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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Dracula's Landing - mid February, 2013

Whitby, in North Yorkshire, is where Bram Stoker arranged for Dracula to land in Britain, following his journey from Transylvania. This seemed like an appropriate place to take my wife for a winter's break, including Valentine's Day!

Breaking our journey for lunch at the superb Deli-Café in Boston Spa (we always manage to stop here on our way north, and on the way back!), we arrived in Whitby shortly after 15:00. We'd rented a self-catering apartment in a place called The Metropole Towers. It used to be a hotel, but was then converted into apartments. On arrival, we were a bit concerned as the building and access looked a bit rough. However, what was described as a 'luxury appartment' was everything it should have been and more! It was beautifully furnished (if a bit 'Yorkshire'!) and decorated to a very high standard, and extremely well equipped. Both bedrooms and the lounge had huge televisions with all the latest gismos, and the beds all had electrically operated back and foot adjustment, with massagers built in! To cap it all we were told, on arrival, to help ourselves to the bar - it was well-stocked with champagne and spirits! It also had a balcony with table and chairs overlooking the West Beach. The actor Ian Carmichael, who some of the older ones among us will remember, used to live in the apartment.

I'm not going to go into full descriptions of our holiday, but our waking time was divided roughly equally between eating well, walking on the beach (even when it was snowing), strolling round Whitby, and runs out onto the North Yorkshire Moors. In summary, it was the most un-birdy holiday we've had in many years, but we had a good time.

The steep descent to Staithes, and a walk along the foreshore, had us viewing Fulmar at relatively close quarters. There were constantly falling rocks (because of the cold wet weather) which kept disturbing the Fulmars and also served as a reminder to keep our distance from the cliffs where they were.

Fulmar - Staithes
A trip to Scaling Dam Reservoir turned out to be a dead loss for birds. Three local birders in the hide were bemoaning the lack of anything remotely interesting, other than a Water Rail over the other side of the reservoir, vaguely visible through a 'scope. The only photos I took were of a Dunnock!

Dunnock - Scaling Dam Reservoir
I looked out of the kitchen window early one morning to see a group of 15 Oystercatchers on the grass round a boating pool that had been drained for the winter (just a little water in the bottom). There were also a few Redshank around. The following morning, when there was still some snow on the ground, I went out before breakfast to try and get some photos. These turned out to be very timid birds, and approaching them over the roughly mown grass was nigh-on impossible.

Redshank - Whitby (west)
Oystercatcher - Whitby (west)
Our forays onto the moors yielded only Red Grouse, and an unidentified raptor which flashed past us with the sun in our eyes (the only sun we saw all holiday).

Red Grouse (male)  - Danby Low Moor

Red Grouse (female)  - Egton High Moor
Those of you that are only interested in the birds can leave now! 

Whilst walking the beaches we found fossils at Staithes, Runswick Bay, and Whitby. Against the cliffs is the best place to look, but we kept our distance due to falling rocks. I know very little about fossils, but here are some we found. Any help with more information, or corrections with identification would be appreciated. Yes, I know that these are pretty poor specimens, and I could buy much better for only a few pounds, but for me there's some satisfaction in them being self-collected.

These first two were from Runswick Bay and are, I believe, Brachiopods (basically from shells) of two very different types.The one on the left was found lying loose. The one on the right has a nice gold metallic sheen and was cracked out of a rock.

Brachiopod fossils - Runswick Bay
These next ones are mainly from Whitby, and are (in loose terms) Belemnites. These tooth like fossils are from the hard protective tail-end casing of squid-like creatures. there seemed to be two sorts here - fairly hefty ones, and longer much thinner ones (on the right hand side of the second image below) which were very weak in structure.

Belemnites - Whitby
Although I found other fossils elsewhere, the last images are of what are generally referred to as Ammonites from Whitby. The first ones are relatively robust, and I think are probably a Dactylioceras commune species. The ones I found by Whitby all seemed to have their centres missing. The leftmost two fossils in the second image are extremely thin and very fragile (but with centres). I'm not sure what has happened here, but they are still 'double sided'. Are these a different species, or have they just suffered a different fate?

Ammonites - Whitby
The Ammonites found at Runswick Bay were of a different species, with fine, very closely spaced, ribs.

It's sobering to think that (as far as I can make out) these are the fossils of creatures that were alive over 80 million years ago in the case of the Belemnites, and getting on for 180 million years ago in the case of the Ammonites.


  1. Particularly intrigued by your finds and knowledge of the fossils Richard, and a very interesting account of them.

    1. Thank you Pete. I've never really paid much attention to fossils before, but my wife gave me a book on them for Christmas, after I'd bought a couple in Morrocco last year.

  2. I enjoyed that post, a bit of everything. We went to Whitby as a kid in the Cubs and went fossil hunting, great time. The grousse images are cracking shots Richard. Redsahnks are always shy of people, until they try to attract females, caution goes out the window then.

    1. Thanks Doug. Sounds like you had some really cool Cub trips - seaside AND fossil hunting!

  3. That red grouse appears to have red eyebrows. Beautiful gleam in the female grouse's eye. So many wonderful shots.

    1. Thanks Gail. It's only the male that has the red fleshy 'eyebrows' and he can make these less or more prominent, depending (I believe) on whether he is trying to impress the ladies! He certainly seems to have caught your eye!

  4. Oh you got some marvelous birding images here, really enjoyed my visit this early morning~

  5. Yes I agree with Doug, some superb Grouse images Richard. As for the fossils, I have absolutely no interest in them what so ever, although that is what I thought? A fascinating read mate!

    1. Thank you Paul. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Love the Red Grouse Richard,all your images look a work of art.
    Brillant read on your Fossil collection,stunning to see.

    1. Thank you John. Absolutely amazing photos on your latest post on your blog!

  7. Beautiful, especially the Red Grouse, superb.

  8. Unas grandes imágenes para mis ojos y para todos tus seguidores
    Un gran saludo de un AMIGO y seguidor tulló


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