Thursday, 7 May 2015

Our Cuckoos are back

(Please click over photo to enlarge)

Wednesday May 20th 2015 - Dalton Crags (Lower) Nr. Plain Quarry sides 1030 to 1230hrs.

Just parked up in Plain Quarry and putting on my wellington boots, I could hear this faint jingle jangle which to be honest with you didnt really absorb my attention, but then "I woke up" and instead of it sounding like some of the regular Goldfinch, I also heard "the spinning coin" oh! I wondered could it be?  the "Wood Warbler".  At this point I am praying for just another sweet jingling call, but nothing! nothing! nothing! sods law I suppose, I waited and waited for over ten minutes in the same place without a trace of a call, so through this I changed my plans and instead of going up on the Fells, I thought I'll check out the low areas around Plain Quarry, to both its West and East sides, hoping I might just pick up on that rare sound again, but sadly not!  Its strange because this has happened here before last year and the year before, I am sure I have just caught the sound of the Wood Warbler, but never been able to get it conclusive!  Even if it had been it would obviously have been a bird just stopping off, so it still remains a mystery! Another one for the maybe book!  

Still lots of warblers about with Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. Two Swifts were seen hawking above the canopy.  Also a Blackbird opened up singing with a "Curlew" mimic, I've heard this often enough coming from a Song Thrush, but can honestly say its the first time I have heard it coming from a Blackbird! Also had the odd Bullfinch making its sad "pee-u" plaintive call.

Even the swaying mature trees today were having their say and making strange noises in the wind! at times were scary with their creaking sudden noises!

I found a nice section of about 12ft diameter of Yellow Pimpernel (see photo to right), amongst lots of Wild Strawberries and bluebells. Also lots of "Fairy Foxglove" coming through on the cliff edges of the old limestone quarry. (see photo top left)

Early Purple Orchids

Tuesday May 19th 2015 - Burton Fell approached from Clawthorpe Side 1400hrs to 1630hrs

It was off and on showers, so kitted up and off, first of all checking how the old "Woodruff" was doing. The lovely white flowers are just starting to pop through, so another couple of weeks and it should be looking fine.  Usually can't resist to chew on one of the small outright "winged" leaves, they have a taste of "vanilla".  I believe its a herb, but if you have too much of it could even be dangerous.  The plant is a indicator of "ancient woodland" and grows in about four places up on Hutton Roof.

"White Specimen of EPO"
Still no Redstarts in song at Burton Fell which is a surprise, but sometimes they can be late I guess! but did have a new Chiffchaff having taken up a new territory.  I think it will be a young bird probably a offspring from last year.

The main reason I headed up to Burton Fell today was to check out the Early Purple Orchids right at the top of the Fell and sure enough I must have seen hundreds, in fact probably more like a thousand or so.  Some of them with the most beautiful of "magenta" colours whilst lots of them were all different shades, even found two white specimens and some specimens half magenta and half white in colour. I dont think I can recall seeing so many up there, most of them were in small groups. It wont be long before I am up here searching out the Dark Red Helliborines or the Broad Leaved Helliborines.

50/50 specimen EPO

I would have gone further across the Fell and checked out the Green Hairstreak butterflies which will be enjoying the small patches of "bilberry", but the weather is not right at the moment. The off and on showers and dark skies are holding them up! always another day.

I also looked for early Fly Orchids in a spot I know, but could not find them!  there again with the fly orchid that's not unusual, they are so difficult to see at the best of times and you can be going straight past them!

Saturday May 16th 2015 - Dalton Crags and Lancelot Clark Storth 0900hrs to 1200hrs

Today I started off from midway along the avenue of the "Nineteen Trees" just after the delightful hamlet of Dalton. I had been tipped off by a friend Robert about a "White" Early Purple Orchid over in Lancelot Clark Storth and for a change decided to take this "direct as the crow flies route", a route I have taken many times before.  Immediately on going through the Forestry Gates, the track was lined with several large piles of recent harvested "beech" wood which looked so forlorn and waiting for the truck to come and collect them to take them off to make firewood or mulch, and maybe some of them will be lucky and turned into charcoal.

I passed the "long gone" summer house area on the left and expected to hear "Summer" the Chiffchaff, but not today.  But it was so pleasant to be serenaded by a line of Blackcaps, I have previously recorded the odd bird at this spot but it continued over about 200 yards with a further two birds singing away, and I wondered whether or not these were offspring males from the established pair or whether it was simply I had just missed them before when I was doing my counts!
A White "Early Purple Orchid"
(Photo: Robert Ashworth)

I left the main track by the "Goldcrest" trees and headed into thick woodland and just by chance I looked up into the canopy and saw a startled Buzzard negotiating a exit strategy which seemed to take it through the upper tight branches of the trees.  It was silent and carried out with much skill and stealth, it ran through my mind that if that had been a Woodpigeon, there would have been such a racket of fluttering flapping wings and broken branches.

I passed another area which the floor was covered with Wood Sorrell, perhaps a area of some 30 yards in diameter, and lots of fresh Harts Fern shoots coming through.

Soon reaching Lancelot, I was finding Early Purple orchids everywhere, in fact scores with some of them so striking in their individual pattern and some with such a beautiful "magenta".  I had been given a clue to where the special "White" one was, but I searched and searched and searched and spent maybe over one hour but could not find it anywhere,  I was seeing nearby recent deer droppings and used the excuse well maybe the deer have chomped on the precious flower, who knows! Thankfully I had kindly been sent a photo by Robert (photo shown here).

Legs worn out with all the tramping It was lovely just to sit on the nearby Memorial Seat and take in what on was on offer to the eye, with the distant Morecambe Bay, working out just where Pine Lakes or Dockacres were, and to sit there absorbing the many shades of greens which lie directly to the front and sides of where I was sat.

I could not resist but clamber over to the nearby pavements to see how the rare Pale St. Johns Wort was doing! and sure enough new sprouting lilac tainted green leaves had just started to show!

On the way back its was grand to hear both "Miss A Note" and "Speedy" the resident Chiffchaffs were busy singing away in their "unique" repertoire and at the very spots which they take up their annual summer residence - well done lads.  Also odd Blackcap and another special welcome to the resident Garden Warbler.

Friday May 15th 2015 - Dalton Crags and Hutton Roof 0900hrs to 1100hrs

Still that underlying cool air flow, but still sunny and pleasant.  All the regular Warblers were calling from around the Plain Quarry car park with Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Garden Warblers along with most of the commoner species.

Three Cornered Garlic
Tree Pipits all singing and occasional display but still rather subdued compared to previous years. A new Garden Warbler singing from somewhere around where the "Line of Trees" is in Dalton deforested, cant tell yet whether this one is a new one in or whether its the one from yesterday, moved down a bit! time will tell.  Lesser Whitethroat was seen just higher up than the Gully, but no song offered today.  At last the Cuckoo was heard from over in Lancelot Clark Storth and I am told from a good source that the birds (yes birds!) did eventually come back over into Dalton Crags (upper).

Friday May 15th 2015 - Walk alongside the River Lune at Kirkby Lonsdale 1500 - 17000hrs

Nice pleasant walk with lots of Ramsons everywhere, but not smelling of garlic so much at the moment, but come back in a week or two and the garlic aroma will then be so strong as to take over everywhere.  Also of special interest I found the Three Cornered Garlic (Allium triquetrum) and checking it out yesterday evening with the County Recorder he tells me it is only the third ever record for the County and a first for old "Westmorland" So just how that got there remains a complete mystery!  I have taken a photo with my phone and attached here (click over to enlarge).

Thursday May 14th 2015 - Clawthorpe Lane side of Hutton Roof and Clawthorpe Fell (Low) 1500 to 1700hrs

Birds Foot Sedge
Carex Ornithopoda
First of all went and checked out the Clawthorpe Lane side of Hutton Roof, but again windy and difficult at times to hear anything, but did manage to hear Linnets, a very subdued Tree Pipit and a bubbling Garden Warbler which was very nice.  Lots of Early Purple Orchids, some with a very deep Magenta.

Then came down and checked out Clawthorpe Fell (low) and noticed that the rare Spring Cinquefoil was having its best year yet with many more flowers than usual, although much spaced out.

Also the "Red Data" rarity the Birds Foot Sedge was coming through in plenty and I remember counting them on the Fell a couple of years ago and managed to count around 820 plants on various parts of the Fell. Check out the photo above and click over to enlarge.  You can see why its called the Birds Foot Sedge, just look at them "talons".... I have now been fortunate to locate six sites on Hutton Roof for this species some with just 2 or 3 but some sites with over 600 clumps.  So here it seems to be doing well.  There is also a site in Derbyshire where it thrives.

Also Spring Sandwort, Barren Strawberry, Herb Robert, Fairy Flax  and the first of the year for me Thyme Leaved Speedwell.

Early Purple Orchid

Wednesday May 13th 2015 - Slape Lane, into Burton Fell (lower), then into Lancelot Clark Storth (near to Pickles Wood) and back across through fields.  1400hrs to 1700hrs.  "Mr. Nasty" the squirrel is up to his old tricks and stealing all the birds eggs!

"The sun was cracking the slates" That meant, boots on and out!  No way was I stopping in, "By Golly" lets get out and about.  So a long walk starting from Slape Lane (Slape = Slippery in Cumbria) but walking so casual as to be almost "stopped" looking here, and looking there and looking everywhere!  Just thought I would check out the Warblers, in particular to try and see the Redstart down by the Plinth at the Bottom of Burton Fell. Listed all the birds and flowers which I was fortunate to see today:

THE FLOWERS WERE (30):  Red Campion, Stitchwort, Garlic Mustard, Lords and Ladies, Lesser Celandine, Bluebells, Purple Vetch, Dandelion, Daisy, Cuckoo Flower, Germander Speedwell, Ramsons, Hawthorn in bloom, Stinging Nettle, Cleavers, Wild Strawberry, Barren Strawberry, Dogs Mercury, Bugle, Wood Anemone, Wood Avens, Dog Violet, Early Purple Orchids, Woodruff, Herb Paris, Rue Leaved Saxifrage, the rare Spring Sandwort, the rare Spring Cinquefoil, Birds Foot Trefoil, Lily of the Valley (not in flower yet), new growths of Harts Tongue Fern - thats almost 30 different species.  I suppose it would have been more if I had my "small magnifying glasses".

THE BUTTERFLIES (4): Orange Tips - 3 males, Peacocks (several), Small Tortoiseshell (2), Brimstone. It was great in particular to see the Torts, they still have not made their recovery from their massive crash which was almost ten years ago now.  The numbers have increased slightly but nothing like the amounts we used to get!

BIRDS (9): Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Great Tit, Nuthatch (two), Treecreeper, Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Willow Warblers (several)  One of the Chiffchaffs was SPEEDY which I named about three years ago, because he calls "Chiff Chaff" in a speedy gonzales fashion, so fast without coming up for air.  He's back exactly in the same place within Lancelot Clark Storth.

Also whilst in Lancelot Clark Storth, I noticed that Mr Nasty the Grey Squirrel had been on his rounds and even a year on he was up to his old tricks, taking birds eggs at least up to 10 Song Thrush and half a dozen Blackbird eggs and depositing the spent shells or half shells in the tyre track depletions made by forestry vehicles, it was in exactly the same place as last year, he's also done another track with spent Pheasant and Blackbirds eggs.  He must now be responsible for taken dozens of wild bird eggs.  But why does he keep placing the spent shells in the tracks and the same places, really strange!

Wednesday May 13th 2015 - 0900hrs - 1100hrs "Dalton Crags and Hutton Roof"

Although a beautiful sunny day, there is STILL that underlying "chill" and I think this is what's holding things back - the tree pipits are very subdued although they are calling and displaying but very spasmodic and you don't have that continual activity which we have become used to.  Also the Cuckoos could not be heard anywhere. Some of the flora and butterflies are also slightly behind, but there is still plenty to hear and see.
It looks like the Garden Warblers are back in full force now and could be heard singing at about 3/4 way up the top of Dalton Crags deforested, and lots as you come down to the lower Crags.  I have always noticed that when the Garden Warblers come in force the "Blackcaps" seem to go more subdued and fade more into the background, strange but that's how I have found it.
I had two Northern Greenland Wheatear called off on "Wheatear Plain" in Dalton  Crags, I was saying to myself "now come on Wheatears get a move on your very late for your mega migration, which could well be to Iceland or Greenland or the Faroe Isles."
Lovely this morning to be so close to the Lesser Whitethroats and could get really close observations and to me they always look so pure! with a strong white belly and that sort of bluish grey around the head.  Singing away with that repetitive quickening jumbled chatter and sudden stop!  I think both territories have been taken up again this year.
St. Mark's Fly-both sexes here in photo
Two separate Swallows cross over to the North on passage whilst I was there.Other birds seen and heard included Bullfinch, Blackcap, Buzzard, Redpoll, 2 Jays. Skylark.
Flora is coming through now with lots of Early Purple Orchids (see photo), also Wood Sorrell, Bugle and Wild Strawberry, Cowslips and Primrose, I had my first Tormentils and first Hawkweeks this morning and also the Ferns are also starting to come through especially Hutton Roof's speciality the Rigid Butler Fern.
There were absolute swarms of the St Mark's Fly everywhere throughout upper Dalton, definately imminent hatches were taking place.  I always call this the poor man's "May Fly".  It always reminds me of the Mayfly especially with its legs dangling. (check out photo)

Monday May 11th 2015 - 0930hrs to 1100hrs "Newclose and Majors Nursery, Dalton Hall Est  "Redstarts"

Checking out Warblers from the other side of Dalton.  Usually have several Redstarts, but today was windy and putting a lot off from singing, although I did have one belting it out about 100 yards west of the Water Board Meter Station, from the ancient trees lining the middle of the field.  Also over this side had the odd Blackcap and at least 3 Chiffchaffs, lots of Willow Warblers, a Redpoll, Buzzard and Song Thrush.  Did not hear one Tree Pipit and would expect at least 5 or 6 over this side.  They will start singing soon.

A bonus on the way back in I stopped at the bottom of "Dicken Lane" just has it joins Dalton Lane, and straight away across the other side of the road a Redstart was singing away. Another new site for the records.

Sunday May 10th 2015 - 0900hrs to 1100hrs "Checking out Dalton Crags Nr. Plain Quarry"

Checking out the Warblers around the Plain Quarry areas to both the West side and East Side.

Lots of Willow Warblers in all the usual places. I had at least four calling Blackcaps, three Garden Warblers, Three Chiffchaffs (which included Henry from Quarry Wood).  Also had three Song Thrush singing odd Nuthatch and odd Treecreeper.

Never noted any Redstarts today, but will certainly get them on Quarry Wood Side of Dalton. Also the Tree Pipits wernt singing today.  Could only see four Swifts hawking over the Village.

Saturday May 9th 2015 - 0430hrs to 0600hrs "Dawn Chorus walk at Park Wood, Hutton Roof.  "Redstarts and a further Cuckoo"

Unfortunately the weather was not so good with almost continual light rain, but we continued and it was really enjoyable with the birds exploding into a very loud and full "Dawn Chorus" which lasted for some 45 minutes.  The predominent species to the chorus was the regulars we have come to expect like Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin and Wren, but as we went further into our walk we then started to hear Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers.  At the far end of the walk we were extremely lucky to hear two male Redstarts singing away with their quick buzzing type call.  On our way back we were graced with a Garden Warbler quietly bubbling in the distance.  So in total we had 14 species as follows: Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap (up to 5), Garden Warbler, Common Redstart (2).

Further "Cuckoo" has been reported from up near the Rakes on Hutton Roof (one of its regular haunts).  It is believed the bird came in on the 7th May 2015.

Friday May 8th 2015 - 0900hrs to 1030hrs Dalton Crags and Hutton Roof "Lesser Whitethroats are back"

Noted singing Chiffchaff and lots of Willow Warblers. Also heard Cuckoo which was in fine voice coming from over in the Crag House areas to the South East side of Dalton Crags.  It was calling with a plaintive "Cuckoo" which for the past two years on arrival it has been calling with a Cuck (cough) and its took a couple of weeks before it usually got his voice back.  But today it was calling without problem.
It was brilliant to see two Lesser Whitethroats which were busy singing away near to the Gully area of Dalton Crags deforested.  Thats one pair in and one pair still to come.
Lots of Tree Pipits calling and displaying especially just as you enter the Common.

Thursday May 7th 2015 - 0730hrs:  "Cuckoo's are back"
Just reliably informed that two of our Cuckoos are back on territory on Dalton Crags.

from last night (2000hrs)
Also from a brief walk along the Main Street in Burton In Kendal yesterday evening there was at least ten Swifts back and hawking the skies above the village.