Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Billinge Hill - Ring Ouzel


There was a cracking male Ring Ouzel on Billinge Hill today, apparently on the site of the old quarry, though it doesn't look much like a quarry to me.

The photo won't win many awards, except perhaps the worst Ring Ouzel photo of the year award. Ah, well, it's a record shot.....

Monday, 25 April 2011

Upper Teesdale - Spring Gentians

Today I finally achieved a lifelong ambition of visiting the Upper Teesdale valley in the North Pennines. Why I've never been before is difficult to say, but it was certainly an occasion worth waiting for, because it is a place which has been described as probably the most important botanical site in England, and it is home to a wealth of wonderful flowers, including spectacularly, the Spring Gentian. This a is a sun loving flower, which closes on cloudy days, but on warm sunny days in spring provides a stunning display of electric blue flowers. This is the only place in the UK where you can see this wonderful display, and fortunately, we chose the perfect day.

It's been an early spring, and the gentians were in full flower along the banks of the Tees near Forest Teesdale, and most spectacularly near Cow Green Reserveroir on Widdybank Fell. They are only small, but don't be decieved, they have a personality as big and as grand as any flower you are ever likely to see, they are like precious jewels lying in the grass and sparkling in the sun!

The gentians are not the only stars. In places, the banks of the Tees are amass with Bird's-eye Primroses, on a scale which I have never come close to experiencing before. Lots of other flowers too, such as Cowslips, pansies and violets, and plenty still to come, it is only April after all!

In such company the birds were very much a secondary interest, but there was plenty to see. On the Tees near Cronkley Scar there was a fabulous male Ring Ouzel, and the moorland was alive with sounds of breeding waders, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank and on the river Common Sandpiper. Plenty of Red Grouse on the moors, and there is a healthy poulation of Black Grouse here as well, though we didn't see any.

A truely exhilarating experience.











Sunday, 24 April 2011

Pendle Hill - Dotterel and Green Hairstreak

Today we made our annual pilgrimage to Pendle Hill in the hope of finding Dotterel. We weren't disappointed, with two of these enigmatic birds just below the summit, which was earily shrouded in mist (hence the foggy looking photos!). They were quite tame, and in the fog we struggled to find them until we almost tripped over them, but once we had found them, they carried on feeding, almost oblivious to our presence.
On the way up we failed to see any of the reported Ring Ouzels, but we did see good numbers of Green Hairstreak butterflies, feeding on the Bilberry, which is a larval foodplant. A breathtakingly colourful sight!





Eccleston Mere

1 Swift

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Eccleston Mere

Willow Tit 1 in hedge along stream, Grasshopper Warbler 1 reeling behind yacht club hut.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Warblers and other things - Sankey Valley

Another beautiful morning, another bike ride from Carr Mill Dam to Mucky Mountains at Earlestown.

Warblers singing this morning between 7:00-7:45am were: Reed Warbler 10 (mainly Havannah Flashes), Grasshopper Warbler 1 (Havannah Flashes), Whitethroat 8 (mainly around Penkford / Nine Arches), Blackcap 8, Chiffchaff 10, Willow Warbler 11. Still no Sedge Warbler, but it's easy to miss stuff when you're clattering along at speed on the bike!

Other birds seen today, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers near Havannah Flashes, Kingfisher Penkford, 5 Sand Martins Penkford, 2 Grey Wagtails near the Ship Inn.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Warblers in the Sankey Valley

Warblers singing in the Sankey Valley this morning (7:00 - 7:45am) between Carr Mill and Mucky Mountains (Earlestown): Whitethroat 7 (Mainly at Penkford / Nine Arches), Grasshopper Warbler 2 (inc. 1 seen at Havannah Flashes), Reed Warbler 5 (near Ship Inn and Havannah Flashes), Chiffchaff 10, Willow Warbler 8, Blackcap 6.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sankey Valley

Grasshopper Warbler 1 reeling between Havannah Flashes and Penkford, Reed Warbler 3 singing at Havannah Flashes, Whitethroat 2 singing near Nine Arches, Earlestown. Also several Orange Tip butterflies, a couple of Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshells and a single Brimstone all around Mucky Mountains / Bradley Lock at lunch time.

Sunderland Point and Bazil Point

We had a wonderful day at Sunderland and Bazil Points, the weather was glorious! We parked at Potts Corner and headed out onto the saltmarsh, in search of the Belted Beauty Moth. They can be found during the day by looking on the posts which run across the marsh. Interestingly, the females are flightless and look quite unlike any moth I have ever seen before! As you might expect from a saltmarsh specialist which has flightless females, they don't have the greatest dispersal abilities and are quite rare, the UK race Brittanica is a Red Data Book species in fact. In total we counted 61 Belted Beauties, 20 males and 41 females. Then we headed down the point, past Sambos grave and on to Sunderland village. From there we went across to Overton, around Bazil Point and back to Potts Corner. Bird highlight of the day was two Tree Pipits on the beach near Sunderland Point, but we also saw 4 Avocets, 6 Eiders and 100 Black tailed Godwits. Another great day out. Photos below.....

Belted Beauties at Sunderland Point


Belted Beauty habitat. You can see a female on the post in the foreground in the right hand photo, just below halfway up the post. The saltmarsh is of course tidal, so the water levels in this creek will rise and fall, but at the time the photo was taken, the post was completely surrounded by water. Makes me wonder if the females can tollerate at least some salt water and maybe can cross small patches of water. The posts may seem a safe place to live, but the caterpillars need to feed in the vegetation, so at some stage in the life cycle, the moth has to get from the post to the vegetation!

Yes, this is a moth. Female Belted Beauty.

A male Belted Beauty (left) and a pair mating (right).

Drake Eider, never a common bird in the Nort West.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Ecceleston Mere - Whitethroat and Black Sedge

Two Whitethroats singing today but still no sign of any Grasshopper Warblers yet this year. Quite a nice display of plants at the moment, there is a really nice stand of Black Sedge in the Eccleston Mere fen in the south west corner, whilst along the stream there is lots of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Wood Sorrell and Lesser Celendine. Bluebells are just coming into flower, and the woods will be worth a visit later this week.

Pennington Flash

A decent couple of visits to Pennington Flash, included two Black-necked Grebes, Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warblers, Common Tern and Green Sandpiper

Monday, 11 April 2011

Brindled Beauty update

Just a quick update on the Brindled Beauty moth I caught last Wednesday (6th, see below). It has now been confirmed as just the 6th record ever in Lancashire and the first in the county since 2007! Just goes to show what might be flying around your back yard!

Purple Saxifrage - Ingleborough




We set out for Ingleborough in North Yorkshire, half expecting to find that we were too early in the month for the flowering of Purple Saxifrage, but in the end we only just made it, with most flowers almost spent. Still it was a lovely day and a great walk, and we also saw about 10 Emperor moths on the moorland just below Ingleborough, but nowhere near close enough or still enough to photograph!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Hilbre Island



The forecast of south easterly winds convinced me that it was time for a long overdue visit to Hilbre, only my second visit this year. I was on the island at 6:30, when it was barely light, and was treated to a magnificent sunrise. It soon became obvious that there had been a mini fall over night, with several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers flitting about, many of which were caught and ringed. Highlight of the day was a male Redstart, and other migrants included a decent passage of Lesser Redpolls, a couple of Siskin, Grasshopper Warbler (not seen by me), a trickle of White Wagtails, Blackcap, Wheatears and a few Swallows and Sand Martins. It was also a day for picking up a few Hilbre scarcities, including Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Jackdaw, Magpie and Woodpigeon.
Photos: Redstart, Lesser Redpoll, Blackcap, Danish Scurvygrass and sunrise.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Brindled Beauty - second for St Helens

My first night moth trapping this year produced 9 moths, one of which was this Brindled Beauty, only the second for St Helens and the first for six years. Lets hope it's the start of a good year!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Eccleston Mere

2 Swallows 50 Sand Martins 1 Blackcap singing 1 Willow Warbler singing 1 Shoveler female 12 Tufted Ducks 1 Kingfisher 2 Treecreepers 1 Willow Tit

Monday, 4 April 2011

Eccleston Mere

1 Blackcap singing, 2 Willow Warblers singing and 5 Chiffchaffs singing. Also 1+ Kingfisher, 2 Buzzards and 3 Sparrowhawks displaying (1m, 2ff).

Catchdale Moss - Green Lane

2 Wheatears, 5 Tree Sparrows

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