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