The northwest of England is a great place to visit in late spring as it has such a rich diversity of wildlife and the habitat is amazing, ranging from limestone pavements, sand dunes, deciduous woodlands, to reed-beds and freshwater pools. We will be searching for species such as Lady’s Slipper and Coralroot Orchids, Duke of Burgundy, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Dingy Skipper butterflies. We also hope to see 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: 7
From our base in Essex with possible pickups on route we head north to the fantastic RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss. The reed-beds at this time of year are alive with the sight and sounds of Eurasian Reed and Sedge Warblers plus Bearded Reedling and with luck, the elusive Eurasian Bittern. Western Marsh Harriers quarter 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 refreshment 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. In the early evening we head to our hotel and base for the next three nights.
After a hearty breakfast we travel northwards to 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 British wildflowers. 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 butterflies 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 a 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 and with diligent searching we hope to see this delicate orchid as this is 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 European Pied Flycatcher, the latter species using nest boxes especially for them. White-throated Dippers frequent the fast-flowing river and both European 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 Ptarmigan. 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 Common Merganser nest locally on the rivers.
We head north over the border into Cumbria with a visit to several nature reserves where we hope to see a diverse range of wildlife including nesting Western Ospreys and the wonderful Ruby Whiteface Dragonfly which bask in the sunshine on the boardwalks. Lesser Redpolls nest in the Willows and there are some exciting plants such as Greater Butterfly, Early Purple, Fly and Common Spotted Orchids, whilst Butterflies may include Dingy Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
After another good breakfast and depending on up-to-date information, we can make another visit to Leighton Moss RSPB or Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve for the possibility of picking up more species before we continue our return journey southwards.
Full board accommodation for 4 nights
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day 1
Relaxed, two to three miles walking per day
Expect between 100 species
Tour Cost: £950
Single Supplement: £120