26/06/2017 Bold Moss, St Helens

Marsh Helleborine: This stunning and somewhat inconspicuous little wild orchid can be found in northern parts of the British Isles, ranging from northern England to central Scotland. Although the Marsh helleborine is uncommon in the Lancashire, it can be found in a small number of locations.

One of which is Colliers and Bold Moss NR which was created on the spoil and waste from the Bold Colliery and Power Station. The result is a brilliant local NR which has a lot of different habitats from extensive reed bed, raised peat bogs, and wetland areas.

This plants Latin species name 'palustris' means 'marsh' and refers to the habitat where it can be found, Marsh Heleborines occur on fens, in alkaline-rich marshy fields and on sand dune slacks (the valley between sand dunes).

The best time to spot it is when it is in flower; between July and September.

This plant has very attractive and brightly coloured flowers which are either brownish-purple or creamy-green. The base of the lips of the flowers are marked with dark purple-to-red veins, and the outer edges are somewhat 'frilly' in appearance.
This was a first for me, so thanks to David Greenall‏ and Ray Banks for sharing the sightings on Twitter.

24/06/2017 Orrell Water Park, Wigan

Ruddy Shelduck: After a quick trip to see the local Cattle Egret at Lightshaw Flash and bumping in to Steve Burke I headed across to the other side of Wigan to snap some pictures of some fence hoppers!
The unringed individual was picked up on the 22nd of June as posted on MBF, and at the time it was unclear if the bird had a ring or not. However this still isn't solid evidence of a true wild bird.
Some Ruddy Shelducks are obvious escapes as their behavioural evidence would suggest, for example being tame and occurring in unlikely environments such as town parks, ornamental lakes and even village ponds and associating with Mallards and Canada Geese. All of which this bird was exhibiting.
Ruddy shelduck have a long history of occurring in Great Britain but are mainly described as escaped from captivity, although some old records, up to 1946, are officially treated as wild vagrants from their native range.
There are sometimes small influxes from non-native populations on the near continent of which a few pairs have recently bred in Norfolk.
However despite this bird having no rings on its legs I feel its still too tame to be a true wild vagrant.
Still a lovely bird to see!

Mandarin Duck: Amongst the local mallards funky looking hybrid ducks Orrell Water Park had more fence hoppers on offer, a female Mandarin was happily loafing about with the resident ducks.
It's a funny old place Orrell, full of scally lads fishing and smoking cannabis, while children on bikes and dog walkers use the facility, all giving me some odd looks while I crouched down and took pictures of some ducks!

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.


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.