Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Painted Lady Butterflies, Dinghy Skippers, Small Heaths etc

Painted Lady Butterfly (Click over photo to enlarge)
Photo: taken on June 5th last year in Dalton Crags
Sunday 28th May 2017 - Dalton Crags and Hutton Roof Common 1400hrs to 1800hrs

I forgot to mention on Sunday last, I did have a couple of Painted Ladies at the Trig Point, they were really flitty and the odd one was fighting with a Red Admiral, and I am sure there were more around.

This species has always been a favourite especially after once having had the privilige to see them on their Annual migration whilst passing through Menorca in the millions. It was on May 8th perhaps twenty years ago and they were flying past us in groups of anything up to 20 at a time, every few seconds more and more and this went on for a couple of days.  Sadly the main roads were littered with the poor souls which had succumb to passing cars.  But to think of the numbers that had gone through I have never seen anything like it. I was also watching them come off the sea.  I am told this phenomena takes place every year.  The butterflies I believe are coming from the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. When I got back home after returning from holiday I made a point of checking our first Painted Ladies arrivals and it timed to about the end of May early June which could possibly be about the time it would take them to get here from Spain!  who knows for sure....

Every few years we do have "Painted Lady" eruptions when you see the butterflies coming through here on migration, although lots of butterflies are involved its nothing like the amounts I got in Menorca although it is still very impressive with perhaps hundreds over the hour or so.  The last eruption I saw around this area was over at Beetham about 7 years ago when they steadily were going over every few seconds, so I guess we are due anytime for that great spectacle once again.

The following paper has been done which looks interesting.


Below is some interesting reading from Butterfly Conservation - which tells you something about the incredible Painted Lady migrations:

One of the longest standing mysteries of migration has finally been solved after scientists discovered where the UK’s Painted Lady butterfly population goes each autumn.
The butterfly, a common immigrant, migrates from the continent each summer to UK shores in varying numbers.
But up until now scientists did not know if the Painted Lady made the return journey at the end of the summer, like the closely related Red Admiral, or simply died in the UK.
In one of the largest citizen science projects ever conducted, scientists from Butterfly Conservation, the University of York, the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Rothamsted Research amongst others, have discovered exactly what happens to Painted Ladies each autumn.
More than 60,000 public sightings of the butterfly during 2009 were collected across Europe including radar images tracking butterfly movements across southern England with 10,000 British observers taking part.
Scientists discovered that the Painted Lady did indeed migrate south each autumn but made this return journey at high altitude out of view of butterfly observers on the ground.
Radar records revealed that Painted Ladies fly at an average altitude of over 500 metres on their southbound trip and can clock up speeds of 30 mph by selecting favourable conditions.
The findings also revealed that the species undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle – almost double the length of the famous migrations undertaken by Monarch butterflies in North America.
The whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies but is a series of steps by up to six successive generations so Painted Ladies returning to Africa in the autumn are several generations removed from their ancestors who left Africa earlier in the year.
Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation, was one of the report authors. He said: “The extent of the annual journey undertaken by the Painted Lady butterfly is astonishing. This tiny creature weighing less than a gram with a brain the size of a pin head and no opportunity  to learn from older, experienced individuals, undertakes an epic intercontinental migration in order to find plants for its caterpillars to eat.
“Once thought to be blindly led, at the mercy of the wind, into an evolutionary dead end in the lethal British winter, this amazing combination of mass-participation citizen science and cutting edge technology has shown Painted Ladies to be sophisticated travellers.
“We are extremely grateful to the many thousands of members of the public who reported Painted Lady sightings and contributed to this extraordinary discovery.”
Radar in Hampshire operated by Rothamsted Research revealed that around 11 million high-flying Painted Ladies entered the UK in spring 2009 with 26 million departing in autumn.


Also Dinghy Skippers have been seen on Hutton Roof over the past week or so. Also Red Admirals, Peacocks, Brimstones, Speckled Woods.  Small Heaths started hatching about one week ago and now we have hundreds of them flying around on Hutton Roof.  It wont be long now before we get our first Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Secrets of the "Runelled Pot Hole Pavement" - Hutton Roof

The beautiful "Runelled" Pot Holes of this fabulous place
Sunday 28th May 2017 - Dalton and Hutton Roof Crags 1400hrs to 1800hrs with Peter from Storth

I was recently contacted by my old friend Peter from over in Storth who is busy at the moment researching and creating beautiful little "Geotrails" publications and is shortly to do one for the Farleton, Hutton Roof and Burton Areas. He had decided to take up my invitation to come along with me and view the magnificent pavement which we have decided to call "The Runelled Pot Hole" pavement.  The pavement is so special in its geological features and in addition holds Angular Solomon's Seal, Limestone Ferns, Brittle Bladder ferns and other nice things. It is not easy to find this pavement (unless of course you have a helicopter and could view it from able) it is tucked away and well vegetated closed perimeters.

A couple of years ago I took a friend to see the same wonder and he immediately described it as "Like a Raging Sea" and it sort of stuck with me and encouraged me to write this little ditty at the time:

"To find the Raging Sea with swirls and black holes and all,
Then leave the rig, and head Norwest, you must look starboard,
And follow below those white clints.
And soon you pass that bouy upon your port side,
Soon after, steer port side and follow the rugged contour,
Clear the headland and on the swing around you enter,
That Secret sea of Raging grey with sinking Black Holes everywhere".
  9th September 2013

Here now are a few photos to try show you some of the pavements special features, although you can imagine this is only a taster because I could go on and on and on with such delights of which this pavement has to offer.

This is one of the many "potholes" that can be seen on this pavement (Click over to enlarge)

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Our first Schmalhauseneii is on it's way plus lots Holly, Reptiles etc etc

Schmalhauseneii No.1 (Click over to enlarge)

Saturday 27th May 2017 - Dalton, The Common and Lancelot Clark Storth (CWT) 1000hrs to 1400hrs

Very humid sort of morning which did eventually break down with thunder storms and terrential rain showers. Just got caught out at 5 minutes from home.  Nice to have a good soaking now and again - cools tha down lad!

Right from the off it was Garden Warblers in Dalton, two on the Common (which were known to me from previous years) and also three singing in Lancelot. I had the redstart calling in Dalton Crags, Tree Pipits (4) all on territory in Dalton and Lancelot. Green Woodpecker (2), Cuckoo (1) and that beautiful Whitethroat going at it with repetitive mode.... brilliant call!

I had 7 Small Heath Butterflies in Dalton and Lancelot.  In fact I could have sworn I had a Ringlet in Dalton, which would be really early I guess, but can't thing of anything else it could have been and it was without doubt proper Ringlet territory.

The Limestone Bedstraw is coming out with force and can be seen all over the place.  Here is a photo of todays little patch:

Limestone Bedstraw (Click over to enlarge)

We have both Limestone Bedstraw (the rare one) and also Heath Bedstraw on Hutton Roof.  But to tell the difference they say you must get your glass (at least 10x times) and check down the side of the little leaf and if the short hairs are going backward towards the stem it will be Limestone or if they are going towards the front then it will be heath. See following sketch.

A sketch to show whether it is Limestone or Heath Bedstraw
the small hairs running down the side of the small leaves tell you
eg: Backwards (as shown here) = Limestone
I checked out Hypericum Montanum No.3 and its doing well with at least three plants coming through here below shows you the main plant and it also has last years remnants next to it.

Rare Hypericum Montanum (Pale St. John's Wort) in Dalton Crags (Click over to enlarge)
This photo shows last years spike and todays show.
Now moving on over to check out the Holly Ferns and aren't they doing well. No.1 is usually straightforward and probably the more conventional of the two.  But No.2 has always come through as a joint effort from the same rootstock with aculeatum.  This year just one large Aculeatum fronds but maybe a couple of smaller ones to the rear of the plant.  Of special interest to me this year is the miniature frond been thrown up of the lonchitis - thats really interesting because normally if we are to have a runt it would be from the aculeatums never before the lonchitis. Here are the photos:

Showing Holly Fern No.1 above and Holly Fern No.2 below (Click over images to enlarge)
And now for it! what about this I just could not believe my eyes but did manage to get a couple of shots without disturbing them! looked like they were really busy...

Click over to enlarge
 Next up was a quick check up on the Asplenium Viride's (Green Spleenwort).  I have three separate colonies of this species which lies about 300 yards apart from one another, but the one I am checking today is the best and has 8 separate little populations in it.  Here are two nice photographs to show you just how they are doing:

Asplenium Viride (Green Spleenwort) (Click over to enlarge)
They are far more tapered than the commoner Maidenhair plus they have a green (viride) rib.

Especially for our ferny friends I have included the "Cystopteris fragilis" - Brittle Bladder Fern, because I am constantly being asked by others if this is the rare "Brittle Bladder" found at montane altitudes, but I dont think so in our case because it is only about 850 ft were this population is, but I might has well let you look at the photos just in case you know different:

Cystopteris fragilis - Brittle Bladder Fern (Click over to enlarge)

This is a lovely plant I had today whilst over in Lancelot - very strong plant

 Epipactis Schmalhauseneii No.1 (Click over to enlarge)
This was fantastic to find this all OK today because what it means for me is that it has made it for another year, bringing it to 5 years as far as we know although the last two years it has been predated by slugs, so lets keep our fingers crossed for this rare hybrid.

And we must include this very special Epipactis Helleborine variant Purpurea which I have listed as Specimen No.15 and has produced some fabulous bluish/purple flowers in the past.  Well this is where we are today:

Specimen 15 - Epipactis Helleborine - var purpurea

And finally for the fern lover I have taken this photo of the rare Southern Polypody (Cambricam)

Southern Polypody from last year (photo taken today).  It always one of the last ferns to show.

Southern Marsh Orchids, Ladys Slipper and Ferns etc etc.

A Southern Marsh Orchid seen today (Click over to enlarge)
Friday 26th May 2017 - A "Lancashire" spot just over the county boundary for me and which has loads of beautiful "WHITETHROATS" singing from almost every bush! 0900hrs to 1100hrs

And that's what I went for to try and list the Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers, but to be honest with you I listed the first pair of Whitethroats and could hear lots more nearby, but my eye was taken off to check out a boggy water flush area which on close examination showed perhaps some 50 plus Southern Marsh Orchids, with most of them being in early stages and perhaps needing a couple of weeks to be showing their best, but also there were just a few which were pretty well on.

The area also turned up a little "Ragged Robin" and a solitary "Common Twayblade" so most of my time had been taken up recording the main areas of the Marsh Orchids and taking a few photographs of some of the specimens.

This shows a young Southern Marsh Orchid just emerging (Click over to enlarge)

The solitary "Common Twayblade" (Click over to enlarge
"Ragged Robin" (Click over to enlarge)

Another plant which was really doing well here with hundreds well adapted to the boggy damp area were what I consider to be Hypericum tetrapterum (Square Stalked St. John's Wort)

Hypericum tetrapterum (Square Stalked St John's Wort) (Click over to enlarge)
the next photo shows a close up of the stalk

A closure view of the red squared stalk (Click over to enlarge)
Lots of other species like White Campion, Lesser Trefoil, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Comfreys etc etc.  Will be back very very soon to try and carry on with my work recording all the fabulous Warblers....

Friday 26th May 2017 - Dalton Crags (1400hrs to 1530hrs) In the great company of both Julian and Steve who are two guys who love their ferns especially the scollies!

We stopped by to get the last glimpses of the Lily of the Valley and the Angular Solomon's Seal, but most of the LOTV had gone over, but we did find just one nice population which did have some fresh flowerheads.

We spent quite a lot of time searching the grykes for scollies (asplenium scolopendriums or Harts Tongue Fern)  varieties and I was lucky to eventually find the "marginatum variety" (see photo below), which showed well last year, and today it is showing very well indeed, its also got several new relatives just a couple of metres away, so we were all well pleased with that.  Here is a couple of photos to show you the first marginatum from last year:

Last year's variety "Marginatum" (Click over to enlarge)

What a beauty with its serrated edges and its coming through similar this year.  But we did notice also that this year there is a very special pattern right at the bottom of the fronds check out these photos:

Here are some new "marginatum scollies" coming through and they have special patterns at the base
(Click over to enlarge)
Julian from Kent and Steve from Liverpool (both Scolopendrium experts) had been up on Dalton Crags before, but today they were here at the invitation of  fern guru Alec and the main purpose on the agenda this afternoon was to check out my recently found "proposed CRISPUM" variety.  They both checked it out and seemed quite happy for it to be of this variety.  Also it was really nice to see (since my last visit) that a new small frond is opening and stood at only about 3", so I can't wait for this to mature..... Here below is a photo (sorry about the quality but gives you some idea)

This photo shows the proposed Crispum with last years frond together with the new 2017 frond just starting out - can't wait!!

After a good mooch around or using the words of Steve a good "ferret" about it was time to leave Dalton Crags and head West over to Silverdale because they wanted to see the long established Lady's Slipper Orchid.  Alec was the chauffeur and took us straight over to Silverdale but to our astonishment and disappointment on reaching the site of the old plant - surprise it was gone totally! and just what a sickener!  Nem mind I bet you can guess what the next step was, "Alec any chance we can go over to Gait Barrows and check the Lady's Slippers over there "of course" came the reply and off we all toddled!  We soon found the small colonies and here is a photo showing some of the little beauties:

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Angular Solomon's Seal plus other gems on Clawthorpe Fell Nature Reserve

Clawthorpe Fell (Click over to enlarge)
This was today's garden of beauties
I thought with it being the best show of Angular Solomon's Seal for some ten years I just had to bring forward my diary to accomodate yet another survey of the plants which numbers 8 separate populations which we have and that's just on Clawthorpe Fell which is managed by English Nature. Although I have previously done all the mapping out and gps recording.  Its always good to check them over again and again.  At least now we do have a complete assessment of this species in relation to this site.

The site although having 8 populations of ASS, each populations are very small and probably at best are only between one metre to two metre (linear), and some of them are only say 24" long (linear). But the beauty is that they are all protected and are down in the grykes like this one in the photo. Besides retaking the gps and making notes I also took photos of the better more fruitful populations.

One of the Polygonatum odoratum populations on Clawthorpe Fell (Click over to enlarge)
The area is outstanding for the rare Birds Foot Sedge which I surveyed a few years ago and was then able to record 820 clumps of the Sedge.  Today its everywhere and would not be surprised if that number had increased to well over 1,000 or more.  I am not sure if the plant is still listed in the Red Data Book and I am told it is mega rare outside of this area, but locally I can see it is doing fine, not just here but on Lancelot Clark Storth and also small pockets on Burton Fell and again on the Common itself.  Here is a nice photo I took today which clearly shows some of the magnificient sedge flowers.

Carex Ornithopoda (Birds Foot Sedge) (Click over to enlarge)
Just as I approached the Clawthorpe Fell pavements I decided to check out some Hypericum hirsutums  (Hairy St. John's Wort) which are just there as you enter the pavement, and sure enough I was not to be disappointed with the plants already at about 10" so here is a photo of the young plant and also a close up photo showing the opposite leaves and "heavy" hairy appearance which gives it it's name:

Here is a photo showing Hirsutum in situ today - note the hairyness on the bottom photo
(Click over to enlarge)
The place has lots of different grasses and sedges of which they all look amazing and I would love to know the names of them all.  One I do know and which to me always looks interesting is the "Flea Sedge" of which there is a small population of some one metre. Here is a photo of the sedge.

The Flea Sedge (Carex pulicaris) - Click over to enlarge)
A little beauty which is at home on limestone
This fell has always had a good population of English Stonecrop together with occasional Biting Stonecrop.  But today I noticed the radius has spread almost double and would bet it is covering a area of at least 50ft diameter.  Here is a photo showing part of it:

This is just a small part of the English Stonecrop population at Clawthorpe (Click over to enlarge).  For all this mat forming which you can see you only get flowers which are very patchy.  Worth another check in a month or two.

I always give wonder to the Great Mullion - it grows so tall and is a beautiful plant especially when in flower, but it will be some time yet, but just look at the tick rosette already forming and those bigger than life velvety light green leaves.  Several sprout up here and there on this pavement!

Great Mullion - beautiful large green "Velvetty/Suede" leaves (Click over to enlarge)

So to finish off with on this blog I want to show you some Maidenhair Spleenwort, you might say well there's nothing special about that its everywhere!  Yes could not agree more, but to see a sight like this almost had me singing "Auld Lang Syne" and out with the old and in with the new and all that!

Maidenhair Spleenwort - a bit of old and a bit of new (Click over to enlarge)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Marsh Lousewort, Common Rockrose, Fly Orchid, Twayblade etc etc

This was some of my garden today - Park Wood, Hutton Roof Village (Click over to enlarge)
I like these open areas and always think they might be suitable for "Flycatchers" as well as Redstarts

Tuesday 23rd May 2017 - The Rakes and Park Wood - East Side of Hutton Roof 1200hrs to approx 1500hrs.

The weather was lovely and sunny and warm, and it turned out just another cracking afternoon with plenty going on as usual.  I thought I would try and check out the two Redstarts I have not yet been able to confirm having returned.  But again today I have ended up drawing a blank or they are remaining stum!  I will be back again very soon.

Just at the new development in Hutton Roof village there must have been no less than 30 House Martins hawking the local skies and ticking away as they do - such a pleasure to see so many all really enjoying themselves whilst calling to one another as though they were laughing with guilt!

Little in the way of birds today I'm afraid but there again what does one expect starting off as late as midday! the only calling birds seem to be a few Willow Warblers, a single Chiffchaff, one Blackbird and the usual tribe of Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds.  No Redstarts and No Flycatchers to report today.

Butterflies were out in good numbers with 6 Small Heaths which have only hatched in the last day or two, a beautiful Brimstone (a cracking year for them!), Orange Tips, Green Veined Whites.

Flowers started well, I even managed my first Common Twayblade whilst ascending the Crags.  It looked like something had been feasting on its leaves which had become well "perforated"....

Common Twayblade found in Crags near Park Wood (Click over to enlarge)
And Twayblade was not the only Orchid of the day, I decided to go and have a look at one of my regular "Fly Orchid" sites and sure enough I managed to find two, but I think there would have been more if I could have spent the time checking out!  I did manage to get the following photo:

One of the lovely Fly Orchids (Click over to enlarge)

I could not resist but call of and say hello to one of our mega rare plants - the lovely aromatic (not today of course) "Daphne Mezereone" maybe not just as colourful today but still she looks great. Here is a peep for today:

Daphne Mezereone - Click over to enlarge
I am told this is "Glaucous" Sedge

I guess for me the highlight of the afternoon came when I discovered a hillside banking completed matted with Common Rock Rose, I just could not believe it - I'll bet it measures somewhere in the region of 100 yards x 20 yards deep, and although there are plenty of flowers scattered even now, it really is nothing to what there will be in another week or two!  but I guess my mind is racing on a bit because I am thinking about all them little Northern Brown Argus beauties waiting to pop out and take advantage of this great area.  It's in the diary now for a return visit very very sooooooon!

Not only that there are plenty of "Salad Burnet" in between the many clumps of carpeted rockrose. So to try and give you some idea this is the area:

Common Rockrose (Click over to enlarge)
This gives you a idea of the banking, which does go on even further (Click over to enlarge)
You can actually see odd flowers even now! 
This one shows how the flowers are scattered today, but lets see what a couple of weeks on brings!
This photo shows the "Salad Burnet" of which there is plenty in between the Rockrose.
"Marsh Lousewort" (Click over to enlarge)
Rare plant found on the East side of Hutton Roof close to water margins