North York Moors Microscopy Weekend
Friday 1st to Monday 4th July 2016
Report by Peter Wyn-Jones
This new venture was designed to extend the scope of the Club’s activities in the north of the country, and to generate interest and cooperation between the Club and the North York Moors National Park. The Park extends for over 550 sq. miles and has a wide variety of habitats including heather moorland, abundant riverine and marine environments. Scientists at the Moors Centre are very knowledgeable about their area and thus any excursion would benefit from their expertise.
The microscopy weekend was based at the Moors National Park Centre in Danby, and participants studied two sites on the Saturday and Sunday. The Centre is well suited for study; our room functioned as a lecture room as well as a workroom, and there was no shortage of space or assistance from the staff. Unloading of kit, including some large monitors and a Zeiss Universal, on the Friday afternoon was admirably facilitated by helpful staff and a large lift, so we were able to get set up ready for Saturday’s activities.
The river site was on the Clither Beck, a tributary of the River Esk and just a short walk from the Centre. Iron deposits on the Moor above the river coloured the water and even yielded a few ironstone deposits for Pam.
There were plenty of biological pickings too, including diatoms and desmids, and everyone found something to study.
Jacky McPherson, Mike Gibson, Ralph Prince and Sue Wilkinson
Pam and Ralph Prince
Members near a stream [by Jacky McPherson]
Peter Wyn-Jones collecting in the stream [by Jacky McPherson]
Tree overhanging the stream [by Jacky McPherson]
Rocks and moss in the stream [by Jacky McPherson]
A nearby birch tree proved an interesting subject of study: bright pink structures on some of the leaves were later identified as galls caused by eriophyid mites, which could be seen quite clearly at ×35 with a stereomicroscope. Pam has written more on this in the “My latest microscopical acquisition” gossip.
Eriophyid galls on a birch leaf
For the mycologists, a group of Hygrocybe coccinea (Schaeff.) P. Kumm., a wax cap fungus was seen on a rise above the beck, making their presence known by their brilliant scarlet colour. This was an interesting find as this basidiomycete is not common in the northern UK.
Having returned to the Centre (and an excellent bacon sandwich in the café) the afternoon was spent examining our material. Jacky McPherson found several diatoms (Pinnularia, Amphipleura).
Jacky McPherson with her Wild M11 and Novex B microscopes and Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital camera
Everyone took the opportunity of a relaxed informal atmosphere to exchange notes and tips.
Mike Gibson, Ralph Prince and Pam in the Centre [by Jacky McPherson]
Mike Gibson gave an absorbing presentation on ‘Elgar and the Microscope’, which he and Ray Sloss have published in more detail in the Journal. Pam gave a summary of the information that she is collecting on ‘Women microscopists’. The evening was spent at an excellent dinner at the Mallyan Spout Hotel in Goathland, tucked away in ‘Heartbeat’ country complete with steam railway.
Sunday was spent at Robin Hood’s Bay, where there is a good area of rock pools.
Robin Hood’s Bay [by Jacky McPherson]
Sue Wilkinson with a rock [by Jacky McPherson]
Ralph Prince with seaweed [by Jacky McPherson]
Pam with rocks and seaweed [by Jacky McPherson]
All the usual suspects were there, including a good range of red and green algae. Ceramium spp. and Chondrus crispus Stackh. were there in abundance, and Fucus samples were collected by your author for yet another attempt at microscopical study of the conceptacles.
Seaweed in a rock pool [by Jacky McPherson]
Various seaweeds [by Jacky McPherson]
Also intriguing were some sea slug eggs – probably very attractive to another sea slug.
Eggs of a sea slug
Jacky ‘got down’ to pool surveying à la Evens very intently:
Jacky McPherson surveying a rock pool, watched by Sue Wilkinson
The afternoon was a copy of the previous day, examining the morning’s harvest. Some material was kept for future study, and it will be interesting to see what emerges.
Monday was available for further study and packing-up; everyone was away by lunchtime. All in all, a profitable and enjoyable weekend and well worth attending. Our grateful thanks are due to our guide, Sue Wilkinson, Education Manager at the North York Moors Centre.
Report by Peter Wyn-Jones
Additional photographs by Jacky McPherson
Leitz compound microscope and some specimens
Lomo and NHM microscopes
Jacky’s trinocular Nikon SMZ-1 stereomicroscope with Digicam 1.3 MP camera, makeshift stage, netbook computer and Dell monitor
Specimens and identification books
Small toadstools (Hygrocybe)
Freshwater diatom (stack of 4 images in CombineZP)