Saturday, 19 April 2014

Wildlife champions

LESLEY and I are now Wildlife Champions. I can say this with certainty because we have yellow fluorescent jackets with "Wildlife Champion" emblazoned on them. And I've also taken to walking around with a clipboard just to leave people in no doubt that I am someone important. I saw a story in The Whitehaven News for Sustrans - the cycle path people - seeking volunteers to monitor the number and variety of wildlife going up and down the local cycle paths. It sounded a lovely way to spend a summer's evening: Walking the cyclepaths, counting the number of lesser spotted nightjars and waving my clipboard menacingly at any cyclists going too fast or ne'er do wells misbehaving. As it turns out, cyclists can be a bit scary when they zoom past so the fluorescent jacket is a valuable item of clothing to put on.

Yesterday was our first day out on our patch - a kilometre stretch from Cleator Moor to Moor Row station (well, the remains of it since the disused railway line now forms Route 71 of the Sustrans cycle path). It was heartening to see that Mother Nature could resist all that the worst of humanity could throw at it. Litter is everywhere - so too is dog dirt. No doubt many users of the cycle route will rightly point out that there are no rubbish bins and no doggy-bag bins. But I and many others manage to carry our rubbish home so I'm not sure that's much of an excuse. I like to see the rubbish as a positive though: it's a clear indication of how well used this route is. Indeed there were cyclists and walkers passing us at the rather of four or five every 10 minutes. I met two people I know for God's sake! There's also the added advantage that there are no cars or motorbikes to run you down. It is indeed a haven away from the mad, mad world of the A66 and A595.

We set off armed with the Eye-spy books of trees, flowers, butterflies and those weird-looking buzzy things. We're not experts but feel confident to say that the Tesco bag is probably not a native species. Fortunately, most of the birds that turned up had the decency to be ones we could identify: The Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Robin - amazingly the hedge sparrows (dykies as we Cumbrians call them) was strangely absent. The only one that had me puzzled was this one...
Willow warbler or chiff chaff?
which is either a Willow Warbler or  its identical twin brother, the chiff chaff. I'm minded to say Willow Warbler since there were several of them on willow trees. But also because its song was not very chiff chaffy at all. Let me know if you can identify it correctly. It was a hot sunny day so there wasn't much in the way of mammals - one dead mole to be precise. Hawthorn and willow bushes abounded along with a number of butterflies (oranged-tipped, peacock and the green veiny, black edged white ones). We'll be out about on Route 71 throughout the summer so if you're cycling down the path at furious knots beware of the Wildlife Champions in the yellow jackets - and the willow warblers.