Natural History.

Whicham Parish is completely bounded by the Irish Sea on the west; it has large areas of low intensity agricultural land, with roughly half of its area as upland fell..  It contains the south-western-most corner of Lakeland, and the near 'metric mountain', Black Combe. As a consequence of these factors, it has some very diverse wildlife habitats, with a quite unexpected richness.

Here, we attempt to illustrate this rich diversity in this remote corner of England, a vestige of an earlier age, when the land was less dominated by the hand of man.

Because of practical limitations, this is not an exhaustive list.  Instead, we have chosen what is interesting, surprising, and in some cases, delightful examples of biodiversity.  Much of it is small, and cannot be easily appreciated by the casual observer. but in actual fact, 99% of our real biodiversity is never seen, or even recognised as such, these pages hope to redress this issue.

Birds.

Lesser Redpoll. Carduelis cabaret

One of the less common members of the Finch family, slightly smaller than a robin. Eats seeds of birch, alder and gasses, and also willowherb and sorrel, and some insects, although, as can be seen, they are particular fond of bird feeders! Inhabits open woodland, scrub, farmland and dunes, it is a sociable bird which usually forages in flocks.

Mealy Redpoll. Carduelis flammea

Also called the Common Redpoll, this is a scarce winter migrant which is more usually seen in the East of the country. It is slightly larger and paler than the Lesser Redpoll. Eats birch, alder and spruce seeds, and small insects. Resident from October to April.

Wheatear. Oenanthe oenanthe

A summer migrant member of the Thrush family, this is a fairly common bird of upland areas, more common in the North West than elsewhere. Eats insects and larvae. Resident from March to October, then overwinters in Central Africa.

Yellowhammer. Emberiza citrinella

A member of the Bunting family, between the size of a robin and a blackbird, it is least abundant in the North West. Males have a bright yellow head and underparts, in flight it shows white outer tail feathers. Most often seen in open countryside with hedgerows, Feeds on seeds and insects, it has suffered a population decline recently, and is on the RSPB's red list.

Butterflies & Moths.

Green Hairstreak. Callophrys rubi

The Green Hairstreak is a small, fairly shy butterfly, which spends most of its time perched on vegetation or sunbathing. Adults fly in the spring, between April and June, and males can sometimes be seen chasing each other in the sun. Found in dry scrubby habitats, including moorland and heathland, the caterpillars feed on a variety of plants, including gorse, broom and bilberry.

The Green Hairstreak is easily recognised by the combination of habitat, small size and the bright green undersides of the wings, with a faint streak of white spots. Upperside of wings is dull brown. Rests with wings closed.

Dark Green Fritillary. Argynnis aglaja

The Dark Green Fritillary is the most widespread fritillary found in the British Isles and is often seen flying over grassland habitats, frequently stopping to nectar on Thistles and Knapweed. It gets its name from the green hue found on the underside of the hindwings, which are peppered with large silver spots. Outside of central Scotland and southern England, it is most frequently found in coastal areas. Despite its powerful flight, this species is not particularly mobile, and stays confined to its breeding grounds.

Orange Tip. Anthocharis cardamines

The Orange-tip is a true sign of spring, being one of the first species to emerge that has not overwintered as an adult. The male and female of this species are very different in appearance. The more-conspicuous male has orange tips to the forewings, that give this butterfly its name. These orange tips are absent in the female, which is often mistaken for one of the other whites, especially the Green-veined White or Small White. This butterfly is found throughout England, Wales and Ireland, but is localised further north. In most regions this butterfly does not form discrete colonies and wanders in every direction as it flies along hedgerows and woodland margins looking for a mate, nectar sources or foodplants. Northerly colonies are compact and are more restricted in their movements.

Brimstone Moth. Opisthograptis luteolata

A common and widespread species in Britain, occurring in three overlapping generations in the south, graduating to just one brood in the far north. Adults can be expected on the wing at any time from April to October, depending on the locality and number ofgenerations, and occurs in any suitable habitat. The larvae feed on a range of trees andbushes, including hawthorn and blackthorn.

Gallium Carpet Moth. Epirrhoe galiata

This moth is to be found on lime and chalk downland, grassy heathland and sea-cliffs. It has a preference for coastal sites, but is also found inland. It occurs throughout England and Wales, though locally, and is scarcer in Ireland and Scotland. In the south there are two generations, whereas further north there is generally only one, but the adults are on the wing mainly between June and August. Red-listed.

Silver Y Moth. Autographa gamma

The Silver Y is a medium-sized moth with a wingspan of 30 to 45 mm. The wings are intricately patterned with various shades of brown and grey providing excellent camouflage. In the centre of each forewing there is a silver-coloured mark shaped like a letter y or the Greek letter gamma, from which it gets its name.There are several different forms with varying colours depending on the climate in which the larvae grow.

Beetles.

Spotted Longhorn Beetle. Rutpela maculata

One of the flower longhorns, the larvae feed for two or three years on many native deciduous trees, as well as spruce.The adults are 13–20 mm long and can be found from May through August, although they only live about 4 weeks. The adults are very common flower visitors, feeding on pollen and nectar, their rough imitation of wasps, probably gives them some protection from birds. More common in the Midlands and South-east.

Violet Ground Beetle. Carabus problematicus

There are 2 types of Violet Ground beetle, both growing to about 30 mm long, this has a matt, dimpled body, whilst C. violaceus is much smoother. Although predominantly a woodland and heathland species, it is occasionally found in gardens and is a useful natural pest controller. They are nocturnal hunters, hiding under logs and stones during the day, although widespread, this is quite a local species and is uncommon in many areas.

Red breasted Carrion Beetle. Oiceoptoma thoracica

The only Carrion beetle in the UK, 11-16 mm long, mainly found in woodlands, where it feeds on carrion, and also the Stinkhorn fungus, which it presumably mistakes for carrion. Not common, these forest undertakers can detect a dead bird or mouse, a mile away within an hour or two of death. They do this by using special olfactory organs on their antennae. They can bury a carcass many times their own size, excavating the ground beneath the body, and then laying eggs in the soil. Burying the carcass helps reduce the risk of it being scavenged by other animals.

Orchids.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid. Platanthera bifolia

This little orchid is quite rare, and is a priority for conservation action, being listed as vulnerable. Lesser Butterfly orchid flowers have a long, loose cylindrical spike. They have lovely pale yellowy cream flowers, sometimes almost a greenish white.

The two Butterfly Orchids are very alike and both are night scented. They are pollinated by different insects, so presumably smell different although it is impossible for us to detect. Both types of Butterfly Orchid can be found on heaths, grassland, on the edges of woodland and and on marshy ground.

Other Insects.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly. Cordulegaster boltonii

The golden-ringed dragonfly is a very large dragonfly which is on the wing from May to September. It is a dragonfly of small, acidic streams in moorland and heathland and may be found away from its breeding sites. The female of this species is the UK's longest dragonfly because of her long ovipositor. Golden-ringed dragonflies are voracious predators, feeding on large insects such as damselflies, other dragonflies, wasps, beetles and bumblebees. They are fast, agile and powerful flyers.

Both sexes of the golden-ringed dragonfly are black with yellow bands along the body and bright-green eyes. Females are longer and thinner.

Ichneumon Wasp. Netelia cristata

Ichneumon wasp species are highly diverse. Most are slender, with the females of many species having an extremely long ovipostor for laying eggs. The female finds a host and lays an egg on, near, or inside the host's body. Upon hatching, the larval ichneumon feeds either externally or internally, killing the host when they themselves are ready to pupate.

Despite looking formidable, the ovipositor does not deliver a sting like many wasps or bees. It can also be used by the wasps to bore into and lay eggs inside rotten wood.