22/06/2017 Heysham Moss Nature Reserve, Morecambe

Large Heath: Keen to tick another new butterfly species I headed over to Heysham Moss where you can find a small population of Large Heaths from a Lancashire Wildlife Trust reintroduction program, with funding from the Lancashire Environmental Fund and project partners Chester Zoo.
Sadly back in April this little gem of a Nature Reserve was struck by a devastating fire which destroyed a large part of the rare and vital habitat which was supporting this special butterfly.

The really sad thing is that arson or carelessnes was believed to have started the fire!
So it was really good to see a dozen or so fluttering about the reserve, many over the burnt out raised bog!


21/06/2017 Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve, Southport


Dark Green Fritillary: After another early breeding bird survey, I decided to continue my butterfly adventures and to visit the nearby Ainsdale Dunes.










This extensive dune system on Sefton Coastline is one of the largest areas of wild dune left in Britain and is the best place to see green frits in Lancashire.





The Dark Green Fritillary gets it's name from a dark greenish tinge to the undersides of its wings, which are decorated with large silver spots known as 'pearls.'


It takes a bit of patience to get a good view of one, as they tend to be very active, hurtling around in search of nectar. This large fritillary is a strong flier and when on the wing is forever fluttering about and stops to feed only for a few seconds before continuing it's fluttering.


But when they do stop they are just simply beautiful little creatures!
There are few better ways of spending an hour on a warm summer's day than sitting quietly and watching these butterflies feed.

19/06/2017 Arnside Knott & Warton Crag

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary: It's that time of year again where the sun is out and the birds are off busy breeding and not migrating so we birders turn our attention to Lepidoptera.

First stop, the very beautiful Arnside Knott, Cumbria.
This is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is generally considered to be the best place for butterflies in northern England.

Arnside Knott is famous for it's Fritillary butterflies which include High Brown, Large Green and Small Pearl-bordered.
Small Pearl-bordered was one of my main target species and I wasn't let down, they were everywhere! One needs a close view of its underside to be sure of identification but the number 730 marking on the upper side can help.
Northern Brown Argus: My second stop was Warton Crag. This is a nationally important area of limestone habitat including grassland, woodland and limestone pavement.
Warton Crag boasts supporting some of Britain’s rarest butterflies, including Peal Bordered Fritillary and High Brown Fritillary, as well as an array of other rare invertebrates and plants.
One of it's top butterflies is the Northern Brown Argus and I was keen to get my first look, so waited around the limestone pavement areas in the heat of the day.
I was about to give in as I was melting before a single butterfly flew right past me, landed only for a moment, then took off again not to be seen.


Brilliant!






Hummingbird Hawkmoth:  On my descent down the limestone pavement a Hummingbird Hawkmoth caught my eye.

These incredible moths beat their wings at such speed they emit an audible hum. Their name is further derived from their similar feeding patterns to hummingbirds.
Large Skipper: Both Warton and Arnside had good numbers of Large Skippers, which were much more amiable then the other smaller butterflies which never stood still for long!
Chimney Sweeper Moth: I was surprised to come across the Small Blue Butterfly as I thought they were localised to the Northern Highlands and the South of England.






However my excitement didn't last long as the flutterby showed me its under wing and unlike the spotted pale blue of the Small Blue I saw the dark under wings of a day time flying moth called the Chimney Sweeper Moth.
These are typical day time flying moths which like limestone habitats.
Small Heath: This is the smallest of our 'browns' and is closer in size to a skipper, or Common Blue than it's relatives, such as the Meadow Brown. However, it's fluttering flight is quite different from that of the skippers and blues and is relatively easy to identify in the field. These too were abundant on both Arnside and Warton.

13/06/2017 Cleveland, North Yorkshire

Rose Colored Starling: What a day! First stop Bowesfield Marsh were I spent a couple of hours searching for the Marsh Warbler that has been there for a week or so.

Its a pretty big site and I struggled to find the precise location of the bird, there were no other birders around and once I did manage to find the location I couldn't hear the bird.

During this extensive search I also lost my camera hood and camo-cover!!! Gutted!!!
My second stop was at Billingham, about 15 minutes North towards Middlesbrough where I was hoping to see the Rosy Starling.






The bird didn't disappoint, after only waiting 20 minutes or so the bird appeared in a cherry tree before flying down on to the deck and joining it's cousins foraging on the ground.
Although when I first arrived I did get a little worried as typically I had birders telling me 'you've missed it by five minutes' and 'it was perched up in the tree a moment ago'
This is only my second Rosy and was well worth the trip as I don't think I will see one at such close quarters as this one again for a long while!

Marsh Warbler: After getting my fill of the Rosy Starling I headed home and got a message from Jonathan Scragg who informed me he had re-located the Marsh Warbler and it was singing.
Jonathan was kind enough to give me some directions and I turned around and headed back towards Bowesfield.

Almost as soon as I arrived, back in the same location I was searching only hours earlier, the bird was singing and perched up from time to time.

Cheers Jon I owe you pint!

Bracciano Italy

Hoopoe: Last week I took Dawn away for her birthday, we decided on visiting Rome but staying outside of the city in order to see more scenic places and have our own pool and stayed in a place called Bracciano.
Bracciano is a small town in the Italian region of Lazio, 30 kilometres northwest of Rome. The town is famous for it's large volcanic lake and for a particularly well-preserved medieval castle Castello Orsini-Odescalchi.
We stayed in a beautiful little Villa called Country House Due Miglia with our own private pool, surrounded by olive groves.
It was here right next to our hire car where I spotted a couple of Hoopoe foraging, I saw these in the area a couple of times but on our very last day the birds came particularly close.
The gardens had plenty of Sardinian Warbler, Barn Swallows, Serin, Hooded Crow and Kites over head.










Black Kite: One afternoon while Dawn spent the day sunning herself beside the pool I decided to leave the Villa and go explore. I followed a small dirt track and meandered around the wheat fields and olive groves.
It was here I got up close and personal to a Black Kite which spent an hour or so circling over a nearby Villa, it was soon joined by a second Black and then a Red Kite.
Hooded Crow: Back at the Villa I spent some more time getting some shots of the local Hooded Crows.
Brilliant mini-break, good birds albeit not a birding holiday, great sights and Villa. Seeing the Colosseum was a big highlight, that place is breathtaking.

22/05/2017 Lightshaw Flash, Abram, Wigan

Barn Swallow: Today I spent some more of my time down at the Dover Basin which included Abram Flash and Lightsahw Flash.

I spent a few hours yesterday looking for the Osprey which has been in the area for a couple of weeks.
Again I had no luck, but spent a very pleasant morning in a part of Wiagn which is lovely.
I also met three lovely people who were also out looking for the Osprey, James McGowan, Denise Ryder and her partner.
Despite not seeing the Osprey, yet again! It was still a pleasant morning.

19/05/2017 Burton Mere Wetlands, RSPB

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: OK these are possibly some of the worst images of BBS that you will see, however this bird was too far fro my lens and I had to use the iPhone and scope combo!

Despite the bad pictures the bird showed really well at time while at other time sit was obscured by the vegetation or pretty distant.
The news came though this morning while I waved goodbye to Dawn as she went off to work and I just poured myself some cereal.

Leaving the stewing bowl of Weetabix I grabbed my gear and ruched down the M6/M56 towards the bird.
I was really surprised of how small this bird was, it often came right up close to a Ruff and Redshank were you could see the size comparison.
This is the first twitchable Wirral record since 1973.....although there have been some recent local records at Frodsham and Woolston Eyes.

Hats off to Colin Wells who found the bird tis morning, a top bloke.

18/05/2017 Hilbre Island, Wirral

Shore Lark: Very scarce bird of the West coast, this local mega was found by Hilbre legend Steve Williams on the 15th of May.
Since then every man and his dog has gone across and seen it, I've had too much on, either newt surveys or Birthday celebrations.
I don't often spend much time on Hilbre but when I get the chance to go over I always enjoy myself, especially when the sun is out and the rain holds off.






The Shore Lark was busily feeding at the back of the island on the open grassy paths opposite Buoymaster's house.

Meadow Pipit: Plenty of activity around the island with mipits feeding young, Swallows doing the same and a single Wheatear foraging in the same area as the Shore Lark.
Whimbrel: After spending around 40 minutes with the Shore Lark I was joined by Colin Davies who was good company. We ended up down on the rocks scanning through the Dunlin and Oystercatchers looking for Whimbrel.
There has been four Whimbrel around Hilbre for a while and we could hear them calling from up on top of the island.
Great to catch up with Steve Williams, Colin Davies, travelling Dave Haigh and Graham Connolly who was sporting a brillinat LFC tshirt.