Warm spring sunshine greeted 34 members of the Field Nats as we arrived at Brimham Rocks in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire. The Brimham Rocks site, a SSSI owned and managed by the National Trust, displays amazing rock formations of millstone grit that have been sandblasted by fierce winds over millennia, resulting in a fascinating and unique array of weird and wonderful rock shapes. The site is a favourite family destination and was quite busy with visitors when we arrived, but that did not stop a mole from being seen, scurrying across the rocky ground frantically looking for some soil in which to burrow.
Jackdaws, rooks and crows flew noisily over the tops of the rocks as we picked our way through the formations. On the edge of the site we were delighted to see tree and buff-tailed bumblebees and a tawny mining bee, a good place to stop for lunch.
We descended across fields (and over some tricky stiles) with glorious views over Nidderdale to reach an attractive wooded valley through which a clear stream burbled and gushed. This was excellent habitat for a good range of flora, including wood sorrel, forget-me-nots, wild garlic, marsh marigold and dog’s mercury, among many others. By the streamside an eagle-eyed member of the party spotted a bee-fly, looking like “a fly in a fur coat with wings of clear cellophane” and a distinctive long nectar-sipping proboscis. Two sorts of fungi, blushing bracket and King Alfred’s cakes, added to the variety of natural history seen.
At one point we passed a field in which a ewe had only just given birth to twin lambs. Both appeared to be doing well, as we passed quietly by.
Eventually we reached the River Nidd itself, flowing through a beautiful intimate wooded valley, where we headed upstream towards Pateley Bridge. The bird list had been growing steadily all day, and now included, amongst about 33 other seen species, dipper, grey wagtail, reed bunting, goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch and great crested grebe. To emphasise that we were now well into spring we also enjoyed seeing some of our regular summer visitors such as swallow, chiffchaff and willow warbler, the latter two singing their hearts out as they established their territories and looked for a mate. A roe deer put in a fleeting appearance to widen the range of species seen even more.
At last we reached the charming small town of Pateley Bridge, where there was just time to enjoy a welcome cup of tea and cake before boarding the coach for the journey home. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day of natural history in sparkling spring sunshine in delightful countryside.