Picked Bazzo up just after 8am this morning (no need to frighten the horses) and we set off for Leighton Moss and sunny Silverdale, managing to avoid most of the rush hour traffic more by luck than by design.
Things started well at Leighton, with Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Cetti's Warbler on the path down to the Eric and Ernie Pools, which were largely deserted apart from Avocets and BHGs.
The reserve proper looked as good as ever, with Marsh Harriers up in the blue sky, and plenty of Reed and Sedge Warblers.
Pleasant as it was to wander amongst the reeds, as the temperature climbed, the site, which was quite busy, got progressively quieter, so after paying our respects to Grizedale, Lilian's and the Causeway we pulled out, driving the short distance round to Gaitbarrows and its limestone landscape.
This reserve is famous for many things, and we were pleased to learn its introduced Lady's Slipper Orchids had started blooming, so we followed the sign posts past Brimstone butterflies and a Pearl Bordered Fritillary as the path climbed through more and more patches of strange flat limestone pavements until we got to the orchids - which were just superb.
At least one of the more vigorous plants was giving off a strong perfume, and when the orchid afficionados weren't looking I got down on the ground and gave it a good sniff - pineapples!
The fruity zesty aroma of pineapples gave this majestic orchid even more kudos - what a plant.
Now Gaitbarrows is also famous for its population of Duke of Burgundy butterflies and with some very kind and patient help from David Curran, we were directed to an area where a male Duke of Burgundy was basking on a bramble - real butterfly nuts used to refer to this extremely rare species as "His Grace".
A bit small to be that regal I thought, but a butterfly tick for me nonetheless, and my first butterfly twitch (unless you count chasing after Monarchs on the Isles of Scilly hundreds of years ago).
I got one or two dirty looks for digiscoping the teeny weeny stunning royal one, but what else can you do in the presence of a Duke?
We left the Duke dreaming of cowslips and primroses, and headed back down the hill. Great to see Dave Hardaker and Tony Conway going up as we pulled out - the draw of the Duke is strong indeed!
I drove out and into the hills, aiming for home via a sunny, but largely deserted and beautiful Trough of Bowland, but we detoured out to Moor Piece reserve, near Cow Ark (who comes up with these names????), for a look at the woodland there.
Male Pied Flycatchers were singing away as we got out of the car, but although one was right by the track giving wonderful views, it was a tricky beast to try to digiscope - everytime I focussed in, it flitted through the branches, and despite the lovely song, it proved kinda hard to pick up again - that startling black and white plumage is surprisingly excellent camouflage in a sunny leafy canopy.
Managed a few blurry pix, but really I was happy just to listen to it singing away in the pocket of deciduous woodland.
A spiffing day!
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...