The Safari took a day off wildlife safari-ing yesterday after we'd had a txt from a friend we've not seen for a while suggested a day out in the Land Rovers exploring around the eastern side of the old county of Westmorland. We don't often get the chance of a full day out with Wifey and Frank so butties were made, nibbles packed and a flask of hot coffee brewed before we drove up the motorway to the rendezvous point. The drive to the motorway from base Camp was a frustrating affair with almost empty roads but everybody in front of us was a flamin slow-coach! Gaww we get ssoooooo miffed with them, one 'aud' geezer was doing 35 in a 60 zone but there was just no way to get past him.By the time we'd got to the meeting point we'd chewed the hell out of back teeth, practically ground them down to stumps…then we discovered that our laeader for the day's CB radio wasn't working so we'd be driving 'in communicado' so to (not) speak.
Anyway three Land Rovers set off a little further north up the motorway before turning east and into the hill, country, rather than mountains to the west.
We soon left the tarmac and trundled along narrow farm tracks between high hedges. Fortunately all the snow that fell on Saturday had melted in the abrupt overnight upturn in temperatures otherwise most of our route would have been impassable.
All the tracks we drove are unsurfaced roads, aka green lanes, and are covered by all the usual rules of the road so vehicles must be taxed and tested, seat belts worn, even though this could be a hindrance at times, etc etc – just ‘normal’ roads but without any tarmac.
Up hill and down dale we wandered enjoying the scenery and having a butty stop here and there and let the dogs out for a play.
Due to the rapid snow melt all of the fords we had hoped to cross were rendered impassible by the flood water.
At Rutter Falls the torrent was hard on the ears and even though the bridge is about 150 yards from the falls the sprat got on the camera...a place we've never heard of before and only 50 miles from Base Camp in a straight line. Having said that we passed through several little villages and hamlets we've never heard of either.
There wasn't much wildlife around Kestrels were beaten by Buzzards 2:1 for the day and the fields were mostly empty apart from Jackdaws and Carrion Crows and Woodpigeons. Here and there Blackbirds flew out of the hedgerows but in general it was pretty quiet. They was a cold howling wind blowing in sharp hail showers which would have kept most wildlife sheltering in cover.
Widely scattered fields had sizeable flocks of Starlings which may be part of the huge nightly murmuration which roosts at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.
Best wildlife sighting of the day was a Brown Hare crouched down by the side of the track which ambled away in a considered manner, no chance of getting that close to one on foot!
Noticable was the amount of old trees in fields, along hedgerows and the roadsides and the general lack of new plantings/regeneration, the fields too look very green considering it's mid winter and we would hazarrd a guess that most of them will be devoid of any wildflowers. It's terribly sad to think that although England's land might look green and pleasant and the wider landscape is very beautiful large swathes of it are becoming biodiversity deserts - actually there is probably more biodiversity in an average desert!
|Doing more than 30 would have had your head through the sunroof!!!|
|Now they want you to slow down to 40!!!|
|No chance again!|
|River is about a metre above normal and as fast as a train|
|Made it through this one|
|Ford left or bridge right?|
|Snacks on the go - yummmm|
|Sure the tracks weren't that scary|
|Rutter Falls in full spate|
|Reflections in the bonnet|
|Rescuing escaped sheep|
|The Safari strategically placed to prevent a breakout|
|Any field will do, the road at the bottom of the hill as a main 70mph highway - not the place for lost sheep|
|Birkett Common lane|
|Birkett Common with the pointed peak of Wild Boar Fell in the distance - not much chance of seeing one of those round these parts for a very very long time sadly|
Today was a wild and windy affair and the wind had shaken things up a bit.
We put the scope on the wall eye to the eyepiece and wallop, a big very white gull with two adult and a 2nd winter Herring Gull, far too close in size to the Herrings to be another Mediterranean Gull, 2nd winter Iceland Gull? All too soon they were gone in a deep trough. Too far away by a few hundred yards and too brief a view to be able to clinch an ID.
The gull-fest continued with at least 100 Common Gulls all going south and in between them in dribs and drabs were 14 Kittiwakes. Two Little Gulls (99, P2 #36) about 500 yards apart were icing on the gull cake but it was an auk that brought up the ton for the year - a Razorbill (100, P2 #37), in from the north and landed on the turbulent sea not to be seen again.
A brief visit at lunchtime gave us the unusual, for the time of year, sighting of two 1st winter Gannets (101, P2 #101). Nothing else came past apart from a few Common Scoters and the wind made it feel colder than the proper cold of last week so we abandoned ship on a bit of a crest of a wave.
A nip up to the shop gave us a near miss - a Great Tit on the side of the railway bridge was off Patch 2 by a hundred yards or so - a really rare bird on the patch!
Where to next? Will the wind bring anything else within reach tomorrow - Fulmar? Somehow didn't see one from Patch 2 last year.
In the meantime let us know who's not crossing the rivers in your outback.