Highland Diary

Limestone Country

  • June 17, 2017

At the end of May we made a trip over the border into England to see some of the rare plants that are to be found on the mountain limestone in Upper Teesedale and further south to Silverdale on the north Lancashire coast.

The wind that constantly sweeps over the northern Pennines made macro work something of a challenge. However the plants themselves did not disappoint. Spring Gentians were the stars. They positively glowed in the short cropped turf.  A black bumblebee feeding on Mountain Pansy caused a bit of head scratching. With the books out at home it keyed out as a rare black form of the Heath Bumblebee.

We then journeyed  south to Gait Barrows NNR near Silverdale with the hope of catching up with the Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Its flight period appeared to have been early this year and we were out of luck. As a bonus, rather unexpectedly we stumbled upon Lady’s Slipper Orchids. English Nature has introduced plant material to the reserve from a single plant which had been found on a nearby golf course where it was considered to be at risk. The resulting introduction is a spectacular display on a limestone pavement where the public are encouraged to visit with little risk to this extremely rare orchid. Close by on the Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve the northward march of some bird and insect species is most noticeable. Cetties Warblers seem to outnumber Reed Warblers, Avocets, Little Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits and Marsh Harriers are common fare. Undoubtedly some of this northward movement is down to climate change but also the RSPB must be given credit for their work in protecting and restoring wetland habitats throughout the UK.