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Skipwith Common May 18th 1999

About a dozen members joined the trip to Skipwith Common on May 18th. The sun was shining although there was a brisk north-easterly breeze. We went on two walks through the reserve, one before lunch and one after. Unfortunately we did not see either the grass snakes or the lizards, probably because it was too cold, but we did see several butterflies, dragonflies and damsels, together with a splendid hairy caterpillar (Drinker moth), 29 species of birds and at least 80 different plants.

General view
General view of part of the Common.
Note the Stonecrop growing on the old runway.

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. 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.

Red damselfly (Left: Red Damsel on a nettle leaf.)
We saw the following:

Birds seen at Skipwith Common

Mallard, Kestrel, Coot, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Pied Wagtail, Treecreeper, Wren, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Yellowhammer.

Plants seen at Skipwith Common

Storksbill flower The list below is split into those plants seen in flower, those where only leaves were seen, and trees. It is not a complete list of all the plants seen, for instance I did not list all the common species present. I have not listed grasses or sedges except for one or two easily recognised ones (there are reedbeds at the edge of some of the ponds). Nor have I listed trees in any detail. It was interesting to note the effect of habitat on several of the species, for instance Common Mouse-Ear: on dampish verges they were tall and lush, but on the old runways where it was much drier the plants were dwarfed, often under an inch tall. (Right: Common Storksbill.)

We saw a few fungi: Birch Bracket, Hoof, and a couple of small brown gill fungi.

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English NameLatin Name
Plants in Flower
Alder BuckthornFrangula alnus
Alkanet, Green (intr.)Pentaglottis sempervirens
Amsinckia (intr.)
Amsinckia plant
Amsinckia intermedia
Introduced from America; related to forget-me-nots.
BluebellHyacinthoides nonscripta
BroomCytisus scoparius
Buttercup, CreepingRanunculus repens
Buttercup, MeadowRanunculus acris
Corydalis, Climbing or WhiteCeratocapnos claviculata
Cotton GrassEriophorum angustifolium
Cow ParsleyAnthriscus sylvestris
Cranesbill, Dovesfoot
Dovesfoot cranesbill
Geranium molle
This little cranesbill was growing on the old runways where it was very dry, so it was dwarfed (only about an inch tall).
CrosswortGalium cruciata
Dead-nettle, WhiteLamium album
Forget-me-not, ChangingMyosotis discolor
Forget-me-not, FieldMyosotis arvensis
GorseUlex europaeus
Ground IvyGlechoma hederacea
HawthornCrataegus monogyna
Hedge GarlicAlliaria petiolata
Milkmaid, Lady’s Smock or Cuckoo-flowerCardamine pratensis
Mouse-ear, CommonCerastium fontanum
NettleUrtica dioica
Pirri-pirri bur (intr.)
Pirri-pirri bur
Acaena anserinifolia
Introduced from Australia or New Zealand, possibly brought in on the socks or boots of airmen!
Plantain, RibwortPlantago lanceolata
Pondweed, CommonPotamageton natans
Scarlet PimpernelAnagallis arvensis
Sedge, HairyCarex hirta
SilverweedPotentilla anserina
Speedwell, BrooklimeVeronica beccabunga
Speedwell, Heath (?) [flowers very blue]Veronica officinalis
Speedwell, Germander
Germander speedwell
Veronica chamaedrys
Speedwell, WallVeronica arvensis
Spikerush, CommonEleocharis palustris
Stitchwort, GreaterStellaria holostea
Storksbill, Common
Common storksbill
Erodium cicutarium
This little plant was growing alongside the Dovesfoot Cranesbill on the old runways, and was dwarfed to approximately one inch tall.
TormentilPotentilla erecta
Tormentil (5-petalled variety)Potentilla erecta
Whitlow Grass, SpringErophila verna
Wild StrawberryFragaria vesca
Wood AvensGeum urbanum
Woodrush, FieldLuzula campestris
Woodrush, HeathLuzula multiflora
Plants (Leaves only)
“Bulrush” or ReedmaceTypha latifolia
BrackenPteridium aquilinum
BrambleRubus sp.
Broad Buckler FernDryopteris dilatata
BurdockArctium sp.
Cinquefoil, CreepingPotentilla reptans
Cleavers or GoosegrassGalium aperine
Creeping JennyLysimachia nummularia
Cross-leaved HeathErica tetralix
Dock, Broad-LeavedRumex obtusifolius
FigwortScrophularia nodosa
HelleborineEpipactis helleborine
HogweedHeracleum sphondylium
Ling or HeatherCalluna vulgaris
Male FernDryopteris filix-mas
Male Fern, Golden-scaled(?)Dryopteris affinis
Marsh HorsetailEquisetum palustre
Marsh PennywortHydrocotyle vulgaris
Meadow CranesbillGeranium pratense
Orchid, Spotted (sp.)Dactylorchis sp.
Parsley PiertAphanes arvensis
Red BartsiaOdontites verna
RowanSorbus aucuparia
Rush, hardJuncus inflexus
Rush, softJuncus effusus
Spear ThistleCirsium vulgare
Spearwort, LesserRanunculus flammula
Spring VetchVicia lathyroides
Stonecrop, ?White or EnglishSedum anglicum or album
Water PlantainAlisma plantago-aquatica
Wild RoseRosa canina
Willow, CreepingSalix repens
Woundwort, HedgeStachys sylvatica
Trees not included above
AlderAlnus glutinosa
BirchBetula sp.
HazelCorylus avellana
OakQuercus sp.
Scots PinePinus sylvestris
Willows (several)Salix spp.

Insects seen at Skipwith Common

Red Damsel
Red damselfly
Blue Damsel
Blue damselfly
Brimstone (female)
on dandelion
Brimstone butterfly (female)

Large Red Damsel, Blue Damsel, Four Spotted Chaser (dragonfly), caterpillar of the Drinker Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Magpie Moth, Orange Tip Butterfly, Brimstone Butterfly (female and ?male), Green-veined White Butterfly.

All photos © copyright 1999 Gill & Adrian Smith

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© Ryedale Natural History Society 1999
Page last modified 18th May 1999