Friday, 23 July 2010

Bishop Middleham Old Quarry

Burnet Moth

Meadow Brown

Small Skipper

Green Veined White


Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris

Small Tortoiseshell


Common Blue

I discovered this old magnesian limestone quarry a few years ago when I was just breaking new ground and showing an interest in plants. I fell in love at first sight, but don’t get down there very frequently. I’ve had a trip down there planned with Holywell Birding for some time now and today was the day. Yes, I was south of the Tyne once more. This is getting to be a habit and I realise my patch reports have been neglected recently.

Today’s visit was primarily to look at the plants and butterflies and thankfully the weather was on our side. It does get very warm in the quarry on a sunny day. There were a few birds about including Swift, Swallow, Sand Martin, Kestrel (in the working quarry), Willow Warbler and Yellowhammer. I saw no sign of the Green Woodpeckers. The recent rain seems to have encouraged general growth and because of this I felt some of the orchids were not showing quiet as well as on my previous visits. There was still a good showing of the Red Helleborines (some in pristine condition), Common Spotted Orchid, Fragrant Orchid (possibly more than one species of this as I know the Marsh Fragrant Orchid grows in here, as well as the Common) and Common Twayblade. The other flower that really caught the eye was the Carline Thistle and the quarry is the only area I have ever seen this plant. I remember being told that this plant grows to a far larger size in parts of Europe.

Cain and I had hoped for sightings of the Durham Northern Argus Butterfly, which I have found in numbers on previous visits, but we found none today. I found only a little of its larval food plant the Rock Rose so I wonder if there is any link. I have usually found large amounts of Rockrose in flower in the quarry. There was no shortage of Burnet Moths which were once again flying and settling everywhere, and there were large numbers of Green Veined White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue and Small Heath Butterflies, the latter two species being very active and difficult to photograph. Small Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell were also seen. Cain found a female Common Blue Butterfly in the grass, unfortunately were not able to get a decent photograph as it was partially hidden with grass stems.

After leaving the quarry and returning again, these GPS things seem to play funny tricks, we did eventually arrive in Bishop Middleham.:-) We made for the Castle Lake of course. Not having a key for the hide we made for the back of the lake braving the herd of cattle, which I had seen a very large bull with last week! I checked out that it wasn’t there today! We didn’t see too much in the way of waders here today. Plenty of Lapwings and a Common Sandpiper was the sum total, although perhaps there was better to be had viewing some of the channels from the hide. I must get a key. Little and Great Crested Grebes were amongst the birds on the water. Every cloud has a silver lining however and despite not having use of the hide, having gone round the back of the lake we took a short walk along the marked path and found a single Corn Bunting on the wires. A welcome year tick and a very good day!


  1. Hi Brian,
    A cracking place to visit. You feel you are in another place.( if you know what i mean). I was there on 22nd June and found numbers of the Northern Brown Argus, you may have been too late as i noticed they are on the wing 'till mid July. A great shame.
    Still an excellent day out judging by your posting.

  2. Hi John
    Yes, I do know what you mean, it's certainly another world in there. I'm sure your right about the N B Argus. I caught them on my last visit towards the end of July I'm sure, but may have been lucky, and I think the heavy rains have finished them off. It was an excellent day never the less. Cheers. Brian.

  3. Hi Brain

    Sounds like you had a successful day :) Bishop Middleham brings back memories of the pair of Bee-eaters in 2002


  4. Hi Tom

    More butterflies coming soon, then I'm in need of some serious birding and year ticks.:-) Brian