Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Blackpool adventure 26th May 2008

26th May 2008

This week’s Safari took us to Blackpool’s wild outback.

We started at the newly created Lawson’s Road Wetland. A superb new area created for wildlife. A ferocious cold wind was blowing and there was not much about. Hardy Sedge Warblers and a Reed Bunting were singing. In the ponds we found a few Water Boatmen and other creepy crawlies. These ponds will be much better when the planting matures and develops. The grasslands surrounding the ponds was looking good with plenty of Buttercups swaying in the breeze and the lovely blue-green leaves of Marsh Foxtail grass on the bare mud around the pond edges.

Moving along to Marton Mere the wind seemed to be getting stronger. Well over 100 Swifts were congregating at the west end, their screaming calls only just heard on the wind. Warblers were hard to see but despite the weather still singing away from the shelter of deep cover. Within a few yards we had heard Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and a solitary Chaffinch.

A visit to one of the hides was made all the more interesting as a Wren was feeding young in the nest right above our heads and seemed totally unperturbed by our presence, sitting on the windowsill just a couple of feet from us.

Outside a Song Thrush was singing hard. Further along the path we listened to the rattle of a Lesser Whitethroat coming from the depths of a thick bank of shrubs.

The next hide we visited was right on the waters edge and peering out of the window the water below was crystal clear. A huge shoal of Toad tadpoles was doing a circuit in front of the hide looking for all the world like a herd of Wildebeest crossing the Serengeti; seemingly oblivious to the three Perch cruising the margins. Above their heads we watched a pair of Reed Warblers collecting nesting materials. Further along the breeding cycle was a Blue Tit collecting large juicy caterpillars for its nest full of chicks. It tore open dead stems of reed to reach the caterpillars hidden inside. A Little Grebe trilled from the far side of the reed bed. In the distance a pair of Mute Swans sailed across the mere with their brood of nine cygnets.

The sky was still full of Swifts and House Martins, with a few Swallows amongst them. Persistent observation paid off and we found the single Sand Martin in the flock. In the distance a Buzzard hung on the wind over the fields searching the ground for prey.

A wildflower meadow was bright with colour, yellow from the semi-parasitic Yellow Rattle, gold from three species of Buttercups, and the blue of Forget-me–nots.

We retraced our steps and visited the Feeding Station and were rewarded with excellent views of a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the feeders. From there we wandered across the grassland towards the ancient hedgerows. A molehill was juddering beside the track. We stood motionless and waited patiently but the Mole beneath didn’t show itself.

As the weather warmed up butterflies started to appear. We had good views of two Speckled Woods and a splendid Holly Blue was seen sipping nectar from a Buttercup. Blue Tailed and Common Blue damselflies also appeared as the sun srarted to shine.

In the hedgerows several House Sparrows were busy looking for food for their hungry nestlings. A white butterfly wouldn’t settle to allow identification. A look under a sheet of wood revealed a couple of small Toads and a startled Short Tailed Vole. A Sparrowhawk soared overhead.

The safari moved on to another site to the north of the town. In the reed bed there were a singing Sedge Warbler and a Whitethroat, neither brave enough to show themselves in the strong wind. A striking male Pied Wagtail collected insects from the margins of a drying pond.

Further on amongst the Calamine Lotion scented Meadowsweet a newly emerged Small Copper butterfly was dazzling. A few Swallows darted between the ponds.

We conducted an unsuccessful search for Bee Orchids. A large area of their sensitive habitat had been damaged by a quad bike during the winter’s wet weather.

Later that evening the Safari set off again, this time to a site near Blackpool Zoo. A look in the ponds revealed several Water Scorpions and a few stick insect-like Water Measurers. A bundle of Tubifex Worms was seen in the muddy shallows. A single toad was found, outnumbered by a good many tiny Frogs. 3-Spined Sticklebacks were seen the stream, the males showing their bright red chests at this time of year.

In the darkness a Coot sat tight on her nest as we passed quickly by so as not to disturb her. Two Tawny Owls hooted a duet in the trees above our heads.

Scanning across the fields with a high power torch we picked up the eye-shine of a Fox. Within the wood our bat detectors were put to good use picking up the ultrasonic calls of Pipistrelle, Brown Long Eared, Daubenton’s and Noctule bats.

Where to next?


Lancs and Lakes Wildlife Safaris said...

Great site - loads of information - will get me out and about looking for wildlife this weekend. Who needs Spring Watch and the TV, lets get out and find our own.

Anonymous said...

those butterflys are really beautiful, well done on a fantastic site x

Anonymous said...

Beautiful creatures. I would love to stroll around the place when I get there. blackpool hotels with spa facilities are also available so, if you wanna pamper yourself, it's the right place.