought their luck couldn’t get any worse, one of these Yorkshire Derwent tributaries, the River Rye, tends to dry out in the summer at one particular location because of sink holes, leaving the local population of White-clawed crayfish and other aquatic creatures stranded.

So just like a year ago, last week we had to launch another rescue mission. Alex led a team of Emily, Simon (who has a licence to trap and/or remove crayfish), Helen the Planning Officer, Alex’s partner Toby, and a helpful man called Jim and his dog. They managed to collect and relocate upstream of the sink holes around 500 White-clawed crayfish (including females carrying hatchlings) as well as 20+ lamprey and 40+ small fish that were scooped up with them.

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Alex Cripps, NYMNPARiver Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPARiver Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Helen Webster, NYMNPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - Alex Cripps, NYMNPA

River Rye crayfish rescue 16 7 15 - if you look closely you might make out the hatchlings on the abdomen - Alex Cripps, NYMNPAA couple of weeks before the Environment Agency (EA) had carried out a fish rescue at the same location. The EA rescued and re-located 265 Brown Trout, 65 Grayling, 5 Lamprey and 100s of minor fish species including minnows, stone loach and bullheads. They also rescued 50 White-clawed crayfish, some carrying eggs.

North York Moors Top 10 flora

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Ami Walker – Lead Land Management Adviser These are my Top 10 of wild flowers and grasses that you can see round about now in the surviving meadows, uncultivated grasslands and road verges of the North York Moors. These are some … Continue reading

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

Swallows and Amphibians (and ponies)

John Beech – Heritage Coast Project Officer

The six ponds installed last year through our Habitat Connectivity programme (“Linking Landscapes”) are thriving with life this spring. I’ve just returned from a site visit to the area north of Robin Hood’s Bay and found the ponds full of tadpoles, water boatmen, backswimmers and whirligig beetles. It’s a marvellous sight given that these shallow hollows in the landscape previously held no water at all and contained very little in the way of wildlife.

We arranged the project with the landowner (National Trust) and tenant, and paid for the contractor with his mini digger to form these scrapes and ponds. The ponds were fenced off to allow the vegetation around them to grow up and not be grazed off by stock. This type of habitat should be ideal as breeding sites for amphibians.

Whilst looking for submerged wildlife, I also saw my first Swallow of the year as it swooped to drink from the ponds freshwater after its long journey of migration. The Yorkshire Coast must have been its first landfall for thousands of miles. It’s incredibly satisfying to think that you’ve added to the whole biodiversity and wildlife interest of the area with a few scoops from a digger.

Further up the coast at Wrack Hills near Runswick Bay, hardy Exmoor ponies are settling in well on the undercliff grassland. Undercliff habitat is found alongside soft cliffs where the land has slumped and settled, and been recolonized by vegetation over time. During the winter we’ve fenced off part of the existing SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and installed a watering point. The fencing, in part, follows an historic fence line which implies that there was stock in the past on this useful, if difficult to access, rough pasture. We were previously talking about putting cattle on the undercliff but instead the land manager has managed to arrange for Exmoors to begin to tackle the coarse grasses and scrub that have been taking over the site. This conservation grazing regime is aimed at halting the decline of the patches of species rich grassland that are left here. Big thanks to the land manager and the Exmoor Pony Trust for taking on this challenge. We’re promoting this type of grazing management on the National Park’s coastal undercliffs wherever possible.

The two ponies (one small mare and one larger gelding) were introduced to the site in April. Since then the paths they’ve made (and dung piles they’ve left!) show that they’ve explored much of the site and have started to make an impact on some patches of grassland. Encouragingly there are plenty of primroses, bluebells and a few early-purple orchids in flower, so it doesn’t look like the ponies are eating the flower heads.P1030889

It might be good to have more ponies on the undercliff when the ground is drier and less liable to poaching up. Otherwise combining ponies with the land manager’s own shorthorn cattle might be advantageous. Mixes of ponies and cattle have an added benefit that ponies can graze the best grass very tightly, which encourages cattle to tackle the rough stuff before the ponies might get round to it. In addition, after the bird breeding season, if human labour is available, it might be worth strimming some of the edges of the bramble patches, or creating routes though them which the ponies can then expand. The same could apply to bracken patches, although I hope the ponies might make inroads there themselves.

More encounters

Sam Jones – River Esk Project Student

I was thinking about what I could share with you and found myself pondering the various enchanting and unexpected meetings I have had with wildlife since starting here in August. I decided to ask around the Conservation Department and gather together a number of recent stories and the odd picture to share.

It is amazing once you stand still how quickly wildlife often finds you. Whilst carrying out the Veteran Tree survey in Hawnby, Alasdair and Alex have been lucky enough to have several great wildlife encounters. While standing still, quietly surveying a fantastic old oak tree with lots of veteran characteristics a tiny Goldcrest started calling close by, this lovely wee bird was shortly followed by a flock of Long-tailed tits, chattering loudly in the canopy above them. They then heard the recognisable sound of a wood pecker drilling into old dead wood…to their surprise it was a rare Lesser spotted woodpecker, the first time either of them had seen one. It was surprisingly small compared to the more commonly seen Great spotted woodpecker and busied around for a good 10 minutes. They enjoyed watching it so much that neither of them thought to take a photo!

Whilst out conducting botanical surveys for the National Park’s habitat connectivity ‘Linking Landscapes‘ programme, Kirsty, Ami and Alex found some interesting creatures in the undergrowth.

Minature worldAlex and Kirsty joined in with a bunch of volunteers to discover how to spot water vole signs around Fylingdales, and although they didn’t see any notoriously shy water voles, there was a female adder lurking nearby.

Female adder

As well as adders, beautiful slow worms can often be found under stones, in and around dry stone walls, like this one found in a derelict wall near Cawthorn Camps.

Slow worm - being moved for it's own safety

Talking about Cawthorn Camps – from time to time, one of the tasks for Graham, our Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer, is to keep an eye on the Roman forts here. The site is owned and managed by the National Park Authority and Graham is watching out for erosion and encroaching vegetation problems. On a particularly hot, sunny summer’s day, he was showing a placement student around the site. Many of the visitors to Cawthorn walk around the main circular path, often exercising their dogs, but the interiors of the forts at this time of year are covered in long grasses and some heather. Because few people venture into the fort interiors, they are well-known as good adder habitat. In this sort of knee deep vegetation, generally the first sign of the presence of an adder is a fierce hiss just before you are about to step on it! On this most memorable occasion, Graham was pointing out the subtle internal earthworks of the site to the student when an extra loud hiss sent him into low earth orbit, badly jarring a frozen shoulder at the time – excruciating! He landed – unfortunately without a camera to hand – to the sight of a pair of conjoined adders which then – their coitus interrupted – serenely slid away while Graham + student stood there, recovering from the shock.

An excited Simon during his second summer of surveys for the Esk Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project found a “young” pearl mussel. Until then he had only found mussels which were 60-70+ years of age. This individual – the smallest live musseI that has been found in the river (75mm) recently, was approximately 20-25 years old. This proves that the mussels have bred successfully in the not so distant past, which gives encouragement to the aims of the Project, and all in all it was Simon’s best day out – ever.

A young Freshwater Pearl Mussel

As for myself, while sampling for bugs in Glaisdale Beck I spied a strange brown shape floating downstream in a very odd fashion. It turned out to be a common toad that drifted ungainly towards me and bounced off my waders before bobbing off downstream – a little bewildered.

Common Toad - River Esk

As I was dipping a small pond beside the River Esk looking for smooth newts prior to hibernation I came across this enormous hawker dragonfly larvae at nearly two inches long, a top predator within the little pond.

Hawker dragon fly larvae

And we mustn’t forget the local ladies when discussing encounters for it is hard to visit many parts of the North York Moors without meeting farm animals of some kind or other.Cattle - Esk Valley

The creatures we come across may not necessarily seem exotic or exciting (except maybe for Simon’s mussel) on an international scale, but each animal and bird is part of the biodiversity of this corner of the world – and that’s important to us.