Fen Bog and Little Beck Wood

Having finally sorted myself out to join Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, I decided to visit a couple of their reserves; Fen Bog, and Little Beck Wood.

A view south across Fen Bog

A view south across Fen Bog

Unfortunately, the incredibly windy conditions made things a little inhospitable at Fen Bog and most of the birds were keeping a low profile. Plenty could be heard, but nothing seen bar quick low movement. Nor was there any sign of a site speciality, the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene).

About the only wildlife that made a good showing were the dragonflies, specifically the Keeled Skimmers (Orthetrum coerulescens):

Male Keeled Skimmer, sadly out-of-focus Fen Bog, August 2014

Male Keeled Skimmer, sadly out-of-focus
Fen Bog, August 2014

Female Keeled Skimmer, posing on a rock

Female Keeled Skimmer, posing on a rock


You can learn more about this species via the British Dragonfly Society website.

There was one final sighting at Fen Bog. If you are a trainspotter, it’s a great place to see the steam trains heading to Whitby:


So we moved on to Little Beck Wood, a few miles along the Whitby road. Here the problem wasn’t spotting birds, it was getting them to stay still for photos!

It’s a classic English woodland, and Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, and Great Spotted Woodpecker are all in abundance. Jays were heard but not seen.

Also seen and heard frequently through the woodland was this little bird:


Marsh Tit? Willow Tit? Marsh. No Willow. No Marsh. No...

Marsh Tit? Willow Tit? Marsh. No Willow. No Marsh. No…

This was genuinely the best photo I managed of this active little tit. It was constantly on the move, pausing only once in perfect light and clarity when I had put my camera down!

It’d be easy to assume this was a Coal Tit, but the lack of a white stripe breaking the cap at the back of the neck tells us we are in Marsh/Willow Tit territory.

II bracket them together like that as it was a long time before people realised they are separate species, and identifying which is which is incredibly tricky. There are lots of variations, but all subtle enough to be covered by tricks of the light, normal intra-species variation, and moults, juveniles, male/female differences etc. Fortunately one diagnostic feature that isn’t indistinct is voice. That told us these were undoubtedly Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris). You can listen to recordings HERE.

I’ve written before about the value of listening for birds, and nearly every species I encountered in Little Beck Wood was heard first. It helps you know what sort of movements and locations to look out for.

A nuthatch is another distinctive sounding bird, and it’s a good thing too. They climb about on trees and can be hard to spot at times:


The other really exciting spot in the wood was this magnificent caterpillar:

One hairy caterpillar

One hairy caterpillar


Look! No hands!

Look! No hands!

This hairy little adventurer is the caterpillar of the Vapourer Moth. It’s one I haven’t seen in a long time, so it was a pleasure to find it here.

If you do visit Little Beck Wood it’s worth walking all the way on to Falling Foss, and the lovely cafe by the falls:

Falling Foss

Falling Foss

It’s not  long walk, but it’s got some decent steep hills to negotiate, so good footwear is in order. You can just park near the falls, but that would deny you the excellent woodland walk. Tea and food at Falling Foss Tea Garden will soon revitalise you!

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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