Ian says……We’ve just had almost four weeks up at the van with just a few days back home at odd intervals for appointments and a bit of visiting. Even though the weather was fine the first day was spent washing the van while Pauline did some cleaning inside - it had to be done. The next two days were very windy so we spent the time relaxing and watching the birds coming to our table. The first bright day saw us off down the coast to Potts Corner in search of Belted Beauty moths but after looking at all the likely spots with out any luck we headed back. After tea Pauline put the moth trap out while I went off to check on the badger sett I’ve watched for a number years. Three badgers came out before dark but with no food out to keep them busy they didn’t hang about. The following morning Pauline checked the trap and we photographed some of the catch.
We watched the birds on our table again until dinner – nothing out of the ordinary but interesting to have up to 10 Siskin still visiting. It was then off to Arnside Knot with thoughts of the Teesdale violet that grows on one of the steep slopes but there was no sign of it. Pauline did manage to relocate Capnobotris dingleayae but it was shrunken and brown. Its an uncommon fungi that grows on Yew Trees so we will have to remember to photograph it later on in the year when its in better condition. A look on the Lots at Silverdale produced a single Green Winged Orchid and plenty Early Purple Orchid leaves – it looks like everything is well behind due to the cold weather that we have had so we must have another look in a couple of weeks. Off to the badgers again and first job was to throw some soaked peanuts out from a distance so hopefully not leaving any scent to put them off coming out. My fears soon disappeared – again three badgers together happily feeding heads down just occasionally smelling the air to check for any danger. The next day saw us nipping back home to do the necessary visiting and one or two other jobs before heading back up to the van. We stayed local for a few days checking the new Allen and Eric Morecambe hides at Leighton Moss. Excellent views were had of the 40 or so Avocets, hundreds of B.T. Godwits and a single Spotted Redshank.
The following day it was windy and cloudy so another session watching the birds on our pitch. Birds seen :- Greenfinch x 2, Goldfinch x 2, Chaffinch c. 15, Bullfinch x 5, Blue Tit x2, Great Tit x 4, Coal Tit x 3, Marsh Tit x2, Blackcap x 1, Goldcrest x 1, Wren x1, Song Thrush x 1, G.S. Woodpecker x 2, Dunnock x 4, Blackbird x 5 ( including a well grown youngster ), Robin x 3, Woodpigeon x 2, Nuthatch x 1, Jay x 2, Siskin x 11, Redpoll x 1 and Pheasant x 4. Not a bad count for our caravan pitch - now you know why we can sit for hours – you just don’t know what’s about. The wind eased by late afternoon so it was another trip to the badgers later on with 4 out together. The next day it rained from first thing until about 3.00pm so Pauline booked all the CalMac ferry tickets for our Scotland holiday later on in the year. Friday was a dry and sunny start and we paid a visit to Foulshaw Moss. Recently 2 Ospreys summered there, building a nest and ‘going through the motions’ – we watched them passing fish – but nothing came of it and may be all the tree clearing that was done last year has put them off from trying again? A nice surprise was a pair of Whinchats that we photographed from the car on the way in but a search near the car park didn’t turn up any Adders. It turned grey and cold and a prolonged hailstone shower arrived putting an end to the day.
The next morning dawned bright and cold with hailstone still on the ground. We decided on a ride up to Esthwaite to see if the Ospreys were there and sure enough after a while we could see both birds sat in the tree next to the nest. We drove round to the eastern side were there are better views to be had and watched as both birds collected material for the nest. Sat out of the wind it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Pauline couldn't resist whipping out her phone and taking a 'jokey' pic of the back of my camera! The actual shots were not that good as the distance across the lake must be a quarter of a mile but it made interesting watching if nothing else!
That evening a session a the badger sett gave me 4 adults, the first out at 8.00 so maybe it was time to bring the camera. At 8.40 a cub came out for all of 10 seconds - the first of the year and was good to see. Two nights at home to catch up with jobs and we were back up at the van Tuesday morning. We spent the day on the banks of the River Lune – Pauline up on the Crook while I started off walking up and down around Denny Brook. Several Kingfishers flew up and down but no Otters. I eventually made my way up to the Crook were Pauline had been photographing Wood Warblers. Another trip to the Badgers with the camera was called for but as I approached I was met with horror as contractors had started to fell trees very close to the sett and the large machinery being used was driving within a couple of yards of the lower entrances. I thought my chances of seeing anything was very slim. I was amazed when at 8.15 the first Badger came out eventually followed by 3 more. The following day I returned and had a chat with the contractors and my worries over the badgers was eased. They are carrying out a 30 % reduction through out the entire wood and while they take care not to disturb any badger setts it is a worry to think of the disturbance and destruction to the birds that are nesting in the woods particularly the ground nesters such as warblers and woodcock. I returned the following two evenings – firstly just 2 adults then 3 adults – no sign of the cub but I did manage to photograph several of the adults. Back at the caravan we had 2 Redpolls and a few hours in the hide got me a few pics when one came for a drink. It was bank holiday weekend and as the site began to fill with visitors it was time to return home and do some more jobs.
Back up to the van Monday morning and we paid that return visit to the Lots to photograph the orchids before another visit to the badgers that evening provided me with three nervous adults. The next morning we had an early start and it was off to the Lower hide at Leighton Moss. We had sat for over two hours before the Marsh Harriers made their first appearance and it was another couple of hours before they showed again but then there was plenty action – a lot just too far off for the cameras. A Heron came in front of the hide to do a bit of fishing so Pauline turned the camera towards it as it caught a jack Pike and then decided to follow it up a few minutes later with a small Eel. That evening and back to the badgers with just two very very nervous adults. The following morning I returned and checked the area with in a mile of the sett to see if any of the disused annex setts had been reopened thinking may be the disturbance by the contractors was getting a bit too much. Less than half a mile away up the very steep hill there was a large sett with plenty of holes recently cleaned out – a pity it’s a fair walk – ok going but dangerous to descend in the dark with camera equipment.
Pauline says: …. Its been a blur of coming and going up and down the M6 with spells of sitting around outside the van trying to pretend it was warming up! But since I tracked down and coerced a real bed mattress (instead of the seating foams) into the caravan bed space, its now possible for me to spend days at the van with no back or hip pain while having a brilliant nights sleep – magic!
Highlights for me have been finding the Toothwort in profusion at Gait Barrows.
After a long break of almost two years I’ve managed to get back to doing some mothing sessions - even tho its been anything but warm at nights I’ve managed 13 species including Oak Beauty, Early Thorn, Early Grey, Lunar Marbled Brown, Early-toothed Stripe and the usual chestnuts, quakers, drabs and Hebrew Characters! A little micro was finally ideed for me by Steve Palmer from Lancs Moths as Diurnia fagella – I just can’t get my brain to recognize the small stuff – age or senility … thanks Steve!
Another delight was revisiting the Green Hellebore in a mostly yew woodland near the coast – only to be told by Dave who works on the site (and misses very little in the area!) that there was a huge patch of it growing beside the road close by where we have been passing it for years …. Sure enough when I went to look there it was in splendor but in my defense the road is narrow and on a blind hump at this point …. Well that’s my excuse!
The Sweet Violets are finally getting going in good numbers and just before the bank hol decamp to home we checked The Lots again for orchids and found more Early Purples than ever before but the Green Winged were tiny – barely 3 inches high and most in tight bud – but still recognizable with their green striped ‘hoods’ ….
We’ve cleared ash saplings and bramble suckers from a small roadside patch of Herb Paris to give it room to breathe but to be honest its doing well in most areas without our help! One of my mothers favourites is windflower tho she no longer remembers this - Wood Anemone and during this last week its reached the height of perfection ....
The dry spell seems to have given way to rain, with more rain forecast for the next two weeks at least, so we will have to return and don waterproofs as the changes, flowerings and fledgings will continue no matter how cold or wet - as the song goes - I don’t want to miss a thing …..