Foulshaw Moss Again

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Figwort.

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Wasp on Figwort.

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Green-veined White on Tufted Vetch.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Large Skipper on Thistle.

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Large Skipper on Bramble.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (I think) on Thistle.

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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on Ragwort.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Arnside Knott and Meathop Fell on the skyline.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Whitbarrow Scar behind.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, adult, female I think.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, juvenile.

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Black Darter, female.

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Foulshaw Moss.

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Common Lizard.

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A web-tent. I couldn’t see any caterpillars within.

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Scots Pines.

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Reed Bunting, male.

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Marbled Orb Weaver Spider (perhaps).

These photos were taken just over a month ago on an evening visit to Foulshaw Moss whilst A was at her weekly dancing lessons. Since they were taken, we’ve been away for three weeks, camping in Wales and then France, and this little outing feels like a distant memory.

I have enjoyed looking through them, however, and trying to put names to things I recorded. Not here are the many small birds which tumbled about in the trees, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Linnets and Chaffinches. Also missing are the crickets and/or grasshoppers which I saw, but failed to photograph and the Ospreys, Adders and Large Heath Butterflies which I hope to see when I visit, but which have always eluded me so far.

The Black Darter, Britain’s smallest species of Dragonfly, is new to me, so that should probably be the highlight, but it was the adult Great Spotted Woodpecker, which I heard first and then picked out in flight, flying, unusually, towards me rather than away and landing at the top of a dead Birch relatively nearby, which will stick in my mind. Also, the hordes of Wasps feeding on Figwort flowers, reminding me of my observation last year that the flowers and the Wasps seem to have coevolved so that a Wasp’s head is a perfect fit for a Figwort flower.

 

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Foulshaw Moss Again

Kirklands Kent’s Bank

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This tower, on Kirklands, by Kent’s Bank, which is a sort of suburb of Grange-over-Sands, was built as a folly, but nobody seems to know when or by whom. Allegedly, it’s on the site of a much earlier church and apparently open-air services are still held here sometimes in the summer. I was here as a continuation of the grassland monitoring, with Morecambe Bay Partnerships, which I helped with last year. We had a very short refresher course in the Victoria Hall in Grange and then came out here for some in-the-field revision. There’s no official public access to this area: we had permission, but judging by the well-walked paths in the area, the locals probably have a sort of de facto right-to-roam anyway. One of the volunteers in the party also volunteers on archeological digs and has worked here on three caves which revealed evidence of human habitation going back to just over ten thousand years ago. Also, even older remains of horses, elk and lynx.

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The hillside behind the folly, dipping into the cloud, is Hampsfell (not featured on this blog for far too long). The fact that lowly Hampsfell was in the cloud gives an indication of the weather – after several days which, even when cloudy, were still quite hot – the weather had turned overcast and a bit chilly.

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The hill seen across the Kent Estuary here is Arnside Knott – this spot is really not far from home, although it takes quite a while to drive because of a lack of a road bridge over the lower reaches of the Kent. One day, hopefully, a pedestrian bridge alongside the rail bridge will connect Arnside and Grange. On this occasion, I risked Northern Rails dodgy service and caught the train.

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Here’s the ‘team’ heading downhill. The low, wooded hill in the distance is Humphrey Head, another place I haven’t been to for quite some time.

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Botanising.

It was good to be out with like-minded people, not necessarily for a tutorial as such, but just to get back into the routine of how to carry out the surveys and the very close observation which is required in order to pick out some of the very tiny species which can be good indicators of healthy limestone grassland.

I did often get distracted by other things however. There was a Kestrel hovering overhead which I photographed several times, but on such a gloomy day none of the pictures came out very well.

Also…

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…this very dark and hairy insect which I thought would be distinctive enough to easily identify from a field guide. But sadly not: it looks to me like a mining bee, an Andrena speciesbut I’m not confident that it is one of those, and not at all sure which particular species.

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Hoverfly – possibly Helophilus Pendulus.

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Caterpillar of the Six-spot Burnett Moth.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil (a food plant of the Six-spot Burnett Caterpillar).

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A Bedstraw. There are lots of different bedstraws and distinguishing between them is exceptionally difficult.

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed. There are lots of different Hawkweeds too, but this one, at least, is relatively easy to pick out.

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Lesser Trefoil (I think).

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Pig-nut. This plant has tiny tubers which taste, well, nutty. Pigs love them, and apparently they used to be very popular with country children too. Hard to try them now because it’s illegal to dig-up plants on somebody else’s land.

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Rock Rose (in profusion).

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Yellow Rattle, or Hay Rattle.

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Yellow Rattle seed capsules. They rattle, hence the name.

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Burnet Rose.

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Kidney Vetch.

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Heath Speedwell (that was the consensus opinion anyway).

Previous visit to Hampsfell here.

Previous visit to Humphrey Head here.

How to forage for pignuts.

Findings in Kent’s Bank Cave.

 

Kirklands Kent’s Bank

Sunshine in the Garden.

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Bank Holiday Monday was another glorious day. We spent the morning sunning ourselves in the garden again and then most of the afternoon taking an interminably long time to prepare for an overnight trip (of which more to follow).

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We’ve regularly had a female Broad-bodied Chaser in the garden over the last fortnight. I had convinced myself that it was the same one each time, since it seemed to be quite small of its kind, but then, a couple of days ago, I saw two close together, both of the same size, which has obviously put a huge dent in my conviction. Whether or not it was the same one each time, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos.

 

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I took some photos of flowers too. This must be a knapweed of some description. TBH has planted them in the garden in several places. The bees seem to like them too…

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Large Red Damselfly.

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Peony.

I’ve been noticing the sounds of Starlings a lot whilst out and about, since coming across the nest on the Lots. B and I spotted some Starlings which were surely visiting a nest in a hedgerow beside Moss Lane. There have been a lot of Starlings on the feeders in our neighbour’s garden too.

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Here they are perched in the top of our Silver Birch.

 

Sunshine in the Garden.

Weeds

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I’ve just embarked on reading Richard Mabey’s book ‘Weeds – How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature’. I haven’t got very far with it yet, but I can tell that I’m going to like it. Apparently, many of our most familiar weeds are not indigenous plants, but arrived with our Neolithic ancestors along with the seeds of the crops they brought with them, and so are ultimately from Mesopotamia, the cradle of agriculture. Our garden is full of half-tolerated interlopers which have quietly invaded over several summers. The Bluebells which have colonised one of the beds are, I’m pretty sure, Spanish Bluebells, rather than the native variety, which have become a pest nationally because they are spreading to our woods where they hybridise with the native species, producing a highly fertile offspring which loses some of the characteristics of the native type.

Green Alkanet would, I suspect, happily completely take over our garden if left to get on with it. It’s a species introduced as a herbal long ago, but is now completely naturalised.

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Bees in particular seem to love it. I think that this might be an Early Bumblebee…

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…which seem to be enormously variable in colouration. Those pollen baskets are very laden!

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Columbine is, as far as I know, a genuinely native plant, which has, happily, seeded all over our garden.

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The flowers are stunning.

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I can’t find this little chap…

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…in my field guide, but she/he is an odd looking character.

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Rounded Snail (perhaps?)

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Blackbird.

 

Weeds

Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill

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A Saturday which, forecast wise, hadn’t promised much, suddenly brightened around lunchtime. Over our bowls of soup, I quizzed the family about their plans for the rest of the day, but for one reason or another they were all indisposed. I wanted to make the most of what was turning into a glorious afternoon, and it didn’t take me long to decide what to do: another hunt for Purple Saxifrage, having been a little too early for it on Ingleborough just over a week before.

I hadn’t actually made my mind up whether to tackle the walk on the western slopes of Ingleborough, which had been the original plan for my previous outing, or to head back to Pen-y-ghent where I first saw the saxifrage last year, but as I drove north from Ingleton I noticed that the Hill Inn was doing a roaring trade, likewise the Station Inn at Ribblehead. More importantly, there was a distinct lack of parking spaces and some of the roadside parking was decidedly dodgy, so I opted for Horton and Pen-y-ghent. As I drove down Ribblesdale towards Horton, I passed scores of walkers coming the other way up the road. Presumably, many of them were ‘doing’ the Three Peaks. They’d picked a fine day for it, but to these eyes at least, a lot of them looked hot and knackered and not particularly happy.

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Anyway, Horton was relatively quiet and I was soon climbing the nice steady Brackenbottom path, stopping regularly to take photos of the changing views of Pen-y-ghent.

There were still quite a few people about; mostly, but not exclusively, on their way down. I was quite surprised that there seemed to be a few parties following me up the hill, given that I’d only set-off from my car at around 3.30pm and most walkers seem to be fairly rigid about the times which are suitable for beginning and ending a trip.

As I was taking this photo…

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…a couple stopped to ask me if I was “walking or sight-seeing?” They also wanted to know about the zoom on my camera.

“It’s huge,” I told them

Although, in retrospect, it’s actually more true to say that, of its kind, it has a relatively modest zoom. I thought I might be able to demonstrate.

“You see that limestone cliff pretty much directly below the summit? I’m looking for Purple Saxifrage, and I think maybe I can see a bit of purple from here – the camera should tell me whether I’m right or not.”

I probably sounded like a pompous buffoon, but anyway…

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Taa-dah!

This not only impressed the punters, but also settled my immediate plans: I would stick to the path as far as the lower line of cliffs and would then traverse across beneath those cliffs in search of saxifrage to photograph. After that? Well, time would tell: maybe I could continue below the cliffs as far as the next path up to the summit; or perhaps I would retrace my steps; or maybe, seeing how broken those cliffs are, I could work out a route up through them to the top.

It can be a quixotic business this flowering hunting lark: when I got there, the slope just below the cliffs, which I knew would be steep, seemed maybe a bit steeper than I would have preferred…

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I don’t think it helped my aching calves and slightly wobbly knees that I kept staring up at the cliffs searching for purple…

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I think the sheerness of the rocks was magnifying, in my mind, the gradient of the mossy ground beneath.

At least the treasure I’d come seeking was there, in some abundance….

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I was just pondering on what might be pollinating these early flowers at this altitude when a Bumblebee buzzed over my shoulder in search of nectar.

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I suppose coincidences like this, when the workings of the old grey matter and events in the outside world somehow conspire to run in tandem, only seem eerily common because whenever they happen it’s striking and we remember it.

This bee might be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee, or a White-tailed Bumblebee, or a Northern White-tailed Bumblebee, workers of which species, I’ve just discouragingly read, are ‘virtually indistinguishable in the field’. Or maybe it’s none of the above. Bumblebee identification is very tricky.

Whilst I took these pictures, a second bee, some kind of Red-tailed variety, began to forage from the same clump of flowers, but proved too elusive for me and my camera.

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There seems to be something small and orangey-brown attached to the bees behind, and in this photo…

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…although they are hard to see, several more clinging to her neck. I wondered whether they might be mites, so did a little lazy internet research. Apparently Bumblebees do sometimes host mites, but, somewhat to my surprise, the mites are thought to be generally benign. They live in the bees nests, subsisting on honey and wax and then, at certain times of the year, piggyback a lift to flowers in order to jump a ride on another bee and find a new nest. Free-loaders! However, whether these are mites or not I’m still none-the-wiser.

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Whilst the airiness of my position had upped my pulse a bit, when I stopped staring up at the flowers, and stepped down a yard or two from the cliff I kept feeling that the next section didn’t look too bad after all. Once or twice I decided to descend to easier ground, but always shortly found easier going without that necessity. So, in fits and starts, I made it round to the base of the big crag where I had first spotted the flowers from below…

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Down below…

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…it seemed that Pen-y-ghent, like Ingleborough, has had a substantial landslip, something I shall have to come back to investigate another time.

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At first, I thought that this feature, on the left of the cliff, might be a tower, but in fact it’s a large fissure, what climber’s would call a chimney, I believe. Just beyond here the cliffs, which had always been rather intermittent, gave out altogether, at least for a while. Above I could see more steep slopes and then the second line of crags, presumably of gritstone. These were taller crags and fairly imposing, but on the left you can see the edge of a wide gully which looked like it might be a chink in the mountain’s armour.

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Close to the gully…

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I probably could have got up the gully, it was neither particularly steep or very exposed, but the first little scramble required a large step-up which, not as agile as even the clumsy, inept scrambler I once was, I decided not to attempt. Instead I contoured out on the ledge roughly half-way up the crag opposite.

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And turning the corner, found that I’d also turned the crags and was faced only with a short walk, admittedly up a steepish and unpleasantly loose slope, to the summit plateau.

A wall runs across the top…

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…and a clever S-shaped bend makes two shelters one facing east and one west. I sat in the west facing one, with the sun and a hazy Ingleborough in view.

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It was around 6.30 in the evening. I put a brew on and sat back to enjoy the fact that, after all the crowds I had seen earlier, I now had the top entirely to myself. It can be done, even on this most popular of hills.

Well, not entirely to myself: I could hear the accelerating croaky-rattle of grouse and then heard and felt, rather than saw, something whirr over my head. Thinking that the bird had been so close that it must have been intending to land on the wall until it saw my head, I stood to take a look around…

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Skylark.

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As I was finishing my brew, I heard a runner coming up the path behind me. He’d been surprised by the heat and was gasping for a drink. Fortunately, I had two bottles of water with me – far more than I was ever going to need, so I was able to help out.

Leaving the top of Pen-y-ghent I had to cross the end of this small pond…

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…but as I approached, something jumped from a nearby rock and splashed into the water. Only then did the constant rhythmic droning sound, which I had vaguely attributed to a distant tractor engine or perhaps an unseen drone or helicopter, properly come into focus. And looking along the pool, I could instantly recognise its source…

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My presence caused many of the Frogs to submerge and disappear, but some were not so easily discouraged and I watched, listened and took photos for around twenty minutes.

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I’ve seen this before, once in Wark Forest back in 1985 when my Dad and I were close to finishing the Pennine Way, and the other time at Lanty’s Tarn when we were staying in Patterdale YHA for a big family Easter get-together, which must be of a similar vintage.

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I did think I’d seen Frogs mating much nearer home at Leighton Moss a few years ago, and then again a year later, but now I’m completely convinced that those were in fact Toads.

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What the photos can’t capture is the singing and the frenetic activity, with balls of frogs rolling and surging and other frogs pushing and jumping to join in.

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Frogspawn.

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I think the Frog on the right here has his throat bulging pre-song like a tiny Pavarotti.

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Perhaps this photo, with the boiling surface of the pond and the indistinguishable welter of Frog flesh does go some way to capture their energetic couplings. Hmmm…perhaps ‘couplings’ is the wrong word?

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Some of the Frogs, meanwhile, held themselves aloof. This one seemed to be keeping a beady eye on me.

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Eventually, I dragged myself away. Daylight was short, I knew, and the extension over Plover Hill would add a few miles to my walk, but the light was glorious and it seemed churlish not to continue.

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Plover Hill.

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Red Grouse.

I think that the male, at least, has similar ideas to the Frogs.

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Looking back to Pen-y-ghent.

I suspect I’ve probably been up Plover Hill before, but if I have, I’ve forgotten.

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The descent towards Foxup Moor has one short steep section, but a cleverly constructed section of path cuts down across the slope at an angle, taking the sting out of it.

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Looking back up to Plover Hill.

With both me and the sun losing height, I knew that sunset must be imminent. I kept walking 50 yards or so and then taking another photo.

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Ingleborough on the left. Whernside on the right?

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The last of the sun.

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Afterglow.

Fortunately, sunset photographs can be misleading: I still had plenty of light to walk by…

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The path is Foxup Road, which, at first at least, gave excellent walking through what looked to be very rough and tussocky country. The stream is Swarth Gill Sike…

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…which looked to have waterfalls upstream and would make for an interesting route on to Plover Hill for another day.

At this point I stopped taking pictures and concentrated on getting as far down the hill as I could while the light remained. Sadly, the path eventually became fairly boggy, which was a bit awkward in the poor light. When I reached the end of the walled lane down into Horton, I realised that I couldn’t read the fingerpost and so finally switched on my headtorch. But I knew the walk from there would be relatively easy anyway. My final mile or so, in the gathering gloom, was enlivened by the lyrical calls of Pee-wits and a cacophony of squabbling Jackdaws settling down to roost in a nearby wood.

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Just over 10 miles and 500m of ascent. Not bad for a spur of the moment thing.

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Not that it’s the stats I will remember!

Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill

A Different World.

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Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

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Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

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I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

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A male Small White, I think.

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Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

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Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

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The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

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Grasshopper.

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I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

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Speckled Wood.

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A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

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I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

A Different World.

Gait Barrows Again

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Female Common Darter.

A very pleasant wander around Gait Barrows which happened almost a month ago now – how the summer has flown by! It was memorable for the large number of dragonflies I saw – although very few would pose for photos – and, rather sadly, for the dead Fox cub I came across.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

As I manoeuvred to find a good position from which take the photograph above, I almost trod on this large Frog…

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Bumblebee on Betony.

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Speckled Wood.

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The ‘mystery plant’ – flowers still not open, but showing more colour – I need to go back to check on their progress.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

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Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

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Grasshoppers have often been evident from their singing on local walks, but I haven’t always seen them, or my photos haven’t come out well when I have.

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Although this doesn’t have the distinctive shieldbug shape, I think that this is a fourth instar of the Common Green Shieldbug – an instar being one of the developmental stages of a nymph. This website is very helpful.

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Hoverfly.

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On a previous walk I’d been thinking that Hemp Agrimony, which is very common at Gait Barrows, was a disappointing plant in as much as it’s large flower-heads didn’t seem to be attracting much insect life, but that seems to have been a false impression, because on this occasion quite the opposite was true.

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Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

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Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

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The verges of one particular overgrown hedgerow at Gait Barrows are always busy with Rabbits, which usually scatter as I approach, but two of them played chicken with me – not really seeming very concerned and only hopping on a little each time I got closer.

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Time was marching on and I was keen to head for home, but I diverted slightly up the track towards Trowbarrow because I knew that I would find more Broad-leaved Helleborines there. These were much taller and more vigorous than the single plant I had seen earlier.

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Curiously, there was a wasp feeding on the flowers, as there had been on the first one I saw. I noticed earlier this year that wasps seem to like Figwort, perhaps the same is true Helleborines.

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Figwort and Helleborine both have small, tubular flowers – it may be the case that wasps are well adapted to take advantage of this particular niche – different insects definitely favour different kinds of flowers.

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Gait Barrows Again