Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A 'walkabout' in the park 15th June 08

Today's safari was more of an afternoon stroll in the local park with the specific intention of getting to grips with as many butterflies as possible.The site is only a short walk from Base Camp and is in two parts, a typical suburban park and an adjacent rough field. The bottom end of the field has a very thin cover of vegetation on some old levelled limestone hardcore. Here is a reasonable selection of wildflowers including Common Catsear, Rough Hawkbit and Birds Foot Trefoil. The latter is important as the food plant of the caterpillars of the Common Blue butterfly. Within a few minutes I had seen a female, much browner than the bright blue males. Moving along the hedgerow there were a few Speckled Woods and my first Meadow Brown of the year. The main part of the field itself has few flowers but several different species of grass. My favourite is Sweet Vernal Grass, just going over now but still tasting very strongly of American Cream Soda. An area of Hard Rush holds a small colony of Meadow Grasshoppers which were chirping away in the warm afternoon sunshine - stridulating is the technical term. Very pleasant whatever you call it.

Getting to the top of the field there is a small stand of trees, not big enough to call a wood but certainly a copse. On the edge of this were a couple of
Large Skippers. At only an inch across this name could be construed as a misnomer but they are fractionally bigger than Small Skippers (which aren't out yet). These little devils are fearless and will defend their patch of grass against their own kind as well as seeing off much bigger butterflies. They get the name Skipper 'cos they skip across the top of the grass stems at breakneck speed and despite being bright golden orange can be hard to follow they zip about that fast.

A couple of
Large Whites graced the big bramble thicket but the more mobile species of butterflies, Red Admirals, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells, were noticeable by their absence. A few more Speckled Woods knocked around the upper branches of the trees. A Holly Blue was flitting about above them. In general a high flying blue butterfly near trees and bushes is a Holly Blue and a low flying blue butterfly in a short wildflower meadow will be a Common Blue. True around Lancashire and Lakeland but we get in to difficulties down south where there are several other blue species to sort out.
A superb stand-alone specimen of Tufted Hair Grass with its silvery flowerheads waving in the breeze is a real 'beaut'.

Within the park itself there are two rather green and festering ponds. Green and festering - yes, lifeless - no. Several pairs of
Azure Damselflies were flying about in tandem, pond skaters tazzed across the Duckweed and there are plenty of snails. A small boy pointed out a tiny Frog.

Lifting a large piece of broken fence post revealed a very large
Toad lurking beneath.

Heading off home after a very pleasant mooch around the park there were more surprises to come. First a female
House Sparrow was in our neighbours front garden. You might not think this much of a surprise but they are as rare as hen's teeth on our side of the road and despite huge quantities of bird seed being put out at Base Camp they only show up in the garden about once a year. One of the houses, at the end of our street, where they bred has had the soffits and facias replaced and the poor Sparrows can't get in anymore. Very sad, but the guy's house was falling apart so you can't really blame him. But then a Swift just appeared in front of me. it did a quick tour of the district and whoosh - straight into a gap between the same chap's new soffits and facias - it barely slowed down; just seemed to disappear in to the fabric of the eaves. A couple of seconds later it was out off hunting again - - brilliant. a fantastic end to very pleasant afternoon's 'walkabout'.

Where to next?

The National Whale and Dolphin Watch organised by the Sea Watch Foundation runs from the 21st June to 1st July from a variety of sites in Blackpool. See details on the Solaris Centre's website.

Sorry - no pics today as I have mislaid my camera - or someone has removed it surreptitiously - anyway I can't find it so no pics for a while.

No comments: