Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Headed out east today

The Safari picked up BD quite late in the morning after a visit to the docs, we can feel a couple of hand operations coming along in the not too distant future. Our plan was to hit the high roads of the eastern hills and see if we couldn't pick up a couple or three year birds and find some other interesting stuff too.
All was going swimmingly until we got stuck behind an fully laden articulated tanker truck on the narrowest of country lanes, OK a bit of patience was required but every bend had on-coming traffic and some folk don't know the width of their vehicles! We lost a good ten minutes or more of valuable safari-ing time before the driver was able to let us past safely.
We got close to the turn to our destination and saw 'Road Closed' - darn it! Last time we wanted to come this way the road was closed for repairs too. An alternative had be found and quick. Fortunately BD has never been to this area before so we decided to bunk into the valley we used to visit regularly with Wifey and Frank when he could walk that far.
We parked in the village car park and had a wander to the river bank. We hadn't been out of the Land Rover more than a couple of minutes before the first Clegg came sniffing round. Out came the insect repellent; we'll be glad to get back to work tomorrow to allow the DEET to drain out of our system!
Once fully DEETed up we set off on our walk up the river and soon came upon a bush covered in caterpillar webs. On closer inspection little white dashes all over the outside of the webs were in fact adult moths, perhaps only just emerged.
There were hundreds of them and they were easily disturbed by the slightest movement but didn't really fly far before settling again.
We're fairly confident they might be Bird Cherry Ermine moths.
Like the Cleggs yesterday the Red Soldier Beetles were also out on the Creeping Thistles again today.
A Garden Warbler sang from a tree which also had a Blue Tit and a Robin.
It didn't take too long to find one of the alternative site's specialities, Heath Spotted Orchid.
There were lots of them along the trackside, only trouble was when we got back to Base Camp and looked them up in the Lancashire Atlas we discovered they were Common Spotted Orchids; Heath Spotted now only occur in five restricted areas of the county and this isn't one of them - dohhh.
Buoyed by our 'success' we pressed on onwards and upwards. A tatty Sparrowhawk cruised along the tree tops to our left and to the right we saw a Kestrel which when coming towards us looked so much like a Peregrine we made a schoolboy ID error. It flew around in an agitated manner for a while then went back from whence it came and had a tussle with another bird of prey hidden in the Heather. But what was it? B took his big camera over and fired away as we couldn't see anything with our bins.
Whatever it is it's up there somewhere
What raptor did we see that could be hiding up there? A Hen Harrier perhaps? With no apparent joy we continued up the hill briefly stopping to get out of the rain behind a shed where B found a small Puffball just protruding through the grass
Looking at it closely and cutting it open inside was a slimy greenish sludge - euchhh, not like the firm insides of a Giant Puffball.
We looked for Common Lizards on the stony walls and doing so spotted a wasp around a patch of Figwort, it didn't look quite right for a normal Common Wasp so we both took some pics. 
It didn't give itself up lightly
Again once back at Base Camp it was identified via Twitter by none other than Richard Lewington, he of the field guide illustrations fame, as Figwort Sawfly which B discovered was a first for Lancashire until a few minutes later CR piped up with a not so fast me hearties, he's been waiting for confirmation of one he put on iRecord from the nature reserve a couple of years ago - the race is on!
We were looking at something and nothing, possibly the tiny flower Tormentil, when B called out 'lizard!', he'd only just gone and found his first ever British Common Lizard. Were very close to it and it disappeared down it's hidey-hole before we'd caught a glimpse of it and long before any cameras could be pointed in its direction.
A little further up the lane the Kestrel was back and appeared to be calling loudly.
It flew off and the calling stopped but we weren't convinced it was the Kestrel, it was something else, a very anxious Common Sandpiper was in the stream close by not at all happy that there was an aerial predator in its territory.
At the water's meet we watched House Martins, Swallows and a few Sand Martin's cruising around in the rain over the big weir. Looking down into the river we could see no fish in the strongly peat stained water. The water gets pulled off for drinking in several towns a few yards down stream and we pay in our water bills to have it cleaned. The staining comes from the over drained moorland used for driven grouse shooting. Surely the polluter should pay not us, even if their name does begin with Duke of....time for you all to support this year's Hen Harrier Day even if you're not a birder or don't care about the concerted illegal killings of a protected bird the actions of a few affect the many in several ways, mostly in our pockets, increased flood risk insurance premiums, climate change risks and all to kill as many Red Grouse as possible in a short a time as possible for as much money as possible.
Rant over - there was an impressive bull in the field by the weir - we're no cattle expert but we think he's a Belgian Blue or at least a BB crossed with something. Whatever he is he's a bit of a beast.
The rain came down heavier making the valley round the corner rather less photogenic than it usually is. Those cut fields have been silaged, in the old days they'd have been hay meadows and full of a huge variety of of wildflowers, now they probably contain Rye Grass, a few Dandelions and a Chickweed or two.
This is a one way in same way out walk and the way back was against the rain, we were soon soaked through.
Our friend the Kestrel was on the ground on a nearby Heather clad hillside.
Overhead soaring higher over the fellside was our third raptor of the day, a Buzzard...is it just us or are you seeing fewer Buzzards than expected?
The rain continued to pour down as we looked on the bank where the Common Lizard was and lo and behold it was still there despite the downpour. Again it did a bunk as soon as we spotted it and with the rain cameras were well tucked away so there was no chance of a pic. This is the closest we could get to it.
There were a few soggy sheep about too.
More plants were noted after our botanising trip on Friday when we found some different species of St John's Wort, here was a new one Square Stemmed St John's Wort.
Back at the Land Rover our safari wasn't quite over, a Mayfly was on the side of the car as we unlocked it.

Once again great wildlife and good company to enjoy and share it with...and no we didn't see any Hen Harriers, the mystery bird up the fellside turned out to be another Kestrel.
Where to next? National Whale and Dolphin Watch is coming up starting this weekend, hope the weather isn't too windy - see you there - - look under Cheshire, don't ask!
In the meantime let us know if there's any Hen harriers in your outback...ohhh there isn't why not??? Please sign the petition, let Them know we care and won't be fobbed off!

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Well, that was quite a post Davyman! Enjoyed the rant too :-) Carry on!