Lichen and….Rose of Sharon?

A walk in Eaves Wood, the day after our encounter with Mrs Gaskell (yes, I know I’m even further behind than usual).  Typically, there was much nattering for the adults and enthusiastic tree climbing for the kids (and Dr A).

I found this lichen on a tree stump. Sheila once commented here about the frustration of being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none when it comes to identifying flora and fauna. Lichen is one of the areas in which I can’t even claim to be a jack-of-all-trades. I did once borrow a book on lichens from the library, but didn’t really feel much better equipped to identify them as a result. So I will, for now at least, content myself with dumb admiration.

I’m getting better with flowers, but this low shrub has me confused (again!). Although it is superficially a little like tutsan, the leaves and flowers aren’t quite right. So – another Saint John’s Wort then: rose of sharon? But ‘The Wildflower Key’ tells me that the flowers of rose of sharon are solitary. And these don’t look very solitary to me….

So – stumped again.

Lichen and….Rose of Sharon?

Lindeth Tower

We were joined for a weekend by TBH’s brother Dr A and the three of us, and his niece, (are you following this?) joined one of the organised walks celebrating the bicentenary of the village and taking a look at some of the historic buildings. The stories told were fascinating, and would provide material for many posts, but the ghostly grey lady and the spite walls will have to wait for another time: for me the clear highlight of the walk was being able to satisfy my curiosity about Lindeth Tower. The writer Elizabeth Gaskell used to holiday in the  house…

….of which the tower is …well a folly, or an elaborate summer house, and some of her novels were apparently written, at least partly, in the tower. For this celebratory day a lady playing the part of Mrs Gaskell read some extracts from her letters about Silverdale. In one letter Gaskell described the tower as a Peel Tower and a remnant of the border reivers, which struck me as very odd since it was written only shortly after the tower was built in 1842. Nobody seems very sure why Mr Fleetwood, a banker from Preston, built the tower – was it so that he could look out over the Bay and his investments in shipping? The view is certainly very fine, even on a very grey day…

 Caravans and Arnside Knott.

I like to think that Mr Fleetwood wasn’t up there looking after his pecuniary interests, just enjoying the view and his very own little castle – after all the garden has a high wall around it with at one point steps up to a belvedere…

…where the wall is once again castellated. Perhaps he was just a big kid at heart!

Lindeth Tower

Roe Deer

Another glorious Thursday (naturally). My last afternoon working in Carnforth, but I didn’t walk home – bad planning on my part. I did get out much later however for a walk on Arnside Knott. The sun was already close to setting when I began my walk.

 Robin’s pincushion Gall or Bedeguar Gall

Agrimony (the ‘mystery plant’ I was confused by on Warton Crag before it came into flower)

The variety and profusion of wildflowers was fantastic, but the light was not always conducive to photos.

In a clearing in the woods I met….

…a roe deer buck. He seemed quite calm about my presence and continued to graze and scratch, occasionally pausing to stare in my direction. I took lots of photos, but this was by far and away the sharpest.

When I came out of the woods at Heathwaite much of the light was provided by the moon. I’m very impressed that the camera managed to produce any kind of image….

…of the betony, which was growing in a huge purple mass in the grass there, along with orchids and self-heal, ox-eye daisies and thyme, ladies-bedstraw….

A moonlit view south along the coast.

I saw two more roe deer here. Well, the first I mainly heard, first the drumming of its running feet as it bounded through the long grass and into the trees and then the harsh dog-like barking from deep in the woods. I listened to a tawny owl for a while and then noticed a second, smaller roe deer down where the first had run from. I think it was another young one, the third I’ve seen this year. I watched it for a while – even took some photos (perhaps best described as ‘impressionistic’) using the camera’s available light setting .

Then I used the last of the available light to climb back up to the top of the hill to watch the lights coming on across Cumbria.

Roe Deer

When do we give the moths their breakfast?


Elephant Hawkmoth

Last weekend (ie just over a week ago) an annual highlight came round again – the moth breakfast at Leighton Moss. B, who came last year, was telling a friend about the event beforehand and described it as “magical” which is spot on. After a cooked breakfast in the visitor centre cafe participants get to watch the emptying of the moth traps of keen local moth fanciers, some of which have been out on the reserve over night, others at Myer’s Allotment a patch of land nearby owned by a butterfly conservation group and others, I suspect, elsewhere. This year little S joined us for the first time, which meant that TBH could come too.

A fabulous time was had by all, but particularly B….

..who had various moths on his arms and hands through the morning, here a poplar hawkmoth and the same elephant hawkmoth seen in the photo above. Shortly before he had an eyed hawkmoth too.


S, seen here with a poplar hawkmoth frantically pumping its wings to warm them prior to flying off, was less confident, but enjoyed the event even so.

A was happier enjoying the moths from a distance, especially after the poplar hawkmoth seemed determined to crawl up her arm towards her face…

She also took over camera duties when the poplar hawkmoth landed on my shirt…

One more shot of the poplar hawkmoth…


….(hasn’t the shade rendered the colours differently!) just to show the rd flashes on the forewings which the moth uses to startle potential predators which get too close.

Eyed hawkmoth.

Large emerald.


Light emerald.



Burnished brass (this SHONE – the photo just doesn’t get it sadly)

The uncertain (I think).

Dark arches.

The gothic.

Barred straw.

Double square-spot.

Scarce footman (?)

One more shot of the poplar hawkmoth on B’s arm.

There were a lot more moths to be seen, but many of them were inside and I gave up on trying to photograph them. S was perturbed because he had noticed that whilst we had eaten a fulsome full English, we hadn’t fed the moths yet.

Before we left the reserve we took a stroll down to Lillian’s hide from where we had a fine view of a great crested grebe sitting on a nest.

And then watched a marsh harrier flying over the reedbeds behind the mere in front of the hide.

  And had a little walk to the pond-dipping area.


When do we give the moths their breakfast?

Even Toothache….

…has its compensations. Having not slept well through the wee small hours, when I woke again at 5 with a proper face-ache I decided to get up and have done with it. After a leisurely pint of tea to wash down a tablet breakfast, I was soon at Leighton Moss under immaculate blue skies. There seemed to be more small bird activity along the causeway path then I would usually expect. I saw several warblers at unusually close quarters. I was heading for Lower Hide. On the path round I passed several….

….tall common valerian plants.

Just behind the hide I watched for quite some time as a bird circulated between several high treetop and shrub perches, singing the whole time. The song was a complex mix of sweet notes and the guttural whirrs and clicks that some warblers make. The flights seemed to be some sort of display with a climb at roughly 45 degrees, a similar descent, rapid wing beats and continuous singing. I took several photos, which, whilst not great, are sufficient to show that the bird was a sedge warbler. I subsequently found that sedge warblers were sometimes know as mock nightingales because of their fine singing.

From the hide I watched a great crested grebe in the mere and a marsh harrier flying beyond it, but it was the birds in the reeds which really caught my attention.

Particularly these reed buntings.

And the blue tits which were briefly with them.

I think that this is a juvenile, because of the lack of blue on the head.

I also took no end of shots of a reed warbler singing energetically from the reeds, sadly none of them came out too well.

When I eventually dragged myself away from the hide and started for home and family and breakfast, I found that the sedge warbler was still energetically circuiting the same few perches singing every bit as enthusiastically as before. I also startled another roe deer with fawn, but this pair were away very quickly – there was no question of me getting any photos.

I would have said that this was limestone woundwort, but I see from ‘The Wildflower Key’ that in fact it is marsh woundwort. The leaves and flowers are slightly wrong for limestone woundwort.


 Star sedge (I think).


These flowers, on tall stems, looked rather insignificant at first glance, but on closer inspection are rather cheery. I think they might be nipplewort, in which case I was lucky to catch them on a sunny morning since they are reluctant to open in cloudy conditions or afternoons.

I had a brief but stunning view of a marsh harrier, then spotted this male broad-bodied chaser sunning himself by the path.

Frustratingly, I also had good clear view of a male reed bunting singing from a prominent perch on a shrub and of another path-side broad-bodied chaser, this time a yellow female, but couldn’t get decent photos of either. Another time.

Even Toothache….


Last Thursday afternoon. Glorious sunshine of course. A post-work walk up perhaps the quietest of the little limestone hills in the area, Haverbrack.

This could be giant bellflower – it certainly looks like the plant I saw around this time last year which I thought could be giant bellflower.

Haverbrack reaches a towering 110m above sea level. But it delivers a great deal of bang for its buck.

Milnthorpe Sands, the River Kent, Whitbarrow and the Eastern Fells of the Lake District.

From the top of Haverbrack a path provides a narrow ride through the woods which once again proved to be very rich in minibeasts.

I think that the two spots make this a male meadow brown whereas the one I had photographed a week before was female.

 Leucozona locurum.

Whilst chasing after decent shots of butterflies and hoverflies I noticed some bramble leaves apparently cocooned in gossamer. I brushed the web to see what would happen…

…and this pisaura mirabilis came scuttling round from the underside of the web. I didn’t notice the tiny spiders which you can see in the lower part of the photo. But then I began to notice that there were many more of these webs – or, as it turns out, nests….

Each was similar: a fist sized ball encasing some leaves, often at the end of a ground-hugging branch; within the ball a smaller dark ball, which would separate into many tiny spiders as I approached…

and a white lump…

…perhaps the remnants of the egg-case that the female spider carried around until the eggs were almost ready to hatch.

When I noticed the spiders and webs I was actually trying to get close to this skipper….

…which I think might be a large skipper (which also makes me think that I may have misidentified the photo of the other skipper I posted recently, which I now suspect was probably a large skipper too.)

 A many-hued green-bottle.

This hoverfly is one of many species which imitate wasps and I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to which one it is.

This one however…

…looks like it’s trying to pass itself off as a bumblebee. I wondered whether it might be one of the many forms of Merodon equistris which is enormously variable because different individuals imitate several different species of bumblebee. But – I left a request for help with identification on the Dipterists Forum and the word has come back that this is a male Eristalis intricaria which is another variable species which imitates bumblebees.

I’d already seen and photographed a red admiral, when a second arrived, flew close over my shoulder and then apparently disappeared. In fact it had landed on the back of my shirt. Reasoning that it therefore was probably not too frightened of me, I decided to see how close I could get for some photos.

Very close:


I wondered whether the gossamer used for the spider’s nests, might have different properties that that used for webs, because this grasshopper..

…didn’t seem to be in the least bit worried by the proximity of either the nest or of the many spiders within.


Glow Worm

I joined a National Trust ranger-led walk on Arnside Knott last Saturday night. The idea was to see bats and glow worms, but it was cold and misty, not good conditions for either. We saw many roding woodcock and a few bats, but it seemed like we might draw a blank on the glow worm front.

But when we dropped down hill at little we did eventually see two glow worms. Not a worm at all, but a beetle, the larval stage lives on the ecotone between woods and grassland, eating snails. During the short adult stage the flightless female climbs a grass stalk and then the end of her abdomen glows green – an attempt to attract a flying male. Apparently between 10 and 11 pm is the best time to see them – a tiny but bright point of light near the ground.

Glow Worm

The Hay Meadow

Or: Fleeting Moments of Wonder VI

It was a short walk from all the insect action of the woodland ride to the top of Thrang Brow from where the view north to the Lakes is excellent. From there I descended to the Hay Meadows which are part of the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve.

The flowers were spectacular.

And the (sorrel?) seeds.

There were lots of orchids….

Mainly common spotted orchids…

…but also some northern marsh orchid…

…which were much more purple than this photo suggests.

I also followed, and eventually got photos of…

..this meadow brown.

It took many attempts to get close enough to get this photo. I don’t think my efforts were particularly helped by….

…the yellow rattle which is no longer yellow, but having gone to seed definitely rattles and is abundant here. Any idea I might have had about creeping about inconspicuously were dashed by the rustle I made every time I moved my feet.

There were more orchids by the boardwalk path near Haweswater…

In the small, damp and shady meadow by Haweswater I startled a roe deer. She turned and bounced away. I caught another movement in the corner of my eye and then spotted another, smaller animal staring at the deer from amongst the long dense vegetation. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it was a fox, but then I realised that it was  another roe deer, a fawn, with a darker and duller coat than its mother. I took lots of photos, but only this one…

…which doesn’t show the fawn, was any good.

Another northern marsh orchid.

The Hay Meadow