Saturday, 30 May 2009


Been painting the garage doors today watching the Painted Ladies wafting past. 'Hundreds' coming in off the sea while out with Frank both yesterday and still coming today. The biggest insect migration in living memory - glad to have witnessed it.
Sorry no photos - covered in paint so not picking the camera up.
Where to next? Nowhere Land Rover has pulled a muscle aka broken down....oooohhhh nooooo!!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Extreme weekend

Some of Raf's Extreme Images from the weekend's safari.
We told you in the last post Broad Bodied Chasers were emerging all over the place!

Two on one Flag Iris stem is just too much. Note the wings in different stages of pumped-up-ness.

The lower one was asking to be gently handled.

This is the one the paparazzi were homing in on. Well we had to join in didn't we.

Mating Wall Browns.

Mating Robber Flies, Raf thinks they're Scorpion Flies...he could well be right.

La piece de la resistance....absolute stonker!!!!! You should see the full 8MB version of this...oh joy!!!!

Where to next? The safari still has something up its sleeve for the weekend.
In the meantime let us know what is out there in your outback that can be classed as stonkingly brilliant

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'll have to wait and see what we get up to.
In the meantime let us know how good your outback has been recently.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

World Turtle Day

Today (23rd May) is World Turtle Day.
A real treat to see one of those along our cost but they have occured in the 21st Century
We have had two, both were at the end of 2001. I can't remember the last time I noticed we had an influx of jellyfish but it could have been then. We must be due another one soon so keep your eyes peeling this summer.

The following is an extract of the information from these two strandings; the full document can be read at

UK & Eire Marine Turtle Strandings & Sightings
Annual Report 2002
R.S.Penrose. January 2003

A Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), that live-stranded on Preesall beach, Blackpool, Lancashire on the 29th November 2001 was driven to Weymouth for rehabilitation under the care of Julie Ions, Bio Services at Weymouth SeaLife centre.
Advice on rehabilitation techniques gathered by TIG, was forwarded to Julie and after nearly 4 months the turtle, now named ‘Shelly’, was successfully released back into the warmer waters of the Canary Islands on the 19th March 2002. Again, the kind assistance International and Gran Canaria state veterinarian Pascual Calabuig made the repatriation possible.
The event was documented by the TV programme “Pet Rescue”
'Shelly' being released back into the warmer waters of Gran Canaria by Julie Ions.
The photo courtesy of: Bournemouth News.

Originally reported and recorded as a Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta). The carcass had stranded at Knot End near Blackpool, Lancashire on the 30th December 2001.
The turtle was kindly stored at -20 C at the Fleetwood Museum until collection for full examination could be arranged within the DEFRA led ‘Collaborative UK Marine Mammal & Marine Turtle Strandings Project’.
Under post-mortem examination at the Zoological Society of London, the carcass was found to be a Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).

On further examination a fragment of plastic was found lodged in the oesophagus together with other items of plastic in the stomach including a large fragment (approx. 10cm x 5cm) of blue balloon.
The entrance to the intestinal tract was completely blocked by seaweed, feather shafts and fragments of plastic. Cause of death was given as oesophageal impaction and stomach impaction resulting from ingestion of plastic.
At the time of stranding this animal represented the fifth recording of this species since 1748.

Beach litter soon turns into marine litter and becomes a serious problem! If anyone is considering having a ballon 'race' please, please, please don't.

For any one wanting to know more about what is regulary seen on our beach please go to

Where to next? The sky is getting darker and squallier and lunchtime approaches..the sea is beckoning.

In the meantime let us know how many turtles there are in your outback.

PS did see one once - Shark Bay WA.

International Biological Diversity Day - a day late...oops

22nd of May is International Biological Diversity Day. This year the theme is Alien Invaders.

From the Convention on Biological Diversity

“Invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health. In particular, they impact adversely upon biodiversity, including decline or elimination of native species - through competition, predation, or transmission of pathogens - and the disruption of local ecosystems and ecosystem functions.
Invasive alien species, introduced and/or spread outside their natural habitats, have affected native biodiversity in almost every ecosystem type on earth and are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Since the 17th century, invasive alien species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known (CBD, 2006).
The problem continues to grow at great socio-economic, health and ecological cost around the world. Invasive alien species exacerbate poverty and threaten development through their impact on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems, which are an important basis of peoples’ livelihoods in developing countries. This damage is aggravated by climate change, pollution, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance.”

While the safari was out getting photos of the multitude of aliens found in these parts we came across this Robber Fly which looks quite alienesque, also looks like it has recently emerged as its wings don't appear to be completed inflated.

As for real aliens probably the one people are most familiar with is the Eastern Grey Squirrel. A lively addition to the garden but has managed to displace all the native Red Squirrels in this part of the world.

Many people don't realise that Rabbits are an introduced species. Recently it has been discovered that they were brought by the Romans in the early part of the 1st Century AD. The earliest remains being found in Norfolk and dated with pottery to c2000 years old. Previously it was thought that they were brought in shortly after the Norman Conquest in the 11th C.

Are they a good or bad addition to the UK fauna? Farmers don't like them for obvious reasons but they do provide food for Red Kites, Buzzards, Stoats and other larger predators. Their grazing also keeps vegetation low allowing birds like the rare Stone Curlew to nest. But the can change the composition of wildflower areas by selectively grazing out the more palatable species.
Possibly the most destructive mammal that has been introduced is the domestic Cat...cute in the home but a killer outside and because they are full of Whiskers Supermeat. They rarely eat what the kill AND have caused the demise of the spectacular native Wild Cat by genetic extinction except in the wilder most remote parts of the Highlands of Scotland.

All manner of species have been introduced. The Rainbow Trout is a popular sport fish but has escaped from fisheries and is now common in many lakes and rivers.

How long before the native Brown Trout have to compete with the Andean Blue Trout as well?

Amongst the introduced birds Pheasants are very common and despite huge numbers being released on shooting estates as game each year there would probably be a self sustaining population.

My favourite introduced species is tha Mandarin Duck for several reason. It is from China hence the name but it also looks like a Mandarin Emperor, and face on it has the comedic look of Yosemite Sam with those huge gingery whiskers. Unfortunately it wasn't tempted by the loaf of bread I threw at it and stayed rather aloof from the ensuing melee of Mallards.

The ornamental waterfowl theme continues with a grotty pic of a sleeping Egyptian Goose. This species hasn't taken off in such away as the Canada Goose has and probably has little environmental or ecological impact.

On to plants. Below is the infamous Japanese Knotweed. Capable of growing through solid concrete including roadways and footings of'a almost indestructible! There are several patches on the local nature reserve but thankfully it seems to be spreading only very slowly.

Himalayan Balsam, on the other hand, is a much more recent invader to just one waterway but has spread along it at an alarming rate. It has beautiful pink flowers which have a heady scent of honey and are well liked by bumble bees which are currently having a torrid time. The problem with Himalayan Balsam is that it out cometes the native bankside vegetation and quickly creates a monoculture. In the second picture you can see it has ousted a patch of Nettles, no mean feat but no good for native bugs...and it is currently Be Nice To Nettles Week. (16th - 24th May each year)

With HB one years seeding is certainly seven years weeding!

New Zealand Stonecrop is the bright green plant smothering this pond. Again it is almost impossible to eradicate. The current view is to carefully dig a new pond nearby and use the excavated spoil to bury the invader - drasic indeed!

The north American Water Fern was introduced as an attractive pond plant for gardens and very quickly escaped. This is only a small patch as a weevil has been discovered that eats it and is commercially available to control it. The pond where the pic was taken was infested with it last summer so the weevil must have done its work well.

The last pic I have of an alien invader is one of the safari's favourite 'target' species Fallow Deer, how fickle we are! We like this one because its big! Brought in to be hunted by those Normans again now fasirly widespread across the UK.

Where to next? That sea looks good today but I'm stuck behind the desk at work...doh...
In the meantime time let us know what aliens have invaaded your outback.