Sunday, 1 December 2019

Holly Ferns of Hutton Roof and how they are fairing 30th November 2019

Some recent Blogs with quick links:- 

 Holly Fern No. 1 (Polystichum lonchitis) in regular viewing mode and taken from above.
Photo: 30th November 2019
This is the more regular photo view which most people like to see and typical of what you might expect of the Holly Fern growing "off vertical"

 Holly Fern No. 1 ((Polystichum lonchitis) taken from another angle 
Photo: 30th November 2019

Why I like this photo is that I have been wondering for the past two years why has Holly Fern No.1 only got 8 fronds (2018/2019) were it always used to have 9 fronds.  Well maybe mystery solved! by looking at this angle I can see yet another frond tucked under the limestone to the top right hand with just half of the pinnae on show. Never noticed this until I got home and checked through the individual photos.

Holly Fern No. 1 (Polystichum lonchitis)
Photo: 30th November 2019
I like this photo and have included because for me it shows a good curvature line on the left hand, still in good condition for the time of year.

 Holly Fern No.1(Polystichum lonchitis)
Photo taken 30th November 2019
This photo shows the sori on the underside of the frond

Holly Fern No.2 (Polystichum lonchitis) with its full compliment of 8 fronds
plus two remnant fronds belonging to the aculeatum...
Photo taken: 30th November 2019

Lovely to see this particular fern. Always shows to be a much smaller version of Holly Fern if you take into comparison its neighbour only 40 yards away (Holly Fern No. 1 shown above).   This one never gets the same length always some 4" shorter together with the much narrower of fronds. Now the leaves have almost disappeared from the nearby hazel tree which sort of hides the fern during the summer months, and now it has become obviously more exposed and in most years (not all) will be discovered by the passing Roe Deer who will nibble it to the core and one day you may get a shock to see it has gone, but look carefully and you will see the base of the fronds which deery has left us for it to generate for another year...

Holly Fern No. 2 (Polystichum lonchitis)
Shows the spent sori on the underside of the frond

Shows Holly Fern No.2 (Polystichum lonchitis) with nearby Hazel which guards it during the summer months
Photo: 30th November 2019.

 Green Spleenwort (asplenium viride)
Photo: 30th November 2019

Whilst up there I just had to call into Viride Motherland! to check all the small colonies and make sure they too are all OK and yes they are all doing fine

Green Spleenwort (asplenium viride)
Photo: 30th November 2019

Whilst up there I just had to call into Viride Motherland! to check all the small colonies and make sure they too are all OK and yes they are all doing fine

This below is some of the stuff, I felt compelled to write in my notebook whilst walking the lower Crags today. A bit about this and a bit about that....

Redwing in the Crags (being disturbed they moved across - not altogether but in singles and pairs)

I heard the rare Redwing roost call,
In the Crags, without bags
No! Number 15 theres been,
munching the reds so bright, sunlight,
Still going past maybe now twenty
made the entry and crossed the sunlitten blue sky,
bye bye!

Time is when! (opinion formed on half a tale)

They only have time to listen to some of a story
and from that their opinion is formed,
It doesnt matter who reads it,
What matters is they find it!
to read, the seed...

Nature awareness!

Learning whats about

will save you the doubt..

Returning to their roost – (1st Dec 2019 Holme Stinted Pastures)

The closing hour at Holme Stints,

Hundreds of mixed thrushes gorging themselves,

With red berries filling their crops! Cackling
Of Blackbirds, quiet zits from Songies,
Chaks from Fieldies, and many see-ips
From the reds, before their beds.
The roost got a boost and weighed more tonight!
Some went North West to Newbiggin, but
Most went South to the nearby Crags.
Restless they will be, for another hour after tea.

About three thirty the sky got dirty with parties
and scores of Shebbies (Starlings), straight through they went,
Without being bent, to a dropping down sun in their West.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Epipactis atrorubens - rare branched specimen - Hutton Roof 8th July 2019

A very special orchid - a Dark Red Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens) branched specimen 

Epipactis atrorubens - rare branched specimen
Found and photographed on 8th July 2019
on Hutton Roof - Cumbria Wildlife Trust (Cumbria)

I found this unusual specimen on 8th July 2019 and the finding of it came as a very nice surprise but at the same time such a strange event!  let me try and explain more.

I am up on Hutton Roof (Westmorland/Cumbria) every day during the growth and flowering period of our special Dark Red Helleborine (Epipactis atroruben) searching through the beauties. And on the day in question, I had just been talking to a orchid friend Steve Tandy who was busy checking out some atrorubens further over on the site, and just has I left him to go and check something else, my thoughts started to runaway with themselves and I just happened by chance to think would'nt it be nice if I were to find a branched specimen of atrorubens and thoughts to myself of I have never ever seen such a thing and wondering if at all there had ever been reports of such a oddity, I swear that is absolutely true! and what happened? 100 yards to my East and within minutes of these thoughts I was to find this unique branched specimen!! I still months later struggle to comprehend this and today I am dragging these photos out of the archive in readiness for the blog I have just been invited to do for the Cumbria Wildlife Trust

These photos above are pretty representative of how the colours are of our "normal" Dark Red Helleborines which grow on our carboniferous limestone and yet in the main so different from the ones growing over in County Durham which are far deeper purple colour and grow on Magnesium limestone.  Today on Hutton Roof more and more of the "bicolor" variety (see photo below) seem to be taking hold.  Soon I will do the blog which shows a variety of all what we have had this year (2019).... for now please enjoy the above special beauty.. 

Epipactis atrorubens var: bicolor
Photo: Hutton Roof 2016

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

BERRIES! 2019 has been an incredible year

Some old Blogs with quick links:- 

Holme Stinted Pastures with good blossom and berry yield on the hawthorns
Photos: taken May 15th 2019 and September 13th 2019 (from different trees)

This year has been a special "Berry" year, I don't personally recall seeing so many red berries hanging from our trees, especially the Hawthorn, Hollies and Rowans.  I am sure this alone must have excited our local and more so our continental visiting thrushes to have stayed in some localities longer than they would in most years and perhaps they have not been just as "nomadic" as they would be in most years. Perhaps this to has contributed to the phenomenal massive Redwing roost down at "Birdy Brow - Kemple End" (See last blog)

Could a drought experience in one year, lead to a super yield the following year?

What has made it such a special year for these berries? well personally I think it is more down to the involvement of the previous year! When I look back on 2018 we went through a prolonged heatwave situation right at the crucial main growing and flowering period eg: May and especially June! I remember we lost lots of our special orchids and other flora which found it so difficult to sustain the long drought situation, resulting with some of them just going into a premature dieback.  In my opinion this sort of situation especially with the berry producing flora could well have led the way to this bounty we are having in 2019.

Hawthorns covered in white blossom to such a extent, from a distance it looked like snow!

It became a much clearer picture by the middle of May 2019 that we were going to have a super berry yield when parts of Holme Stinted Pastures (Clawthorpe, Near Hutton Roof) was covered in what can only be described as a look of snow! I had never seen it looking quite the way it did (check out photos). So many of the hawthorns looking so beautiful.  This was the best indicator toward what inevitably had to follow.  So we had the trees full of white blossom in May which turned into lovely bunches of red berries by the middle of September. 

A great contribution to this story

After reading the above a good friend Arlene from down in Helmshore has been in touch to say that she thinks perhaps "the unusual hot spell around February 2019 with temperatures into the 70 degrees, plus the hot weather in early summer might have had impact on the fantastic flowers and subsequent fruit crop?  (quote: Arlene Harris - East Lancashire)

 Lovely White Hawthorn Blossom at Holme Stinted Pastures 15th May 2019

  Lovely White Hawthorn Blossom at Holme Stinted Pastures 15th May 2019

 Lovely White Hawthorn Blossom at Holme Stinted Pastures 15th May 2019

Holme Stinted Pastures with good berry yield on the hawthorns

Photo: taken September 13th 2019

 Showing the heavy yield of hawthorn berries at Holme Stinted Pastures
Photo was taken on 13th September 2019

  Showing the heavy yield of hawthorn berries at Holme Stinted Pastures
Photo was taken on 13th September 2019

  Showing the heavy yield of hawthorn berries at Holme Stinted Pastures
Photo was taken on 13th September 2019

  Showing the heavy yield of hawthorn berries at Holme Stinted Pastures
Photo was taken on 13th September 2019

 Showing the heavy yield of Holly berries at Holme Stinted Pastures
Photo was taken on 13th September 2019

Tuesday, 19 November 2019


Some old Blogs with quick links:- 

Looking up into the skies to multitudes of passing Redwing heading into their evening roost at Birdy Brow (Kemple End)
Photo: Kindly shared to us by Andy Holden
(Click over the above photo to enlarge)


I’ve always had fascinations towards our visiting winter thrushes especially in regards to Redwing and Fieldfare. I think it could well be that these species in particular are every vismigger’s dream with visions of the big day movements passing through their local recording areas.

Today I wish to turn to the Redwing and in particular to its roosting records. Once the main migration has started from say the middle of October through to early November, and from then on throughout the winter months, the birds can sometimes be seen roosting on Hutton Roof.  If I take the footpath which goes from the Plain Quarry Car Park and up through Dalton Crags there is every chance I may see some of the roosting birds from the previous evening, as a rule I would not expect numbers to be in excess of 100 birds, so I guess in volume “ours” could be considered a small roost.

On another occasion I remember one year following the birds and finding their small roost at the top of Dalton Crags (North West Side) near to the wall boundary with Lancelot Clark Storth.  I witnessed them going down into a medium sized Pine tree with a couple more smaller trees close by. I watched them for over one hour and noted that they were restless and moving low all the time from there to other trees perhaps 50-100 yards away and eventually coming back and settling into the Pine Tree.  Of particular interest to me was the calls they were making, it was a contact call I had never heard before, which to me seemed totally alien to what you may have expected from a Redwing, more of a gruff sort of call.  On arriving back home I searched online  the many variant calls and did eventually find the call in question.  Sure enough it turned out to be a “roosting contact call” which is only ever delivered at or near to the roost site. I think this particular roosting site was very temporary, and although I did see the same area being used the following year I can’t say I have ever seen it being used since. But I have to say it was lovely to watch even though it may have been of a very small number of birds in this particular roost site.
Another splendid occasion I would like to recall was on Sunday October 10th 2010.  It was 1800hrs and close to dusk when we arrived at the B.A.P. Memorial seat half way up Lancelot Clark Storth. Immediately on arrival we noticed large parties of Redwings going overhead, some really low down, we had no idea how long this had been going on before our arrival, but they just kept on coming for 35 minutes or so even though it was starting to get dark. I noticed all the birds were coming in from a SE direction and making out to a NW direction, the wind that day was East 5-8mph. I had no idea whether this had been an “all day” movement from the birds, but considering the time of the day, it did make me wonder if perhaps they were heading to a roost somewhere nearby!  I went up to the same spot over the next night or two but the situation was never repeated, so maybe they were just moving through our area. Just for the record that experience consisted of a Redwing count of 1472 birds in thirty three parties, with some parties containing numbers between 100 and 170 birds.

A incredible spectacle with 30,000 birds entering a Lancashire roost site

All that may sound good! And yes I feel they are special memories, but let me now try and give my account of just what went on yesterday (18th November 2019).  When we were so privileged to witness what must be a very special phenomenom in regards to Redwing roost and because of its nature gave me the inspiration to write this short article.

I would like to mention that this roost has been established from at least 4th November 2019 and possibly earlier! thanks to Pete Morris and his colleague Kris McBride for stumbling on this activity and allowing us all to share the wealth...

I guess the importance of this special roost will be very difficult to comprehend, or that’s the way I find it.  I have never even heard of a Redwing roost in numbers in excess of the 10k mark.  You need to say to yourself where on earth could 30,000 birds have come from, I would have thought that is about the amount of birds left within the whole of the UK at any one time and could not be representative of this local area, but obviously not!  Looking at it as logical as I can behold they must have come from the local surrounding areas of the Ribble Valley and possibly other nearby areas like the Trough of Bowland, maybe Burnley, Blackburn, Accrington, Rossendale – who really knows? Does anyone know?  For all we know they could have come from even further afield.

Where on earth do 30,000 birds hide during the daytime? Surely somebody somewhere should be seeing fields full of them, or maybe hawthorn trees laden down with them and what about dusk, will people be reporting seeing such volumes of birds going through their particular patch? Is there a pre-roost somewhere fairly close and we are missing it?

The true phenomenon just as it happened before our very eyes

A friend from down in East Lancs phoned me to tell me about a massive Redwing roost site which had been discovered down in the Ribble Valley at a place called Birdy Brow, Kemple End, near Bashall Eaves, an area on the side of Longridge Fell and not far from Hodder Bridge (River Hodder) or the ancient Stoneyhurst or Clitheroe. It sounded really special with reports of over 20 thousand birds going into the conifer roost which to us sounded too irresistible to miss out on. So Sandra and I decided that was our destination, we just had to go and witness this fine spectacle. We were not to be disappointed we arrived on site for about 1545hrs and by 1605hrs everything was in full swing with large sways of birds coming through thick in numbers from a South/South West direction, it soon became obvious we were at the best location to receive the main concentration overhead which was conveniently a small car park, but also the birds were coming through strong at another point almost 100 yards on a wider line to the west, by now the birds were almost just one large continual stream and each second or two saw a hundred or more birds within your single viewing and this just kept building and building in numbers with equal or more continuity, which continued over a period of some 25 minutes or so.  I guess there would have been at least thirty thousand Redwing if not more! I know that sounds incredible numbers for thrushes, but sure enough it happened before our very eyes. Also we noted up to 30 or so Blackbirds which sort of flew just slightly beneath the Redwing flock and I am sure there would also have been hundreds of Song Thrush as well within the massive flock and guess what? There was at least one Peregrine in sight at times spooking the Redwing before all went quiet, and probably a sign he must have got his supper! There were also other birds of prey lining up for a piece of the action which included Sparrowhawks, a couple of Buzzards as well. This today was something really rare and special and I believe this roost has already been going on for several days now……Just a bonus or what!  but has the Redwings started to thin out at a point of almost darkness, a few Woodcock were seen coming out of the areas close to where the Redwing were entering, obviously leaving their daytime roost to go foraging and we witnessed at least 8 birds but I am sure this would have been well under estimated.

Site visits (Monday 18th, Friday 22nd and Friday 29th November 2019)

I again visited the site on Friday 29th November 2019 (my third visit) and got there early so I could take a few photos of the area and map out the actual roosting areas. Check photos below. It had been a clear day with dying blue skies and very cold, so maybe if anything the birds started coming in a little later, but the main activity was going strong by 1605hrs and continued through until at least 1630hrs. Prior to the Redwing coming through I noticed up to a score of Chaffinch also using the roost, these came through in dribs and drabs (mainly pairs). We had a good showing of the Redwing but if anything for me maybe a little subdued in numbers compared to my two previous visits. Also it was clear to see that the birds were more biased to the South side of the car park (far more so than usual). Another fine spectacle to finish off with was seeing up to 12 Woodcock leaving their roost on the edge of darkness.

Other interesting reports

A good friend of mine did go the following evening (Sat Nov 30th 2019) and reported that numbers seemed to be back to normal and the approach over the car park resumed to its best! - More interesting updates below:

27th November 2019 by friend Michael Finch who quoted to me "Earlier today I was in the South Lancs making my way back to Ribchester via Salmesbury. At about 3.10pm several small groups of Redwing (70-100 per group I'd guess) moved across the fields in the general direction of Longridge Fell, several miles away but visible.  I drove straight to Kemple End and sure enough at about 3.45pm Redwings had started to come to roost.  Of course they may have been a different group. They still seem to be coming through in large numbers. 

 Will the roost remain throughout the Winter?

Will this roost carry on for the full length of the Winter months? Whilst at Kemple End the other evening I was told by a gentleman (a retired ringer) that he used to regularly check out a redwing roost site at a Garden Centre, down in Bury, Greater Manchester many years ago and that particular roost had up to 10k of birds coming in nightly and continued to last for the full length of Winter

A coincidence or not - 2019 shows a terrific berry yield!

Do you think perhaps the terrific berry yield this year especially with the Haws may play some part in the extroadinary numbers of birds still hanging about this year and in turn having something to do with the high numbers at roost ?

Roost awakening!

Would it again be such a spectacle to see the birds leaving the roost, early morning, yes it would! although going off the experiences I have had with the smaller roost, the birds (Redwing, very much unlike Starling) don't usually leave the roost sites in one go! whereby they leave the roost in smaller parties and the vacation may take up to one or more hours, I just wonder if this is similar with these massive roost. 

Redwing - substantial historic roost records.....

In late November 2009, it was estimated that 60,000 Redwing were roosting in Broomy Enclosure (New Forest), whilst in late 2010 - 15,000 were recorded flying into Long Beach Enclosure. (information from: New Forest Explorers Guide)

 Further information gathered from my 3rd visit on Friday 29th November 2019
(Click over photo to enlarge)
Shows a rough guide to the approach of the Redwing which come over the Car Park
areas and closeby, although a lot of the birds also approach for several hundred yards
to the right hand side of this photo

 Further information gathered from my 3rd visit on Friday 29th November 2019
Click over photo to enlarge
Here is a continuation of Roost area 2 showing the immature conifers to the RH side
of the road, and shows the area Roost area 3 within the block of mature conifers
which lie almost to the rear of the old quarry 75 yards to the W of the car park

 Further information gathered from my 3rd visit on Friday 29th November 2019
Click over photo to enlarge
This is a view looking directly South from the Car Park and the birds are
roosting in the large conifers to the LH side of the road (Roost area 1), and also the
birds are roosting in the smaller immature conifers to the RH side of the road (Roost area 2)

Can be seen soon on BBC Winterwatch

The spectacle was filmed on selected dates between the 20th - 30th November and I do believe they got some good shots which can be seen on the next series of BBC "Winterwatch" transmission JANUARY 2020... 


This is a fabulous little video posted live this evening by Craig Bell of Rossendale showing the Redwings on their way into the roost in Kemple End, (Ribble Valley) Lancs. Tuesday 19th November 2019 (approx 1600hrs). Please click over the arrow....

Run your courser over the photo and then click the square that comes up to enter fullscreen......

Redwing feeding

Photo: Kindly shared to us by Craig Bell

More (Birdy Brow) Kemple End - Redwing roost photos
More (Birdy Brow) Kemple End - Redwing roost photos
More (Birdy Brow) Kemple End - Redwing roost photos

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


If you want to check out the 2019 VISIBLE BIRD MIGRATION PAGES then please click over the following link:

All photos above taken this morning (Wed 23rd Oct 2019) whilst vismigging

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

EARLY MORNING SKIES - Tuesday 22nd October 2019

If you want to check out the 2019 VISIBLE BIRD MIGRATION PAGES then please click over the following link:

All the above photos were taken when I arrived at the watchpoint and getting ready for my visible bird migration session today (Tuesday approx 0730hrs). The sky was lovely so here are the results..