World’s End, to the West of Strensall Common in York, is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), with a mosaic of fen meadow, acidic grassland, heathland and pond habitats. Over the last few years, however, the area has become increasingly overgrown with birch scrub, and the rich habitat, which is home to a wide range of fauna and flora is in serious danger of disappearing. Concerns over this encroachment has led to a series of nature driven groups to join forces to tackle the problem. Headed up by Freshwater Habitats Trust and the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation a program of work days have been organised throughout January, February and March 2017 to tackle the problem.
The site is particularly well known for dragonflies and scrub removal will prevent shading to ensure the ponds maintain their diversity of marginal and aquatic flora, allowing the greatest number of dragonfly species to breed at the site.
As well as the 5 common species of damselfly, both species of Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma Najas and Erythromma viridulum) are breeding making the site one of the most northerly in the U.K. for these species. Many of the commoner species of dragonfly occur including Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis), Common Hawker (Aeshna juncea) and Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). [Photograph: Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) Male Close Up © Mark Tyrrell].
With regards to butterfly populations, the strong colony of Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) at World’s End is at the northern edge of its distribution in mid-Yorkshire. Its northwards advance in the 1990s might have been halted by the higher ground rising onto the Howardian Hills, and World’s End could be a stepping-off point for future range expansion in this area.
For Lepidoptera, the main aim is maintain a mosaic of grassland and short- to medium-height scrubby patches. Thus Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) like coarse grassland, and Gatekeeper caterpillars live on grasses but the adult butterflies like nearby sunny scrub and hedgerows.
Although little is known about the moths at World’s End, the adjacent areas of Strensall Common hold an extremely rich moth fauna. A recent light-trapping event about 1 km from World’s End took the most species ever for one site in one night in Yorkshire. Strensall Common is the only known English site for the Dark Bordered Beauty (Epione vespertaria), an RDB species that is currently threatened, and World’s End might provide habitat for new colonies. [Photograph: Dark Bordered Beauty (Epione vespertaria) © Dave Chesmore].
Pond wise the main species of interest is Pillwort (Pilularia glabulifera) a very distinctive little grass like plant. It is in fact it an aquatic fern with thin, thread like leaves which unfurl from tight coils as it grows and hard spore cases ‘the pills’. In the right conditions it forms a creeping mat over bare mud at the margins of ponds and lakes which can look like a miniature bright green lawn. Pillwort is a Priority Species for conservation in both England and Wales. It is declining rapidly throughout its north-west European range and the UK now holds a substantial proportion of the global population.
Pillwort was once abundant on Strensall Common however the species is rapidly declining with only a few ponds on the common now holding good populations. Pillwort is a specialist of bare pond edge habitats and thrives in areas of heathland and acid grassland. Although it hasn’t been recorded at World’s End, one of the ponds has been identified as good potential Pillwort habitat and as the plant is intolerant of shading from scrub, birch removal would increase the chances of Pillwort establishing. Opening up the pond edge will also encourage poaching and grazing by livestock which is the best form of sustainable management because it creates bare ground which the plant needs.
In January a total of 30 volunteers attended two work days with several local conservation groups also getting involved. Freshwater Habitats Trust and Butterfly Conservation, were joined by members of Yorkshire Dragonfly Group, Yorkshire Mammal Group, Yorkshire Amphibian and Reptile Group, Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows, Friends of Skipwith Common and The River Foss Society, a great bit of teamwork.
Anne Heathcote: Freshwater Habitats Trust
Terry Crawford: Butterfly Conservation (Yorkshire Branch)
Keith Gittens: Yorkshire Dragonfly Group
Photograph: Volunteer Work Party at World’s End - Credit: Pauline Popely
The Yorkshire Naturalists' Union are delighted to welcome the Natural England reserve team at Ingleborough National Nature Reserve as an affiliated society of the YNU! Colin Newlands, Senior Reserve Manager, tells us a bit about the reserve and their reasons for joining the YNU:
An introduction to Ingleborough National Nature Reserve
Ingleborough National Nature Reserve (NNR) lies at the heart of the Three Peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Renowned for its wildlife and geology, it is part of the larger Ingleborough Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Ingleborough Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC), these designations acknowledge the national and international importance of the habitats, species and earth science features of the mountain massif. Ingleborough NNR covers 1,012 hectares and incorporates many characteristic upland habitats such as ash woodland, limestone pastures, limestone pavements, hay meadows and blanket mire. Reserve management aims to protect and enhance the site’s biodiversity and geodiversity, support scientific research and enable visitors to enjoy and learn about this unique landscape.
The origins of the reserve go back to 1962 when Colt Park Wood near Ribblehead was purchased by the Nature Conservancy and designated as a National Nature Reserve in its own right. Since then, through lease and acquisition, the reserve has grown to the size it is today. In addition to land owned and managed by Natural England, the NNR incorporates two reserves belonging to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Southerscales and South House Pavement.
The NNR has long been studied by naturalists including visits by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union and affiliated societies. The reserve is part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme, National Plant Monitoring Scheme and UK Environmental Change Network. In addition, we carry out regular moth trapping and other recording in support of the Yorkshire Dales National Park species action plans.
However, there is still much to learn about the reserve and new species to discover, particularly with under-recorded groups such as fungi and invertebrates. In joining the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union we look forward to developing the ongoing study and recording of the NNR and extend a warm welcome to YNU members who would like to visit.
A leaflet giving more information about the reserve can be found by following this link.
Senior Reserve Manager, Natural England
Photos by Colin Newland: Colt Park Wood and meadows with Pen-y-ghent in the background (top) and Ingleborough from Scar Close limestone pavement (bottom)
(2nd February 2017)
The Yorkshire Naturalists' Union will be exhibiting at the Leeds Birdfair at Rodley Nature Reserve on Saturday 24th June 2017. This event, now in its second year, aims to celebrate the wildlife and green spaces of Leeds. We are looking for one or two volunteers to join us and help man the stand and talk to people about the YNU. We took part in the first Leeds Birdfair last June, it was a very enjoyable day and resulted in new members joining the YNU. If you could help out for a few hours, we'd love to hear from you! For more information contact John Bowers or Jill Warwick (contact details in the YNU membership card).
(2nd February 2017)