Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Countryside comes to Town


A strange few weeks.

First a mysterious evening visitor with an appetite for wasp nests.

Predated Wasp Nest

Wasp Nest

Note: no footprints, no clean cuts from a spade to the nest, the soil or the adjacent roots, no spoil heap in fact absolutely nothing to suggest it was dug out by a person. However, whatever dug it out was powerful enough to excavate a relatively large area and throw the spoil backwards covering one side of the moss growing on the base of a nearby tree. There’s only one animal capable of this and they’re well known for having a fondness for wasp nests. Recent roadkill suggests they breed within a couple of hours walking distance of the nest. Staggering as it may seem it looks like we have Badgers within the urban sprawl of Manchester.

Earlier this evening I came across more evidence of the countryside coming into town.

Rabbit Snare

Rabbit Snare

Incredible, we’re surrounded by shops, supermarkets, 24/7 fast food outlets and some sad person still feels the need to walk into their local park and set out a snare. The local foxes, weasels and mink are more than capable of controlling the rabbits they certainly don’t need any help. I think I actually disturbed the moron who’d set the trap hence the dead rabbit abandoned on top of the fence post and the snare hanging from the rail.

Statistically the snare is as likely to kill a family pet. Just about the right size for a Jack Russell !

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Miller’s Dale Quarry


A quick reminder for next time – AVOID VISTING AT WEEKENDS

The quarry is a superb, wildlife reserve managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Unfortunately it’s adjacent to the Monsal Trail - a former railway line now used for speed testing mini motorbikes. The noise bouncing back off the quarry cliff face is deafening. It even drowned out the cries from the young Kestrels on the cliff face.

Highlights at this time of the year were the masses of Chalk Fragrant Orchids, Dark Green Fritillaries and the various herbs. Quite a heady scent on a warm summer’s afternoon (would be better without the addition of 2 stroke fumes). Perhaps unsurprisingly the Fritillaries wouldn’t settle therefore no photo’s.


Male Common Blue on Birds Foot Trefoil


Large Skipper






Chalk Fragrant Orchid


Wild Strawberry



Friday, 15 July 2011

No Way Home

I came across this rather sorry looking pigeon earlier on whilst taking the dog out. The way it’s chest has been plucked suggests the likely culprit is one of the local Sparrowhawks. It was intriguing to see the rings on both legs surely the local ringing group hadn’t started ringing feral pigeons?
After noting the details and entering them into Google it quickly became clear the letters NWHU were for the North West Homing Union. The number on the red ring turned out to be the owners’s phone number.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011



A quick trip to the seaside. Parked up by the beach at another place home to Anthony Gormley’s Iron Men and took a stroll north towards Altcar. In 2007 there was a colony of approximately 140 Bee Orchids around the pumping station with many being up to 45cm high. This year it soon became obvious that I should have been there 4 weeks ago.

Due to the number of dodgy looking characters on mountain bikes drinking cider on top of the pumping station I didn’t hang around.

Highlights elsewhere within the dunes included a spectacular display of Tuberous Peas, Chicory and Kidney Vetch

Tuberous Pea


Tuberous Peas

Wild Chicory


Kidney Vetch

Kidney Vetch

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Nob End SSSI


Results from a quick trip up to Nob End SSSI in Little Lever just outside of Bolton

The site itself has quite an interesting history being a former industrial area responsible for the production of Soda ash for use in the local textile industry. The alkaline waste generated through the notorious Leblanc process has weathered and gradually become less toxic. It now supports a highly specialised flora with species normally associated with limestone meadows and chalk downland being well represented.

Marsh Helleborine

Marsh Helleborine

Fragrant Orchid

Chalk Fragrant Orchid

Friday, 8 July 2011

Dark Red Helleborines and Fly Orchids


Not a promising start. A quick look around the limestone pavement at Gait Barrows revealed that the mice, voles and rabbits had nibbled off all but one of the flower spikes from the Dark Red Helleborines.  The one that remained was still to open up.

Hmmm…..time for a reccy around the limestone trail.

Dark Red Helleborine


Dark Red Helleborine

After 20 minutes a group of seven Helleborines came into view

Dark Red Helleborine

Shame I didn’t have a wide angle, macro lens with me

Fly Orchid

A short trip across the fields to Trowbarrow Quarry. Amongst the Common Twayblades and Spotted Orchids the until now mythical Fly Orchid.

Fly Orchid

Very weird. If it had looked more like a Horsefly I wouldn’t have found it.

Fly Orchid

Definitely an odd looking flower

Fly Orchid

A bit ironic that a Fly Orchid living in a Horsefly infested woodland is actually pollinated by male Digger Wasps.

Definitely worth a return visit early next summer.



Thursday, 7 July 2011

Silverdale – Butterflies and Beetles


A glorious visit to one of the more regular haunts – Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve on the hottest day of the year. Whilst the south was sweltering up here it was just hot and with the morning’s showers very muggy.

High Brown Fritillary

High Brown Fritillary on Thyme


Ringlet – one of many flying around the meadows along with hundreds of horseflies

Longhorn Beetle

Longhorn Beetle – couldn’t really be called anything else.

Common Blue's mating

A pair of Common Blues.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Insect Eaters


Finally got round to visiting Westhay Moor. Unfortunately due to the footpaths being strimmed whilst we were visiting the chances of seeing any Otters was pretty remote. Likewise most of the birdlife appeared to have flown. Fortunately there was plenty of Cetti’s, Reed Warblers and an unusual mixture of insect eaters.

Round leaved Sundew

The not so Common Sundew

Yellow Pitcher Plant

Yellow Pitcher Plant presumably planted for it’s educational value. It’ll be interesting to see how it survives. In common with all Pitcher Plants it really belongs in America.

Purple Pitcher Plant

The Purple Pitcher Plant. Unlike the yellow species this one is relatively hardy and grows quite happily outside all year round in the south-west. Not too sure how it’d get on up north.

Ladybird larvae

Another insect eater – Ladybird larvae feeding on Greenfly.


Hard to imagine that in mid-winter 6 million Starlings roost in Westhay’s reedbeds ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,one day we’ll have to call down in early February.

Sunday, 3 July 2011



Home to one of the most magnificent natural landscapes in the country, Cheddar Cheese and the Cheddar Pink, The area around the Gorge also contains Peregrine Falcon’s, Mountain Goats, Soay Sheep, a trout filled stream  and a bizarre mixture of gift shops, showcaves and open topped tourist buses.

Cheddar Pink

Cheddar Pink

Cheddar Pink

Another Cheddar Pink. Surprisingly difficult to find due to the Victorians digging them all up.

Unknown mushroom

Lion’s Shield Mushroom above Black Rock Gate




Underground in Gough’s Cave


Cox’s Cave

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A trip to the Seaside

Headed out towards Berrow Dunes home to one of the few colonies of Lizard Orchids left within the country. Unfortunately it’s also home to Burnham on Sea Golf Course. Fortunately a public footpath cut through the course fairly close to the orchid colony

Lizard Orchid

Lizard Orchid

Lizard Orchids

Sea Bindweed

Sea Bindweed

Hare's foot Clover

Hare’s Foot Clover

Cheddar Pink

And on the way back to the campsite we called off in Cheddar to catch up with the rare Cheddar Pink. Sadly its not found anywhere else within the country and even in Cheddar there’s very little of it left.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Collard Hill NT


Highlights from a recent visit to the only one of the Large Blue re-introduction sites open to the general public. A stunning area of sun-drenched chalk meadow on the side of a steep hill close to Street in Somerset.

Pyramid Orchid

Pyramid Orchid

Large Blue

Large Blue

Large Blue

Female Large Blue oviposting (egg laying) in Wild Thyme

Marbled White

Marbled White


Restharrow – apparently the wiry stems are tough enough to stop a horse drawn harrow dead in its tracks.

Pyramid Orchid and Common Green Grasshopper

Another Pyramid Orchid complete with a Meadow Grasshopper

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Greater Butterfly Orchid – slightly past its best.

Also a great site for Spotted Flycatchers and the more common warblers.