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In the first of a monthly guide to what to look out for in the natural world locally, Stephen Dunstan introduces us to wildlife on the opposite ends of the size scale and rounds up some organised events too.

June might not seem like the best time to be wildlife watching in Blackpool. The influx of human visitors can sometimes make it feel too busy to accommodate natural spectacles. In reality there are a number of spectacular things can be seen, some with luck and some by just going to the right places.

June is a very good month to see the itinerant pod of bottlenose dolphins that feed off the Fylde Coast each summer. There have already been several sightings this year and a prolonged spell of warm and calm weather could encourage more. The warm brings the mackerel they favour feeding on inshore and the calm gives us the best chance of spotting them.

There’s no point pretending that seeing dolphins off Blackpool is easy, however. It can be very difficult. But there are ways of improving your chances. You can join the Facebook group Blackpool Sea Watchers, in which the majority of sightings will be posted on a timely basis. It is also worth keeping an eye on gulls and other seabirds – if they are feeding frenetically then there’s a strong chance of cetaceans in the vicinity. Even if you don’t connect with dolphins there’s a chance of spotting their diminutive relative – the locally more numerous harbour porpoise.

At the other end of the size scale, June is a good month for a number of striking looking insects to be on the wing. A range of dragonflies and damselflies (pictured) can be seen, perhaps the best known and unmistakable being the large ultramarine emperor dragonfly. Global warming has seen seen a number of new species reaching us here in the north west and Blackpool particularly, including the black-tailed skimmer and the broad-bodied chaser.

One of the beauties of dragonfly watching is that you don’t necessarily need to go far to see some worthwhile action. Any reasonably clean pond should attract a few species, including smaller ones like the similar common darter and ruddy darter. If you want to see a better range though, the specially dug ponds at Marton Mere Local Nature Reserve are worth a visit, or the scattered water bodies along the North Blackpool Pond Trail bordered by Blackpool and The Fylde College, the crematorium, the railway line and Bispham Road.

The summer is also a good time for butterflies. All the regular species of suburban and urban areas can be seen in the town. As well as the bright vanessids including the familiar peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell, there are three widespread whites to look out for (the large white, small white and green-veined white). The last of the orange tips can still be seen too – the females look like the other white species but the male has locally appropriate tangerine tips to the forewings.

A local and nationally declining butterfly species appears on the southern edge of Blackpool. The dark-green fritillary (pictured) includes sand dunes among its preferred habitat and is still doing quite well on the coastal dunes of the Fylde. The area between Starr Gate and the Thursby Nursing Home can be productive, but take care to avoid damaging plant life or excessively disturbing the butterflies themselves.

It’s not a particularly good time for birdwatching in Blackpool as those species that are around are generally getting on with the business of nesting and are relatively inconspicuous – with the exception of gulls and the feral pigeons that take what they can from visitors and their detritus, of course. That said, exceptional views of grey heron can be enjoyed in Stanley Park as the young fledge and are relatively approachable after their maiden flights from the trees on the northern island. If you can’t get to the park and are in the Pond Trail area there is a tame adult that allows close approach on the lake opposite Kincraig Road Spar.

Looking for seabirds generally requires binoculars or even a telescope, but there can be good passage of some species offshore. Gannets, larger than gulls with lemon yellow heads and broad black wingtips, can be seen in small groups between feeding grounds or occasionally plunging spectacularly into the sea. Harder to spot but sometimes numerous are Manx shearwaters – black and white birds that glide effortlessly over the surf as they head to or from their nests on islets off North Wales.

 

Local Wildlife Activities In June

30 Days Wild is a national initiative by the Wildlife Trusts to get people immersed in nature every day. Just do one wild related thing each day of the month. Associated events include a Big Green Get Together organised by Wyre Council at Wyre Estuary Country Park on 6th June.

The Fylde Sand Dunes Project is hosting a guided walk of the dunes on Sunday 4th June at 10am for approximately two hours.

The Bay, a nature and wellbeing programme run by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, is also running a series of events including an egg case Hund and sea watch on World Oceans Day on 8th June.

Weather permitting Stephen Dunstan will be running an event to look for dolphins and porpoises on Saturday 17 June. Meet at Gynn Square at 10am if the weather is mild.

For more events visit blackpoolsocial.club/listings Main image by Elizabeth Gomm, others by Elizabeth Gomm, Stephen Dunstan and Stephanie Cottle

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