Monday, December 10, 2012

The Final Countdown

I may have remarked at the start of this year that my Challenge would be species that I saw on normal trips out, or holidays  and would not include any twitching more than 4 miles. It has been hard as I could see the the year end approach and the 1,000 species becoming more unattainable. Both charities I support are committed to action for reducing carbon footprint so I could not in all conscience dash around the country using up fossil fuel. There have been very few additions to my list in November and December but I have been out a number of times.
At the end of October, on a crisp frosty day, I visited Leighton Moss RSPB reserve with Chorley Natural History Society. I think I saw more friends I had not seen for a while than wildlife. I had taken a new aquaintance from A Rocha UK to see the 'Moss and after I had said hello to colleagues from there, RSPB Southport, A Rocha, Lancashire Environment Fund, Brockholes, Cuerden Valley Park, Dee Estuary Volunteers and other Lancashire Wildlife Trust volunteers, her reaction was " You really do seem to know everybody in Lancashire!"
On our trip round we did get good views of marsh tit from the feeding station near the visitors centre, a quick view of bearded tit down the causeway and the usual very friendly robin near the public hide.

As November passed I was able to see waxwings in Preston and some wonderful views of willow tits feeding in the garden of a friend's cottage in Glaisdale ( North Yorkshire)
We also saw a wonderful blast from the past as the Sir Nigel Gresley steamed past us on the start of one of our walks

I attended a training day with Lancashire Badger Group and as we were searching for signs of badger we found a moth demonstrating its use of camouflage. It is a Scarce Umber, and brought my total to 924

This will be my final posting for 2012. Thanks to all those who have donated to both my charities. You will find details of  A Rocha here > 
and Lancashire Wildlife Trust here

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October - 900+ and getting close

I will continue to keep you informed of my efforts to reach the one thousand total though my optimism is waning. I am up to 892 though. On Saturday 6th October we held our monthly Wildlife Explorer/Watch meeting on Cuerden Valley Park, where we concentrated on making bird feeders. I was hoping to make pine cone feeders but there have been so few cones, we changed our plans. There also seems to be a shortage of acorns and horse chestnuts. It may be only here in the North West of England, but I would like to know what others have noticed. We had been making the feeders for about a half hour when we heard the plaintive cry of a buzzard. Gazing skywards we saw two of these wonderful raptors soaring high above the park.

Tuesday 9th October I paid a visit to Brockholes on a lovely sunny day. Several common darters were skimming over most of the water bodies both in tandem and ovipositing, and a pair of buzzards were high over Boilton Wood. Near to the Wood I observed some shaggy inkcaps and candle snuff fungus.

Thursday 10th, I had to visit Chorley to buy a new watch strap and as I was passing St Georges Church the peregrine was easily visible even without binoculars. The picture was taken by Ivan Lynas. I then visited Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Mere Sands Wood and saw lots of species of fungus with more fascinating names. There is Leafy brain, witches butter, fragrant lepiota, plums and custard, and dead man's fingers. These were a boost to my list

  I have also been searching for knopper galls which I usually find when I see acorns. This year I don't think I have seen more than three acorns and only one horse chestnut. Probably too little sun has meant not enough pollenators. This gall is from last year, though I have seen just one this year

The last week in October I helped with river studies on Cuerden with Penwortham Girls High school where we found Minnow, Bullhead, mayfly nymph and even a lesser waterboatman. What was noticable was on Friday with the temperature down by 8 degrees C, much fewer samples were caught. We did see 6 roe deer and 3 buzzards though

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fungi galore and flowers add more

A few members of Chorley Natural History Society met at Rivington for a Fungal foray. A beech tree that was felled a few years ago usually has interesting fungi and didn't let us down this year with 8 species identified growing on it - lots of Sulphur Tuft, Glistening & Fairy Inkcaps, Sheathed Woodtuft, Turkeytail, Smoky Bracket, Artist's Bracket and Purple Jellydisc. A dead Willow tree had Blushing Bracket, whilst a fallen branch had the white jelly now known as Crystal Brain (Exidea nucleata) with obvious white granules/crystals visible inside. Nearby under trees were groups of Russet Toughshank and several Common Earthballs and one Ochre Brittlegill was found. Another dead tree had 2 Stereums, Hairy Curtain Crust & Bleeding Broadleaf Crust. Unfortunately, no fungi at all were found in the Pinetum!

Crystal Brain below
My thanks to Joyce Riley for both the identification of the various fungi and the first part of the posting 

Later in the same week,other sharp eyed members of the Society had let me know about two different flowers that tend to appear irregularly. Autumn crocus was observed at the western side of Astley Park. We mainly receive records from the Adlington area

And sowbread (cyclamen) was noted at the Chisnall reclamation site. It is at least three years since we had a record of this plant, so we enjoyed its return
It was not the only returning species. On Monday October 1st I heard some redwings flying over Cuerden Valley Park. Although lovely to hear and see, I had already got these in my challenge from the first winter period of this year

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Feast to Famine

I became very busy in August with several trips away from home.
August 4 to 11. I was helping Andy Lester, Conservation Director for A Rocha UK with a week at Lee Abbey in north Devon looking at Creation Care through the Psalms. We had walks, pond dipping. talks, rock pooling, a boat trip,beach art, bat walks and innovative styles of worship. For two of the evenings we set up a moth trap and had some reasonable catches. The two most popular were Setacious Hebrew Character, because of its name and Poplar Hawkmoth, because of its size.

Here also two pictures from our visit to the beach. There is the shell of a masked crab and some beach art. I still have no idea how they managed to balance all those stones. On the boat trip we were able to have good views of some porpoise

The following weekend, August 17 to 19 I went to the Bird Fair at Rutland Water. Two days I helped on the A Rocha stand and on the Sunday I worked for the RSPB. On a couple of the evenings we went to a hide on the edge of Rutland Water. There were scores of gulls, a few terns, a green sandpiper and we saw the ospreys flying low, dragging their feet in the water. We understand they were washing fish scales off their talons. The rarest thing to fly over was a Vulcan bomber, though I was more excited at meeting both Richard Lewington, the illustrator of butterfly and moth books and Clive Stace, the author of the flora.

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Early September I visited Northamptonshire as part of the A Rocha UK "Time Out" weekend. It is a time when we plan, pray, learn and chill together as a team. We did get the chance to check round some local lakes. This enabled Norman Crowson to photograph some Banded Demoiselles, a Golden Y moth and this Sacred Ibis. There were also several migrant Hawker dragonflies, a hobby and quite a few swallows on migration

New additions to my list are getting scarce as you can see. I could only add the two above in the first three weeks of September. I intend to keep searching up to the end of December since I still have not had waxwings or Michaelmas Daisy ..... yet.

Total at the end of September is 870

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

Yes thanks to my great grandsons I am a fan of "Toy Story" as well as a fan of creation. This was a post I had written a month ago but omitted to publish. My goal is now 1,000 and I started by spotting some marsh willowherb and this bog bush cricket. On July 4th I was invited to visit Winmarleigh  Moss, a new reserve acquired by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. It needs a bit of work to restore it back to prime condition but it is still vital site for carbon capture and storage. Since there were quite a few of the Wildlife Trust staff here as well, I had lots of folk who were able to confirm some of the new species I encountered.

Large Heath butterfly, four jawed spider, common heath moth and peppered moth were some good additions towards my new target. I saw some sundew but none containing any prey. 

As we neared the end of our survey someone detected a wood tiger moth almost hidden in the undergrowth. It had been a marvelous day which ended with a visit to a farm selling locally made ice cream
The rest of the month was very busy with education visits, pond dipping sessions and guided walks at both Cuerden Valley Park and the Wildlife Trust's Brockholes reserve. This meant less time searching for species but I was still able to add  weld, purple loose-strife and brown hawker dragonfly to my score. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The final ? few

After my return from Bardsey I took things easy for a while. On my trips round Cuerden Valley Park I could only add Marsh and Hedge woundwort. I was supposed to be leading a walk along the River Lostock on Saturday June 16 to find Banded Demoiselle for the British Dragonfly Society local group. A very wet day as well as low temperatures meant no-one turned up for this. A pity since the Cuerden Beer Festival was in full swing and they could have drowned their sorrows. The following day was much brighter and I saw several common blue and azure damselflies in tandem.

  Tuesday June 19 saw me joining the Lancashire Endangered Plants group on a search for geranium sylvaticum. 

This was in the Barnoldswick area of Lancashire along a disused railway track. We saw several groups of this flower as well as a hybrid water/wood avens. We passed the end of the Fouldridge canal tunnel on this trip as well.

 On our return walk we also had a twayblade and a little later Fox-and-Cubs
Severe rain limited my trips for a few days. They had caused severe flooding and some considerable damage. You can see some here in photos taken by some friends of mine.The first is the bank of the River Lostock, the second the River Ribble very full.

This was a little frustrating since I was now up to 690, and wondering if I should extend my target. 
Plants again came to my rescue since throughout the following week I saw  amongst others; nipplewort, meadowsweet, selfheal and hoary plantain. For a whole two days I was on 699 with my brother telling me there was brown hawker at Gait Barrows and another friend saying she had seen alkanet in South Wales, frustration continued.. On Wednesday June 27 I came out of the Cuerden Valley Park office and saw a flower I did not recognise, just in bloom. With the help of John Lamb and "Blamey, Fitter and Fitter" Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland, I identified it as Green Figwort - 
HOORAY - 700.
Picture by Alan Wright, Lancashire Wildlife Trust

But it's not even the end of June yet, and though a few folk have sent gifts to the Just Giving site here on the right  >>

  or at least a bit higher up on the right, I will carry on and try to reach ONE THOUSAND if some more would support either of the two charities

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Long to Rain Over Us

June 2 to 9 ( or 10) My week on Bardsey with Steve Hughes and his family started with a beautiful day. on Saturday June 2. There had been a good sighting from the beach at Aberdaron of Risso's dolphin. Could this be a foretaste of things to come. We had a calm crossing with Colin on his boat enabling us to see several manx shearwaters, razorbills, guillemots and one kittiwake. I dipped on the kittiwake.
It was good to be back on the island again and to be staying in the Observatory. By the time we had unpacked our bags and settled into our accommodation it was time for lunch. There were several other folk staying in the Bardsey Trust houses including a party of twenty seven singers. I took a walk round enjoying the sound of the choughs as they wheeled and danced in the sky. As I may have said before that they seem do it just out of sheer pleasure. Gannets were easy to pick out with their snow white plumage and the black tips to their wings. The calm day meant that only a few were seen. I had taken an ID sheet for grasses and was able to note about 12 just in the short distance from the harbour to the school house. Connor, the son of the Observatory's warden came to show us a slow worm. It was a superb specimen. Steve, the Warden then lifted a stone in the garden to show me some ant woodlice, platyarthrus hoffmannseggi. In a pot, in the fridge, (where else?) was a small elephant hawk moth that had been caught the previous evening. This edged my total over the 600 mark !!
We had our usual early start on Sunday morning, walking through Ty Pellaf withy to Solfach.This meant we had good views of dunlin, ringed plover and a pair of shelduck with twelve young. Later that day we discovered they had increased their creche to nineteen. Returning to base for second breakfast meant we did not miss the woodchat shrike the staff had caught. Though it did mean I got distracted from washing up. Later that day they also caught a melodious warbler. This was a life tick for me
The wind had been in the East with some slight rain, which had been good for these two species. We only caught one moth, a brown silverline.
Monday June 4 was a gorgeous sunny day. I did some plant surveying and then headed for a spot just south of the narrows where there is the " hole in the rock". Lunch was taken here with all of us watching the seals and listening to their plaintiff calls. Several swallows, a few house martins and some sand martins devoured the local insect population with their usual aerobatic feeding. Fortunately they did not eat a Painted Lady butterfly which was in the area. This was also the day when Bardsey would be part of the vast number of beacons lit to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. By most of the folk on the island had gathered on the mountain summit and then at the appointed time the beacon was lit. we were able to see some fireworks both to the north and south of where we were and also the lights on Snowdon. It was all very impressive
That was to be our penultimate fine day.
Tuesday - rain in the morning as I went to the north hide. A family of 5 stonechats were very noisy as I passed through their territory but I did have good views of the peregrine they were warning me about. On the edge of the cliff three whimbrel paused for about five minutes and a single turnstone in magnificent summer plumage caught my attention as I eventually arrived at the hide. Apart from the close views of Manx shearwaters, razorbills and guillemots, I also had my first glimpse of a puffin with its bright orange/red legs trailing behind it. In the afternoon we had fun rock pooling. The result was finding shrimps, prawns, a shore crab, a blenny and a sea slater. The sea weed was amass with sand hoppers which gave a feast to the gulls, wagtails, rock pipits and various waders gathering in Solfach.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all had rain at some part of the day, but we did have enough breaks to see common blue butterfly, small copper and a few small whites. Another "lifer" for me was a red breasted flycatcher near Hendy plantation. I also managed to see the very bedraggled little owl. A quick trip up the mountain ensured I photographed the Golden Haired Lichen which grows just by the path.

 On the Friday I almost had a minor tragedy. Ben Porter had noticed a Greenish warbler near his home. It was a very wet search for all of us and whilst wiping rain drops from my spectacles, one of the lenses fell out. I am glad to report I found it and Kathryn Pollard managed to fit the lens back in - phew!!. I didn't look forward to driving home using only one eye. We did find the warbler in the Heligoland trap, and duly had it ringed.

 When we were doing some sea watching from the North hide I spotted a seal which seemed to be bleeding from its mouth. It turned out to be skinning and eating a pollock. The following two pictures were taken by Ben Porter.

Our departure from Bardsey was delayed by a day due to the rough seas created by the strong winds from the previous few days. It did mean that we were able to enjoy a very sunny, warm and dry day on the Saturday. We had some more really good sea watching and eventually on this my last day I saw a kittiwake myself. Later I found heath spotted orchid and trailing St Johnswort.
 A flat calm sea on Sunday meant no further delay and an early start meant I had time to visit the little tern colony at Gronant on the way home. I had been able to add a further 72 to my challenge list without too much effort and £20 to my Just Giving total from two of the other island visitors. The week was a holiday as well and I had a quite relaxing time

Total now 650 - Should I re-set my target higher?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

500 and going strong

Thursday May 24th I had a walk round the northern part of Cuerden. To my delight there were several  Banded Demoiselles flitting over the River Lostock and a common whitethroat announced to any females that he was available.

 Friday 25th was the time to visit the Kem Mill area of Cuerden. A small copper butterfly, white dog rose, ground elder, wood avens, yellow rattle, common blue damselfly and water mint were added to the challenge list. That evening, on our way from watching badgers at the Lancashire Badger Hide a little owl watched us from his perch on a telegraph pole

I enjoyed two events on Saturday the 26th. Cuerden Wildlife Explorers Watch group had a river dipping morning.Lots of mayfly nymphs, banded demoiselle nymphs, a stone loach, ( quickly returned to the river) and a water scorpion which was number 500 for my challenge. I also spotted some yellow pimpernel out in the pineatum.

In the afternoon I had decided to visit Gait Barrows nature reserve to try to see Britain's rarest flower. It continued to be a glorious day. Not only did I see this wonderful orchid, but also Herb Paris, a Duke of Burgundy butterfly as well as Pale Bordered fritillary, Dingy Skipper and several Brimstones.

.Sun 27th and Monday 28th not much except for white clover, whirligig beetle, yellow flag,  tufted vetch, four spotted chaser and a common blue butterfly

Tuesday 29th  I went to Leck Fell in the far North East of Lancashire with the "Endangered plant group" The area is marked near 21a on this small map. These were serious botanists, and very helpful to me. We spent about 8 hours on the fell and I added about 50 new plants to my list. Amongst these were:- Wall lettuce, Mossy Saxifrage, Lemon Scented Fern and Eared Willow.

Thursday 31st May I had the privilege of being invited to a reception hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales at Highgrove. This was to celebrate 100 years of the Wildlife Trusts. Two volunteers from each County Trust had been invited to attend and I had the honour of being one of the two from Lancashire. His Royal Highness has some wonderful wildflower areas and I was sorry I could not take my hand lens and my "Francis Rose". You can see the picture of Noell Leather and I having a short chat to the Prince here.
Picture by Paul Burns Photography