Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Heading north

The weather throughout April remained awful so there was little to do but twitch a few more plants, probably the most notable being Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage

and several hundred flowering spikes of Toothwort in Sussex where Butterfly Conservation have carried out coppicing for Duke of Burgandy.

At the end of the month I was due to go to Cumbria for work and had a cunning plan to head up to the Highlands beforehand to get my first fix of the uplands for several years. Unfortunately my friend in Aviemore told me that the spring there was so delayed that there was little point going.

So I just headed for Cumbria to have a look at Butterfly Conservation's work to conserve High Brown and Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and Duke of Burgandy, together with the BAP moth Anania funebris, on the Morecambe Bay limestone. First visit was to Gait Barrows NNR where I had my first view of limestone pavement.

 It's clearly a spectacular habitat but the late spring meant that I saw few species of note. I did see about 3mm of Lady's Slipper Orchid that have been planted there as part of a project with Kew Gardens. It all looked a bit plastic really, with the emerging shoots protected in copper rings and the patch surrounded with slug pellets! The most interesting thing was actually Common Gromwell. This years plants were not in flower but last years seeds were really impressive, looking like they were made of porcelain.

The following day we visited the Whitbarrow area; a truly spectacular landscape.

The scale of the work being carried out in the area is really impressive and, contrary to the usual position with 'landscape scale projects' there actually seems to be plans in place to continue the work beyond the life of the project.

I had hoped to see all sorts of interesting things but the cold spring meant that I had to limit myself to a few new grasses, sedges and ferns. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Blue Moor-grass which has a very limited distribution but is common at Whitbarrow.

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