North York Moors

A crisp day on the moors with a ‘thin’ wind blowing across the exposed hilltops, though to be honest I love this kind of weather, cold and dry winter sunshine being preferable to the wind, murk and damp that we otherwise have to put up with during the winter months up here. Much of the snow which fell yesterday had already melted, especially below 150 metres where only patches survived in the shadier spots, but up on Goathland, Sleights, and Wheeldale Moors a light covering persisted. Best of the wintry conditions were around the ‘top-end’ of Cropton Forest and the curious communities of Stape and Raindale, the roads here still covered in snow and ice in places.

A panoramic view across the Esk Valley

Wildlife wise little was about, which is not all that surprising given the wintry conditions, though the male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) which usually resides along the A169 was spotted in his usual haunt near the turn off to Goathland and Beck Hole at the top of Sleights Moor. I always look for this colourful little fellow on the drive up to Grosmont and he rarely disappoints, the bird in question usually on one of the fence posts which line this busy road which runs between Pickering and Whitby.

At Cropton Forest a flock of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) was heard somewhere deep amongst the pines which make up this vast commercial forest, but try as I might I failed to actually spot any. Crossbills are one of my ‘bogey’ birds and one I have rarely seen well, though many moons ago whilst climbing Ben Nevis with my father, we did enjoy some outstanding views in Leanachan Forest of these colourful and curious finches. One day I will get a photo of one… hopefully. Elsewhere the ever present Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) were widely evident, whilst down on the lowlands a few flocks of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) were seen in the arable fields of the Vale of Pickering in the company of Lapwings and Common Gulls.