The Natural History of Wharfedale 1999
Review of the year 1999
Botany - Report on the plants seen during 1999 by Joyce Hartley
Entomology - Report on the Butterflies and moths by Prof. David
Ornithology - Report on the birds seen during 1999 by Peter Riley
Vertebrates - Report on the vertebrates (other than birds) by Nevil
Weather - Weather report for 1999 by John Ward
Foreword by David Alred
Birds and Global Warming by John Ward
Encounters with Woodpeckers by
Things are hotting up - Official! by Mike Atkinson
Ilkley 2000 & Computer Mapping by David Leather
Geological Excursions by David Leather
Winter Walks by Chris Hartley
Michael & Rita Densley - An appreciation by Midge Leather
Preceding this foreword you will have seen
listed the numerous activities which have formed our Summer 1999
and Winter 1999/2000 programme. They show that we have met together
on many occasions and shared our common interest in Natural History
across a very wide spectrum. To attain this situation there is much
going on behind the scenes, with numerous people giving their time
to ensure that these varied events are available to the membership,
and that all proceeds smoothly. We have reason to be grateful to
everyone so involved for their efforts.
During the year there were three events which
gave me special pleasure. Firstly that we recognised the great contribution
to our Society over many years by Joan Duncan, who became our first
Honorary Life Vice President. Congratulations Joan on a recognition
well deserved. Secondly that we were able to have a special lecture
in September when Ben Osborne presented Life in The Freezer
to a large and very appreciative audience of members and friends.
Thirdly that we have added Bird Watching Days to our Summer Programme.
Over the past few years various members have participated in and
gained additional knowledge from the Botany Section Outings and
more recently the Geology Field Meetings. These days devoted specifically
to Botany, Geology and Ornithology give us a much needed opportunity
to share our field knowledge with fellow members.
It is unfortunate that three of our activities
this year had little support. I refer to, the Natural History Day
at Nell Bank, the Fungus Foray at Norwood Edge and the intended
coach trip to Leighton Moss in November. I know that the few who
took advantage of the first two events found them full of interest
and I believe the coach trip would have been a success if more bookings
had been received. As members, do please try to give your support
to such items if they form part of the Society programme. If in
the coming year you do not wish such events to form part of the
programme or if you have views about alternatives please make them
known to a committee member.
Our Honorary Secretary for the past three
years, Olwen Middleton, has decided that now is the time for someone
else to take over. The Society is very grateful to Olwen for doing
this essential job for us with such efficiency and enthusiasm. I
would finally like to thank all other officers and members of committee
and all others within the society who have helped throughout the
Birds and global warming
Here is an extract from BTO News number 223
which is a Climate Change Special and contains a series
of articles on the subject.
Hard facts about the world wide effect on
birds of global warming are hard to come by but the retreat of the
glaciers and the shrinking of both the Antarctic ice cap and the
Arctic sea ice indicate strongly that change must be taking place.
Moreover, it is an established fact that over the last 150 years
worldwide average temperatures have increased by 0.6°C. That
does not seem a lot but it is equivalent to us all being shifted
250 kilometres south.
In Britain, evidence of changes has been
little more than anecdotal but the BTO, basing its studies on the
distributions shown in the two BTO Breeding Bird Atlases of 1968-1972
and 1988-1991 has begun to chart the change. 20 of the 65 most common
breeding species are laying earlier than they did 20 or so years
ago by an average of 9 days.
The range of British birds has also changed.
Of 101 relatively common species (excluding sea birds) 59 had a
predominantly southern distribution while the others were predominantly
northern. The northern margin of the southern species
has shifted northwards by 19 kilometres on average. On the other
hand there is no evidence which is statistically significant that
the northern birds have moved further north.
Migration studies also suggest that birds
are arriving earlier. Over the 30 year period ending in 1996 the
mean arrival date for the wheatear has advanced by four days while
that for the cuckoo has advanced by 21 days. The changes for other
birds studied fall between these extremes with the average being
It is of course recognised that other factors
can be playing a part in these changes. Changes in population and
changes in food supply may both be significant. So too is the weather
pattern, e.g. the frequency of storms and the wind direction. However,
continuing study, in which our Society can play a part, will no
doubt gradually clarify the situation.
Contributed by John Ward
Encounters with Woodpeckers
During last spring our garden was regularly
visited by a great spotted woodpecker. It would arrive with a flourish
on the pole peanut container and feed there steadily for as much
as ten minutes at a time if not disturbed. From the window we had
splendid views of its smart black and white plumage and the flame
coloured patch under its tail. There was no red on the nape so we
knew our visitor was a female.
Disaster struck on April 29th. At about 7.30pm
John, my husband, found a female woodpecker lying unconscious beside
our front steps - probably she had flown into the window and knocked
herself out. We could see she was still breathing but clearly unable
to move. Dusk was approaching and the neighbourhood has its full
complement of cats. We were reluctant to leave the bird where she
was so, after some discussion, we found a suitable cardboard box
and John picked her up and deposited her inside. She gave a very
loud squawk at this point which we considered a good sign. The box
was put in a dark corner of the garage and we returned to the house.
I was not very hopeful of the outcome. My childhood seemed full
of a succession of injured birds and animals in cardboard boxes
which were invariably stiff and stark by morning, but perhaps a
woodpecker, with its specially reinforced skull, would have a better
chance of survival. And so it proved.
I came downstairs the following morning to
be greeted by a loud hammering which seemed to be coming from the
corner of the downstairs bedroom. However, since this room is directly
over the garage, I quickly guessed the cause. I opened the front
door. The hammering now seemed even louder and resounded across
the garden. How long had it been going on - and how many neighbours
had it disturbed? Best not to think about that! My main worry was
that the bird had somehow got out of its box and was injuring itself
in a terrified effort to escape from the garage. But no such thing.
As soon as I lifted the box I could feel the bird shifting about,
still safe inside, though two round holes had appeared neatly drilled
through the cardboard, one facing east, one west. Perhaps she had
looked out, found it was still dark and sensibly decided to wait
for the dawn. I stepped out onto the drive, carefully lifted the
flaps and watched in delight as our visitor shot off at speed with
never a backward glance. It was some months before we saw her again.
However, in the following July we began to
receive visits from a juvenile great spotted woodpecker. Juveniles
are easily identified for they have bright red caps. Ours was also
readily identified as a beginner at eating from a peanut holder
as it had to land on a nearby fence post, think for a while and
then launch itself onto the feeder. Once there it fed voraciously.
In fact it seemed to be a very hungry woodpecker, a frequent visitor.
Every time we looked out, there was the juvenile on the peanut holder.
Then, on 7th August we found the explanation.
We had guests and, spotting the young woodpecker
apparently poised ready for the leap onto the peanuts, I pointed
it out to them. But it didnt jump, just crouched there, beak
raised and eyes fixed on the nut-holder. As we looked more carefully
we became aware of another bird, another juvenile woodpecker, already
on the nuts. It wasnt feeding but clung immobile on the side
of the holder nearest its sibling. It had elongated its body to
stretch the full length of the holder and its bill pointed straight
upwards. The two birds remained there for over half an hour, one
staring fixedly at the other which, in its turn, looked steadily
heavenwards. So we hadnt one excessively greedy young woodpecker
but two, presumably with more normal appetites.
Visits continued throughout August and, now,
knowing there were two of them , I tried to determine some way of
telling them appart. One did seem rather niftier at landing on the
side of the peanut holder and we had the impression that this one
was slightly larger but, since we never again saw both together,
it was difficult to be sure of relative size. Then, in Jonathan
Elphicks Birds - a Guide Book to British Birds (BBC 1997),
I found some helpful information: in the juvenile stage the black
moustache is narrower, streaked white and the line connecting the
moustache to the black area which, in the adult, stretches from
nape to back is not quite joined up at first.
Things are Hotting Up official!
Last year Joan Duncan challenged us to think
a new thought PHENOLOGY. My dictionary says this
is the study of the impact of climate on the seasonal occurrence
of flora and fauna. Examples would be the dates that flowers
flower, or the dates birds migrate.
During the autumn members joined in a national
scheme, the UK Phenological Network, to record arrival dates of
autumn migrants, departure dates of swifts and swallows, and the
progress of fruiting and autumn colouring and leaf fall of some
of our common trees. We werent always convinced of the accuracy
and therefore the usefulness of our observations, but nonetheless
we sent them on to the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology which is
part of the National Environmental Research Council based in Huntingdon.
They have bulked our records with others from all over the country
to form a national picture of how things were in 1999. There is
a national interest in what is happening to our climate, and we
are not the only people sending in reports. Meanwhile Nevil Bowland
searched earlier Nats Annual Reviews for similar information, and
we sent that off as well.
While we were busy on this the newspapers
were beginning to carry pieces on the subject from a variety of
interested parties and scientific experts.
A London University professor of environmental
change reported that in Norway there has been a 1-degree Centigrade
rise in temperature since 1930. As a result, a number of plants
have died out low down on the slopes of the mountains and now can
be found only about 1000 feet higher up. No problem for Norway,
maybe, since they still have plenty of mountain to go but, says
the professor, if the same thing goes on here in Britain it will
be a different story. We dont have much more height for plants
and animals to retreat to here if it warms up, and scientists are
agreed that it will continue to warm up, perhaps by another degree
Centigrade by year 2030. Scottish Natural Heritage say that will
be enough for snow bunting, ptarmigan and dotterel virtually to
disappear as breeding birds from the British Isles. Many of the
Scottish rare alpine plants will die out, losing the battle for
survival as lower-slope plants progressively invade their preferred
habitats until they are even forced off the summits. They will have
nowhere to go then and become extinct from the UK.
The National Trust and the Royal Horticultural
Society are setting up a joint scheme to monitor the effect of global
warming on Britains historic gardens, many of them carefully
nurtured and developed over periods as long as 300 years. Planting
schemes today designed to last into the 24th Century will need shrewd
guesses about what species will best cope with changes in climate,
be it drier conditions, or wetter ones, or whole new ranges of pests
from southern Europe colonising us.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is selecting
100 out of its 32,000 world species to watch for earlier flowering
dates Mock Orange, Judas Tree and also Ox-eye Daisy, Marsh
Marigold and their famous Bluebells.
Then, just a couple of days before Christmas,
the heads of the UK and USA meteorological offices issued a joint
statement about the climatic records for 1999. The temperature in
central England had been the warmest since 1659. The US had its
second warmest year since 1880. The rate of change seems to be about
1 degree Centigrade every 50 years quite enough to produce
The scientists seem to agree that the reason
for this global warming is the greenhouse effect, resulting
from an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Also, they agree that there is no natural explanation
for what in geological terms is such a rapid rate of increase in
carbon dioxide concentration, and that the only plausible explanation
is the effect of changes in human activities over the last hundred
and fifty years. We have made two main kinds of change our
rapid destruction of the worlds forests, and our increased
burning of fossil fuels (coal and oil). The forest loss
itself impinges in two ways on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels
first, carbon dioxide is produced simply by burning trees
down (or using them for firewood), and second, no other kind of
ground cover is as good at absorbing carbon dioxide as were the
forests that have gone. We need to remember the world population
has quadrupled since 1900, and with that comes demand for wood,
cleared land, and all forms of energy. These increases in demand
arent just going to stop.
So, things are hotting up, as
is now generally agreed. Was that true here in Wharfedale last autumn?
Thats a bit more difficult to say. Weve only had one
go at observing it. Making your mind up after just one season is
a bit like looking at a snapshot of kiddies playing by a waters
edge, and working out whether the tide is coming in or going out
(or whether theres no tide at all because the water is a lake,
not the sea). You need a longer and a wider look. So we have been
encouraged to continue our local studies this year and I have been
sent a stock of report forms for spring observations.
However, Nevils historical survey of
our records from 1978 on already shows that here in Wharfedale there
is a link between phenological phenomena and climate.
The earliest finding-dates for frogspawn seem to correspond both
to March mean temperature and to January-to-March mean temperature,
and are running about 6 days earlier per degree warmer in each case.
Swifts are leaving Wharfedale earlier, which appears to match a
national trend. The reason for this may be that food insect supplies
are lower, and as swifts seem to produce only single broods they
will end raising their young earlier and maybe lay smaller clutches.
Insect supplies may be lower because tree buds are breaking earlier
before eggs have time to hatch. If so the caterpillars which produce
the swifts' food supplies will be having less time to feed before
their food leaves mature and become uneatable. More observations
are needed before all this can be confirmed.
So, watch this space! The Sahara, or a new
olive grove, could be coming to a moor near you! Or maybe the Gulf
Stream will be diverted further north and we shall all freeze in
the winter like they do in New England, which is nearer the Equator
than we are. Whatever, the Earths atmosphere is warming up
and that, however it works out locally, almost certainly means change.
Phenological observations are an important contribution to spotting
what is happening up in the clouds and what is happening and going
to happen to our weather, our flora and our fauna, here in Wharfedale,
in England, and across the whole Earth.
The video entitled Ilkley 2000 was launched
at Rombalds Hotel at the end of October 1999, and was deemed a great
success. WNS was one of the participating societies and David Leather
was on the production team. The 47 minute video includes scenes
of badgers at their sett, newts at Nell Bank, bluebells in Middleton
Woods and glacial scouring at Hangingstone quarry. At the present
time (February 2000) 900 copies have been sold and £4,500
is now available for particular needs among local youth and childrens
groups. The director and cameraman, Darren Potter of Zoom Video
Productions in Burley, is keen, with the help of local naturalists
from the Society, to carry out further filming of natural history
in mid-Wharfedale with a view to producing a wildlife video of the
A start has been made in putting our records
on computer. First was the production of an outline map of Wharfedale
which can be used to produce dot distribution maps of species within
our area. We have begun, with help from Joyce Hartley who has already
put species of some plants on maps by hand, and Mike Atkinson who
has keyed in the records of some of those. An example of one of
the fern species, Maidenhair Spleenwort, is shown here. As more
records are entered, we will be able to see how many species are
found in each square. However the computer software does not show
other important information such as details of where and when found,
and by whom. After we have got used to using the distribution map
software (DMAP) we will need another program to replace the record
card itself, with all its various notes, dates, grid references
and so on. Some of the modern computer programs can include, for
example, a detailed map as to where the species was found or even
a photograph of it.
Five field meetings took place during the
year, meeting at 10am Ilkley Old Bridge.
Valley of Desolation (6 May 1999) The geology
of the area lies near the base of the Millstone Grit Series, within
the Grassington Grit Group. The party descended into Posforth Gill
and examined an exposure of glacial till which included ice-scratched
pebbles of limestone easily scarred by the harder pieces
of gritstone. The waterfall shows an impressive 10m of sandstone
dipping at about 20° to the north-west. Boulders of limestone
in the beck were beautifully scalloped. At the upper falls the sandstone
was coarser with quartz pebbles, a feature of the Grassington Grit.
Climbing out of the gorge up a zig-zag path we had a fine view of
the Valley of Desolation. On the way back we examined a landslip
which occurred in 1978 and now planted to stabilise the slope.
Moor End leadmines, Upper Wharfedale (10
June 1999) We climbed up the track to the mines from Kettlewell.
Moorend shaft was sunk between 1850 and 1858 and lies on the 1,500
foot contour. Over its 20 year lifetime it may have produced 1,000
tons of ore. Minerals on the large tip heaps included galena (lead
sulphide), barite (barium sulphate), fluorite (calcium fluoride),
calcite (calcium carbonate) and some sphalerite (zinc sulphide).
There was some interesting industrial archaeology, including a pit
for a waterwheel. John Hobson had provided additional information:
a 16ft waterwheel drove a 7ft diameter drum for the winding
shaft, while the tail race led to another wheel pit used to drive
Baildon Moor (22 July 1999) From Bracken
Hall Countryside Centre we walked along the margin of Shipley Glen,
more or less on the upper surface of the Millstone Grit series,
which showed massive current-bedded gritstone, often with quartz
pebbles on the surface of bedding planes. Passing a double stone
circle we visited an old quarry with bits of highly micaceous sandstone
lying about. Up the side beck we noted black shale outcropping in
the bank, a sign of a fault between that and the massive sandstones
in the quarry. Going up the road and onto Baildon Moor we examined
the spoil heaps of one or two of the old bell pits or shallow mines,
finding the beautifully lined fossil bivalve Dunbarella sp., as
well as crushed examples of the goniatite Gastrioceras sp. in the
marine shale. Small lumps of coal were washed out on the surface.
Higher up we noticed large pieces of hard, whitish gannister, a
pure silica sandstone that occurs beneath coal seams. Some contained
traces of plant rootlets. From the top of Baildon Moor we had a
fine panorama of the surrounding district, including four parallel
glacial spillways to the west.
Attermire Scar, near Settle (16 September
1999) Starting from Stockdale Lane in a shower of rain, we visited
Scaleber Force on the retreated scarp of the Great Scar Limestone
near the South Craven Fault. In the Kilnsey Limestone was a good
specimen of Nautilus, the coiled, partitioned shell which lives
on today in deep oceans. We passed the steep slopes of High Hill
in Reef Limestone, Sugar Loaf with Yoredale (Hawes) limestone outcropping
near the track, and on to Attermire Scar. We looked into Victoria
Cave, discovered in 1837 (the year of Queen Victorias coronation)
where brown bear, spotted hyena, lion and hippopotamus had once
lived (dating back 120,000 years). Neolithic and many Romano-British
artefacts had been found here. Attermire Scar, and Pikedaw along
the mid- Craven fault produced magnificent scenery.
Pikedaw, near Malham (14 October 1999) We
began this excursion at Malham, continuing our examination of the
mid-Craven fault area. After looking at the Bowland shale in Sell
Gill we climbed up the side of Pikedaw Gill, almost on the fault
itself, with a huge landslip to the left. On the right were limestones
that had been silicified, almost like a hard sandstone. We visited
Pikedaw Level, marked by a stone entrance to the lead mine with
the date 1872 on the lintel. The calamine mine higher up has a metal
trap door covering a shaft. They mined zinc carbonate (calamine)
here which encrusted the floor of a cavern system. Some 5,000 tons
were extracted up to 1830. At Pikedaw Head Gate there was evidence
of copper minerals in the spoil heap, which was mined before the
discovery of the calamine. We returned north of Pikedaw and on to
As in previous seasons I am happy to report
that the programme of winter walks continues to go from strength
to strength. On 10 January 1999 our group of stalwarts met at Farnley
for a walk around Lindley Wood Reservoir where we were rewarded
with the sightings a group of goosanders, that splendid sawbill,
fish-eating bird, which has drawn attention from the Duke of Devonshire
in recent years, and a flock of Golden Eye. The latter put on a
display of whistling and dancing in a ring which is a sight not
too many folk are privileged to witness. Later we wandered back
by way of Haddockstones Farm, returning to the cars until
the following great adventure.
February Filldyke found us in upper Nidderdale,
meeting in Lofthouse where we perambulated along the Nidderdale
Way in the general direction of Scar House and Angram Reservoirs.
Passing by Thorpe House, we saw two Rough-legged Buzzards soaring
on the thermals a magnificent spectacle and we all
stood there transfixed until this brace of natural wonders finally
went on their way, passing from our sight but not from our minds.
Further on, Dick Burrow proved his mettle; we suddenly became aware
of him standing firm and still, staring into some woodland running
down the hillside towards the River Nidd that splashed below us.
Then with a furtive gesture he drew our attention to three or four
roe deer trotting down the valley side, turning to and fro among
the trees. Again, we watched until these graceful creatures disappeared
from our view. Such animals are not easy to spot, and to observe
them the way Dick did that day reveals the mark of the true countryman.
Later, on the track to Foggy Gill, Olwen Middleton showed us an
outcrop of shale-coal, an interesting geological find. Then we ended
up at Doug and Olwens caravan for a refreshing cuppa
a perfect ending to a wonderful day.
The March walk discovered us once more in
the lovely verdant village of Burton Leonard, though this time the
weather wasnt as kind to us as the previous year. Nevertheless
our intrepid covey sallied forth via the field paths down to the
point where the historic Ripon Canal meets the River Ure. This venerable
artificial waterway was constructed in 1822 to enable boats to shift
cargoes of lead, stone and coal from Ripon, all the way to Kingston
upon Hull. As we wandered on our way we were recompensed for the
bad weather with views of great flocks of Greylag and Pink-footed
geese swirling and turning through the air and then coming into
land like some graceful downy ballet, truly a sight to move the
most cynical heart, and one that most certainly made up for the
incessant drizzle. On the home lap we were delighted by the sight
of a jaunty little Reed Bunting which greeted us merrily as it flitted
from reed to reed along the banks of an overgrown drainage ditch.
By the old tradition we ended this particular
season in our native recording area up at Buckden in the glorious
limestone country of Upper Wharfedale. Leaving the National Park
car park we wandered up the old Roman road via Buckden Raikes. I
oft times wonder how many folk who came this way know or even care
that here in this remote wondrous spot, almost two millennia ago,
some nameless legionnaire soldiers toiled and moiled to build a
road so that even we today may climb and wonder, as they did, at
such grand vistas that are found up here. Do their Ghosts gaze down
from Paradise upon the rugged groups of ramblers, with heavy rucksacks
on their backs as they struggle up this mighty eminence, and give
a wry smile and think: I helped build that road, do they see
me there? So, we passed on by way of Cray and Scar House to
Yockenthwaite, where some of us ventured to seek out the enigmatic
Stone Circle, symbol of an earlier age and stamped by a Dales
version of Fred Flintstone, for what we do not know. Following the
infant Wharfe back to Buckden we were graced by Grey Wagtails hopping
about the rocks along the river, and also some goosanders. The redoubtable
Olwen Middleton found some Toothwort growing on some Holly roots
well-spotted Olwen. So another season ended.
Autumn came and the start of a walk from
Barden Bridge. We went along to Skyrethorns, by way of Parceval
Hall, then up by Trollers Gill, where the Barguest haunts, and proceeded
to Kail Hill and down Onion Lane to Appletreewick. The river yielded
views of Goosander and the delightful little Dipper, and some excitement
from a group of white water rafters shooting the rapids, which held
our attention for a spell. This, coupled with the golden leaves
so plentiful in October made for a day to remember.
In November we ended up at Thruscross using
the paths to circumnavigate the reservoir which hides the village
of West End and its flax mills of long ago. We observed a few tits
in the trees, though there was not much on the water; nevertheless
we all had an enjoyable walk.
Decembers walk found me having to hand
the reins to David and Joan Alred as that Sunday I had to work,
but this route went from Ripley around to Cayton Grange and thence
on to High Cayton Farm where there is the site of a medieval village
(dissolved along with Fountains Abbey), plus a horse engine house
and Bee boles.
However, come January 2000 I was back in
action at Pateley Bridge, when we wandered up the River Nidd where
we observed a pair of Goosanders. Then we went up towards Heathfield
passing a field barn with a curious carving on a door lintel, and
proceeded to Ashfold Gill, in past times the boundary between the
estates of Fountains and Byland abbeys. It still has many melancholy
memories of the leadmining industry. We came down by Brondstone
Dub, where a place was made in the stream for farmers to wash their
sheep, thus adding the final touches of preparation for Pateley
Eventually we went down the road and through
fields passing Eagle Hall on the right and, to the left across to
the far side of the valley, the famous Scot Gate Ash quarry. Geoff
Blacker spoke eloquently of this in his vibrant lecture on the Stone
Industry of Nidderdale. The tramway which once ran down from the
quarry to the railway, enabling the quarried stone to be moved to
all parts of the country, can still be seen as a green track, with
the ingenious passing place for the wagons marked out so well.
So as we returned to Pateley Bridge and the
cars, yet another well attended winter walk came to a close. By
the time you see this, dear reader, at least two more walks will
have passed into the history books, one around the Lower Washburn
area, in February, and also, by popular request, the Mosaic Walk
in March. In April, the final one of the season will be Limestone
Magic once again, so see you there.
Michael and Rita Densley
An appreciation of their time as WNS members
Following Mikes retirement from the
museum service in Rotherham, the WNS were privileged to have Mike
and Rita as members while they lived in Baildon. They were always
ready to share their knowledge of remote parts of the world, of
Spain, Ireland, Russia or even Norfolk and, with friendly
enthusiasm, to advise on where to see rare birds or insects, or
how to photograph dragonflies. They have so many friends and contacts
in the Natural History world. When we caught our very rare Red Admiral
butterfly and needed advice on how to deal with it, Mike was immediately
able to put us in touch with Don Russwurm, the authority on aberrations
in butterflies. Always active in the YNU Ornithological Section,
Mike agreed to be the WNS Recorder for Ornithology for 1996 and
1997. He encouraged the use of Field Note Return Forms and correct
scientific species order, and he produced full and professional
The major achievement in 1999 for the Densleys
was the publication of Mikes book about Rhodosthia rosea,
a strikingly beautiful, small gull which is very rarely ever seen.
It has a snowy white head and neck with a narrow black collar, delicate
black bill, black eye with orange orbital ring, and red legs. The
upper parts are blue-grey and, in summer, the underparts are rose
pink. The white wedge-shaped tail has the central feathers clearly
protruding and dark edged.
In Search of Rosss Gull
published by Peregrine Press of Horsforth (tel. 01132 585495), is
the result of forty years of fascination with this very rare bird,
and the book is his masterpiece. Meticulously researched (there
are nine pages of bibliography including five papers by Mike himself),
and illustrated with eighty plates and eight maps, this account
is also extremely readable by the non-ornithologist, who will enjoy
the adventurous human touches. There is also a wealth of ornithological
and historical information and the index is excellent.
In his travels, ranging like the bird, from
Bridlington to Alaska and Siberia, Mike was supported by numerous
local naturalists, the YNU, the BTO, the Winston Churchill Memorial
Trust and, of course, Rita! and also met descendants of the explorer
Sir James Clark Ross, who first collected the bird in 1823. Many
congratulations to Mike and Rita on producing this magnificent book,
and all good wishes for their new life in Harrogate.
Dorothy Singleton was very interested
in wildflowers, inspired together with Joan Duncan
by the botany mistress at Prince Henrys Grammar School, Otley.
She passed on to her children her love of gardening, wildlife and
love of the countryside. She was knowledgeable especially on pot
plants and cacti, was a member of both local and national natural
history societies and enjoyed many excursions both at home an abroad.
She took part in botany expeditions and added records to the Wharfedale
Judy Conyers came to Ilkley in the
1960s having returned from London as secretary to actress Dame Flora
Robson. She was interested in flowers and had a lovely garden at
Bridge House near the Old Bridge in Ilkley. Early on she attended
Grantly Hall weekends and was a regular attender at naturalist lectures
and other events always cheerful.
Barbara Knowles (died April 1999)
joined with her sister, Phyllis, in 1946. Both often took part in
Society outings and were very interested in the countryside, especially
the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland. Barbara was very interested in
gardening. In later years she paid several visits to her relatives
in Australia, and had a tour of China. She was interested in geography
and wildlife and, going round the world several times, gave her
a wide experience of natural history in different countries. She
was an enthusiastic member of the WNS and a regular attender at
Albert Berry (died Christmas, 1999)
Joined with his wife Dora attending meetings over a number of years.
Albert was a meticulous craftsman and engineer. He developed his
own microscope so that he could take photographs under polarised
light. He photographed the moon rocks when the Society had them
in their care (from NASA) in the 1970s. More recently he gave a
short illustrated talk to the WNS of his microscope slides depicting
growing crystals, amid gasps from the audience at the beauty and
colour of them. He also had a set of slides ready of the wild arum
(cuckoo pint) including details of the interior of the flower, though
these were never shown. Albert and Dora would often make excursions
to Chelker Reservoir to view the mating displays of the Great Crested
Grebe. Dora (died April 1998) was a great plant and wildlife observer.
She made some exquisite pressed flower pictures and cards. Albert
has left his microscope to the Society.