Monday, 25 August 2008

Exploring Bispham beach and cliffs

The safari had an very pleasant morning at the seaside. A walk along the cliff top found us studying a patch of 'new' vegetation. The grasslands are registered as a County Biological Heritage Site for their soft cliff grassland vegetation. This patch must have been used a depot for the recent tram track works. The original perennial grassland had been destroyed and in its place was a marvelous patch of wildflowers whose seeds have been waiting in the soil for just such an opportunity to germinate and bloom.

Above is Greater Knapweed, a very scarce plant in the Fylde area. There were a few specimens.
Common Toadflax was quite numerous.

The bee visiting the Borage flowers is Buff Tailed Bumble Bee.

This bee is (I think) a male Red Tailed Bumble Bee - I will check in the field guide and confirm later. It is on Black Knapweed, the much more common of the two Knapweeds in this area. An alternative name for it is Hardheads. They are related to Thistles but do not have spines on the leaves. Both species are visited by bees, butterflies and other nectar seeking insects - as are Thistles which are much more important than their generally held status as 'weeds' suggests.

Below is Birds Foot Trefoil, a common plant of dryish soils and a member of the Pea family. This plant is also known as Eggs and Bacon on account of the red flashes of colour (not shown on this late summer photo) on the yellow flowers. Maybe it should be renamed 'Eggs and Tomato Ketchup'! The 'proper' name comes from the shape of the seed pod - which is like a birds foot - and the clover like leaves which have three leaflets - or foils (Latin/French for leaf). This plant is the foodplant of the beautiful Common Blue butterfly's caterpillars and without it there would be no Common Blues. To tell a Common Blue from a Holly Blue have a look at the underside - patterned - Common Blue; silvery blue with a few spots - Holly Blue. Where did you see it? Low over open grassland with wildflowers including Birds Foot Trefoil - Common Blue; High around the trees and shrubs in parks and gardens - Holly Blue - - usually these rules will hold true.

Coming down off the cliff top and on to the beach we started to look in the pools left behind by the tide. Bispham is unusual along Blackpool's beach as it has large area of pebbles mid beach. We soon found this Common (Edible) Whelk and Common Winkle. The hole in the Whelk is probably where an Oystercatcher or Gull has stabbed through it.

A close up look at the 'mouth' of the Whelk reveals there are no teeth - grooves on the upper (thicker) side of the aperture so it is not Dog Whelk. Things with the name 'Dog' were deemed as useless, e.g Dog Whelk is inedible, Dog Rose has no smell, Dog Wood is not a usable wood - Dogfish is an exception.

These two are Baltic Tellins, a very numerous shell on the beach. One is 'right handed' the other 'left handed'.

Above is a Striped Venus shell. Some shells can be aged, like trees, from annual growth rings. I'm not sure if this is one of those species but it looks like it could be. Anyone fancy counting for us?

An Iceland Cyprina shell was counted to be over 400 years old and thus the world oldest known animal when it was dredged from the seabed.

Amongst the gulls was a lovely adult Mediterranean Gull. Not this one, it had started to moult and lost its black head. It did have a large white ring on its right leg which unfortunately we were unable to read. We could quite get close but not close enough, once we were nearly in range it would, infuriatingly, fly another 20 yards or so down the beach.

You've got to admit they are one of the best looking birds in the book!

We also saw 8 Ringed Plovers scampering about on the beach and three Turnstones picking Barnacles off the rocks. The previous day there had been a Grey Seal reported close in shore but today the wind was stronger making the sea much choppier and we couldn't find him.

Turning back to Base Camp the weather looked like it was going to take a turn for the worse but it did give the opportunity for this rather arty shot of the sun catching the fisherman's lines, glinting green, red and silver.

Where to next?....Could be anywhere!

In the meantime let us know what's in your 'outback'.

1 comment:

Jack Hewitt said...

great blog you've got. thanks for the ID on hawker.

Greater knapweed grows in quite a few places now. It is at Brockholes quarry and Cuerden valley park