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Otter in waterOtter in water

Our great outdoors is full of colour now that summer is taking hold while the main breeding season has well and truly kicked in.

June and July are the best times for seeing the 21 beautiful orchid species that grow in the North York Moors. You'll most likely see the common spotted orchid, with its delicate pale pink flower spikes which grows in many different areas. If you're keen to see more of the other species, join Yorkshire Coast Nature on one of its wildflower tours.

A little further to the east, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Wharram Quarry reserve is a former chalk quarry home to pyramidal and spotted-orchids and sometimes an abundant display of bee orchids, whose flowers mimic bees to attract pollinators.

Our tip

Common seal pups are at their peak in June and July, watch out for nursing seal mothers along the Yorkshire Coast. Pups can swim straight away, so look out for them amongst the waves too. This sleek visitor to our shores is a demon fisherman, and will even nobble seabirds if they bob too close. The colony on the rocky shoreline below Ravenscar are very easy to spot. Enjoy the wildlife, but please respect the seals and their pups and keep your distance.

Also look out for:

  • Visit Marine Drive in Scarborough and see if you can spot the famous pair of peregrine falcons that usually nest on the cliffs here every year. Peregrines, our fastest bird of prey – reaching an incredible 200 mph and more in their high speed hunting dives or ‘stoops’ - are splendid to watch, with a regal air, sharp eyes, and bright yellow beak and claws. RSPB staff and volunteers will be on hand at the viewpoint every Friday and Sundays between May and July.
  • Otters living on the rivers Derwent, Rye, Dove and Esk will be very active now, supporting their fast growing cubs. A summertime stroll along the riverbanks might reward you with a glimpse of one of the area’s more elusive creatures. Visiting at dawn and dusk will increase your chances of spotting this shy mammal. Nunnington Hall, on the banks of the river Rye, is one place where you may be fortunate. But patience is key. Tread carefully and quietly, and keep upwind, as they are highly sensitive animals.
  • If you hear a gentle ‘splosh’ whilst walking beside a slow moving stream it may well be a water vole taking the plunge. Look out for telltale round burrows excavated in the banks of rivers, ditches, ponds, and streams. These cute little mammals look like little clockwork toys, paddling quickly through the water. Equally at home in upland pools and streams, and as elusive as the otter, count yourself very lucky if you happen to see one.
  • Our species-rich special road verges are at their best in early summer; meadow cranesbill, common knapweed, ox-eye daisy, field scabious, meadow vetchling and yarrow make for a colourful combination. You may even spot a greater butterfly orchid at Hutton le Hole. Rievaulx Terrace is another excellent place to visit; the wooded bank between its two temples will be simply awash with wildflowers. They are also thriving in the open areas at The Yorkshire Arboretum which are being turned into wildflower meadows.
  • Head out at dusk to our forests to hear the curious soft churring calls of a nightjar, it's quite a surreal experience. They feed on midges and moths and like to hang out in young conifer plantations. Try Broxa, Wykeham or Cropton Forests.

Walk of the month

Enjoy a wonderful array of wildflowers that blanket the floor of Little Beck Wood and Sneaton Forest next door, with a wealth of birdlife. You're likely to see redstarts, pied flycatchers and woodwarblers in spring and summer, while green and greater-spotted woodpecker live here all year round.

Falling Foss, the 9m waterfall found in a secretive wooded valley, is particularly impressive after heavy rain and is complete with magical tea garden. Think homemade cakes and pots of tea served at outdoor tables in a rustic glade. Children will love paddling in the beck and playing pooh sticks on the bridge too. Take our short walk from May Beck or start in Littlebeck hamlet and head straight through Little Beck Wood Nature Reserve, a delightful broadleaved woodland, to reach Falling Foss.

Yorkshire Coast Nature tips

The experts at Yorkshire Coast Nature are our eyes on the ground, here's their pointers on what else to look out for this month.

After a bitter spell of weather last month it’s so nice to be writing this on a warm day looking out on a wildflower meadow, writes Yorkshire Coast Nature’s Richard Baines. For me June is all about discovering gorgeous flowers and amazing moths. Despite being in the ‘frozen north’ we are still blessed with many special flowers and, after spending many years flirting with a moth trap in gardens and woods, I still get excited by spectacular moths!

Eyed Hawk-moth copyright Richard Baines Yorkshire Coast NatureThe eyed hawk-moth is one of our largest and most vivid moths. The twin eye spots are designed to distract and frighten potential predators. When disturbed the moth gently fans its underwing spots in an aggressive posture. The caterpillar is large and green and has a distinctive blue-green spike at the rear, which separates them from the similar poplar hawkmoth caterpillar. 

One of their favourite food plants is the goat willow, also known as sallow. From the first week in June as they start to emerge from their cocoons, look out for the adult moths anywhere sallow grows in our region.

There are many stories from folklore surrounding the world of moths; it’s wonderful to hear of people hundreds of years ago entranced by these ‘night angels’ in the same way many of us are today. Links between moths and receiving letters are common, including the prediction that if a moth flits around a maiden in the gloaming it is a sign of a coming letter from her lover. In Yorkshire people used to refer to moths as ‘Souls’.

Puss Moth copyright Richard Baines, Yorkshire Coast NatureAlmost as big as the eyed hawk but with a completely different form is the puss moth. Its amazing marble-like wings with black arched markings are vertically crossed with golden brown veins creating a stunning insect. It also has very hairy, strong legs; a fact which was not lost on a friend of my son when, at the impressionable age of nine, he gently tried to peel away the legs wrapped around his fingers! A great experience for a boy who thought moths were boring… 

The strength of this moth doesn’t stop with its legs as its cocoon is one of the strongest in the UK moth world enabling it to survive the winter. 

Like many other moths, puss moths love sallow and feed on its leaves. So if you want to attract monster moths to your garden, plant lots of sallow!

Bee Orchid copyright Dan Lombard, Yorkshire Coast NatureThe sallow is often known as a tree which prefers damp ground but it can also grow in drier conditions and its fast growth is ideal if you want to create semi-natural habitat quickly in your garden. Its value for wildlife is amazing and even in the first days of spring it provides one of the first sources of pollen for newly emerging bumble-bees which feast on the catkins.

Two flowers you are unlikely to find in your garden are the bee orchid and pyramidal orchid. However they may be growing closer than you think to where you live.

Both of these species prefer a clay and calcareous soil composition so can grow well on chalky or limestone enriched boulder clay of East and North Yorkshire. 

They can appear on roadside verges; indeed a few years ago I found a fantastic display of pyramidal orchids on a verge in East Ayton near Scarborough. 

Orchid seed is tiny so in order to find space to grow they need open ground with patches of bare earth or a tightly grazed grass sward with low fertility. These two orchids also love sun drenched habitats so don’t bother looking on damp ground or in woods.