The northwest of England is a great place to visit in summer to search for a rich diversity of wildlife, some of which is found nowhere else in England.
With such a variety of habitat ranging from limestone pavements, sand dunes, deciduous woodlands, reed-beds and freshwater pools, we will spend the weekend searching for species that include Dark Red and Dune Helleborines, High Brown Fritillary, Mountain Ringlet, Northern Brown Argus and Large Heath butterflies plus others such as Ruby White-face and Black Darter dragonflies plus Eurasian Bittern, White-throated Dipper, Common Redstart, 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 en-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 Reed and Sedge Warblers plus Bearded Tit and with luck, the elusive Eurasian Bittern. Western Marsh Harriers quarter over the reed-beds in search of prey and 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. In the early evening we head to our hotel and our base for the next four nights.
Days 2 – 3
Our itinerary will be kept flexible due to weather conditions but during the next few days we will head northwards to the Arnside and Silverdale area of outstanding natural beauty, a superb location consisting of intricate limestone habitats, grassland and woodland that is home to a rich selection of exciting and often rare wildlife.
One of our main targets will be the High Brown Fritillary, one of the rarest of all British butterflies and good numbers occur here, although the challenge will be picking them out from the very similar Dark Green Fritillary. The limestone pavements are home to some botanical riches including Dark Red Helleborine plus other local specialities including Rigid Buckler and Limestone Ferns, Angular Solomon’s Seal and Pale St. John’s Wort amongst others. The sunny glades in the reserve attract the beautiful Silver-washed and Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies as they flit through coppiced rides and Northern Brown Argus can be found on the limestone grasslands where it seeks out its Rock Rose food plant.
If weather conditions are favourable we will head into the Lake District to look for Mountain Ringlet, a species that is only found at several locations in England and one that needs perfect weather conditions in which to fly, so fingers crossed for good weather!
The region is wildlife rich and we will be spoilt for choice on destinations to visit, but a must is the area around Foulshaw Moss. This is home to species such as breeding Western Osprey plus Large Heath butterflies and Black and Ruby White-face dragonflies as well as a great range of plants and other insects.
Another area worth a visit in the southern Lake District is Sandscale Haws. This large area of sandy dune-slack is the perfect habitat for Dune Helleborine and with diligent searching we hope to see this delicate orchid. Natterjack Toads can be found in small pools amongst the dune-slacks and these can number several thousand!
Today we head the short distance to a steep-sided wooded valley which is home to breeding Common Redstart and Pied Flycatcher, the latter species using nest boxes put up 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 Red 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 our return journey southwards.
Full board accommodation for 4 nights
All ground transport
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day 1
Relaxed, two to three miles walking per day although some steep slopes may be encountered
Expect around 80 species
Tour Price: £790
Single Supplement: £90