Ospreys, swallow holes and Bevin Boys

An eventful afternoon out to the west of Peterborough. Taking advantage of a lovely sunny spring day David Withrington and I decided to get out and see some wildlife and more importantly discover potential habitats for the Grizzled Skipper, a quite rare and threatened butterfly which David has, post retirement, taken on some responsibility for monitoring.

First up we went directly to the furthest point west on Rutland water to the small stone bridge where the heron above dutifully splashed and fed while up to its knees in shoals of small fish.

As if planned the male osprey landed on its purpose built perch giving us a much better chance to photograph than possible from the official reserve and observation hide.

I have blogged before about the benefits of wildlife spotting with an expert and David is exceptional when it comes to bird calls and identifying a passing blur. So in just twenty minutes at this spot and along the short footpath we spotted a kestral, two buzzards, black cap, garden warbler, blue tits, a pair of yellow brimstone, lapwing, two shelduck, gadwall, chiff chaff and the beautiful Great Crested Grebe.

Then it was off for a very nice pub lunch at the Exeter Arms in Barrowden with a very nice pint of their locally brewed ‘Bevin Boys’ (4.5%) from the pubs own  ‘Barrowden Brewing Company’ micro brewery.

Then swiftly on to nearby Wakerley Wood where I do have a little expert knowledge of my own to impress David. About ten years ago we made a team visit from English Nature and mapped the location and depth of the ‘swallow holes’ here. The theory goes that the underlying limestone has dissolved away forming caves which then collapse in a slump giving a quarried look to the now mature woodland see pic below.

After hearing our first cuckoo and falling spectacularly (see previous posting) we saw early dog violet and wood anemone, Speckled Wood and Comma (butterflies), Gold Crest, White Throat, Marsh Tit, Skylark, Willow Warbler, Song Thrush and  Pied Wagtail.

At the furthest edge of Wakerley Woods we briefly explored the old quarry as a potential habitat for Grizzled Skipper. I always thought that naturalists learned everything about every species, but its a trick based on associations. Grizzled Skipper butterflies only feed on a few specific plants eg wild strawberry and creeping cinqefoil so the presence of these actively constrains the chance of finding this elusive species. So David spends most of his time looking for the food plant while I wander aimlessly shouting “how about that one”, “what is this” at every moth or dark coloured butterfly I see.

The quarry turned out to be a very poor habitat for the Skipper, lacking food plants, and quite windy and open. We did see a lot of field fares on the ground and were treat to a wonderful display of two swallows diving for a drink (or a tadpole?) from the shallow pond. Another brilliant day out despite breaking my wrist, roll on June when we go to Slovenia where we have been promised 55 butterfly species in a day.


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