The reason for the belated replies was that I ran Carol to visit her cousin in Southport , Lancashire , and we stopped over night , so no post last night . I must admit , I had an ulterior motive , as after a quick cuppa , I headed off with a slim hope of finding one of the rarest amphibians in the country , the Natterjack Toad .
But first , in pouring rain , I stopped off at Marshside RSPB reserve , to see what was about . I was greeted by a Reed Warbler , and he sang his heart out the whole time I was there . There were a few Redshank and Shellduck , and a family of Mallard and a single Avocet feeding well out in the water . Around the edges , a Common Whitethroat was still singing for a mate too . On the ground , several Skylarks were collecting food , probably with a nest full of hungry mouths , somewhere in the grass . Looking out to sea , it looked as if a clearance was coming in , so I then set off for the sand dunes , just south of the main beach . This is where I found breeding pools on a previous visit , but being the wrong time of year , I promised myself a re-visit at a better time . From the information on the board , June is when the young Toads leave the breeding ponds and the adults disperse into the dunes . As with the Common Toad , darkness is the best time to find them , so this was a visit to re-check the lay out . In fact , it turned out to be much more than that . Firstly , I found large numbers of Northern Marsh Orchids , in various stages of development , and by the time I had made my way back to the car , they must have numbered into the hundreds . It was as well that I was on my own , and nobody else around , as after finding the first few Orchids , I spent ages chasing around after a large white moth that I found fluttering about . Eventually , I managed a couple of shots , but when I got to the next depression in the dunes , the air and vegetation was full of them . This was just one small plant of Sea Buckthorn , and the black furry things are the pupation skins that they emerged from . Lots of them were already paired up , but also lots had been hit by the heavy rain , and were lying on the ground . I wasn't sure what species they were until I got home and did some research , and they turned out to be White Stain Moths , mainly females , but there were a few rather dapper males around too . Then I started finding the caterpillars , and they were very dapper too . From the information I have found so far , these moths are found mainly in Southern England , with occasional sightings in the North , as they are migratory . I can only think that they have done a similar thing to the Painted Ladies , because by the time I had finished , I had found more of them than the Orchids . One thing still puzzles me though . Amongst all these white moths , I found a single specimen of a similar white Now identified as a White Ermine -thanks Dean moth , but covered in black spots . Also the legs are not black and white like the others and the antennae is different . Any thoughts appreciated . Also on the wing were Cinnabar moth , and Common Blue , Painted Lady and Small Heath butterflies .
The flowers that manage to grow in the sand dunes never cease to amaze me , and this trip was no different . Apart from Bee , Pyramidal and Common Spotted Orchids , I found Restharrow , pictured , a plant I would normally associate with grasslands , and also Wild Pansy- Viola tricolor , so small and delicate , surviving on next to nothing , and not forgetting Blue Fleabane-Erigeron acer , a relation of Michaelmas Daisies , once again associated with grasslands .
Whilst among the dunes I heard a Cuckoo call on three occasions , but never saw it , and was constantly serenaded by Skylarks and Meadow Pipits . On my return to the car , I found a very mobile family of six Stonechats , but was never able to picture the whole group , so had to settle for just two of the youngsters . Close by , a male Reed Buntings might have been trying to count them with his '1 , 2 - 3' call . I also surprisingly put up a Grey Partridge and several Linnets from amongst the dunes . Close by to where I parked , I found Biting Stonecrop growing amongst the stones . By the time I reached the car , the clearance was ending and the skies threatened again , and it rained all evening , so I didn't make it back searching for Natterjack Toads , but it does mean that another visit some time is on the cards .