Saturday, 30 August 2008

Spurn, spurn

One of my favourite places in Yorkshire is Spurn Head.  If the Holderness Peninsula is an elephant's head, Spurn would be the trunk. Geologically, Spurn Head is a spit: is a narrow belt of land made of sand and mud at the North end of the Humber estuary. Often, the road that leads to the lighthouse and lifeboat station has to be repositioned after winter storms, as the dunes move and cover it, it shows how dynamic this coast is, constantly subject to erosion and deposition. On a sunny day is absolutely dazzling. The contrast between the colors on the estuary side, bright green and pink-grey, and in the seaward side, sandy and blue is amazing. It also feels wild and exposed, this more markedly in the winter. Spurn is very popular with bird watchers, specially during the migratory season, as it is one of the most important places in the country to see migratory birds.
 Spurn has a variety of habitats: mudflats, saltmarshes, ponds, dunes, scrub, beaches...
On the Humber side of the spit there are mudflats and near the shore marshes where you can find samphire and sedum.
Mudflats and marsh
 The beach on the North Sea side is mostly sandy, with scattered pebbles and fossils. Beachcombing is always fun. One day we were surprised by hundreds of dead pipefish washed ashore.
In between both beaches, a narrow line of dunes. 
Dune ripples
The dunes are stabilised by sea buckthorn, often covered by tents made by caterpillars of the Brown Tailed Moth.
Tent of Brown Tailed Moth caterpillars
Sea holly
Sea holly is common and in between the buckthorn there are brambles, lesser celandines, orchids and many other flowers.
North of the reserve information point there is a beautiful pond called Canal Scrape. This explains the many dragonflies and even newts that can be seen in Spurn.
Canal Scrape
Spurn Head is a wildlife reserve of the Yorshire Wildlife Trust, and cars have to pay a small entrance fee. You can park in the Blue Bell Cafe and walk if you wish, but you will miss something if you don't get to the lighthouse and walk on the beach around the point.
 Today we are welcome by a wonderful sight: over the bright green marsh, two Little Egrets fly past gracefully. It's the first time I see egrets in this country and what a perfect place to do it. 
 In the fields just before getting to Kilnsea, a roe deer, at midday and in the middle of the field.
 There are swallows everywhere.
In the dunes, I watch a few interesting invertebrates.
A dune wolf-spider, Arctosa perita, beautifully camouflaged.
A female grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus, trying to feed while males do some competitive singing and one of them manages to mate with her.
A scary-looking robber fly, Philonicus albiceps.
Also, several butterflies: Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Small White.
How to get there:

View Larger Map

Spurn Bird Observatory. Full of info with daily sightings. Map and also checklists of moths, butterflies and dragonflies.
Spurn Head Nature Reserve. Page of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Oppy Wood

A beautiful sunny day, we head for Oppy Wood. This young wood was created 10 years ago by the Woodland Trust as part of their Woods on your Doorstep campaign. The site is nestled in between Cottingham and Hull, and trees are steadily growing. After a visit to the site you would probably would not call it 'a wood', as it's mostly an open wet meadow with young trees, but it has a wild feel to it nevertheless. The wood is not too large, so you can walk around it in less than an hour, and there are two circular paths which are regularly mowed. There are old drainage ditches which can overflow and add to the diversity of habitats. Today there were lots of berries: hawthorn, gelder rose, blackberries and dog rose, and acorns, some covered in an interesting gall. In the spring the site has lots of wildflowers. We see a hawker dragonfly hunting, see grasshoppers and a beautiful iridescent stinkbug nymph (Troilus luridus). And the presence of a Speckled Wood butterfly population is a good omen for the site becoming a woodland with time. I look forward to see this wood mature.
 You can find more info on the site here.
These are some pictures I've taken in our visits to Oppy Wood.
Troilus luridus
Female grasshopper
Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria)
Silk button spangle galls on the underside of oak leaves caused by the gall wasp Neuroterus numismalis
Knopper galls on acorns. Gall wasp Andricus quercuscalicis
Sloes. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
To help you get there:

There are parking spaces in Dane Park Lane, at the west side of the site.
View Larger Map

View Larger Map