A Lakes Bimble

Yesterday was Silverdale Field Day – a kind of Carnival with races; fancy dress, Morecambe Brass Band, a parade, bunting, stalls, bouncy castles, ice-cream, hot-dogs, egg-and-spoon, cream teas and a Fell Race. Naturally, somebody has to erect the marquees, hang up the bunting, make the scones and cakes for the cake stall etc etc. Since TBH and I are two of those people, the last couple of days have been rather busy. (Though for others, who deserve a medal at the very least, the last week has been completely hectic)

We rounded off the day, after the tidying up was almost done, with an (almost) impromptu barbecue, football match and rounders  at the Institute Field where the whole day had been centred. The day stayed fine, despite early drizzle and occasional threatening spots of rain, and everybody had a good time I think. So well worth it then.

The in-laws were over to help with child-minding whilst I was helping to erect the marquees, hang up the bunting, marshal the fell race etc, so today TBH and I were able to have a day off on our own in the Lakes.

We weren’t particularly early, but managed to find a spot to park just outside the village of Elterwater. I’d warned TBH that the path between Elterwater and Skelwith Bridge would be boggy in places, but my information was clearly well out of date because the whole path has now been surfaced and, as TBH pointed out, would be suitable for a push-chair. It was very busy.

The path follows Langdale Beck and then passes beside Elterwater (the lake rather than the village) without affording many views of it, but there is a good view from the far end of the lake…

…looking up Langdale to the Pikes.

TBH pointed out this stump in the stream. The buttercups growing on it were catching the sun and setting-off the greenery all around beautifully. Sadly, my camera seems to have been immune to the charms of that prominent yellowness…

I think of this walk as a favourite, but it’s obviously a neglected favourite since I’ve never shared it before with TBH and this bridge has appeared since I last came this way…

…we crossed over to try out the path on the other side – which was very pleasant, but meant that I didn’t get a good chance to photograph Skelwith Force, a small but powerful waterfall just below the bridge.

We lunched at Chester’s, (I’ve added the apostrophe in the spirit of grumpy old mandom). This was a long planned visit which has taken a while to come to fruition. I’m glad that we stuck with the idea, my Caesar salad was excellent. (I’ll leave the restaurant criticism to Ken though). I had most sections of yesterday’s Guardian in my rucksack, and after our meal we transferred to a sofa for tea and a quiet afternoon read – readers with children will appreciate the sheer luxury of this experience.

The sofa wasn’t as comfortable as it looked so we were soon walking again. Crossing back over…well the River Brathay, it’s not Langdale Beck here and may not have been further upstream – I’m not sure where the transition takes place. Anyway, crossing the road bridge I enjoyed the pattern of leaves and flowers on a rocky mid-stream island…

Our onward route, which was altogether quieter, took us through a patchwork of flower-rich meadows and woods. Foxgloves were ubiquitous in both…

 

We passed by Colwith Force – much bigger and more impressive then Skelwith Force but a little further from a road and so a much quieter spot…

…we shared it with two other walkers who had scrambled down the steep riverbank to take photographs without the intervening screen of trees – you can see that I let discretion be the better part of valour in this case.

We were heading towards Little Langdale, with every view foregrounded by buttercup meadows…

There are several options for completing the route from here, but we turned right at Stang End, where I liked the handsome split-level barn and TBH admired the neat woodpiles…

…and headed down to the stream in the valley bottom. The meadows in fact held much more than buttercups. In the boggy ground near to the stream I was particularly pleased to find this Eyebright…

In fact after seeing these first few flowers I noticed that it was widespread as we climbed out of the valley too. Apparently it’s a semi-parasite, the roots attaching themselves to another plant such as Clover or Plantain. The name refers to the fact that Eyebright has been used to treat eye-ailments. There are apparently 25 species of Eyebright growing in the UK, but I assume that this is Common Eyebright, Euphrasia Nemorosa. Euphrasia from the Greek word Euphraino meaning ‘to gladden’.

Is it working?

There were also quite a few Yellow Rattle, which I’ve mentioned a fair bit recently.

It doesn’t show up well here against the much brighter buttercups, but it probably has the last laugh, because it is a hemi-parasite (the difference between hemi and semi is…?) which attaches itself to the roots of other plants and then leeches water and minerals from them.

The name Rattle refers to the noise made by the seeds inside their capsule. The ‘official’ name is Rhinanthus Minor, Rhinanthus from the two Greek words for ‘nose’ and ‘flower’ referring to the hooked tube at the top of the blooms, and Minor because there is a larger, but much rarer species Greater Yellow Rattle.

A helpful National Trust sign at the entrance to Tongue Intake Plantation had told us that we might find Lungworts growing on the trees hereabouts. We didn’t. Gives us a great excuse to go back and have another look though…

A Lakes Bimble

Two Terrific Trips to Gaitbarrows

I know, I’ve been a bit Gaitbarrows obsessed recently. Still a notice on the gate near Challan Hall does describe it as ‘One of the Countries Finest Wildlife Sites’. So…completely justified then. I didn’t spot ‘my’ Roe Deer again, but there were more people about, on the second occasion mostly with me. Near to the same spot I did find a fallen tree trunk liberally festooned with fungi…

 

And in the wet meadow by the end of the lake, Ragged Robin…

Irises aplenty…

Very hairy Crosswort…

…and common old Clover:

There were snails galore, which seemed to come in two flavours. Big fellows like this…

Which it seems is the Common or Garden Snail, and dainty chaps like this…

Which is apparently the Banded Snail. Comes in several variations I found:

This is a lovely colour, don’t you think?

After my weekend experience I now feel qualified to sagely pronounce that this is a micro moth (ie a bit tiny)..

…beyond that I’m not prepared to go.

This on the other hand, is a damselfly…

I think a Northern Damselfly. It’s the flat-cap and the whippet which give the game away.

And this is certainly a spider…

With yellow stripes on the sides..

…and underside of the abdomen. But again, I’m stumped after that.

Round by the boardwalk I found some tiny flowers of what I think is Salad Burnet…

And this plant growing through the boardwalk, which as yet I have no name for…

Two Terrific Trips to Gaitbarrows

Several Sunny Sunday Strolls with S

In point of fact it was two – but that would have spoilt the alliteration. Fresh from my moth breakfast (no moths were eaten in the making of this post – see the last post for details) S and I headed for Eaves Wood. We were met with colour almost on our doorstep in the shape of these Orange Hawkweed, which according Aichele, Aichele, Schwegler and Schwegler are Not British. Well, they were growing along the path edge amongst their cousins the Oxeye Daisies and they may be Not British, but they’re most welcome as far as I’m concerned.

We climbed past the old water-tanks…

…built to supply the grand Victorian house which is now the Woodlands pub. We were heading for the open grassy area in the middle of the wood…

 

…where I thought we might see some interesting insect life. We did – butterflies, grasshoppers and a dragonfly, but not a single photo to show for it. The flowers were more obliging. We found some more Bird’s-foot Trefoil…

Rock rose…

And this which I thought might be Yarrow…

 

…but now I’m not so sure.

I’ve often noticed this tiny creeping plant growing here in amongst the limestone…

They really are very tiny and it was difficult to get a decent photo because S had transferred to his Houdah on my back and was snoring gently. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this is Heath Speedwell, although as ever I stand ready to be corrected.

Back in the wood, I was rather taken by the colour of these oak leaves growing close to the tree trunk…

On the margins of the wood, these flowers…

…reminded me of several other plants like this which I have noticed recently on path edges and roadside margins, sometimes this colour, sometimes with white flowers. I think that it might be Dame’s Violet another Not British species. Apparently potentially invasive, but on the plus side attractive to butterfly’s and moths.

The Wood Avens have been busy flowering, but have now started to produce their spiky fruiting bodies…

This plant is everywhere in the local woods, at least its pale green leaves often carpet whole areas of the woodland floor. But I haven’t noticed any flowers by which to identify them until Sunday…

Not that it has helped, yet…(any suggestions?)

The sycamores too are now seeding…

Another as yet unidentified bee on a hedgerow elderflower…

Later S and I were out again, walking to Bottom’s Lane and through Lambert’s Meadow to meet the rest of the family on the Row for a barbecue at a friend’s house.

Here’s the boy himself, demonstrating the correct use of a sun hat…

I know that I already posted a few dog-roses (hmmm – and a few last year) but I couldn’t resist the vibrancy of this one on the edge of Hagg Wood…

Meanwhile the honeysuckle flowers are about to open and bring with them the authentic aroma of summer evenings.

On Bottom’s lane we found this Meadow Vetchling…

And growing in several clumps on a dry-stone wall this…

…Stonecrop? Not sure which type – it doesn’t quite correspond to anything in my books. Perhaps it’s Not British.

S was more interested in this noisy cockerel:

Lambert’s meadow was a Battenburg treat of pink and yellow with Buttercups and Ragged Robin predominating.

Battenburg Cake….sounds a bit Not British to me. Hang on – it might be withdrawn from sale by the end of 2009? How dare they assail a bastion of the British tea time treat? Mushy peas too? Turkish Delight? It’s a conspiracy.

Several Sunny Sunday Strolls with S

Moth Breakfast

We had a busy weekend – fine weather, some family walking, barbecues with friends round and a garden full of kids.

Sunday started early for A and me with a trip to Leighton Moss. We had breakfast in the cafe there and then joined the members of the local Moth Group (Moth Fanciers, Moth Twitchers?) who had been out on the reserve all night with their traps. It had been a cold night with clear skies and they had not caught as many specimens as they expected to, but they still had quite a haul. They had also brought with them moths caught in traps elsewhere in Lancashire and some Privet Hawk Moth pupae, one of which conveniently hatched out that morning. ‘Probably the largest moth in the country’ apparently, although not as enormous as the Madagascan Moon Moth that we saw at the Natural History Museum recently. It was sat on the shirt of one of the attendants and was so implausibly large that I assumed that it was an elaborate broach.

A Privet Hawk Moth – inside a plastic container hence the apparent scuff marks in the photo. The rest of the photos are all my own fault.

We watched them empty the last two traps which was really quite exciting. A was the youngest participant by quite some margin and so was spoiled rotten. She had a moth on her finger for a while and correctly identified a Spectacle Moth which came out of one of the traps. ‘It looks like it’s wearing glasses!’

Inside the traps the moths were sat on cardboard egg trays and they mostly sat quite docilely whilst they were passed round, examined and admired, or tipped on to a wall to be photographed.

A Gold Spot – several of these came out of the traps, all varying slightly in colouring, but all quite stunning – quite metallic.

A Light Emerald – a relatively large moth, again there were several – perhaps my favourite of the ones we saw.

 

A Buff Ermine, we saw White Ermines too but I didn’t take a photo.

Elephant Hawk Moth

A Pale Tussock

A Sallow Kitten

A Green Carpet

This has been only a small selection of the moths that we saw. There were several Buff Tips which have astonishing camouflage and look like small twigs, but my only photo is not at all sharp unfortunately.

Finally, I can’t remember what this chap was called, I can’t find him in my books any ideas what he might be?

Although – I just had a peak at the excellent UKMoths and I think that he might be a Flame Shoulder.

I can see how this whole moth business could easily become an obsession.

Moth Breakfast

Bees and a Hover Fly

We have a hebe flowering at the bottom of our garden which has been very busy of late. I found a few moments to try to snap some of the bees at work there.

I’ve tentatively identified this as the cuckoo bee psithyrus barbutellus which apparently passes its eggs off onto the very similar looking bumble bee bombus terrestris in the same way that a cuckoo would. What distinguishes the former from the latter is the yellow patch on the abdomen just above the white.

I’m thinking that this…

…is a honey bee, but I’m happy to be corrected.

This is more of a puzzle however…

…it seems that it’s a hover fly, but beyond that I’ve struggled. It’s a little like a drone fly, but I think too brightly coloured. It’s also quite like myathropa florae but lacks a couple of pale bands on its thorax (upper back). My guide does say that there about 250 species of hover flies in the UK and it only covers a small proportion of that total, so perhaps its something not in my book.

Bees and a Hover Fly

Evening Light in the Meadows

On Thursday evening, with the in-laws baby-sitting, TBH and I managed to get out for a walk together. Not only that, but we were out a little earlier than I usually manage so that the sun was still shining when we set off from Jubilee Wood car park. TBH must have liked what she heard about my Monday walk because we were intent on reprising that route.

The sun was lighting the sorrel seeds to great effect:

Crossing the meadow this time I didn’t spend ages taking endless photos of grass seedheads, but I did stop to capture the silverweed…

Not much evidence of the yellow flowers here, but it’s the leaves which are really striking.

In the damp, and very shady, meadow by Haweswater the Irises were home to a number of very sluggish bumble bees and several snails:

We explored another small open area by the lakeside which has more bird’s-eye primroses…

…but which also looks as if it might be swallowed up by bracken. Whilst we were there a marsh harrier briefly appeared over the treetops. Too briefly, I’m afraid, for me to even attempt to get a photo.

Since we’d made an earlier start we had time to venture a little further into Gait Barrows and take a turn around one of the fields beyond Haweswater. We’d been in shade for a while, but this field was in full sunshine and how glorious it looked. Again the grasses had been allowed to grow and were dotted with a great variety of flowers. Huge amounts of yellow rattle have colonised. There were also many orchids. The photos I took of them only add to my confusion as again each plant’s flowers seem to very slightly in form.

It seems to me that this…

…could be heath spotted orchid. Whilst this is probably northern marsh orchid…

…almost looking purple despite my camera’s best efforts.

There were many more flowers though, some spread throughout the field, like the buttercups spilling over with sunlight…

Whereas others were more localised. A large patch of yellow, evident from quite some distance, turned out to be a colony of bird’s-foot trefoil…

Elsewhere there were oxeye daisies…

Our return journey was enlivened by an encounter with a roe deer, probably the same one that I saw on Monday. This time it was just beyond the edge of the wood and I thought that I might get a photo, but between the speed of the deer and the low light I failed. Next time!

We took a slightly different route back via Waterslack and Eaves Wood and in the process discovered a hole in the field, sadly fenced off with barbed wire (health and safety!) which seemed to be an old well, neatly lined with stones.

Evening Light in the Meadows

A Confusion of Orchids

The meadows at Gait Barrows nature reserve are grazed by ponies, but this year electric fences have been erected to leave large areas untouched. I spent a happy half hour there yesterday evening taking photographs of grass seed heads – yellow, orange, blue and silver, compact cigars and delicate wiry mobiles. I can see that I shall have to add something on grasses and sedges to my growing collection of identification books eventually.

There were flowers too – buttercups, speedwells, patches of woundwort and an area colonised by silverweed with its distinctive leaves and rock-rose like flowers. Patches of nettles too – especially where the ground had been turned over by rabbits or moles. The nettles seemed to be a favourite target for cuckoo spit, actually produced from sap by an insect, the froghopper, rather than a cuckoo. The field had washes of red where tall spikes of common sorrel flourished

The red is provided by seeds which have three red ribs around a central fruit. Sorrel is dioecious with male and female flowers on different plants. I shall be looking out for the flowers, but I suspect that they are unspectacular. The distinctive red tinge that sorrel gives to mature meadows is very fine however. The sorrel was another popular choice for froghoppers it seemed.

I presume that these are flowers just emerging – I’m not sure whether male or female. To be honest it may not even be sorrel – all identifications here should be treated as provisional and taken with a generous dose of salt. Tantalisingly, the cobweb in the top left corner holds a green and red spider half hidden by a leaf, which I didn’t even notice at the time. Spiders – there’s something else I know next to nothing about.

As I clambered over the stile  and entered the meadow, I briefly caught the bright copper streak of a kestrel winging away to the tall trees along the field edge. Then found this remnant perhaps of an encounter between predator and prey?

Most unfortunate obviously for the bird concerned, but a great opportunity to take a close look at the feathers…

Any clever ornithologists have any ideas as to the identity of the victim?

Update – it’s pheasant I think, though I’d be happy to be put right.

The longer grass seemed to hide me a little from the many rabbits which live in these fields and it was amusing to watch them pop out of the warren only to scurry back again moments later. In the woods by Haweswater a solitary roe deer seemed quite unconcerned by my presence and continued to forage just yards from the path. Sadly in the thicket of tree trunks and the darkness of the wood it was pointless to try and take a photo.

In the damp meadow by the lake which is enclosed by the woods there was ragged robin and irises which were quite past their best, although the bees didn’t seem to mind. Surely there would be orchids too? Flattened grass leading off the main path into soggy feet territory gave a clue and lead to – more confusion. The light was very poor and so the photos aren’t up to much, but I’m going to post them because perhaps somebody out there can help? There were a number of dark purple flowers, which as usual my camera, which has an aversion to purple flowers, rendered as pink.

The three purple flowers I photographed, it seems to me all vary slightly in the shape of the petals. The wide three part lip is the right shape for heath spotted orchid, but that is apparently pink or white, and these really were purple.

There seem to be several orchids which grow in boggy places and have patterned purple flowers – early marsh orchid, northern marsh orchid, Irish marsh orchid etc, but I have a guide to this area, the Bittern, put out by the AONB landscape trust, which includes photos of the 14 orchid species which can be found here (of 50 nationally apparently), and it only includes common spotted orchid and northern marsh orchid.

This plant most closely resembles their photo of northern marsh orchid. To add to the confusion however, their photo of common spotted orchid looks like the heath spotted orchid in both of my field guides. Common spotted orchid has a much more deeply divided lip, like this white orchid I inexpertly shot…

 

I think this probably is common spotted orchid, with added cuckoo spit. Perhaps the others are all northern marsh orchid?

At this point I realised that somewhere in all of my groveling around to take photos I had lost the lens cap for my teleconvertor (which I hadn’t used at all anyway.)

I decided to retrace my steps to look for it, without holding out much hope of finding it, but first continued to my intended destination where I hoped to find some bird’s-eye primrose flowering. It was. But sadly my photo is even worse than the orchid photos and so the appearance here of bird’s-eye primrose will have to wait for another day. See them here if you can’t wait!

By the lake here is another incredibly tranquil spot.

I always half expect to see otters, although I never have and perhaps never will. The open area where the bird’s-eye primrose grow is being swallowed up by spreading junipers and encroaching bracken. I wonder what, if anything, Natural England – who manage the nature reserve – will do to ensure their continued presence.

Back in the woods, the flowers on a guelder rose, which isn’t a rose at all, shone out in the darkness and somewhat to my surprise a photo captured that quite well…

Heading back through the damp meadow and searching for my missing lens cap, it was evidently slugs and snails time – they were everywhere. I was taken by a very striking little snail with bands of chocolate brown and Cornish ice-cream cream yellow on its shell. I tried to photograph it but knocked it from the plant stem it was clinging to and when it dropped into the foliage it disappeared for good. Clearly, I wasn’t going to find my lens cap if I’d dropped it somewhere similar. (I didn’t)

Back in the woods the roe deer was standing watching me from the path. She moved aside but then continued to feed. Roe deer are normally far more cautious – I wonder why she was so unperturbed?

Close to finishing my walk I caught a glimpse over tree tops of a corner of the sky where high thin cloud was banded with mauves, pinks and purples like fingernail sized shells you might find on the beach.

A Confusion of Orchids