Sometimes, planning a weekend away birding or looking for other wildlife is easy, and everything falls into place neatly. This wasn't one of those!
For the early part of the week, a Bridled Tern (about the 25th for the UK) had been in residence on Inner Farne, one of the islands off the Northumbrian coast. A trip up that way was definitely plan A, with Mountain Ringlet and other butterflies in Cumbria on the way home. But on Thursday, the tern had all but disappeared, only showing once for just a few seconds all day. So: plan B - just the butterflies then. My Dad was still keen on that, given it's a while since either of us had been up to the Lake District, so Friday lunchtime saw him heading down to my place ready to drive north.
In the time it took for him to reach London, plan C was forming: a somewhat more ambitious trip, to Islay, where mega news of an Ascension Frigatebird had broken. If that was going to be twitchable, then we surely had to give it a go, so ferry timetables and car hire companies were researched. And to compound the confusion, the tern turned up again, a bit further south, on the mainland at Cresswell. What to do?
As we headed north, our decision was basically made for us: there was no further sign of the frigatebird, and the tern was still showing on and off, in between trips out to sea fishing. We were back to plan A again! Arriving in Northumberland mid evening, we missed the tern by about 30 minutes, checked out East Chevington, and then hurtled down to Cresswell where it was seen again offshore. No joy, and no sign back at Chevington by dusk. Not to worry, we thought - it's bound to be seen tomorrow, with more people looking and putting immediate news out.
Except that didn't happen. We searched the coast from Hauxley down to Cresswell from early morning until about 1pm, enjoying loads of Puffins, a couple of Arctic and one Great Skua, in amongst hundreds of Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns, when a rumour turned into fact: the Bridled Tern had relocated about 50 miles further south, at Saltholme RSPB in Cleveland. Everyone jumped into their cars and hit the road... only to arrive about 10 or 15 minutes after the tern had headed high out to sea again. Once again, the assumption was "don't worry - it'll come back in again".
But by 5pm, three hours after it had 'popped out', it hadn't. A smart Roseate Tern was only very partial compensation, and we decided to cut our losses and get over to the Lakes to set up a day of butterflying. Most of the way over there, a somewhat predictable, and utterly annoying, message proclaimed that the tern had reappeared - back at Chevington for 15 minutes, where we'd spent hours looking that morning!
Anyway - we had a much better day today, with good views of 40+ Mountain Ringlets between Irton Fell and Whin Rigg, in the SW Lakes. Given that we were quite late in the flight season for the species, we had to climb up to the colony near the top of Greathall Gill to find the butterflies. Many were a bit tatty, so a visit about a week earlier would probably be ideal.
Of these shots, I reckon the first and third are fatter-bodied females, while the middle one is a worn male.
A Golden-ringed Dragonfly was also a nice bonus - these are pretty awesome looking beasts, and enormous!
The route home took us past first Meathop Moss, with plenty of (photographically uncooperative) Large Heaths, and then Arnside Knott. This site had a nice mixture of species, including Grayling, Northern Brown Argus, and Pearl-bordered and Dark Green Fritillaries. High Brown Fritillary had been seen the previous day, but no-one seemed to having any luck today.
All in all, I've had a great weekend in the sunshine, in some lovely scenery, and seen some pretty good stuff. Just one thing missing... but I have a feeling that we've not heard the last of Bridled Tern yet!