Monday, 31 May 2010

The Lady and the Duke

Gait Barrows NR

Duke of Burgandy Fritillary - this is the main flight period for this rare butterfly, and Gait Barrows is one of the few places you can see them in the north of England.

Lady's Slipper Orchid - even rarer than the Duke, there is only one naturally wild plant in the whole of the UK. Seed has been taken from this plant, and the seedlings propagated at Kew gardens and many have been re-introduced here at Gait Barrows. The larger and much older plant at nearby Silverdale is of Austrian stock and was planted there many years ago.

The most spectacular of all British Orchids! If you're interested in seeing this orchid, next weekend (5th and 6th June) is Lady's Slipper orchid open day at Gait Barrows. Only problem is parking may be a nightmare, because there is not a lot of spaces. Also, as you can see from my photos, the orchids appear to be in full flower now, so by next weekend they might be past their best.

Dingy Skipper (left) and Small Pearl Bordered Frillary (right). It's hard to seperate Pearl Bordered and Small Pearl Bordered without seeing the under wing, so you'll just ahve to take my word for it that we did see the underwing and this is definately SPBF!

Common Blue

Leighton Moss RSPB

Spoonbill from the Grisdale hide. We also saw several Bearded Tits here and Marsh Harriers.

Broad-bodied Chaser - there were lots of this spectacular dragonfly on the wing today, but try gettting close enough for a photo!

Fly Orchid - I assume that the netting has been put around it to keep out the rabbits. I'm not going to disclose the exact location. If you know where it is great, if not be happy that it's being looked after!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Iberian Chiffchaff, Great Reed Warbler and Red-rumped Swallow

Despite the poor weather, we set off for Derbyshire full of anticipation and hope. The two warblers were both long staying birds and both would be UK ticks for me, but the Red-rumped Swallow had only just been found this morning.

We decided to head first for Ogston Reservoir, near Matlock, because the RR Swallow seemed the most likely bird to leave at a moments notice, and in this respect we hoped that the poor weather might actually play to our advantage and keep the bird at the site. Our hopes proved correct, and we picked up the bird almost immediately we arrived at the car park, as it flew over the water with about 100 other hirundines. One down two to go!

Now we headed for Ilkeston near Derby, and Straws Bridge nature reserve. We had a walk of about 250 yards in light rain to a small pond with a pathetically small reedbed, in the middle of which was this stonking great warbler with a song like a machine gun! I've seen Great Reed Warblers abroad, but usually on giant reeds which are about 15 foot high! I don't know how these reeds could support it! It performed really well, right out in the open for long periods, and didn't seem in the least bit shy.

Up until now, the weather hadn't been too bad, just light rain at times, but now, as we headed north to Doncaster the heavens opened and my heart sank. I knew that once we got to Potteric Carr nature reserve, it was a 40 minute walk to where the Iberian Chiffchaff was, and I also knew that it could at times prove elusive. What were our chances in rain like this, and how long could we stick it out?

I needn't have been concerned. Just as we arrived at our destination, the rain stopped and didn't start again until we left. The walk wasn't as bad as anticipated, and almost as soon as we got to it's preferred hedge we heard it, "chiff, chiff, chiff, chaff, chaff, chaff, treee". And then there it was, singing out in the open. We saw and heard it on and off for about 20 minutes before heading back to the car and home.

I can't remember the last time I saw two UK ticks in one day. Probably 20 years ago!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

White-tailed Lapwing, Seaforth

I'm not a permit holder at Seaforth, so we were forced to watch from the fence at Crosby Marina, a good 300m from the bird. However, by the time we arrived at 6:30pm, the heat haze had gone, though the sun was still shining brightly, and the light was good. From our position we saw the bird about three times in an hour and a half, and they were all very acceptable views.

Only the 6th ever in Britain, this was not even a North West England tick for me, but it did bring my Merseyside list to 248.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Bluethroat, Leasowe

Two hours standing on a small bridge with 20 other birders was rewarded with a 2 second view of a female Bluethroat near Leasow lighthouse! Still, it was a new bird for the North West for me bringing my totals up to:

North West: 332 species
Merseyside: 247 species

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Great Orme, Llandudno

We had a wonderful day out to the Great Orme at Llandudno on Sunday. Star attraction was this wonderful fox cub.

The scenary was breathtaking, and the sea was like a mill pond, and it really was like being in the Mediterranean, only better. We also saw two Choughs, a few Ravens, five Wheatears and plenty of Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Shags.

Flowers included Early Purple Orchid, and masses of Common and Hoary Rock Rose.

Looking towards Conwy. Notice the yellow flowered Hoary Rock-rose growing on the rocks in the foreground (left), and right is a close up of the plant.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Northern Spain

Just got back from an enjoyable holiday to Northern Spain. We sailed from Portsmouth to Bilbao, then had a week in Spain, including the Picos de Europa mountains, then back on the ferry to Britain. It was a great experience in more ways than one! The weather was pretty poor for most of the holiday, mainly overcast with occasional periods of rain, sometimes heavy. There was also a lot of snow on the ground above 3000 feet, and this more than the weather effected our plans, because it was impossible to walk very far. We did well for birds, with 101 species seen, and also flowers, with several species of orchid. Reptiles and amphibians were a little more difficult due to the weather, but even so we saw a nice selection.

The main bird species we saw were Bonelli's Warbler (1, a new bird for me), Alpine Accentor (1), Alpine Chough (30), Egyptian Vulture (2), Griffon (many), Short-toed Eagle (3), Rock Bunting (3), Rock Thrush (1), Wryneck (a few, including one singing in the open from the top of a tree), White Storks (many), Hen Harrier (3), Black Kite (many), Short-toed Treecreeper (a few) and Booted Eagle (3).

There were also many "English" birds which you wouldn't necessarily associate with Spain, including Dipper, Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Tree Pipit, Common Redstart and from the ferry two Cory's Shearwaters and three summer plumage Great Northern Divers.

Also from the ferrry we saw a few Common Dolphins, Striped Dolphins and Bottlenosed Dolphins, and most impressively, three Fin Whales.

Please note, the dates on each post relating to northern Spain are wrong. I have used them simply to get the posts in the order I require for the blog. The holiday was from 3rd May to 13th May.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Orchids of Northern Spain

Here is a selection of the best orchids we saw in northern Spain

Yellow Bee Orchid & Narrow-leaved Helleborine

Probable Sparsely-flowered orchid & Elder-flowered Orchid

Tongue Orchid & Sombre Bee Orchid

Sombre Bee Orchid (different type) and Sawfly Orchid

Pink-butterfly Orchid and Man Orchid

Lady Orchid

Flora of northern Spain

Even excluding the orchids, there were some wonderful flowers, especially in the slightly lower meadows. At high altitude there was still a lot of snow, so many flowers were only just coming through.

The photo on the left is a typical flower meadow full of a wide variety of plants, including many orchids.
The photo on the right is Large-flowered Butterwort, an insectivoruous plant, growing at the side of a mountain stream.

We saw three species of wild daffodil. The left hand photo is Narcissus bulbocodium, a delightfully tiny plant growing at over 6000ft, next to the snow at Fuente de.
The right hand photo is Narcissus triandrus, which we found growing at about 3000ft, usually in lightly wooded areas.

Finally, this photo is Narsissus asturiensis, growing at a high altitude pass, at about 3000ft. We also found this species at slight lower levels.

On the left, the small yet spectacluar alpine, Spring Gentian, growing at over 6000ft at Fuente de. We found many of these in bud, but we were a little too early for the full display.
On the right, Tassel Hyacynth, a flower of the lower meadows.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Birds of northern Spain

I just don't have either the optics or the patience to take great bird photos, but here are a few.

A poor photo of an Alpine Accentor, but only the second I have ever seen so worth it's place here. Alpine Choughs at Fuenta de - they were very tame, one even took a crumb from my hand!

The ubiquitous Black Kite. Very common, but only in the lowlands.
Black-bellied Dipper at Fuenta del Ebro - the source of the River Ebro after which Iberia is named and which almost cuts Spain in half by when it joins the Mediterranean at Valencia.

Iberian Yellow Wagtail.
Griffon Vulture - we saw hundreds over the course of the week.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Reptiles and amphibians of northern Spain

Don't try this at home! Handling snakes is not advisable even if you know for certain that they are not venomous.

Smooth Snake (left) and Southern Smooth Snake (right). Seperated by the head and belly markings. Neither are venomous. However.........

Cantabrian Viper. We came across a spot where there were several of these in a small area. These are highly venomous and you wouldn't want to mistake one for a Smooth Snake. They are also easy to miss in the vegetation, and quite sluggish in the cloudy conditions which we had, so one misplaced step might have led to disaster!

Two of the more fascinating amphibians. The creature on the left is a Fire Salamander larva photographed in a pool in a small cave using the camera flash. On the right is a Common Tree Frog.

Little and large. On the left an Alpine Newt, whilst on the right a young Eyed Lizard. This was about 8 inches long. An adult can grow to up to 32 inches. It's a fairly common species in Spain, but mainly in the south, and is quite scarce in the north.

Common Wall Lizard (left) and Italian Wall Lizard (right).

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