Sunday, 22 August 2010

Great Hill and Black Brook

The skies were looking very changeable today as I set off for Great Hill. I'm glad I went because a wonderful spectacle awaited - well over a hundred swallows zooming around at low levels. As I paused to admire them, I wondered if the many short-tailed youngsters amongst them knew about the migratory adventures that lay so soon ahead. Part way towards Great Hill is Sam's Cup, the site of an old well. It remains a popular spot for having a break. A short distance further and I see the kestrel/s which showed little interest in the fast flying swallows as they hovered searching for voles etc.
I decided to return via Black Brook. It is not a public footpath but is a well used path through this area of access land. The path is eroded in places so it's wise to take a friend along (even if I didn't...)

The sun brought out the butterflies: small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, small coppers and gatekeepers. A couple of brown hawkers and a black darter were also seen, and bees were visiting the heather. I enjoy the landscape of this brook, looking at angles of the carved valley and its tributaries.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Dragons and Damsels

I took advantage of yesterday's sunshine to take a walk to a couple of pools in the old quarries near Healey Nab. All the photos below are from the British Dragonfly Society's website and if you click on each photo or the credit beneath, the link will take you to that website - well worth a visit.

Before I reached the pools I saw brown hawkers flying around White Coppice area. They are an unmistakable species hawking over the bracken. However, when I watched them flying over the water, their wings suddenly appeared to be translucent bronze as reflected light shone through them. What a difference the light makes.

Brilliant blue, male damselflies created a magic carpet along the path to the pool. So many of them, hovering there. Their brightness conspicuous above the sand-coloured path. Many were copulating amongst the vegetation until disturbed, when they flew in tandem to another resting place. Below is a photo of a pair in tandem; the female is green.
Talking of green, there were also a few elegant emerald damselflies, flying over nearby vegetation. This species tends to be associated with acid pools so the the peat here must attract them.
A common hawker flew around the pool. It's size and colour announcing its presence.

I was treated to a close-up of a male black darter, angling its abdomen as it rested on a rock. I could clearly see a spot on each wing. Soon after, a female perched on a nearby stone, her yellow abdomen making me think she was a different species at first.
Dragonflies - nice getting to know you.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Stocks Reservoir

We decided to enjoy the sun and showers by taking a walk around Stocks Reservoir. It's a 11km / 7m circular walk which is well signed. Close to our start point is a United Utilities office - don't they just own some beautiful buildings? Soon we pass the Valve Tower (above). The reservoir is low at present due to less than average rainfall but when we notice that even the culverts near the reservoir are not being cleared, it begs the question: is the precious rainfall being captured efficiently in these catchment areas? We see several oystercatchers. One of the joys of this walk in summer is the flowers. Everywhere fields are pitted by the purple heads of black knapweed and self-heal and through the grass vetch stretches. You breath in meadowsweet, turn to admire its creamy heads adorning field and ditch. Amongst my favourite mauve and creams, other colours appear. Below is what might be larch bolete. The sunny spells encourage butterflies to rise and we see mostly green-veined whites and meadow browns. We also disturb a cloud of larks and are greeted by another favourite flower of mine - field scabious and I also spot sneezewort. I might pass on the fungi, but I do pause to pluck some pink-plump raspberries - just a couple. I explode them slowly in my mouth to explore their delicate sweetness. We notice the cormorant are gathering (about 30) at a safe distance and out of sight from the fisheries.

Now we veer from the reservoir through fields and a bridge to cross Hasgill Beck and the River Hodder which feed the reservoir. More lambs and flowers. Much of the return walk follows a dismantled railway line and I wonder what it must have been like to travel such a scenic route.

We look across the valley and absorb how remote this place is and how lucky we are to enjoy it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


Yesterday I was helping to staff the Chorley NATS stall at the BioBlitz event at Cuerdan Valley Park, Bamber Bridge. These events provide a snapshot of the diversity of wildlife as surveys are undertaken to record the plant, insect and animal life found. As I made my way to the event, I passed a beetle expert busy with the survey.
It was heartening to see how much life had been found in the river and ponds. Species such as stonefly larvae and also dragonfly larvae testify to how well oxygenated and unpolluted the water is. Birdwatchers might be interested to know that crossbills have recently been seen in the park and a hobby put in a brief appearance.
Quite a few organisations had stalls so there were plenty of opportunities for networking and collecting some brilliant teaching resources. I also sold a few copies of my book, from the field book, and although not my main intention for attending, it was pleasing.
Of course we could BioBlitz our gardens and back yards and might be surprised what we find. My garden has been host to at least four blue tit broods and one great tit brood over the past couple of months. I love watching the yellow/green versions of these species as they forage around curious and not yet as wary as they will become. I've also had young coal tits, robins and blackbirds too. I'm not sure what's happened to the song thrush I heard all spring but I haven't seen any young.

You're probably wondering about the photos. Well, I decided to have a go at growing my own herbs and some vegetables this summer. I've enjoyed nipping out to collect fresh rosemary, parsley, coriander, basil and baby lettuce leaves etc. I have managed to find a variety that the slugs don't eat! Above is some sweetcorn - I just have to work out when it's ready for harvest. All advice welcome. And below are my yellow courgettes. I decided to grow them because I don't see the yellow ones in the shops. Bees seem to love their flowers.

The BioBlitz photos are used with the kind permission of Chris Rae

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.