loading more pictures by members
LOGO
The Society Indoor meetings are held on alternate Thursdays
between September and March at 7.30pm
in the Crosthwaite Parish Room in Keswick.
Field outings are organised at various times through the year.
Visitors are always welcome to the Society's events
for which there is a small charge



Keswick Natural History Society

Lecture Report: February 21st2019

Keswick Natural History Society's (KNHS) latest meeting held on Thursday 21st February 2019 was an illustrated presentation by one of the committee members, Tony Marsh. Tony is well known in Keswick for the bird watching outings he arranges for Skiddaw U3A and the outdoor events programme for KNHS when he leads the wildlife walks.

Tony's presentation took us on a tour of Madagascar following his visit to the island in late 2017. Members were taken on a tour from the airport to various locations covering most of the island and taking in nature reserves, wetlands and woodland, giving a fascinating insight into the indigenous population. Madagascar's economy is based on the paddy rice fields and tourism, however it remains a poor country with no funding for the infrastructure. It is the fourth largest island in the world with a population of over 21 million in an area of approximately 400 kilometres. It is home to 8,000 plants which are endemic to the island. The main occupation is within the forestation industry, however it is feared that due to the dryness of some areas there are major environmental problems which could result in the land being totally destroyed as early as 2025.

The wetlands are where the rice fields dominate, but over exploitation is causing erosion. It has been said that the island is 'bleeding to death'. There is little mechanisation on the island with the common form of transport for humans and animals being cattle drawn vehicles. However the native population are very welcoming and friendly and the island has a whole host of fantastic wildlife. It is home to approximately 115 species of lemur, a large array of beautiful birds, rare plants, flowers, reptiles and amphibians. All of which were shown in detail through Tony's superb photography. Some of the animals are attracted by the rangers at the reserves smearing banana paste on the trees, it is especially liked by the lemurs.

The presentation was well received by an audience of 47.

The next meeting at The Crosthwaite Room will be on Thursday 7th March 2019 at 7.30 pm. There will be a short AGM followed by a presentation by well known local photographer, Ronnie Gilbert who will be giving an illustrated tour of his recent trip to the Pantanal area of Brazil.


Keswick Natural History Society

Lecture Report: February 8th
The speaker at the society's latest meeting was Stephen Hewitt who formerly worked at Tullie House Museum at Carlisle and is now a freelance entomologist doing survey work for various bodies around the country. Steve is well-known and respected for his wide knowledge and enthusiasm for insect life of all kinds and he demonstrated this expertise to the society's members during his wide-ranging talk.

To most people insects are either a buzzing or crawling nuisance or a completely closed book (or both), but Steve showed us many interesting and unusual insects and discussed their (sometimes bizarre and often gruesome) behaviour. From hoverflies that look like wasps or sometimes bees and flies that eat other insects and some whose larvae eat snails, to beetles who eat the roots of reeds and wasp beetles who predate other insects there seem to be insects for every niche food source. An interesting insect is the Scorpion fly, the male of which has what appears to be a stinger at the tip of its body which it can tilt up to resemble a scorpion's stinger. Although it looks dangerous it is harmless and the female does not have this tip.

scorpion fly (1544K)
Scorpion Fly (by Mandy Redburn)


Steve looked at the changes in insect communities in several locations in Cumbria using records from entomologists dating back to Victorian times and comparing them with modern records from the same locations. A lot of the changes are not for the better, species have either declined or are no longer present but some of these changes will be due to the habitat changing with time i.e. woodland now encroaching previously open areas and the draining of wetlands to improve farmland but some changes are for the better, with global warming possibly benefitting some southern species which can now exist far further north than in the past.

The lengths that Steve and his companions go to investigate habitats which might contain insects or their larvae were indicated by pictures of Steve up in a large beech tree searching in the trapped water in the forks of the tree for the larvae of certain insect species. This is dedication to your subject. From the banks of the River Caldew at Carlisle to the summit ridge of Skiddaw Steve was able to demonstrate the wide range of insects and their habitats and the complexity of their interactions with other insects and plant species. His close-up pictures of some weird and wonderful insects were an eye-opener to those of us who know little about what is happening in the undergrowth around us.

We look forward to the next meeting of the Society on Thursday 22nd February at Crosthwaite Parish Room (near The Co-op) at 7.30 pm when Keeley Spate will give a talk on the restoration of Cumbrian bogs





Meeting Report


Flowers of the Yorkshire Dales was the title of the most recent presentation given by Tony Woods who had lived in the Richmond area for a number of years and has a lifetime’s devotion to the subject. He took us on a journey round the parts he knew well, with excellent slides taken at just the right time to show the flowers at their best in their natural surroundings. He has an eye for spotting rare specimens as well as the more common and well known species

Near Richmond itself we saw the celandine, wood anemone, cuckoo pint, toothwort parasitic on hazel, blackthorn, crab-apple whereas at the base of Richmond Castle wild wallflowers, common mallow and rosebay willow herb thrive .Unfortunately, the dreaded Himalayan balsam is present which as well as the Japanese knotweed, they are hoping to control. In the limestone cliffs, west of Richmond pictures of cowslips. hybrid cowslips/primroses , orchids, wild angelica, rock rose, marjoram, thistle, lesser teasel, ragged robin and autumn crocus were shown as typical of the area.

Nearby River Tees on a May morning, it is possible to see the heath spotted orchid, gentian, bird’s eye primrose, glow flower, arctic alpine, cinquefoil and the bistort plants which adapt to reproducing without the help of insects.

Moving on to Wensleydale and Aysgarth Falls, the River Ure flows over limestone rocks gauging out circular depressions. Neighbouring woods are up to 800 years old. Early purple orchids are seen after coppicing, then bluebells and bird cherry which is visited by the bird cherry moth whose larvae can occur in pest numbers completely stripping the plant.

At Gunnerside Ghyll, scene of the old lead mines, we saw plants which tolerate lead in the soil like the tormentil, foxglove, harebell, small white orchid, saxifrage, chickweed, cloud berry, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, butterwort and the ‘mickey mouse’ mountain pansy

Next, it was over to Semerwater, again in Wensleydale where the globe flower, bird’s eye primrose and grass of Parnassus can be found. At Malham Cove. Source of the River Aire, where there is layer on layer of limestone rocks (and incidentally was also the setting for Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies) the bloody cranesbill, dark red orchid and lady’s slipper nestle in the crevices.

The presentation finished, not with the expected sunset, but with a most brilliant pink sunrise taken over the Dales from Tony’s bedroom window.

The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday December 2 and is to be ‘Landscape and Natural History of the Inner Hebrides by the popular local lecturer, Alan Smith. Everyone is most welcome. Telephone Pat White for details 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk

Wildlife Summary 2012

David Thomason's Report

As we all know now 2012 was the wettest year since records began and I'm sure everyone remembers the awful wet spring and summer. Butterflies, Damselflies, Dragonflies and most other insects were very late emerging if they emerged at all and this has had a knock-on effect right up the food chain It had a marked effect on the breeding success of most if not all our birds. It has been noticeable that with the poor survival rates of nestlings due to a lack of insects for food, fewer birds are about. Wrens, most of the tit family (except Coal Tits for some reason) and Grey Wagtails seem to be some of the worst affected in my patch.

Waterfowl have been less affected, the ducks and geese seem to be as numerous as ever but poor breeding success in their northern breeding grounds has reduced the numbers of juvenile Whooper Swans and some wintering geese being seen on the Solway Coast, though strangely, the number of adult Whoopers seems to be a lot greater than normal. (Possibly due to the wet weather preventing the harvesting of grain crops, leading to a lot of food for the swans and geese left lying in the fields).

After a poor year last year when there were very few Waxwings about the, last few months of this year have seen a widespread influx of the birds across the county. However, because of the wet spring there are fewer berries for them to feed on, with the result that they are having to move about a lot and so are more difficult to find.

Trees have been very much in the news during 2012 for all the wrong reasons. Tree disease seems to be much more prevalent nowadays, Chestnut Canker, Larch die-back, Sudden Oak die back and lately the major problems with Ash all seem to be linked, but to what? We can only hope that 2013 is kinder to our flora and fauna than 2012 has been.

David Thomason 27th Jan 2013
Meeting Reports

KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The first meeting of the 2010-2011 session got off to an excellent start with a good turnout to hear Keith Offord,, a well known and popular lecturer whose subject was 'Life over 1000 feet.' Part of Keith's occupation is to look after a specially protected upland in North East Wales which is one of the least cultivated areas in the country, where the vegetation gives rise to species not found elsewhere. He is also a professional ornithologist, photographer and tutor.

At 1000 feet, there is a drop of around 3 degrees C and wild life evolves to adapt to this. In NE Wales, the landscape consists of deep heather moorland which thrives in the acid soil, but there is also limestone rock where the soil is alkaline, giving rise, for example, to orchids and grass. Wildlife is therefore related to the geology of the area.

Migratory birds like the pied flycatcher arrive in April. They enjoy the long daylight hours for breeding which they do not get at the equator. The wood warbler and redstart are also seen at this height and other birds like the tree pipit, black grouse and coal tit thrive on thinned out forest or conifer saplings merging on to moorland which give them cover but plenty of light though the siskin, red poll and sparrowhawk like the densely packed conifers. The goshawk eats pheasants and so is detested by gamekeepers, resulting in conflict with wildlife lovers. Honey buzzards are also seen in these uplands.

As we all know, sheep transform the landscape and there is a danger of overgrazing. Some birds, like the meadow pipit and skylark can exist happily alongside sheep. Drystone walls provide valuable shelter for the wheatear, little owl, wren, stoats and weasels. Other birds mentioned as existing in a semi grazed habitat are the lapwing (though numbers in Wales have decreased from 7000 to 3000 in the last 3 years), snipe, redshank, common buzzard, red kite and raven (numbers escalating). There is a decrease in the numbers of red grouse, which may be due to climate change, not necessarily from overshooting. They are now only to be seen on the highest part of the hills as they prefer the colder temperature. This of course has put an end to grouse shooting so heather covered moors are no longer relevant but landowners are encouraged still to manage their moors so the landscape remains as it was. Keith went on to show slides of caterpillars, dragonflies, acidic pools and an adder, explaining that all forms of wildlife are dependant on one another. The dipper feeds on the caddis fly. The conifer needles drop into pools and becks making the water acidic. We saw slides of the golden plover ,dunlin, curlew, whinchat, merlin, hen harrier, kestrel, buzzard, peregrine, goosander and osprey, all to found in the uplands, many of which are to be found in Cumbria. His final message was that conservation is crucial to maintain the rich environment and that includes burning of heather for regeneration.

Keith's pictures were sharp and thoughtfully captured and with his clear, fluent and articulate delivery, laced with good humour, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening.

Keswick Natural History Society meets fortnightly on Thursdays at 7-30pm at Southey Street Methodist Church. New members and visitors are given a warm welcome. To find out more, contact the Secretary Pat White on 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk



KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The illustrated talk last week was given by Chris Woodley-Stewart, Director of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These are areas of countryside considered to have significant landscape value in England, Wales and Northern Ireland whose purpose is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, with two secondary aims: to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside and to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there. The North Pennines Area lies between Carlisle to the west and Darlington to the east, bounded to the north by the Tyne Valley and to the south by Stainmore Gap. It was obvious from the start that it was to be an evening full of humour, but at the same time there was no doubt about the seriousness and commitment Chris brings to his work.

The area has special qualities: hay meadows, grasslands, peatlands, interesting geology, lead mining, upland birds like snipe, curlew and golden plover and has world famous rivers, the Tyne and the Tees. There are few trees per hectare but the terrain is remote, wild, tranquil and free from light pollution where the skies are dark.

Nature Conservation Programmes are important and working in partnership with other bodies like the M.O.D. at Warcop for the creation of new woodland or with landowners to restore hay meadows. They have produced a book on the oral history of workers from the past full of local vocabulary and descriptions of the equipment which was once used. They work on projects with children, linked to the National Curriculum. Conferences for sixth formers are organised on subjects like climate change where the students have a chance to ask 'Why?' Adventures are arranged such as gorge scrambling, canoeing, cycling and scrambling. A group of Year 9 pupils were taught how to film a landscape, which as well as teaching skills, was useful in understanding relationships. The sound policy is that children are our future. It is an area where grips or small trenches are a problem, often starting as one metre deep and one metre across then developing into huge chasms. These affect the peat beds which are crucial for the storage of carbon in the atmosphere. However a successful solution to the problem is to block the drain with a one metre cube of peat before it has chance to increase.

Archaeology is another aspect of their work. There are 400 volunteers working throughout the area, discovering their past community. At almost 2000 square kilometres, it is the second largest of the 49 AONBs in the UK. They restore buildings, teach walling skills to create real jobs and have devised a new kit to take flower seeds for spreading on adjacent meadows, plan the remediation of spoil heaps as well as keeping an eye on the South Tyneside Railway.

It came across strongly that these many and diverse activities took place because of Chris' enthusiasm and dedication as Director. Both he and our Chairman urged us to visit the North Pennines as it is a most stunning area and deserves its designation. The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday February 9 at 7-30p.m in the Parish Room and is about The Vendace - the UK's Rarest Fish. New members and visitors are most welcome. Telephone David Thomason for details 017687 73319 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk



KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

When someone has a passion for their subject, it is such a privilege when thei enthusiasm is shared. At the most recent meeting of the society, Brian and Sophia Fuller took us on an Island Hopping trip, starting with the Farne Islands, home to a wide variety of nesting seabirds e.g. puffins, shags, terns, kittiwakes. Travelling on to Scotland, we saw thousands of gannets on Bass Rock whose population had increased from 5000 to 35000 between 1936 and 2001. Next to the Shetland Isles, which is nearer the Arctic Circle than it is to London and though treeless, the birds use the many fences to land. Here, we saw redshanks, ravens, wheatears, Shetland starlings, whimbrels, golden plovers, arctic skua, dunlins, red throated divers, curlews, auks, black guillemots, hooded crows and the Shetland wrens. The latter tiny bird has a very loud song, probably to be heard over the sound of the sea.

Though the talk concentrated mainly on birds, we were also shown throughout, pictures of the typical vegetation and other wildlife. Hedgehogs and rabbits are in abundance. Grey seals and common seals survive on North Rona in spite of ferocious winds. The greater black backed gull lives here as well as numerous gannets whose nests, amazingly, contain on average at least a pound of plastic which does not seem to harm the birds. Gannets too, inhabit St Kilda's where the fulmar population has also increased because of changes in fishing customs.

40% of the world's population of grey seals live in the British Isles and many in the Monach Isles which has shell beaches and where marram grass stabilises the dunes. Eiders, turnstones, fulmars and lapwings also live here. Finally, we travelled to Coll and Tiree, often called the bread basket of Scotland. There is at least one cow per hectare. We saw a brown hare feeding on seaweed. Wild flowers abound like cranesbill, orchids, oysterplants, and bog bean. There are damp pools, lily ponds, dragonflies as well as birds such as sandlings, gulls and redshanks.

The talk was illustrated by stunning photography with attention to colourful, interesting backgrounds and clear graphs and diagrams. For people new to bird identification this was an excellent introduction. Brian conveyed his enthusiasm for a most absorbing pastime as he remembered his experiences.

The next meeting of the Society will be the AGM followed by an illustrated talk by Carol Minks on Mar 22 in the Crosthwaite Parish Room at 7-30 pm.



KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The 2011-2012 season began with a good turnout for the excellent illustrated talk on Watching Whales and Dolphins - from Baja California to the Bay of Biscay by Rob Petley Jones who comes from South Cumbria. First of all he described how in 2001, an 18metre whale had been washed up dead on Greenodd Sands obviously in trouble as it had been sighted cruising around the Cumbrian seas for a few days before. This had been seen by a number of our members who had also been lucky enough to spot whales in the Bay of Biscay while crossing to Spain - another favourite habitat for whales because of the very deep waters.

So began a fascinating pursuit of Rob and his wife and for their Silver Wedding celebrations, they embarked on a cruise starting in San Diego, which took them as far as the Sea of Cortez, between California and Mexico. There they saw long beaked common dolphins, grey whales and a fin whale which at 25 metres is the second largest mammal in the world today. They also saw ocean sun fish - mola mola which look like sheets of white polystyrene on the surface of the sea when they come up to sunbathe. There were stunning pictures of all these creatures in many positions making it a really exciting experience.

Approaching San Benitos Island there were close up shots of elephant seals, Californian sea lions and Guadeloupe fur seals, there because of the abundance of kelp, a good source of the right sort of food for the fish on which they feed. In the harsh rugged desert landscape of the Ignacio Lagoon grey whales come to calf as these are the right conditions.

It is often thought that the spray which spouts upwards from a whale is water but it is damp air released when the whale surfaces. Fortunately whales here are no longer hunted but they are seen as a tourist attraction. They are covered in barnacles and like being caressed by humans. It feels like touching firm latex foam.

In Magdalena Bay where there was plenty of food and about 5000 wild dolphins were spotted as well as 3 blue whales which at 30 metres are the largest creatures ever to have lived on the planet. Their nostrils are a metre and a half across. There were also humpback whales and sperm whales which are adapted to deep sea fishing - they can dive down to 3000 metres for giant squid and store oxygen for half an hour before doing so. This enables them to stay underwater for ninety minutes.

After being treated to these fascinating pictures, some of them action photos, it was easy to see why Rob and his wife had caught the whale watching bug to such an extent that they don't want to spend their holidays in any other way. It is possible to observe whales in Britain - The Moray Firth and the Hebrides for instance. We were also encouraged to support the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society which abhors the slaughter of whales and dolphins and the use of dolphins for entertainment purposes in pools at seaside resorts.

Lastly, after a very interesting and illuminating evening, we were left with the question: 'What will the impact of offshore wind farms have on whales, dolphins and any other sea creature?'

Keswick Natural History Society meets fortnightly on Thursdays at 7-30pm in Crosthwaite Parish Room.

New members and visitors are given a warm welcome.

To find out more, contact the Secretary David Thomason on 017687 73319 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk The next meeting is on October 13 and is about Golden Eagles in SW Scotland.



KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY

The Future's Red was the title of the latest talk by Simon O'Hare from the Red Squirrels North of England Project. The evening was devoted to the comparison between red and grey squirrels and how vital it is to ensure the red squirrel does not die out in our area. 367 species of squirrels are found right across the globe and because the design of the animal is so successful, this has not changed for thousands of years. They range in size from 3 kg downwards, our native red weighing about 300gm. The red squirrel is a popular animal and features as part of our culture e.g. Beatrix Potter tales and Tufty Club. Colours are from dark brown and red to grey under thicker winter coat and can even be black.

The reds eat nuts and pine seeds for example and are able to do so because their incisor teeth grow constantly but whereas the greys can manage acorns, the reds cannot. Consequently reds survive better in conifer woodlands and the greys in broadleaved. In Europe as a whole, reds outnumber greys and the problem of greys taking over is only specific to the UK and Italy. Unfortunately the deadly squirrelpox virus is carried by grey squirrels who are immune to it themselves and this passes to reds and from them to other reds very quickly. Survival after treatment by the Vetinary Laboratory Agency is very low so this leads to the question of whether we should intervene. Should we not just accept the greys - we introduced them into this country and evolution after all if only man made, is survival of the fittest?

However, a new project 'Red Squirrels Northern England' believes something should be done. This is a well financed, scientifically robust project which concentrates on grey control, conservation and education. Local areas under review are at Whinlatter and Thirlmere. Among the things we can do are: join a conservation group, report sightings of greys, raise funds and supply appropriate feeders being careful to disinfect regularly to prevent the spread of disease. Simon's enthusiasm and enlightened talk convinced most members that the red squirrel is definitely worth preserving. The next meeting of the society is on Thursday February 24 on 'Bees and the Environment.' Everyone is most welcome. Telephone Pat White for details on 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk



KESWICK NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY
Flowers of the Yorkshire Dales was the title of the most recent presentation given by Tony Woods who had lived in the Richmond area for a number of years and has a lifetime's devotion to the subject. He took us on a journey round the parts he knew well, with excellent slides taken at just the right time to show the flowers at their best in their natural surroundings. He has an eye for spotting rare specimens as well as the more common and well known species.

Near Richmond itself we saw the celandine, wood anemone, cuckoo pint, toothwort parasitic on hazel, blackthorn, crab-apple whereas at the base of Richmond Castle wild wallflowers, common mallow and rosebay willow herb thrive .Unfortunately, the dreaded Himalayan balsam is present which as well as the Japanese knotweed, they are hoping to control. In the limestone cliffs, west of Richmond pictures of cowslips. hybrid cowslips/primroses , orchids, wild angelica, rock rose, marjoram, thistle, lesser teasel, ragged robin and autumn crocus were shown as typical of the area.

Nearby River Tees on a May morning, it is possible to see the heath spotted orchid, gentian, bird's eye primrose, glow flower, arctic alpine, cinquefoil and the bistort plants which adapt to reproducing without the help of insects.

Moving on to Wensleydale and Aysgarth Falls, the River Ure flows over limestone rocks gauging out circular depressions. Neighbouring woods are up to 800 years old. Early purple orchids are seen after coppicing, then bluebells and bird cherry which is visited by the bird cherry moth whose larvae can occur in pest numbers completely stripping the plant.

At Gunnerside Ghyll, scene of the old lead mines, we saw plants which tolerate lead in the soil like the tormentil, foxglove, harebell, small white orchid, saxifrage, chickweed, cloud berry, northern marsh orchid, heath spotted orchid, butterwort and the 'mickey mouse' mountain pansy.

Next, it was over to Semerwater, again in Wensleydale where the globe flower, bird's eye primrose and grass of Parnassus can be found. At Malham Cove. Source of the River Aire, where there is layer on layer of limestone rocks (and incidentally was also the setting for Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies) the bloody cranesbill, dark red orchid and lady's slipper nestle in the crevices. The presentation finished, not with the expected sunset, but with a most brilliant pink sunrise taken over the Dales from Tony's bedroom window. The next meeting of the Society is on Thursday December 2 and is to be 'Landscape and Natural History of the Inner Hebrides by the popular local lecturer, Alan Smith. Everyone is most welcome.

Telephone Pat White for details 017687 74705 or visit the website www.keswicknathist.co.uk