Whitcliffe Scar

Site Details

Recorder:  Catherine Jones                 Distance :  3000m        Walk Time = 1hour 

The craggy heights of Whitcliife Scar are know as a Northern Brown Argus site but there is a Dark Green Fritillary site nearby so occasional Dark Green Fritillaries fly past plus Wall Browns are  in good numbers.  

Warning: this transect is on extremely rough and high terrain with very large drops in places next to the narrow path.   It is hard to walk unless you're wearing suitable footwear and are able to scramble in muddy or eroded areas.


The route starts on farmland high above the River Swale and proceeds south  to the scar in S2 then, after patches of hillside scrub, you enter broad leaved woodland followed by a rather precarious scar top path along S3.  

After doubling back the path, which is very eroded, goes through more scrub in S4 and areas of unimproved limestone grassland in places with scrub in sections S5 to S7, followed by road for S8 and S9.

S1 and S2 is dominated by Small Heath in large number but is also favoured by a strong colony of Wall and often holds lareg numbers of Peacock an an occasonla Dark-green Fritillary

 S2-S4is  favoured by Speckled wood being shady who peak in S4 

S5-6  is favoured by Small Copper  and the Wall and Smal Tortoiseshels show in good numbers rigth through to S8

S8  road verges is often the best area  with large numbers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Whites and has a very strong Small Skipper colony 

S8-S9 is favoured by Ringlet 

Results:  2023

County wide 2023 results reflect  the 2022 Heat and drought  with Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock nearly halved for the second year against their 5 year average. Red Admiral arrived in force in July and took advantage of soft nettle growth of the rains and had their best year ever. Drought sensitive species on thin soils were badly hit,  particularly Dark -green Fritillary and Northern Brown Argus but also Ringlet, Green-viened White and Small Heath.  Less drought affected species along with the hottest June on record built even more on gains last year leading to Comma, Brimstone, Holly Blue and most Browns  having a fantastic year reaching all time highs. A increase of 9% overall was mostly due to sheer numbers of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers ment 2023 nearly pipped 2014 as best year in modern times.  Most noticeable was the large differeces between moisiture retaining mineral soils of the valleys and thin, dry limestone or sandy soils. A large number of damp grassland, hedgerow and woodland  dominated sites benefitted hugely with 3 sites seeing more than 50% increase . A smaller number of thin, chalky, sandy or craggy sites did badly some down up to 25%.

Whitcliffe saw a significant fall in overall numbers which is large part was down to loes amongst the drought sensitive speces namely Ringlet and Small heath  contrasting with meadow Brown managed to  go up on average which was a common acrooss teh county. Also suffering was Wall and Speckled wood and although Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were better than last year against the average they are still well down but at least showing now signs of recovery. Reversing much of these declines was Small Skipper which boomed up near three fold and recorded its highest ever numbers. Comma  also had a bumper year along with Red Admiral both having there bast year ever as they did across the county. All the whites were well down this year but it was great the Brimstone appeared for the first time!  Gatekeeper  or maybe a Marbled White next?

Transect reports 2020

Results:  2022

Slightly down on the average hides some big changes with our species . However numbers are still holding up well compared to the recent all time peak in 2018/19 that almost all sites experienced.

The decrease in small skipper and increase in Large  mirrors many sites as do the quite laregg decrease in the Cabbage Whites. In common with other sites Orange tip had a better year  but here numbers  were up 6 fold .  Small Copper seems to be in a downwards trend in many localities  but is very variable . Holy Blue reappeared after an absence in common with many sites .  The vanessids is where most of the losses occured particularly Peacock but also Tortoiseshell was only  one fifth of last year  with only a very small 1st and 2nd generation. Peacock numbers were porr in teh spring unlike most locations and actually came back in August but only for a week before fading away very quickly. This likely reflects temperatures are considerabbly cooler   by 3-4'C than the lowland where both species made almost no showing after early July.  In complete contrast and in harmony universally with other lowland locatiosn Comma  had a good year after  zero for last 3 years.  Speckled wood like most of teh browns had a godd year here slightly up but on many locations it showed a doubling in the September generation. Wall although half of last year held its ground and the longer term it is rising significantly which is also true of other locations Wall is on teh up as it is in Derbyshire peaks. Meadow brown was very much up but the big winner which bucked the county trend was Small  Heath which at this site is showing a longer term  increase, plus a slight second generation,  even if numbers this year were a bit down on the boom and ten times higher than 7 years.  Is this climate change or is it  habitat?  is a question begging an answer

Results:  2021

An outstanding year 49% up on the average when most sites were down. 

Most species were up  and the trends of 2020 are somewhat repeated  with the strongest performers being Small Heath  doubling its previous high and booming throughout the county and Small Tortoiseshell continuing tits boom as elsewhere .

 Wall was good which matches eleswhere.

Loosers were Small White  Large Skiper and Ringlet along with Holy Blue  which matchs the rest of Yorkshire 

Results:  2020

Even without the migrant Painted Lady numbers were a bit down with significant losses of  Small Copper and Green-veined White, which may well be due to the drought conditions of early spring.  Migrant Red Admirals held up well, as did Small Tortoiseshell having a good year.   Small Heath numbers continue to rise strongly.  Ringlet numbers are well down after a hot summer of  2019 and the drought of 2020.