Richard Surman, Ron Crossley, DaveB and I headed north on this scorching hot and humid day. Our first site was Warton Crag in Lancashire – a prominent limestone hill in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We visited the Local Nature Reserve in the Old Quarry. Much of the area was fenced off with the Quarry rock face deemed unstable but there was a small meadow with surrounding trees to explore. Swift, Swallow and House Martin zoomed around in the blue sky, Jackdaws ‘chacked’ away. Woodpigeon, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Chaffinch and a ‘pheuuing’ Bullfinch were noted.
Mating Small Skippers
A good selection of Butterflies and Moths with a dozen Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris including a nice mating pair, Small White Pieris rapae, a single Common Blue Polyommatus icarus, a Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja that zipped through, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina, a colourful purple and gold Moth Pyrausta purpuralis and plenty of Pearl Grass Veneers Agriphila straminella.
Pearl Grass Veneer
Plants included Common Nettle Urtica dioica, Perforate St John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, White Clover Trifolium repens, Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea, Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Field Scabious Knautia arvensis, Small Scabious Scabiosa columbaria, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Hawkweed sp. and Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea.
We found a rather cool seat with a hawks head carved on it or was it a Peregrine? Just as we were about to leave we heard the distinctive Peregrine call and watched as it flew in and landed on its nest – guano splattered on the rock face beneath it.
Our second site was the National Trust Reserve at Arnside Knott across the border in Cumbria. This 500ft Limestone hill was sculpted by glaciers in the ice-age. Over time, the limestone and wind-blown soil has created flower-rich grassland and woodland. We parked up – a Nuthatch spiralling up a tree trunk by the car giving a different call to its usual repertoire. We had a quick look at the notice board – a mini wildlife haven with a Wolf Spider Pardosa sp. and a Ruby-tailed Wasp Chrysis ignita. We walked back along the road and stopped at a second notice board, a few Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae caterpillars were feeding on Common Ragwort Senecio jacobaea close-by but a few were wriggling across the concrete beneath and climbing the notice board to escape Ants. We began climbing stopping frequently to admire the stunning views over the Kent Estuary towards the Lake District.
The slopes here are made of frost-shattered limestone, with areas of distinctive, Blue moor-grass Sesleria caerulea, Yew Taxus baccata and Juniper Juniperus communis. We continued through Bracken Pteridium aquilinum into shady woodland with Blackbird, the odd Coal Tit, Goldcrest and Chaffinch along with Male-fern Dryopteris filix-mas before emerging back out into open grassland in the sunshine.
A few birds were noted with Swifts, a yaffling Green Woodpecker, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a vociferous Raven. Plants Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Bramble Rubus fruticosus, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria, Dog-rose Rosa canina, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, Herb-Robert Geranium robertianum, Betony Stachys officinalis, Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia, Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus, Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis agg. Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, Harebell Campanula rotundifolia, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Fox-and-cubs Pilosella aurantiaca, Goldenrod Solidago virgaurea and Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum.
Insects included Common Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus including a couple of pale adults, Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus, Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Honey Bee Apis mellifera and a surprisingly active Black Slug Arion ater.
Common Field Grasshopper
Common Field Grasshopper – pale form
It was Butterflies that were the show stealers with Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris, Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni, Large White Pieris brassicae, Small White Pieris rapae, Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, Peacock Inachis io, Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops, Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus, Grayling Hipparchia semele, Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina and Six-Spot Burnet Moth Zygaena filipendulae. A couple of guys from Butterfly Conservation that were walking a transect also had Northern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes.
A Vole ran across the path as we headed back down to the car.
If you are interested in the wildlife of the north-west of England and would like to join the walks and coach trips run by the Merseyside Naturalists’ Association, see the main MNA website for details of our programme and how to join us.
A wide photographic selection of birds, marine life, insects, mammals, orchids & wildflowers, fungi, tribal people, travel, ethnography, fossils, hominids, rocks & minerals etc. is available on my Alamy webpage