Holystone

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Holystone Nature reserves and walks.

Holystone Nature reserves and walks.

Holystone consists of two reserves about 1km apart which together provide marvellous examples of both upland and moorland edge valley woodland.First impressions suggest large expanses of coniferous plantations, but these areas only serve to hide a beautiful upland Sessile Oak wood carpeted by bracken, wood-sorrel and mosses such as Leucobryun Glaucum,containing the uncommon chickweed wintergreen.The small sivery burns have banks of alder, ash and willow, the valleywoods being a varied mixture of Wychelm, Oak and Birch with Aspen on the valley floor.
The understory has probably the finest show of Juniper in the county attracting specialities such as the Juniper Pug Moth.Amongst the Hazel, Hawthorn and Willow, the visitor should also find Primrose, Dog's Mercury and Red Campion.Wet drain areas from moorland have Common Reed in dense stands, their even size and age suggesting they may have been planted, probably in the 18th century.The woodland edge is marked mainly by Crowberry and Bilberry, fringed by Bog Myrtle, Marsh Lousewort, Marsh Violet, Common Butterwort, Lesser Twyblade and Broad-leaved Cottongrass.

The Birds

The adjoining moorlands have the usual upland birds found in this and other parts of Upper Coquetdale.Red Grouse are numerous together with Curlew and Whinchat.Patient scanning of moors may well reveal Merlin and perhaps Peregrine.Black Grouse frequent these moors but do not be tempted to cross the range boundary,(large expanses of the moor are visible without the need to do so). If you are looking for Black Grouse in particular, check with the Northumberland National Park office in Rothbury for access details.
The upland Oak wood's carpet of brackens and other cover provides the right habitat for ground nesting birds such as Pheasant, Woodcock and the rarer Nightjar.The latter two species will be almost impossible to see during the day and should be looked for at dusk.The Woodcock patrols the sky in a regular pattern above its breeding territory calling frequently.The Nightjar's strange 'churring' can be heard throughout the night, normally starting 15 minutes before sunset.As darkness falls over the woods listen for the low ioo-oo-ooi of the Long-eared Owl, sounding more like a moan than the more familiar hoot of the Tawny Owl.
The abundance of moribund trees, dead branches, holes and loose bark provides a variety of nesting sites for tits and woodpeckers which are joined in spring by visitors from Africa like the Redstart and Pied Flycatcher (above).
Another summer visitor, the Wood Warbler, although choosing to nest on the ground will often be heard singing from the upper canopy of the wood, listen for their beautiful metallic song, like the sound of a spinning coin coming to rest.Coal Tit and Chaffinch are by far the most abundant species in the coniferous woods, but the visitor should expect Siskin,Bullfinch and in good cone years, Crossbill.

Timing

All Year; Heron, Woodcock,Sparrowhawk,Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker,Green Woodpecker, Long-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Dipper, Kingfisher, (river) Grey wagtail, Jay, Bullfinch, Ped Wagtail, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Corvids, Thrushes, Goldcrest, Red Grouse,Black Grouse, Tree Creeper.
Spring-Summer; Chiff-Chaff,Willow Warbler, Wood Warbler, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher (Village/ladies well area Late May onwards) Grey Wagtail,Dipper and Goosander (river), Merlin, Peregrine, Curlew, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Wood Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler.
Late Autumn -Winter; Mixed tit flocks, Corvids, Fieldfare, Redwing, possible wandering raptors including Hen Harrier.
Access;- Situated half a mile (0.8km) west of Holystone village.Park in the forestry Commission car park.Here a large information board shows a number of circular walks marked by coloured posts.For Holystone burn, continue (on foot) on the tarmac road a short distance up the hill and across the cattle grid. Good area for Green Woodpecker.

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The 2nd edition of this popular guide to the best birding sites in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Cleveland.
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Practical information on habitat, access to reserves, the best times to visit and which species occur in each season.
Maps and line drawings.416 pages.Click here for ordering details...

The Birder's Market | E-bookstall & birding Apps | The Birder's Guide to Coquetdale (Northumberland) |  Holystone

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