Friday, 27 July 2012

Swifts fly high within our Sky....

For over a week now, Swifts have been leaving our shores in their thousands.
Which for most of us would be at least two weeks earlier than usual.
I always reckon May 4th in and August 4th out.
Is it any wonder they are going early with the weather we’ve had!!

The young seem strong now so why feed here where its raining,
They might has well move down further South and get the spoils,
Of warmer weather, and more plentiful feed.
Why stay in dismal with a larder half full.
When they can be in bright and have a larder full.

I’m picturing them Swifts flying high in the sky,
Twenty four hours a day, they on the wing,
Just flying, flying away, all night long.
With one eye open to watch their path
And one eye closed to get their nap.


Our Swifts are still here and still screeching away.
Well they were this morning at six-oclock,
High in the skies over our beloved Burton.
There must have been at least fifteen,
Could have been more, but that’s what I counted.
So for me I would call that a fair breeding year.
Without problems, as I saw it.

Its sunshining today, now what did I say!
Sunshine is a rare commodity this year.
But the birds are telling us they are enjoying their day,
So why shouldn’t I.

(Written at 0730hrs 27th July 2012.)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Epipactis Schmalhausenii - the DRH and BLH "Hybrid"

Fancy finding some “Epipactis x. Schmalhausenii –
Whats that?

It’s the hybrid of the Dark Red Helliborine Orchid and the Broad Leaved Helliborine Orchid.It is so rare in the UK and its only ever been found in Cumbria and guess which is the most likely spot in Cumbria. Right on my favourite countryside doorstep!! “The Hutton Roof Crags”.

So it all started, with me doing a survey on one of the pavements up on Hutton Roof. I had been counting (approximately that is) the Dark Red Helliborines (Epipactis Atrorubens). And for that matter anything else what was interesting like: Broad Leaved Helliborines, Pale St. Johns Wort, and its mega rare hybrid “perforatum montanum”. Also Limestone Polypody and also the spent evidence of old Angular Solomons Seal and Lily Of The Valley.

One of the Hutton Roof pavements started it all for me, “now what was this? It did in a way look like a Dark Red Helliborine, but for some reason it just was not right! I was scratching my head with this one.
The colour was reasonable for a Dark Red I suppose, because to start with most of the Dark Reds I do encounter up on Hutton Roof, are of a lightish reddish pinky colour, and most have a creamy edge line to the petals, and only a few are of that lovely deep red wine colour which you generally see in the many photographs showing Dark Red Helliborines.

Initially my attention was drawn to this particular plant in that it had what looked like at first a “bunched flower head” and that the individual flowers where seen to be actually going right round the stem to all points of the compass, which in itself was very unusual, on normal Dark Reds, the actual flowers would just be doing down two side by sides of the stem. They certainly would not be going all round the stem like these where.
There where even more striking differences as well. For example: The stalk on this plant was much stronger and taller than the normal Dark Red stalk, in fact I would go along and say it was probably three times thicker than the normal stalk for a DRH. The leaves seemed different to. They looked like a mixture of both the Dark Red and the Broad Leaved. Also another giveaway was the leaves tended to come up the stem more towards the flower leaves, whereby with the ordinary Dark Red they finish as a rule about a third way up and you have this long gap before the smaller flower leaves start. So this pointed out to the fact that it had taken on the Broad Leaved so much in the stalk and leaves.

But another striking feature in them early hours was the fact, the time of the year was exactly right for the flowering of the “Dark Red Helliborines” . But the time was certainly not right for the flowering of the Broad Leaved, which although present in good numbers on the site, would not be ready for actual flowering for yet another three weeks at least.

There where other differences to with the “epichile” features, where the normal classic atrorubens (Dark Reds “wrinkled bosses” were present on these specimens. So from this you knew you had the fundamentals of the Dark Red Helliborine, yet the petal colours, together with the stalk and leafage supplied evidence of hybridisation from the Broad Leaved Helliborine.

After many deliberations, debating the facts we had and also seeking advice by some of the Countries leading experts in this field, including Professor Richards, It was clearly confirmed by him and other specialist that what we had here was “Epipactis x. schmalhausenii.

On the same day of my find, I also found a further four more hybrids on this same pavement which where duly monitored and photographed.

Since that day (12th July 2012), I have been very fortunate to find another fourteen “hybrids” which have been on a further three pavements, which were at least one mile distant from the original site.

Checking out the original site a couple of days ago (20th July ish!) I could not find at first the original five “hybrids”, the deer had been in and munched the tops off and the parts which still remained further down the grykes, had actually gone over and dried up.

Also belatedly, I have learned that a previous study done about three years ago up on Hutton Roof, also produced some of these “hybrids” when at that time they were also confirmed by one of the Countries leading experts to be Epipactis x. schmalhausenii.

The bottom photo above shows just how close the Dark Red Helliborine flower is breeding right next to the Broad Leaved Helliborine (only two examples on HR of such close proximity) and what does not show on the photo is that the rare E.Schmalhausenii is situated about one metre below the above two species. So that within almost one metre square you have all the three species and hybrid.  The schmalhausenii will flower at exactly the same time as the atrorubens and will have gone over by the time the helliborine flowers.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Hipericum perforatum montanum.

If you want to check out the above photos in regards to "Pale St Johns Wort hybrid" (Hipericum perforatum montanum) in larger resolution, which is obviously better if you want to see clearly the "transulucent Dots" please click here, then when loaded double click on your selection and when loaded click again to apply maximum zoom.

On Saturday morning last, at the copse just before reaching Pickles Wood, I could hear the "feeble" calls of two small birds flying overhead whilst traversing from one set of trees to the others. The trees separated by a distance of maybe 50 yards or so, the contact flight call from these birds was certainly not familiar to me by any means, although I had thoughts that I could have possibly heard that call or similar in the not to distant past. It turned out to be a pair of young "Spotted Flycatchers".

So I found a spot and waited just before entering Pickles Wood. and before long my patience was rewarded with first a parent bird showing her "flycatching" displays from the mid branches, flying out and doing mid air sallies to catch the flies. And then only minutes later and some 30 yard in distance further along the copse, two young "flycatchers" decided to come out of hiding and also started doing their "flycatching". In fact one got so brave that it flew down from the large mature tree, and alighted on the top branches of a medium sized "hawthorn" tree which lie to my right side and then flew along the tree top to a very "closeby position", where I got the clearest view of a young Spotted Flycatcher, that I have ever had, or ever hoped to achieve. Yet after flitting about for only seconds, it was off again back to the larger mature trees in the background.
Really special to see these birds, because earlier in the year I was told that the species had bred last year (2011) within Pickles Wood area, and within a distance of some 200 yards from where I had seen them today, so I dont think it would have been too much of a positive presumption to take it that these very "special birds" had once again honoured us with their presence this year.

It does not seem to long ago when "Spotted Flycatchers" where reasonably common, certainly that was the case down in East Lancs during the 70s, 80s and 90s. But for some reason the species has took a real "dive" in population numbers during the years approaching, and since the millenium.

Eventually I did manage to get on the pavements and started to record both Dark Red and Broad Leaved Helliborines. Its a painstaiking job mapping out all these very special plants to include their gps co-ordinates etc, but it will be well worth it when my work is completed. At least then we should have a base line to work from in regards to the status of these rare orchids. I have already completed perhaps some five different pavements, but there are lots more to go at yet and to be honest with you I cant see the work getting completed this year. I am sure even now that it will be necessary to go into 2013 at the earliest.

Today it was back to the Pavement, I was at only yesterday and where we have five Dark Red Helliborine "Hybrids" Epipactis. x schmalhausenii. I needed to spend even more time here to complete the basic survey for this pavement. I have certainly learnt quite a lot over the past few days in relation to this "very special" "hybrid" and I will endeavour in the next few days to try and summarize the "hybrid" situation within my blog with facts and figures and some really good photos of the plants.

But for today, it was great to find a small group of "Pale St. Johns Wort hybrids" or to be more explicit, they are another rare hybrid known as: Hipericum perforatum montanum", a plant of the limestone habitat. I had previously been asked by the Cumbria recorder to watch out for this species in particular and that he would be interested in any records should I find any. Well here it was. I have included within this blog photos, showing the heads of the flowers together with the smooth non-hairy stalks, the broad and tapered reddish leaves etc. One particular photo is of the "underside of the leaf" and you will see that besides the outer border of the leave showing the black dots which is OK, the underside of the leaf also shows "translucent dots, together with one or two other larger black dots". because of these specimens showing the "transulucent spots" it confirms it to be the rare hybrid instead of the pure Pale St. Johns. It is suggested that somewhere along the line the Pale has crossed with "Perforated St. Johns".

A fair old day with lots of butterflies about especially the Dark Green Fritillary (see photo), Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Common Blues, Green Veined Whites (beautiful, just hatched), lots and lots of Ringlets, good numbers of Speckled Woods as well.

Sunday was spent checking out another pavement, far over on the Common, and here I am finding lots of both helliborines, and even greater possibilities that I have again found more of the "hybrids" which I am looking into further. I will give a full account of the situation over the coming days.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Possible Helliborine Mega Hybrids at Hutton Roof.

I have been out earlier today on the pavements again and besides finding more Helliborines, have also managed to find some "Pale St. Johns Wort", another rare flower. I will post photos etc later. But busy just now.

The Dark Red Helliborine v Broad Leaved Helliborine Hybrid discussion is proving fantastic. Yesterday I posted a request on the "Wild About Britain" Site, hoping to clear up the matter about the possibilities of some of our helliborines being hybrids. The experts so far have had me leaning both to one side and then the other, and currently thinking "Yes they Are" with Intermediate hybridization. But if you would like to check out the full thread, please click over this thread and enjoy. (Dont worry its a great safe site)

If your in to "Epipactis" you will love all this stuff.... getting better and better and now the Professors are getting involved.....

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Dark Red Helliborine possible "Hybrid" ?

Its good to be back in the saddle!

Yesterday Wednesday 11th July 2012.

Went up to Lancelot, via Pickles Wood and up through the "Cowpens" to Limestone Pavement 3 and 3a. Spent most of the morning mapping "Dark Red Helliborines". They have come through now and are starting to look really good. So dark a red in most cases. There taking a good photo now but I bet another week it will be even better. To make my surveys extra worthwhile I also record other stuff as well like Angular Solomon's Seal and Lily of the Valley, and Limestone Polypody Fern (rare nationally, but good amounts locally), some of this other stuff is well past its best date, but just the evidence of the site alone makes it a more comprehensive overhall picture.

I had Large Skippers, Red Admirals, lots of fresh hatching Meadow Browns, and Ringlets.... Wow, they just were just something else. Whilst traversing the rides I had literally scores, in fact I would probably say in excess of one hundred. To say they had not go hold here only a few years ago! You just wouldnt have believed it! I did take a few photos, but managed to get one actually mating (see above).

Still looking out for that "Spotted Flycatcher", I was told was about, but spending ten minutes or more checking it out without any joy as yet. But try again we will, very soon.

Noisy, you can say that again! for such a small bird,

"Little Jenny Wren, was throwing a benn - i,

and I asked her why? Just then lots of "little Jennies" starting throwing bennies at both sides of the track. I realized why she was annoyed and quickly made my passage. Soon turning round and listening back, and all was quiet once more"........

Today - Thursday 12th July 2012.

Went from Plain Quarry, up through Dalton and over into Lancelot, where I checked out the Pavement near to the BAP seat. As usual times beat me, but did manage to check out at least 50% of the pavement, and 50% hopefully left for yet another day.

On my way first of all had Chiffchaff "Craigy, singing away from the Car Park area, also had a pair of Crossbills heading North West, and calling "chip chip" very noisely as they do. Two Ravens cronking from the "Cuckoo Tree". No calls from Sky (the lark), or any of the Tree Pipits or the Mipits, really quiet in that respect.

Absolutely lots and lots of Dark Green Fritillaries, everywhere, also Common Blues, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Speckled Woods, but no "Grayling" on this pavement, although there everywhere else to find.

I have posted a photo of one of the Dark Red Helliborines I found today and I do think it could well be a "hybrid". Theres a few of them about like this, notice the strong, thickness and the flowers going around the stem, instead of one side, also the leaf structure seems different! I wonder if they have bred with "Broad Leaved Helliborines" which also frequest the same areas? I have "requested further information" so if I get a positive result I will post on here later.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Marsh Helliborines Not Ready Yet.....

Went down to Carnforth to check out the Marsh Helliborines, and as thought they are late coming through in fact I would say about three weeks behind, compared to 2010 and 2011. Also a little dissapointed in the counts. In 2010 I had 626 plants, in 2011 this rose to 1051 plants, but this year in comparison areas the total count was only 385 plants. But some good news and rallying back a little I did find another 4 new areas in which there were a count of 151 plants bringing the total to 536. But its becoming quite obvious they are not having their best year with reduction already of at least 50% on past numbers. I will have to check them out again in another three weeks.

The only Pyramidal Orchid which is at this site, was showing a "limpness" as though perhaps its been knocked or something. So for the record it remains a "solitary" which was the same in 2010, and 2011.

Twayblades were quite common and widespread, also the Restharrow is coming through strong as also is the Centaury and the Scarlet Pimpernel. Found a good 1 metre section of Bladder Campion. Also found some new Bee Orchids, but by now past their best, also found some Cinquefoil. The rarer Blue Fleabane has also gone missing this year. There wasn't much to start with just a single plant with about 6 shooting flowers, but this year its not showing. Lots of other flowers showing.

A Green Woodpecker and a continually calling "Chiffchaff" were present.

Had my first and lots of them "Meadow Browns" Butterflies, along with some Small Skippers and quite a few of the day flying "Burnet Companion Moth".

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

At long last a "Butterfly Day" at Dalton and Hutton Roof

(Photos: 1) Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary - reasonably fresh - 2) SPB Frit - Underside 3) SPB Frit on Wild Thyme mid worn 4) Another lichen decorated "Erratic" 5) Maiden Pink Flower 6) Spring Sandwort, Eyebright and Tyme on a large Anthill on the Common.
Yesterday Tuesday 3rd July 2012. It was more of a “Butterfly Day”.
Started at Plain Quarry and headed up on to the Common, again checking out Helliborines and Ferns etc.

Especially on the Common there were lots of Dark Green Fritillaries, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. Also the odd Common Blue. A number of Ringlets where seen both in the Dalton deforested, and quite a lot within Plain Quarry picnic area. The Ringlets seem to be doing well this year and have now been recorded in all their usual areas which I have previously recorded. I am told that this species only colonized this area in more recent years so its great news.. And it was also nice to see my first Grayling of the year on the Quarry face. As usual there were also many Speckled Woods in the more shady areas. Also still lots of Small Heaths in the Dalton Area throughout.

Maiden Pink is now beginning to flower in Plain Quarry along with a spectacular array of other wild flowers.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Albino "Wild Thyme" is back again in Dalton.

Sunday 1st July 2012.
Went up Lancelot checking out more Epipactis. Also noticed that on the way down two separate colonies of "Ringlet" butterflies had hatched. One of the colonies I had seen last year, but found a new one for the records.
Monday 2nd July 2012

(0900hrs-1200hrs) Set off from Plain Quarry, just one Willow Warbler and one Blackcap singing. Went up through Dalton deforested and made my way across to see if the rare "White Specimen" of Wild Thyme had actually come up again this year. Sure enough it has come through again, on one of the smaller "anthills".

Then went over into Lancelot and straight away found some old Angular Solomons Seal, dont know how I could have missed this before, I had walked on this footpath hundreds of times, anyway I certainly wont miss it again (co-ordinances noted). Also I did find some more ASS after checking out a new area to me in the upper Lancelot area. Found more and more Limestone Polypody, more Hairy Rockcress, a very large area covered with "Fairy Flax", Another new "Bittercress" site.

Found some more naturally decorated erractic stones here and there, much adorned with various coloured "lichens". Also another natural "limestone sculpture" which I think could well represent the head of a "Seagull" in fact a "Herring Gull" is about right!

Also on way took photo of a "feeding" Common Blue Butterfly.