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 WilkinsonJacky McPherson, Mike Gibson, Ralph Prince and Sue Wilkinson

Pam Hamer and Ralph PrincePam and Ralph Prince

Members near a streamMembers near a stream [by Jacky McPherson]

Peter Wyn-Jones collecting in the streamPeter Wyn-Jones collecting in the stream [by Jacky McPherson]

Tree overhanging the streamTree overhanging the stream [by Jacky McPherson]

Rocks and moss in the streamRocks 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 2016 My latest microscopical acquisition gossip.

Eriophyid galls on a birch leafEriophyid 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.

Hygrocybe coccineaHygrocybe coccinea

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 microscopesJacky 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 CentreMike 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 BayRobin Hood’s Bay [by Jacky McPherson]

Sue Wilkinson with a rockSue Wilkinson with a rock [by Jacky McPherson]

Ralph PrinceRalph Prince with seaweed [by Jacky McPherson]

Pam with rocksPam 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 poolSeaweed in a rock pool [by Jacky McPherson]

Various seaweedsVarious seaweeds [by Jacky McPherson]

Also intriguing were some sea slug eggs – probably very attractive to another sea slug.

Eggs of sea slugEggs of a sea slug

Jacky ‘got down’ to pool surveying à la Evens very intently:

Jacky McPherson surveying a rock poolJacky 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

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Additional photographs by Jacky McPherson

Leitz compound microscope and some specimensLeitz compound microscope and some specimens

Lomo and NHM microscopesLomo and NHM microscopes

Trinocular stereomicroscope and monitorJacky’s trinocular Nikon SMZ-1 stereomicroscope with Digicam 1.3 MP camera, makeshift stage, netbook computer and Dell monitor

Specimens and identification booksSpecimens and identification books

Small toadstools (Hygrocybe)Small toadstools (Hygrocybe)

Moss (Polytrichum)Moss (Polytrichum)

Freshwater diatomFreshwater diatom

Freshwater diatom (stack of 4 images)Freshwater diatom (stack of 4 images in CombineZP)

Sea-slug eggsSea-slug eggs

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