Sunday, 15 July 2012

Arnside , Cumbria ( Part 2 )

With Carol settling back down with her book in the car park , I returned to mountain goat mode and headed back to Myers Allotment . With the woods sheltering the site from the wind , conditions were ideal for butterflies , but also for biting insects , that a field day on my arms . I returned to the area where I had seen the HBF in the morning , but shade had already crept over the open area , so I headed higher and found a similar area , with Thistles , but still in the sun . After a couple of fly-bys , a Fritillary landed on the Thistle flowers to feed , and then dropped onto the ground as if to rest , giving me my best photographic opportunity . To show just how difficult it is to identify between HBF and DGF , I'm posting topwing shots of both in the order just mentioned .

Some people I spoke to said that the size of 3rd. of the six spots from the leading edge , inside the black arrows on the forewing was the clue , but I found DGF with large and small spots there , and on the HBF above didn't have a 3rd. spot at all . Others said the wavy black markings were the thing to look for , but I found these variable in both too . As I said before , to be sure , I would have to see the underwing , and fortunately another HBF was obliging . As with the topwing shots , its HB then DG .

The HBF lacks the green wash on the underwing , and also has a row of silver filled brown spots between the outer margin and the silver spangles nearer the abdomen . The maximum nunber of specimens seen on site was only 3/4 . The HBF is one of the most endangered and rapidly declining butterflies , found only in the West , with less than 50 colonies remaining . Hopefully places like Myers Allotment , managed specifically for the species will help maintain the species and maybe increase numbers in years to come . Arriving back at the car park , Carol pointed out a butterfly that had landed on the ground in the corner . I got the binoculars on it just as it flew . From that glimpse and the jizz as it flew off , it could have been a Large Tortoiseshell , but we will never know for sure . Carol did get her dinner that evening , eventually , it being still fine , we were able to sit at a table out front on the decking , and
this was our view over the Kent Channel , as he tide started to come back in , with the hills of the Lake District on the horizon . The following morning wasn't as good weather wise , but not bad , and as I thought that I still hadn't seen the Northern Brown Argus , we went back to Myers Allotment to consentrate on that species , but without success . A few HB/DGF flybys , but none stopped , but I met a couple looking for HBFs , and they mentioned that Gait Barrows , a limestone pavement site , not far away was good for NBA . We soon found it , and being flatter , Carol said she would come too . We found the area the couple mentioned and even found another enthusiast who had seen some further down the track . Carol stayed for a rest , whilst I checked the track out , failing to find a NBA . But , whilst looking , I did find a couple of Dark-red Helleborines , but they had already gone to seed . Lots of Meadow Brown and small Ringlets and on one of the pavement areas , several
Grayling , one , although past it's sell by date , was happy to pose , showing some of it's topwing colour through it's now tatty wing . I searched on for a good while without any success , and as Carol had probably overdone things already and we had a good distance to get back to the car , we started back , finding some nice specimens of Betony / Betonica officinalis , a member of the Labiate family
along the way . We got back to the b&b about 4pm. , and whilst Carol had a look around the lovely gardens there , before resting her leg , I headed off for one more look for the NBA up on the Knott . Pulling up in the car park , two NT Rangers were taking a break in the shade , so I asked if there were any NBA emerged yet ? They told me they had just finished their butterfly transect on the Knott and had found 9 . I also asked if they had recorded HBF on the transect , to which they replied that they had seen one 'possible' , amongst the large number of DGF recorded . They marked on a map exactly where they had recorded them , and I also tossed into the conversation the DrH story . 'We're just about to go and do a spike count of them on the top of the Knott , come along with us , they should be in full flower' , was the response , and I
didn't need asking twice . High up on an area of scree were six DrHs , and one in particular was in
pristine condition , another species off my 'to see' list . Leaving the Rangers to carry on with their count , I headed for the areas where the NBA were recorded . The conditions were ideal , but found
none at the first area , but did find a Painted Lady , only the second I've seen this year . The second area the Rangers mentioned was approached via a wood and a small clearing . As I entered the clearing , a large insect was noisily buzzing the area . It crash landed in some vegetation , and that enabled me to get some shots . It looked similar to Strangalia maculata ,which was emerging before I left , but brighter and different black markings . Have done a bit of digging since and it would appear
to be Leptura quadriasciata , a relation of the former . I checked out the second area , but once again did not find any NBAs . With evening drawing in , butterflies were going to roost , so I gave up and
retraced my steps . On the way I stopped at the viewpoint , right on the top of Arnside Knott and got a final shot of the Lake District hills from the vantage point .
Nearly evermorning we heard Bullfinches 'heuing' to each other from the trees in the garden , but
only got fleeting glimpses of the pair . But on the final morning , before going down for breakfast ,
both the male and the female birds showed quite well for a couple of minutes , before disappearing back into the trees .
We left about 9am. Friday morning , calling in briefly at Carol's cousin in Southport , before getting back onto the M6 . Soon after , we hit torrential rain for mile after mile and even flooding on some of the low parts of the motorway . That weather then snarled up the motorway and we went into stop start mode for ages . Further South we hit another band of heavy rain , just as things were starting to get better . Then as we approached the Dartford Crossing on the M25 , the signs flashed '40 minute delay at crossing' . The reason for the delay , not bad weather or an accident , but so that the tolls could be collected from every car that passed through . Apparently the same thing occurred during the afternoon going North through the tunnel . That tunnel and bridge must have been paid for many times over , by now it should be free . I don't have the exact numbers , but averaging a car every 10 seconds , paying £1.50 ( more for lorries and coaches ) , through about 15 toll booths , means that during the hour we sat in traffic to get through , at least £8,000 was taken N/S  and probably the same S/N , as there was still a tail back on that side . We finally got home at just after 7pm. After taking off the stop at Carol's cousin , almost identical time to the outward trip .
And finally , many thanks to Greg for identifying the spider on last Sunday's post as a female Wolf Spider of the Pardosa species .


Warren Baker said...

I now know the difference between HBF and DGF, all I have to do now is find one of them :-)

Ken. said...

what a great account of your trip away.Getting off to a bad start is something that I can sympathize with.
At least you got to see some great scenery, and wildlife, including what you was looking for.
It was a shame that your trip home wasn't that good either.
Nice read with good photo's.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Greenie, I'm all behind but have just enjoyed both your posts. A fascinating read and lovely photos too. Well done with all you found but particularly the HBFs the NBA and the helleborines. How opportune that you encountered the rangers! Distinguishing between the two fritillaries with wings open looks like a nightmare to me, a dilemma I would welcome however ;-)

What an awful journey it sounded but worth it in the end I'm sure. Sorry to note Carol is still suffering with her foot, so frustrating especially as I know she is a keen gardener.

I found a wonderful, new to me, habitat yesterday where in better conditions I know there are DGFs. It is less than ten miles from home and there is lots to explore...if only we have some decent weather!