Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fooled again in April


I went to Lee Abbey in North Devon to prepare for my assisting in leading a holiday there in August.On the way there, I saw too many buzzards to count and the expected Exmoor ponies. Once I had settled in my room and had a wash, I had a wander round. Steve showed me how to get to the beach, passing cats ear, bush vetch, dog violet, a few blue bells, navelwort and red campion on the way. We saw fulmar, raven, the inevitable herring gull and a pied wagtail. The view looking out at the Bristol Channel was outstanding, clear blue sky, a vast calm sea and wall to wall sunshine.
 The evening meal was fish and chips ( sustainably sourced fish). Many of the guests then went to the beach again for marsh mallows toasted over an open fire, washed down with hot chocolate. As the sun sank below the horizon, the view became even more awesome. The vivid red of the sky with the background chorus of chaffinch, blackbird and goldfinch reminded us all again that " God's eternal power is clearly seen in the things He has made" to quote Romans.
Andy Lester and I started on our return to the main house. We had a bat detector and were going to try to see which, if any were present. Passing by the small house we paused, both of us recognising the unmistakable shriek of a Barn Owl. As we searched for it, the occupant of the house came out and said it was his captive bird. Although disappointed by not seeing a wild bird, we had at least identified the call correctly
 
We continued up to the main house and did hear another owl, this time a local tawny owl. We got the bat detector out and were able to identify soprano and common pipistrelle as well as nathusius pipistrelle on 38 khz.
 The following morning up early I walked carefully towards the cliff. Swallows, fulmars, herring gulls, wrens, blackcaps, chiffchaff and goldcrest were all very vocal. Steve showed me a now discontinued footpath where our initial frustration was soon dissipated when we found an early purple orchid.

 Back to the higher footpath and lots of sea campion. A whitethroat was determined we would hear him and a willow warbler joined in as well. Other birds on this section were peregrine and raven. Later in the afternoon Andy and I walked to the pond and heard grasshopper warbler with a pied flycatcher making a small contribution to the massed avian choir. We had a few butterflies, peacocks, speckled wood and green veined white, but the best saved itself for last - a Holly Blue. A fitting end to my two day visit. I eagerly look forward to my week here in August.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Partnership in Practice

Another visit to Brockholes - this time to accompany some of my colleagues from A Rocha UK. We were continuing the survey of hymenoptera we had started last year.Whilst waiting for them to arrive I had the regular skylark plus the addition of six whimbrel calling as they flew over. At the start of the survey I was distracted by two wheatear very close to us. We continued towards the river already having spotted a social wasp. Then with sand martins chattering above us we inspected a clump of a oil seed rape where we found red-tailed bumble bee, honey bee and a bumble bee bombus pascuorum . We also managed to startle a brown hare. Continuing our search past some field wood-rush, we examined a south facing bare patch and found the following
   I am not the expert but I think this is the nest of a mining bee. We then arrived at the song thrush anvil I had passed a few times previously and was informed that the shells were from the brown lipped snail. We were now amongst several clumps of cuckoo flower so were not surprised to see several orange tip butterflies. Walking north along the Ribble Way which bisects the reserve, we heard and saw blackcap, chaffinch, whitethroat and tree sparrow. The ground ivy had also put on a good show. Just before the start of Boilton Wood we paused for refreshment. This enabled us to allow some wildlife to visit us. More orange tip, peacock, small tortoiseshell as well as a buzzard were some of these. We did find an orange tip egg on one of the leaves of a cuckoo flower. I encouraged our guests to enter the wood to view the bluebells. Today it was not only the blue but also the perfume of these flowers that delighted all of us. Even Chanel would not be able to compete with nature's bouquet. We skirted the edge of the wood examining the field margin and were delighted to see a large red damselfly, a year first for all of us. Being careful not to disturb lapwings and little ringed plovers we then surveyed part of the edge of the lake.  There was a plethora of St Mark's fly as well as several wasps which seemed to be either mating or fighting. One was then trying to dig below the surface seemingly to lay eggs
Soon after this it was time for me to leave, but my friends continued their quest. They plan to visit twice more this year and then a report will be presented to Lancashire Wildlife Trust. I checked my field notes once I arrived at home and saw I had noted down 27 Orange tip butterflies

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April showers

Another walk round Brockholes reserve. Our team of hymenoptera surveyors was supposed to be here this week, but the low temperatures meant a slight change of plan. The first thing you notice is the floating Visitor Village - very impressive. Our regular skylark was joined by another in a greeting duet and as we passed by the car park a whole carpet of mouse ear and several cowslips were coming in to bloom. As we approached the river with its accompaniment of chattering sand martins, a brown hare ran downstream on the river bank. Pineapple may weed was just in flower and we also found a recently used badger latrine. On to chaffinch alley where the tree sparrows were also evident and bursting through the dense grass, ground ivy was an interesting find. The blackcaps and chiffchaffs were in fine song and today it was good to hear an added willow warbler. Cuckoo flower was also starting to show its delicate lilac shades. The woodland was fantastic due to the abundant bluebells.

 These combining with wood sorrel, wood anemone, saxifrage, celandine and plethora of birdsong made this area very special. Other members of the Wildlife Trust workforce were completing direction signs and finishing off some bird hides. One of our group noticed some beetles ensuring the species continuation, but we felt it voyeuristic to continue to watch such an intimate moment.

 Spotting some birds nests is always a difficulty, but finding a spider's was great. The rain made seeing birds somewhat difficult but we were able to make out lapwings, redshank, mute swan, great crested grebe, Canada geese and little ringed plover. The rain ensured a quicker walk than previous but it was good to get back and dry off.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day of Contrast

We joined a large party of volunteers and staff at Brockholes to finalise lots of little jobs before the opening at Easter. A skylark welcomed us and as some of us searched the sky to find him, two swallows zoomed over our heads.We were part of the litter pick team and we decided to walk round the reserve on the west side of the Ribble Way in an anticlockwise direction. All the usual castoffs -  crisp packets McDonalds bags, plastic bottles - were being collected as well as odd pieces of wire and posts, but it gave us the opportunuty to continue our check on the progress of spring. Blackthorn and blackbird were both abundant, as were colt's foot and dandelion. On arrival by the motorway I spotted a host of moschatel but another of our team saw a kestrel catch and start its breakfast. Brockholes' other regular raptor, buzzard was also present.
 I am never surprised at the stuff folk abandon these days, but a moped frame was unusual. On entering the wood we heard blackcap, nuthatch, chiffchaff and my first willow warbler. The celandine, wood anemone, wood sorrel and golden saxifrage had been enhanced by the addition today of bluebells. As we were removing more lager cans we had to be careful to avoid several frogs in the long wet grass. At the eastern edge of the wood we were reminded of another avian summer visitor. Cuckoo flower and cuckoo pint were both observed but the bird itself was not present. We did however hear tree sparrow.  The open water had swallows and sand martins in addition to cormorants, great crested grebe, coot, tufted duck, lapwing, heron and the inevitable black headed gull. In the afternoon we continued as before with little wildlife to add except I was able to photograph the cuckoo pint. Even more exciting was the sight of the Visitor Village - floating


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fooled on April 1st

I surveyed much of Cuerden Valley Park on April 1st starting at Kem Mill. We also took along a bag and a litter picker to do some clearing up as well. Searching for the dippers was our first task which turned out to be futile. Chiffchaffs were in abundance with at least 5 singing in this area with two song thrushes and a lone mistle thrush joining in the chorus. A bumble bee crossed our path and as we watched it we then spotted a small white flower which I did not recognise. I took a sample with us to see if anyone back at the Barn could ID it. Other birds seen were greenfinch, jay and several common tits. On the way to the office we called at Town Brow car park to search for moschatel. This had been reported a couple of days previously. I noticed a lot of butterburr here along with 3 more chiffchaff, a jay and a couple of pheasant. The moschatel was just where we had been told it was;
 On our way back to the car park we saw a tree-creeper, grey wagtail, a goldcrest and heard two separate great spotted woodpeckers drumming.
Once at the Barn we took the by now wilting sample to the botanists in the LWT office. After rejecting it as common whitlow grass and other similar species, we decided it was wall whitlow grass. It was time to check out Stag Lodge so off we went. A few mallard and coot were predominant but it was also good to hear and see 3 greenfinch. Two more chiffchaff, goldfinch and a discarded pneumatic drill were the only other notable observations. Our final circuit was the orienteering trail but more park visitors seemed to have made the birds a lot quieter. With 3 more chiffchaff it made our grand total for the day 13 of this species. Another song thrush, a kestrel, two great crested grebe on the lake, and two sand martins brought our survey to a satisfactory close.
I emailed David Earle BSBI recorder for vc 59 about our botanical find. He suggested it would most likely be thale cress. Another check of the living, rather than wilting specimen proved we had been fooled and it was thale cress