The weather was kind to us and we enjoyed sunshine for most of the day, whilst nearby Hull appeared to have been afflicted by heavy showers.
Disembarking the minibus, we were told in no uncertain terms by June, our leader, to stop talking and start stalking. Obediently scanning the bushes for rarities we turned up a Chiffchaff, which gave good views, a small party of Goldcrests and a nice male Stonechat. A woodcock flew up out of a ditch and disappeared into a stand of trees. Very little else was seen at the landward end, so we took our lunch in the minibus and then headed for the point. There we spent some time observing the Heligoland trap into which a Brambling (a lifer for some of us) was desperately trying to get, for reasons best known to itself.
There were also Redwings in the elder bushes. One of the highlights of the day were the two Black Redstarts which were showing well as we made our way back landward along the road. The main “tick” however was the Yellow-browed Warbler, whose presence was indicated by the gaggle of twitchers gathered at the side of the road. It gave as good views as we could have hoped as it flitted in and out of the bushes, clearly displaying its pale supercilium and double wing bar. As the state of the tide was favourable, the day ended with some wader watching, which turned up Bar-tailed Godwit as well as the more common species.
We also did some sea watching, where a raft of Common Scoters was the main attraction. Unfortunately the wind direction was not tending to bring birds close inshore. A species tally in the region of 70 was cause for great satisfaction and all declared it to have been a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to June.
We drove across the Pennines into Cumbria to the Smardale Gill National Nature Reserve, one of only two English sites of the Scotch Argus butterfly, a species in flight during late July/August. We might also be lucky to see another English butterfly rarity, the Northern Brown Argus. Also, the reserve was home to Red Squirrels, and there were a number of orchid species that should still be in flower. When we arrived the weather was dull and overcast, with a forecast of rain; the books had advised that the Scotch Argus only flew in sunshine, so we were keeping our fingers well crossed.
After an hour and a half, or so, we stopped for lunch in an old quarry. On the way we had noted Common Spotted and Fragrant orchids among the many wild flowers, but had not by then seen a single butterfly. While we were still eating our sandwiches, we met up with another group being led by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust warden for the reserve, who told us that Scotch Argus’ were definitely around, and where we might see them; he confirmed we probably would not see the Northern Brown Argus as it was finished for the year.
During the afternoon, as the weather improved, butterflies could be seen flying over the moorland grasses. It was soon apparent that these included a number of Scotch Argus. We were particularly fortunate that the weather was dry, but still cool and overcast. In these conditions the butterflies preferred to rest in among the grasses to taking flight, which presented us with the great opportunity to take close-up photographs; and to capture specimens to examine in-hand. We were thus able to admire the striking, velvety, dark chocolate-brown, with an orange band, of the upper wing of a newly emergent Scotch Argus. Similarly, we were fortunate to capture and closely examine another of the reserve’s less common species – Dark Green Fritillary.
It was raining steadily by the time we returned to the minibus, but everybody had thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We never saw the red squirrels, but we did see seven species of butterfly: Small Skipper; Common Blue; Dark Green Fritillary; Scotch Argus; Meadow Brown; Ringlet; Small Heath.