Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lots of Gulls - No little Grebe

I recently took part in the Chorley Bird Race. The main reason is to get a snapshot of the birds in Chorley Borough. We start at mid-day one day and finish mid-day the next. We started in the east and soon had swallow, sand martin, and buzzard. Whithnell scrapes was very quiet, but there was a teal, a grey heron and tree sparrows. An unexpected bonus came in the gift of some jelly babies offered by some walkers going in the opposite direction. A visit to a local quarry enabled us to see peregrine and raven.
Cuerden provided us with dipper and bullfinch, but the little grebe was not to be seen. At White Coppice, a common redstart serenaded us but observing him proved impossible. As the afternoon and evening progressed the temperature fell as did the amount of birdsong. The lack of some commoner birds seen or heard was a little frustrating. We were encouraged by the sight of a single little gull, whose very close flypast allowed us to see its diagnostic underwing. We still had not seen dunnock, grey wagtail or house sparrow but as we approached Belmont village, a short eared owl flew almost right over the top of our vehicle. A search for Mediterranian gulls in the hundreds of black headed was made uncomfortable by the almost Arctic blast, but my partner at least saw a snipe. Dusk was now quite close so a quick visit to Roddlesworth woods for woodcock was our plan. Once seen and heard, we did not hang around. We could be judging some folk, but there were several "suspicious" characters in the car park.
 The next day, a wet start had cleared by 0530, which enabled us to hear tawny owl and grasshopper warbler. Not five minutes later we heard a yellowhammer sing " little bit of bread and no cheese" and saw a grey partridge flying away from us. 

Our next stop was where the River Yarrow meets the River Douglas. We listened and scanned the hedgerows and saw corn buntings as well as a single red legged partridge. The distinctive call of a redshank by the rivers alerted us to not only that bird, but also shelduck and two common sandpipers. Just outside Croston is a reed bed where a sedge warbler and a lone house martin added to our growing total. Not too far away a few wheaters gave a good impression of being lapwings. Not too good as to confuse us however. A trip to Birkacre was quite productive having seen kingfisher and mute swan, but still no tree-creeper. Mid-day was approaching far too quickly and we still needed a few more birds. We only saw one more species however, but it was a good one, actually two. A pair of ring ouzels among the rocks at Black Coppice proved to be our final addition. 82 birds for the day. Not good enough to beat the 87 discovered by one of the other teams.

 The addition of some stitchworts and an orange tip butterfly brought my challenge list to 351

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

welcome warblers and day at the dunes

Thursday 12 April was a quick visit to Anglezark. I was so glad I did. The area was alive with willow warblers and I also heard one garden warbler. Summer is definitely here (except for the weather) The picture is of a garden warbler from last year. A drab bird with a gorgeous song

Saturday 14 April. I had to cancel a trip to Crosby due to family commitments. Instead I went to meet St Anne. or rather Annie, Dunes officer for Lancashire Wildlife Trust, in St Annes. She had organised a search for lizards in the dunes.The sun was shining, if somewhat feebly, on some of the banks. These were said to be ideal places to see our quarry. Since it was still a little cold, we decided to take a walk in the dunes. I managed to see Marram grass, lyme grass, sea radish, common whelk shell, Isle of Man cabbage, meadow pipits, common mouse ear and dewberry, The other leader had gone on a lower path and as we met he pointed to a place where he had seen a common lizard. I stayed there for about ten minutes and managed to see a single juvenile. On our return to the car park we passed some creeping willow and early forget-me-not. We had another futile search on the bank, but since the sun was behind clouds and the temperature had dropped we decided to call it a day ( or morning)
The afternoon was spent practicing using flower keys on Cuerden Valley Park. Thanks to this I identified a wavy bitter-cress and found that the lords and ladies near the BHS pond was RARE lords and ladies arum italicum.

Challenge total now 320

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


On Saturday April 7 I was on Reserve Guide duty at Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Brockholes reserve. I walked round anticlockwise on a sunny if slightly cool day. Each time I visit Brockholes the skylarks give me a musical reception and today they did not disappoint. As I strolled on the path through the coltsfoot, two oystercatchers and three greylag geese flew over. I went towards the River Ribble where a group of committed birders were on the lookout for ospreys passing on their way to Scotland. Whilst I was there there were some sand martins performing aerobatics and chattering as they did. Boilton Wood is at its best at this time of year with all the spring flowers bursting out. My favourite is the bluebell, as you can see
At the entrance to the wood was a plethora of colour. The deep blue of hyacinthoides contrasting with the yellows of lesser celandine, coltsfoot, daffodil and golden saxifrage. More variety with both wood sorrel and wood anemone splashing their white blooms, the green of dog mercury and today a new colour - red campion. Flowers are not the only pleasure. A bumble bee bombus pascuorum and a fly, which looked like   polietes, buzzed amongst the blooms. A little further I saw a large white patch moving through the trees. It was the unmistakable rump of a roe deer. I was quite surprised, since it was five minutes to mid-day. Most times I see these delightful creatures is nearer to dawn or dusk. Once clear of the wood, my walk took me past some tufted ducks and great crested grebes. On to Number one pit where canada geese, mute swans, and more tufted ducks mixed with the ever aggressive coots. On the island several lapwings had already staked out their territories and were defending them with enthusiasm.I did see a few redshanks being very active. Continuing on to the Ribble Way I saw a wonderful bank of moschatel, also known as Town Hall Clock 
The final leg of the journey meant I could take advantage of the hide along this stretch. A jay screeched its displeasure, but I was more interested in the three little ringed plovers not too far away on the island. I glanced towards where the sand martins had nested last year and was thrilled to see a common sandpiper. The reason for this was,not just that the plovers and sandpiper were new for the year, but it means my total is now 300

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What kind of fool

Saturday and Sunday March31/April1. I went to Waddow Hall in Clitheroe for a weekend training in conjunction with RSPB Wildlife Explorers. I took a new junior leader who wants to get involved with my Wildlife Explorer/Watch group. Most of the time was indoors, but we did get chance to be involved in a variety of activities outdoors. On the river we saw goosander, and dipper, whilst in the woods, blackcap, chiffchaff, song thrush and a drumming great spotted woodpecker reminded us that, despite an early morning frost - spring is here. I did not stay the night and as I set off the Sunday morning, the first thing that said good morning was some wild garlic under the oak tree just outside my house. this was after scraping ice off my windscreen.

 April had fooled us into thinking the cold weather had gone. Then in the woodland at Waddow, a common dog violet tried unsuccessfully to stay hidden. I was glad to spot white dead nettle, cuckoo pint and a bee bombus pascuorum.
Monday 2 April Fooled again by the weather. Spring returned to winter, my daughter driving to work in snow.
Tuesday April 3, I had to get involved in shopping again. It's a pity that normal life interferes with my challenge.A quick visit to Withnell Fold meant I spotted common dog violet, chiffchaff, jackdaw, great spotted woodpecker, and a lichen I have yet to identify.
Wednesday April 4 I had childminding duties to perform in bitter conditions. I had decided to take Aiden to Brockholes to have a try on the playground. He was thrilled. I was less so having seen the snow on Pendle Hill. I did take a quick look in Boilton wood and found wood stitchwort a, good mix of early flowers and more cuckoo pint,
Thursday April 5th We went from Arctic weather back to Bahamas weather. I went to the scramble track to look for otter footprints. Our companion found some prints whose identity have still to be confirmed. On our return journey seeing great horsetail, hartstongue, small tortoiseshell, lots nuthatch, 6 chiffchaff,  mistle thrush, cuckoo flower and bee fly brought the grand total to 290

By evening the Arctic conditions had returned but we still went to the final rehearsal for the Preston Passion.
GOOD FRIDAY. I took part in the Preston Passion, a re-telling of the Good Friday story. A reminder that Jesus came not only to restore the broken relations between man and his Creator, but to bring the whole of creation, birds, bees, bugs, bovines, human beings and all things botanical back to glorious harmony with each other.