Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Summer at last; but will it last?

A most enjoyable safari exploring the Morecambe Bay limestones on a warm, sunny, summery Sunday.
The day started well with a Bullfinch only a minute out of the car park and as we climbed higher out of the lower woods the wildflowers were superb.

This little fella is Rock Rose but most of the yellow in the picture is Birds Foot Trefoil.

Some extensive scrub clearance work we saw will benefit the rare Fritillary butterflies next season, but at the moment the bare area look perfect for reptiles. But despite the warm sunshine we saw no sign of the elusive critters. While we were looking for them we saw this stunning Cinnabar moth, its bright colours warn potential predators that it is extremely poisonous and they shouldn't be temted into an easy meal.

While we were get close up and personal with the Cinnabar a spanking Pearl Bordered Fritillary landed almost on the adjacent flower demanding our attention and lenses!

why do they have/need such a bizarrely patterned eye. During the course of the safari we saw a few Green Veined Whites and Large Whites, and this rather early Painted Lady - there seems to have been a huge invasion of these that day with many blogs all over the country reporting them in numbers -

Other butterflies included a mating pair of Wall Browns and the most Small Heaths the safari has seen for a good few years. This is one of the Walls.

Having said all that the most numerous butterfly of the day was the Pearl Bordered Fritillary and probably outnumbered all the others put together, excluding the abundant day flying moth Yellow Shell -very welcome news.
In the higher woods we were hoping to find Green Woodpecker probably the target species for the day after any reptiles. No luck, but we did come across this strange hard globular fungus called appropiately King Alfreds Cakes.

Throughout the woods there were individual Early Purple Orchids and the odd nice patch of them too.

A Sloe Shieldbug was a good find, probably looking for any Blackthorn bushes that hadn't been cut down to open the habitat for the bigger, brighter Fritillaries.

At the very top of the hill, which was an Iron Age fort, there is a beacon. This was erected in 1988 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Before the Armada sailed hills across the length and breadth of the country had beacon fires built on them to be lit if the Spanish landed an invasion force - of course Drake made sure they didn't and the beacons were never lit.
This beacon is infamous in that years ago one of my mates thought it would be a great idea to climb in to it - no mean feat! It was only then he discovered it was much harder to climb out of! Great fun to watch his antics as he tried to extracate himself from his predicament without breaking his neck. Did we help? Did we heck - to busy rolling around laughing at him!
Moving off the hill and in to a damp meadow we found lots of Ragged Robin in flower.

The ditch running through the edge of the meadow looked perfect for Grass Snakes but by lunch time on a warm Sunday to many heavy footed people would have walked past and any self-respecting snake would have made itself scarce - that was our excuse for not finding any! We did see a mating pair of Robber Flies though.

Time to visit one of the UK's rarest plants, the Lady's Slipper Orchid. There were only two of these left in the country. The other, in Yorkshire, I visited slightly illegally many years ago - still got the photos - this one may well have been planted here in Victorian times (the same Victorians who 'collected' = dug up, all the others). There are moves afoot to make them as common in Lancashire, Cumbria, and Yorkshire as they once were. Excellent news!

It is an absolute stonker.

Along the path to the orchid a princess was giving the paparazzi somewhere to point their long lenses.
So where is it and what is it? Here...

And this...

A rather nice female Broad Bodied Chaser. Very nice. There were several flying around in the afternoon heat.
They were emerging from a nearby pond and were getting in to all sorts of trouble, this one nearly got trodden on...and was duly photographed from the driver's seat.

This is the furthest north I have seen this species...gee it's getting warmer all the time...
While this was being photographed a new species for the safari fluttered by...a Dingy Skipper, not the world's most exciting butterfly but a tick is a tick.
A chat with some locals revealed the presence of a small colony of Green Winged Orchids not far away. So the Land Rover was duly pointed in that direction...and well worth the detour.
Below is a pale pink form. The green wings refer to the stripes on the sepals.

A great day's safari-ing with a supporting cast of ultra close views of a Raven chasing off a Buzzard, Roe and Fallow Deer in the woods, but unphotographable thanks to hordes of holiday weekend daytrippers, and even a Great Spotted Woodpecker hopping around on the ground frustratingly like a Green Woodpecker.
Where to next? OOOOHHHH fun, fun, fun next weekend...you'll have to wait and see what we get up to.
In the meantime let us know how good your outback has been recently.


Monika said...

I enjoyed following along your explorations....you saw some stunning orchids! Your variety of butterflies and moths is also impressive. I have no idea how you get such great photos of them. When I've tried it they're almost always fluttering about too much!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Thanks Monika - the butterfly photos are pure fluke! Take lots of pics and hope one turns out OK.



Warren Baker said...

another great expedition! BB Chasers are out and doing well here too