Saturday, 14 July 2012

Saturday 14th. July 2012 Arnside , Cumbria ( Part 1 )

Back in the depths of last winter , I booked two trips away , one to Arne in Dorset , which we visited in May , and the second to Arnside , on the Cumbrian coast , above Morecambe Bay and below the Lake District . The Arne visit was successful , with Smooth Snake and Sand Lizard found , but dipped on Natterjack Toad , so set off last Monday for Arnside , again with three target species on the list , High Brown Fritillary , Northern Brown Argus and Dark Red Helleborine . The expected 6ish hour trip was going great until we approached Preston on the M6 , when flashing lights stated that the M6 was closed northbound . With little option , we continued , and were relieved when just a 15 delay was flashed up , we could live with that . Soon after the red lights started to show up in front , but I would only be 15 minutes . After standing still on the motorway for 30 minutes , we started to move , very slowly , but on reaching the next off slip , found the motorway coned off ,and all four lanes of traffic pushed into the middle of Preston along a single lane road , causing gridlock in the town . Two and a half very frustrating hours later , we managed to get back on the M6 above Preston and arrived in Arnside nine and a half hours after leaving home . The cause of the hold up , some idiot threatening to jump off one of the bridges over the motorway , hearing later on the local news that he didn't . What annoyed me most was the Police were charging around in their cars around the motorway , but not one of them were sorting out the gridlock at the road junctions in the town . Anyway , my planned look around in the late afternoon never happened sadly , especially as the weather was ideal . Our b&b was right on Arnside Knott , a well known butterfly hotspot , and after breakfast the following morning , in windy but dry conditions , we drove to the NT car park on the Knott , and leaving Carol with her book , I finally got started on looking for the three target species . The Knott is quite steep , with large areas of scree on it's upper slopes , and it wasn't too long before I
found my first butterfly , a Grayling , perfectly camouflaged , basking on some of the scree , a species that always rests with wings closed , so the topwing , which is much more colourful , is rarely seen . It was still quite cool , but a bit of searching produced my first Fritillaries , but it was two Dark
Greens , nectaring on Bramble . And that was the start of the headache of distinguishing between the many of this species found on the Knott , and the much rarer target High Brown Fritillary . I met several other butterfly enthusiasts during our stay , many confident that it was possible to differentiate between the two species from the topwing , but after my experience , I would say it is almost impossible . To make things more awkward , both species rested with open wings , and after following a certain specimen , thinking it was a High Brown , my hopes were dashed by a glimpse of the green wash of the underwing . But , it wasn't all bad news , as during that time on the Knott , I did
get my only sighting of Northern Brown Argus , but didn't realise it until I got home and looked through the shots taken , thinking at the time that it was a standard Brown Argus . A few Common Blue , lots of Meadow Brown , a few Ringlet , the odd Speckled Wood and a rather past it's sell by
date Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary were also seen , but not a single High Brown . After a couple of hours , the weather closed in and the butterflies headed for cover . Other interest found on the Knott
were Dropwort / Filipendula vulgaris , a member of the Rose family ,looking like miniature , leafless , specimens of Meadowsweet , to which it is related , and a couple of very contented looking Highland
Cattle calves , hat didn't bother to move , even though I passed within a few feet of them . There was also a very large bull on the Knott , but I kept well away from him . Leaving the Knott , the weather really closed in and it started drizzling , so we decided to have a run up to Bowness on Windermere , and do the tourist thing . Sure enough , it was full of tourists , all trying to keep dry . We didn't stay long , making our way back to the b&b , and relaxing in the spacious conservatory . Fortunately the rain stopped before we headed down to the only pub / eating place . Wednesday dawned sunny , and after breakfast we headed for RSPB Leighton Moss , not to visit one of the largest reedbeds in Europe , but for me to visit another HBF site close by , Myers Allotment , which although not sounding it , was another limestone outcrop , but more wooded than the Knott . I was the only one on the site , and spent the time like a mountain goat searching for my target . After quite some time , a flash of orange passed me and disappeared into the distance . Was it ? Impossible to tell , so on with the search . The usual common butterfly species were seen , and several 6-spot Burnet Moths ,
including this mating pair . Up on the top of the outcrop I found plants growing out of the grykes , the
fissures worn into the limestone by water and weather , like this fern . This also the habitat where I could possibly find my non-butterfly target Dark-red Helleborine / Epipactis atrorubens , but search as I did , I never found any sign , but I did find my first positive HBF , but it did not let me get near
it before it was off again , but with binoculars , I saw the markings on the underwing . Result . Not wanting to leave Carol too long , I made my way back to the car park , and we drove to the far end of the reserve , where a Spoonbill had been sighted , and also where the Avocets had nested .
Fortunately it was fairly level on the way to the hide , and on the way , Carol spotted a dead Mole , just off the footpath . The scrape outside the hide was very windswept , and not long after we got there , everything that was on the ground lifted off in unison , not I would add because of our being there , but the arrival overhead of one of the Marsh Harriers who had young to feed back at the nest .
Eventually the Harrier moved off and things started returning like these Redshank with an odd
Godwit amongst them , and this mix of Little Egrets and Shellduck , the latter must have hidden their young whilst the Harrier was in the area , as , once the danger had passed , they brought their family
into view on one of the small islands . It appeared that most of the Avocets had moved on , leaving
just a few late breeders , still guarding their youngsters , this adult was in constant conflict with a pair of nearby Oystercatchers . Carol had mentioned on the way up that she would like to see Morecambe Bay whilst we were in the area , so we headed off to get an ice-cream on the front there . My first time there too , and we were both amazed at the size of the bay , and Carol was pleased to see the
statue of their town's son , Eric , dancing on the prom  to 'Bring me Sunshine' , which he did for us , with the hills of the Lake District in the background . With the sun still shining , we headed back towards the b&b and on the way I asked 'Do you mind if I have another quick look at Myer's Allotment ?' , and long suffering Carol said 'Oh all right' , and I'll pick up there on the next post .


Warren Baker said...

Nice to read something positive on my list of Blogs Greenie, lots of doom and depression about at the moment!

Well done on getting to see the HBF.

Nice read, kept me amused while the rain lashes down out there!

Phil said...

I wondered where you had gone this time Greenie!
Glad you managed to get the HBF, but even without it a great time was had by the sound of it.
Bowness is a very touristy place, we usually head for the northern lakes, but there's still not a lot of wildlife for some reason.
I think 'bring me sunshine' should be the anthem of the summer this year!!

Mike H said...

Another good read on an absolutely rain soaked day. Your wife Carol sounds very accomodating I wouldn't have dreamed of trying to do the same place twice in one day. Look forward to seeing the result!!