Saturday 26th – Tuesday 29th May 2018NORTHWEST WILDLIFE WEEKEND
The northwest of England is a great place to visit in late spring to search for a rich diversity of wildlife.
With such a variety of habitat ranging from limestone pavements, sand dunes, deciduous woodlands, reedbeds and freshwater pools we will spend the weekend searching out species that include Lady's Slipper and Coralroot Orchids, Duke of Burgundy, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Dingy Skipper butterflies plus others such as Eurasian Bittern, Western Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon and European Otter.
Our base is perfectly situated to explore this wildlife-rich area.
Tour Leader: Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 8
From our base in Essex with possible pickups en-route we head north to the fantastic RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss. The reedbeds at this time of year are alive with the sight and sounds of Reed and Sedge Warblers plus Bearded Tit and with luck, the elusive Eurasian Bittern. Western Marsh Harriers quarter over the reedbeds in search of prey and the shallow lagoons offer rich pickings for Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Pied Avocet and maybe something rarer such as Garganey.
Eurasian Bullfinch, Marsh Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Blackcap and Willow Warblers are present in the wet woodland surrounding the visitor centre which we are sure to visit for a hot drink in the excellent cafe.
Red Deer are common in the area and time will be spent looking for the elusive European Otter which we have seen on previous tours to the area.
Early evening we head to our hotel and base for the next three nights.
After a hearty breakfast we travel northwards to Gait Barrows national nature reserve, a superb area consisting of intricate limestone habitats that are home to a rich selection of exciting and often rare wildlife.
One of our main targets will be the Lady's Slipper Orchid, one of the rarest of all British wildflowers. Once thought to be extinct in the UK, this orchid is now being re-established through Natural England's national species recovery programme and Gait Barrows is now home to a thriving population of these beautiful plants. Other local specialities include Rigid Buckler and Limestone Ferns, Angular Solomon's Seal and Pale St. John's Wort amongst others.
Sunny glades in the southeast corner of the reserve attract the beautiful Duke of Burgundy butterfly as they flit through coppiced rides. Both Small Pearl-bordered and Pearl-bordered Fritillaries are frequently seen plus the diminutive Dingy Skipper which can be found basking in sheltered spots.
After thorough exploration of the reserve we head off through the southern Lake District to Sandscale Haws. This large area of sandy dune-slack is the perfect habitat to find Coralroot Orchid. With diligent searching we hope to see this delicate orchid at probably the UK's best site. Natterjack Toads can be found in small pools amongst the dune-slacks and can number several thousand!
Today we head a short distance to a steep-sided wooded valley which is home to breeding Common Redstart and Pied Flycatcher, the latter species using nest boxes especially for them. White-throated Dippers frequent the fast-flowing river and both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest annually.
After lunch we will spend time exploring the area around the Forest of Bowland where hopefully the drive across the Heather Moors will produce Willow Grouse.
An afternoon stroll will be taken along a river valley where White-throated Dipper nest and Willow Warbler sing from the streamside Silver Birches. The rocky hillsides are the haunt of Ring Ouzels which nest on the scree-slopes and we have had great views of these on previous tours. Common Sandpiper and Goosander nest locally on the rivers.
After another good breakfast and depending on up to date information, we can either make another visit to Leighton Moss RSPB or Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve may be a possibility to pick up more species before we continue on our return journey southwards.
Half board accommodation for 3 nights
All ground transport
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Relaxed, two to three miles walking per day
Expect around 100 species
Tour Price: £460
Single Supplement: £90