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Skipwith Common, May 23rd

led by Tom Denney

We had hoped that Michael Thompson would lead this trip, but sadly he was ill and unable to attend, so Tom Denney stood in at short notice (with help from Gill and Nan on the plant front). 8 members braved a cold wind (and a very heavy shower as we arrived at the car park) to explore this YWT reserve which we last visited in 1999. It is interesting to compare the two trips. There is considerable overlap between the species recorded as you would expect, but there are also some differences. We did not find as many plants, partly because considerable areas of the birch/alder carr was underwater after the recent heavy rain, and partly I suspect because things were late and so less easy to spot. There were very few insects about, although we did spot this little grasshopper (about ½" long), and a few red damselflies and dragonflies at lunchtime.grasshopper

Skipwith Common is a YWT nature reserve which was a WWII airfield. The natural soil is peaty, developed on glacial deposits overlying Oxford Clay. The runways were laid on limestone gravel, so there is a wide range of soil types giving a rich patchwork of micro-habitats, especially as parts of the runways have been dug out to form wet areas. The water in the various ponds on the reserve is neutral thanks to the runoff from the limy gravel, and two sorts of newts live here as well as frogs, toads, grass snakes, adders, lizards and slow-worms.

Probably the highlight of the day, certainly from a birding point of view, occurred right at the beginning as we were getting ready to explore the reserve. Tom: “What’s that big raptor?” It was a red kite, and as it flew closer and circled a couple of times before gliding over the birch woods we had a wonderful view of this magnificent bird, showing its characteristic outline with the clearly forked tail very obvious. The second “star turn” was a tree pipit performing its parachute display and song. We then had the chance to compare the songs of garden warbler and blackcap as both were singing. It was wonderful to have an expert on hand to teach us about these birds (thanks Tom).

Geranium molle

Several plants on the runway surface were dwarfed, hugging the ground. One of these was dovesfoot cranesbill (Geranium molle), seen in close-up on the right..
Geranium molle


At lunch I spotted these lichen cups (the fruiting bodies, about a third of an inch across) growing on a log. A Cladonia species, probably Cladonia fimbriata (thanks, Stuart and Carl). Detail right.

Cladonia lichen

Cladonia lichen detail

We did not see any snakes, but one member was lucky enough to spot a lizard, and I saw one tadpole in a pond and a small frog (probably one of last year’s, it was about an inch and a half long) in a ditch.

View of Common
One of the ditches (where the frog was seen) – note the bog-cotton to the left.

Birds (in order of appearance)

Red kite, kestrel, tree pipit, garden warbler, blackcap, willow warbler, chiffchaff , robin, wren, house martin, swift, jay, mistle thrush, geat spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit, skylark, reed bunting, cuckoo, black-headed gull, crow, pied wagtail, bullfinch and whitethroat (the last three back at the car park),


Botanical name English name
Alisma plantago-aquatica Water plantain
Alnus glutinosa Alder
Amsinckia intermedia Amsinckia
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow parsley
Aphanes arvensis Parsley piert
Arenaria serpyllifolia Thyme leaved sandwort
Bellis perennis Daisy
Betula pendula Birch, silver
Betula pubescens Birch, downy
Callitriche agg. Starwort
Calluna vulgaris Heather or Ling
Cardamine pratensis Cuckoo flower or Milkmaid
Carex nigra Common sedge
Carex panicea Carnation sedge
Cerastium fontanum Mouse ear, common
Cirsium palustre Thistle, marsh
Ceratocapnos claviculata Corydalis, climbing
Crataegus monogyna Hawthorn
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Hyacinthoides non-scripta Bluebell
Equisetum palustre Marsh Horsetail
Erica tetralix Cross leaved heath
Eriophorum angustifolium Cottongrass, common
Erodium cicutarium Storksbill
Erophila verna Spring whitlowgrass
Fragaria vesca Strawberry, wild
Galium aparine Cleavers
Geranium molle Cranesbill, dovesfoot
Hydrocotyle vulgaris Marsh pennywort
Juncus effusus Soft Rush
Lamium album Deadnettle, white
Lonicera periclymenum Honeysuckle
Luzula multiflora Woodrush, heath
Myosotis arvensis Forgetmenot, field
Myosotis discolor Forgetmenot, changing
Myosotis sylvatica Forgetmenot, wood (?)
Pinus sylvestris Scots pine
Plantago lanceolata Plantain, ribwort
Persicaria maculosa Redshank
Potamogeton polygonifolium Pondweed, Bog
Potentilla anserina Silverweed
Potentilla erecta Tormentil
Prunella vulgaris Self-heal
Pteridium aquilinum Bracken
Ranunculus acris Buttercup, meadow
Ranunculus aquatilis Water crowfoot
Ranunculus bulbosus Buttercup, bulbous
Ranunculus flammula Spearwort, lesser
Ranunculus repens Buttercup, creeping
Rosa sp. probably R.canina, dog rose
Rubus fruticosus agg. Bramble
Rubus idaeus Raspberry
Rumex acetosella Sorrel, sheeps
Rumex obtusifolius Dock, broad leaved
Quercus sp. Oak
Sagina sp. Pearlwort, possibly S. procumbens
Salix aurita Willow, eared (prob. hybrid with grey)
Salix caprea Willow, goat
Salix cinerea Willow, grey
Sedum album Stonecrop, white
Silene latifolia White campion
Sorbus aucuparia Rowan
Stellaria uliginosa Stitchwort, bog
Stellaria holostea Stitchwort, greater
Stellaria media Chickweed, common
Stellaria pallida Chickweed, lesser
Taraxacum sp. Dandelion
Typha latifolia Reedmace, common
Ulex europaeus Gorse
Urtica dioica Nettle, common
Veronica arvensis Speedwell, wall
Veronica chamaedrys Speedwell, germander
Veronica serpyllifolia Speedwell, thyme leaved
Viola palustris Violet, marsh
Viola riviniana Violet, common dog

Insects and spiders

Red damsel flies (possibly large red), dragonfly, possibly 4-spot chaser, large white and green-veined white butterflies.

Lizard, frog + tadpole (one of each).

At least two different spiders.

Gill Smith May 2006 Back to the Top

© Ryedale Natural History Society 2006
Photos © Gill Smith 2006
Back to the Index page


© Ryedale Natural History Society 2006
Photos © Gill Smith 2006
Back to the Index page