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.
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 Richard Baines' pointers on what else to look out for this month.
One of my favourite resident woodland birds is the Eurasian Nuthatch.
Despite many problems for songbirds in the UK, the Nuthatch has increased its range and numbers in recent years. This may be partly due to their inherent ability to adapt to new environments; they have become increasingly common in gardens where they are attracted to bird feeders.
They also have a wonderful range of abilities to protect themselves from nest predators such as the powerful Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Their nest hole is either chosen to be precisely the right size (approximately 3cm x 3cm), or if the hole is too large, they plaster mud around the entrance to create exactly the right dimensions and strengthen the entrance from attack! They also bring bark flakes to the nest to hide the eggs and small young which lie within a hollow in the flakes. When under attack from predators the older chicks instinctively press themselves tight up against the back of the nest cavity as far away from the entrance as possible. All fantastic adaptations which may give them just be enough of an advantage to survive from nest raiders.
Nuthatches are common in large woodlands such as Forge Valley National Nature Reserve where they can be seen at the feeding station. They are also increasing in East Yorkshire where previously they were scarce.
June is a great time of year to explore the open moorland and valleys in the North York Moors National Park. Under your feet are the most amazing plants such as the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew. The family gets its name from the fiery red colour and sticky dew like drops at the end of each tentacle. Insects are lured to land on the plant by the bright colours. What they don’t expect is the sticky trap on the leaf which curls over the insect, slowly digesting the meal. The nutrients in the insects allow these plants to survive in the barren water logged habitats where plant food is scarce. Look out for Sundew anywhere there is a wet boggy habitat on an acid moorland or heathland, but be sure to wear your wellies!
Butterflies are a well-loved family of insects but whilst most people delight in seeing large colourful species such as the Peacock, smaller butterflies can often go unnoticed.
One of the commoner species but trickiest to catch up with is the Large Skipper. Skippers are well named as when they first fly up from a plant, they are so fast and quickly vanish in mid-air as they skip in rapid busts of flight over the foliage. The male Large Skipper is predominantly orange with four sets of wings. Look out for the dark streak on the wing of a male. This is called an Androconia; a streak within which pheromones are contained on tiny hairs and released to attract females.
The warm weather in May has been a boom for many insects; it was just what we needed after the very cold weather in the earlier part of spring this year. One of the most noticeable insect events was the huge number of Sycamore Aphids on the wing. This was great news for many of our best loved garden birds such as House Sparrows, Blue Tits and Great Tits. A big food boost as they recover body fat after the cold weather and at the same time feed their tiny new born in their nests.
Many other birds feast on aphids and occasionally unexpected mysteries occur. I took this video of a male Turtle Dove in North Yorkshire recently. It appears to be catching Sycamore Aphids as they fly from the tree, this would be very unusual behaviour for Turtle Doves as they are supposed to only eat seeds. Or it may be adjusting its crop after eating seeds earlier. Bit of a bird behaviour mystery!
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