Friday, March 30, 2012

Carpet of Colour to Bad Hare Day

Tuesday 27th March I was helping lead a guided walk on Brockholes LWT reserve. We were given our usual welcome by the skylarks who never seemed to stop singing all day. Canada geese and mute swans glided past on Meadow Lake as chaffinches and reed buntings had their lunch at the feeder hopper.There were several more coltsfoot in flower and as we reached the river bank we were delighted to see the recently arrived sand martins. We walked to Boilton Wood and enjoyed the increased number of bluebells showing. At one spot the variety of flowers was awesome. Bluebells, lesser celandine, saxifrage, wood anemone and dog mercury all together in a small area. I also saw wood sorrel for the first time, bringing my challenge to 270
We carried on our walk and as we did four common buzzards, mewing above us, showed their aerial skills. On the large lake and the island lapwings, cormorants, tufted ducks, oystercatchers, teal, mallards and a great crested grebe seemed to be enjoying the warm sun This made the temperature more like June than late March. In the children's play area some strange shapes were taking form. It was an art display that reminded me of an episode of "The Prisoner".   I am sure we will soon discover what it is supposed to mean

Wednesday 28 March was a day to do my Brown Hare survey. If you want to learn more check out this link  I was fortunate to have the canal pass through the centre of my survey square which meant it was easy walking and good views both left and right. The ubiquitous mallards and Canada Geese greeted me as I commenced. A flock of grazing Canada Geese were just across the canal and a pair of grey wagtails were startled by an approaching narrow boat.

Several clusters of violets added their colour to the yellows of celandine and dandelion. A small tortoiseshell butterfly and two bumble bees were taking advantage of the supply of nectar. In the hawthorn bushes some long-tailed tits and a coal tit were scolding me for getting too close. As I was leaving I spotted a buff-tailed Bumble Bee (bombus terrestris) It was an enjoyable walk except for the absence of brown hares. I guess we need to know where they are not present as well as where they are. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My first migrants from the South

On Wednesday 21 March, I took a  walk round the Kem Mill area of Cuerden Valley Park. Someone had reported mink but I saw no sign of this voracious predator. I was able to note  ivy leaved speedwell, heard about four chiffchaffs. These were my first summer visitors of the year. A lone toad hiding in the grass seemed to be making her way to the river Lostock. Two dippers flashed past but I could not see where they had their nest. They did not disturb three more pairs of toads that were mating. I also saw  lots of  Small Tortoiseshell butterflies also in pairs, as in the photo below. Finally for this day two pairs of coot were noted occupying their nests
Sat 24th saw Cuerden Watch group checking buckets of wood chip we had buried in September 2010. It is an experiment we borrowed from The People's Trust for Endangered Species, checking for whether stag beetles have moved into the area. No Stag Beetles discovered but we did have millipedes, centipedes, wood lice, and the biggest worm I have ever seen. Chiffchaffs today had increased to 6 individuals singing in the area of Cuerden we visited. It was a beautiful sunny day with small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies in abundance.  A wood mouse hiding near a wood pile increased my total to 260.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Two hundred and Fifty not out

Monday 12th March a school visited Cuerden Valley Park for river studies. We had two groups in the morning and another two in the afternoon. The afternoon groups were privileged to see a roe deer in the field next to the main path to the river. Kick sampling discovered Water mites, lots of cased caddisfly larvae, mayfly nymphs, a bullhead, lots of blood worms. I saw a new water beetle and cowslip out for the first time.

On Thursday March 15 I travelled to Southall for the regular 6 monthly A Rocha UK staff meeting at Minet Country Park. I went for a paper at 0700 and as I did I saw a ring necked parakeet flying over a London Plane tree. Lots of the local inhabitants were looking at me obviously wondering " Why is this man walking around in a short sleeved shirt when it is so cold?" One of the other teams took a walk round Minet later in the day and saw sweet violet. I shall have to search for it near Leighton Moss

On Sunday18th March I was helping on a walk in Cuerden Valley Park. We were looking at the geology and learning how the valley had been formed. A wonderful sunny day meant that the celandine, coltsfoot and daffodils were really showing off. I did notice some butterbur out for the first time as we passed over the wooden bridge. This was the only addition to my challenge list
The rest of the week was mainly delivering our Victorian Experience to schools from the local area. It did mean I was able to add bank vole bombus terrestris and dove's foot cranesbill as my list got to 251. 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring is busting out all over

Check out the video first
Monday 5March. Went checking the newborn lambs on Cuerden. Buzzard over scramble track, mistle thrushes getting together in pairs, all ponds heaving with frog spawn, lesser celandine in abundance. OOPS. There was a power cut just as I finished writing that last sentence. I could not do anything on my laptop so I went to Brockholes. Warm sunshine skylarks singing, magpies pairing up, oystercatchers calling and flying over with a curlew bubbling its call all combined to give the day an early spring feel to it. There was a knot and a ringed plover on No 1 pit and a few tree sparrows, goldfinch, blue tits and great tits on the feeding station. The blaze of yellow flowers that also mark spring were also in evidence. I saw primrose, lesser celandine, hedge mustard and colt's foot.

As I entered Boilton Wood another colour caught my eye. It was a hint of blue. A small number of bluebells, just at the entrance to the wood were emerging in the afternoon sunshine. I look forward to when they look like the second photo in this selection

I needed to buy some new waterproof trousers so on Friday March 9 I went to the Freeport at Fleetwood. It also happened to be high tide. I saw about 40 sanderlings and 6 turnstones. 
On Sat 10 March I went to Heswall on the Wirral for a walk on the edge of the Dee estuary. It was part of a weekend at St Mary's Upton where Peter and Miranda Harris were visiting for the weekend. I arrived early since I thought we started at 10 rather than 10.30. Skylarks singing and curlews giving their unique call were a taste of what was to come. There seemed to be quite a large gathering from St Mary's with other visitors from Altrincham and Crosby. Our initial walk was towards Parkgate and although at that time birds seemed shy, I did notice a few flowers announcing that spring really is here. Coltsfoot, lesser celandine, blackthorn, daffodil, speedwell, fumitory and a "life tick" for me, Alexanders, photographed using my phone.

 We also had to carefully avoid stepping on a seven spotted ladybird. A warm day was made even brighter as a small tortoiseshell butterfly fluttered past. We did not quite get to Parkgate but the bird life was excellent. Harlequin ladybird was one creature that we were disappointed to see. No-one saw all the birds but members of our party saw the following: Shelduck, teal, mallard, wigeon, kestrel, buzzard, hen harrier, crow, redshank, meadow pipit, cormorant, black-headed gull, greater black-backed gull, herring gull, little egret, short eared owl and right at the end of our walk a single peregrine perched on a post gave wonderful views through the telescope. Not only was it a superb day, but it brought my total to 235
I also passed Ted Jackson the chair of trustees for Lancs WT on the walk. To see him and be with the founder of A Rocha was a reminder of the beneficiaries of my challenge. Don't forget to use the Just Giving link

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March on

St David's day, March 1st marked the return of education  work on Cuerden Valley Park. It was a sunny dry if slightly cool day and we were delivering River Studies. We usually divide into two groups so that one can look at the geography and the other the biology. I usually take the young folk to discover biology. We use a kick sampling method and then examine our catch in the trays.

We managed to catch water mites, mayfly nymphs, cased caddisfly larvae, a bloodworm and a bullhead.
Sat March 3rd I decided to look for some geese round the Pilling moss area. The tide was out when I got to Lane Ends but there were still hundreds of pinkfooted geese on the saltmarsh. I then went towards Pilling village and passed some Whitefront geese feeding in a field nearby. Then being so close to Knott End I decided to look for the black redstart that has been there all year. It was very confiding, constantly flitting from the building site to a small boat upturned on the shore. There was also some coltsfoot in flower at this site. 

Total now 223