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31/07/2016

North Walney Nature Reserve, Cumbria

With its spectacular panoramic mountain and sea views, North Walney is among the best coastal nature reserves in the UK. The huge variation in its habitats, including sand dunes, dune heathland, hay meadows, tidal mud flats, vegetated shingle and salt marshes all serve to make the visitor feel as if they are in a truly wild and remote location.
 The Coniston fells are to the north, the Isle of Man out to the west, across the Irish Sea. 
 A Kestrel hovers, looking for a meal, while a young Goldfinch poses for a quick photo.
Ragwort, although toxic to some animals such as horses, is extremely beneficial to more than 150 species of insect including bees and butterflies, providing a very important source of nectar and pollen. The orange and black stripey caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth can usually be spotted in huge numbers on this plant, although there seem to be far fewer nowadays than I recall seeing as a child. 


 Harebells, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red Clover, Thistle and Meadow Vetchling are amongst many wildflowers which grow in abundance on the reserve.
The former industries of sand and gravel extraction have left behind deep holes which have since become permanent ponds and important habitats in their own right.
   Black Combe in the distance.
 This reserve, along with several others in Cumbria, is home to the rare Natterjack Toad. I don't think this little fella was a Natterjack, but I think he was a toad of some description rather than a frog. He could certainly move fast, hence the blurry photo!

Wild Thyme, Rosebay Willowherb and Yarrow provide yet more nectar for many bees and butterflies, including the Gatekeeper, Common Blue and Small Copper.



 Dragonflies and Damselflies are also here in abundance, taking advantage of the midgies and mosquitos around the ponds.
 I think these are a Common Darter and a Southern Damselfly, but I'm not an expert and therefore not 100% certain.

 A Swan family with four Cygnets came to see if we'd brought them anything to eat; they were disappointed on this occasion.
Walney Geranium
Sea Holly
Puffball Fungus

Fledgling Stonechat
As we headed towards the dunes at the northern tip of Walney, Black Combe was bathed in sunshine, revealing its many dips and slopes.
 Ubiquitous wind turbines on Kirkby Moor and many more on the horizon. Love them or hate them; there's no escaping them.
Burdock

Fox Moth Caterpillar


A Curlew going home to roost
Hobbit House?
Overtaken by the tide
Beach Fungi

Rounding the northern tip of reserve, the beach stretched away for miles with not another person in sight, which just happens to be my favourite scenario.
We sat amongst the dunes and ate a picnic as the sun went down. 
Perfect.

 Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos.

28/07/2016

Humphrey Head

Situated between the villages of Allithwaite and Flookburgh, Humphrey Head is a low rocky promontory extending for about one mile into Morecambe Bay. The Humphrey Head Outdoor Centre access road leads to a gentle uphill walk, reaching only 152 feet at its highest point. 
Soon we were greeted by panoramic views in all directions. Looking towards Cark we could just make out the white shape of Hoad monument in the far distance while Arnside Knott came into view, as we passed the Outdoor Centre.
The shape of the Hawthorn trees gave us a clue as to the direction of the prevailing winds as we made our way to the Trig point at the summit.

Heysham Power Station lies to the South, across the broad expanse of Morecambe Bay.
Downhill to Humphrey Head Point, as it tapers off into Morecambe Bay.
Local folklore claims that Humphrey Head was the location of the killing of the last wolf in England. Tales from other areas make the same claim; I suppose we'll never know the truth. One version of the local story says that the wolf descended from the Lakeland Fells near Coniston, where it had been decimating flocks of sheep. When it attacked a local child the villagers chased it to the rocks at the Humphrey Head Point, where they killed it.
  

The scene was a much more tranquil one when we visited. Meadow Pipits were busy collecting grasshoppers for their young and dozens of rabbits barely gave us a second glance as we headed back along the eastern side of the hill, taking the footpath through a nearby wood.

Once through the woods the path led us back to the Outdoor Centre which we passed by, returning to the road below. A walk of a few hundred yards brought us to the western side of the hill, its limestone cliff face being the only sea cliff of any height in the area.
 Intrepid climbers might be tempted to scale the cliff face to reach the natural arch, but should take heed of a warning carved into a stone below.
 
"Beware how you these rocks ascend. Here William Pedder met his end. August 22nd 1857. Aged 10 years"
We were lucky enough to see a family of Peregrine Falcons. The two chicks were learning the high speed acrobatic flying techniques of their parents, as they chased them around the skies trying to snatch the prey from their huge yellow talons.
After the flying lesson was over, the young birds were allowed to have their meal.
 Watch a short clip of the Peregrine chicks chasing their parent in a bid to get food.
video

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you've enjoyed the photos.

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