Friday, 15 April 2011

A day on the dunes – well half a morning...

The Safari found what was almost definitely a Great Northern Diver today but it was just a bit too far out to clinch. Not as far as the larger and easier Grey Seal though. We also dipped the two Harbour Porpoises which have hung around since yesterday and a Little Gull. All the same it wasn't a bad morning's quarter hour on the patch with the first bird being a passing Lesser Redpoll followed very closely by two Swallows - both Patch 2 ticks.

Three Red Breasted Mergansers flew by and we had at least five Red Throated Divers, very slim and weeny in comparison to our distant bird.

Then it was out to the dunes for a training event on the UK BAP and Red Data listed Vernal Mining Bee, which is only known from a handful of coastal 10km squares between Swansea and south west Cumbria.

A short introduction to the species and its ecology was given by Dr Carl Clees of Liverpool Museum then it was out on site to find the little fellas. There is only a short window of opportunity to study them as their flight period is only from late march to mid May.

These are what we were looking for, larger female on the left, white hairy faced male on the right. It wasn't long before we located a suitable south-facing sparcely vegetated dune slope and found a female excavating her burrow. The go in backwards and come out forwards, the shaft goes down at a slight angle before becoming vertical and can be upto a metre long. A small 'fan' of loose sand shows holes that are in the process of being excavated. along the burrow are upto six brood chambers.

Once the brood chambers have been made they are provisioned with pollen from the Creeping Willow bushes which abound in the vicinity.

A small number of dead specimens were found. The males once mated are expendable!
Also seen on our excursion into foreign parts was this nice big queen Red Tailed Bumble Bee.
Countless thousands of St Mark's Flies smothered the vegetation.

Towards the end of our session we found some spring Morels, not seen any of these for many years. This one was small, about 2 inches tall (5cm) and hidden under the edge of a patch of Creeping Willow.
This one was much larger, about 6 inches (15cm) but just past its best.
Carline Thistle is a plant we don;t see at all unless we hit the sand dunes.
Dog Violet is frequent in many habitats and can even be found in the garden at Base Camp.
Apologies to this chap for having to steal his pic of a spider which wouldn't keep still - a sand dune specialist and a very bonny little critter, Arctosa perita. It's same species but Mr Crawford photographed this one in Washington USA.
And finally a mystery object. It was found on the ground but has been there at least 10 years and was previously stuck onto a fence post. The green is paint...what is it...its hard BTW.
Where to next? Saturday morning is North Blackpool Pond Trail bird survey morning - what new migrants will have arrived?

In the meantime let us know what you think the mystery object is...answer will be revealed on Monday


Phil said...

Some interesting CCs there DM. Looks like part of a a particularly old hard boiled egg?

Warren Baker said...

I reckon its Green Woody poo :-)

Shame the male miners are expendable once mated :-( gives me an idea for the cider swigging chavs on Deans patch :-)

cliff said...

A fascinating read Dave. What a great looking bee - now I've seen it I wish I'd come along & joined you - the same applies to the Morel mushrooms. If you're heading back down that way anytime soon I wouldn't mind joining you for the guided tour.

There were a few St Marks Flies @ the Mere today too, don't they know they're 10 days early?


Anonymous said...

Great account of the morning Dave.

I'll be heading out on Thursday (10am meet at LNR) to carry out a more comprehensive vernal bee survey of the LNR/SSSI whilst all the information is still fresh in my mind. I'll let you know what I find.


Anonymous said...

the mystery object is a puss moth chrysalis :)