12th June. A bird, an insect and a plant where our three main targets on the RSPB Local Group trip to Bishop Middleham. Fortunately for the eighteen keen participants the sun was shining. Sam and I were leading the trip.
We found two Green Sandpipers on the mud before they took to flight, calling. Then we walked along the path towards Castle Lake. Our target bird was first heard and then seen very well. This was of course the Corn Bunting, a bird that one or two in the group had not seen before which clearly underlines the decline of this species. Further along the way very nice sightings were had of Little Egret, Sedge Warbler and a pair of Grey Wagtails. The Lake itself had thrown up nothing unusual, but we had found the likes of Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Oystercatcher and Lapwing.
Butterflies and odonata were seen along the way and Blackcaps were heard singing.
It had been a tiring walk in the sun and once we had completed the circle most participants retreated to the pub. Our next call was to be the old magnesian limestone quarry, one of my favourite locations in Durham. A few weeks ago I had walked in the quarry and found little. Today was to be different. The Dark Red Helleborines were soon attracting attention (another target for the day) and I also got my eye on CommonTwayblade, but the latter was well past its best. Fragrant Orchids were around in some number. I have to say there was nothing like the amount of botanical interest that I have found in the quarry during July in past visits, but we did have some nice Common Centaury, Milkwort and Thyme and there was certainly enough to keep folk interested and cameras busy for the two plus hours we spent here. Sam watched a Peregrine Falcon dive behind the cliff of the quarry as birds scattered.
Our third target was of course the Durham Argus Butterfly. I was confident of finding these on such a good day, although this confidence soon began to dwindle away after a search brought nothing. We found plenty of Common Blues and then eventually did find the Durham Argus and in some numbers.
Dark Red Helleborine
So it proved to be a very good day. Eighteen participants felt a good number to lead and whilst this is far down on the numbers that used to attend these trips, all I can say is that just so long as everyone is along for the correct reasons, i.e. and interest in nature, then leading the trips can be very rewarding.
The day showed that we can still manage a good numbers of bird species finds whilst focusing on the wider habitat and other wildlife. The bird list came to fifty plus and butterflies seen were Large White, Small White, Green Veined White, Small Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, Common Blue, Durham Argus, Speckled Wood, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Small Heath.
Fragrant Orchid species