Sheffield Pike Circuit

Glencoyne Bay – Mossdale – Glenridding Dodd – Heron Pike – Sheffield Pike – White Stones – Hart Side – Birkett Fell – Brown Hills – Swineside Knott – Watermillock Common – Common Fell – Round How – Bracken How – Aira Force – Glencoyne Bay

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The view from Glencoyne Bay – Gowbarrow on the left, part of Place Fell on the right.

This was the weekend after our Scotland trip. Note the blue skies. The week before our weekend at Bridge of Orchy I was in Langdale enjoying splendid weather. The week after by Ullswater: more sunshine. But for our long planned get-together: wild weather. Sod’s Law in action!

I parked at Glencoyne Bay, which, on this sunny Saturday, was surprisingly quiet. Most people there seemed to have water-sports in mind and were unloading canoes from roof-racks or inflating paddle boards. It’s a National Trust car-park, so it’s ‘free’ for members like me, just like the Stickle Barn car park a fortnight before had been, a fact which pleases me out of all proportion to the money saved.

I’d spotted a dotted black line on the map: a path which would take me up Mossdale to the col between Heron Pike and Glenridding Dodd. It climbed steeply through woods at first, and, unusually this spring, I actually felt pretty warm as I climbed.

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Colt’s-foot.
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Large bee, small daffodils, or both?

Photos of Robins are a staple of this blog, but have been far and few between of late; here’s a couple to compensate…

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Robin. Ragin’ Full-on.
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Because the path climbed quite steeply, views quickly opened out behind…

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Ullswater.

The route spiralled in on Gelnridding Dodd. I would be coming back to the col to head for Heron Pike before long.

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Heron Pike.
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Nab Crag and Blea Cove on Birkhouse Moor.

There was, inevitably, a cold breeze on the top, but I nestled down in the heather, just off the summit and stopped for a brew with a view…

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Gowbarrow, Ullswater and Place Fell from Glenridding Dodd.
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Nab Crag and Catstye Cam.
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Looking back to Glenridding Dodd, Place Fell and Glenridding.

The ascent of Heron Pike is steep and rocky, in complete contrast to the moorland which follows up to Sheffield Pike. Heron Pike, a Birkett, is not really a summit at all, but was a great place to hunker down in the shelter of some crags for a view with an even better view.

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Ullswater from Heron Pike.

I’m glad that I stopped there. Out of the wind it was lovely, but as I continued to climb the wind became increasingly bitter and shelter was not always easy to find.

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Helvellyn from one of the Heron Pike tarns.
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Watermillock Common and the Mell Fells beyond from Sheffield Pike.

What made me choose Sheffield Pike from all the other potential hills in the Lakes? A recently retired former colleague had posted photos of Sheffield Pike and Glencoyne on Fakebook, which had me thinking about how very long it must be since I last climbed these hills. It wasn’t far from there to planning a trip to Ullswater.

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Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Catstye Cam, Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise.
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My onward route to White Stones. Glencoyne Head on the right.

It doesn’t look, on the map, like Nick Head, the col between Sheffield Pike and White Stones, will offer much shelter, but there’s actually a quite steep-sided little hollow there and I stopped again for another quick sup from my flask. I was torn: my vague plan had been to continue to White Stones, but I was looking at the path which contours around Glencoyne Head. I love paths like that and I was very tempted. While I sat, however, several groups passed, all decked out in day-glo and, like me, shorts, and those life-jacket style rucksacks which seem to be all the rage with fell-runners. There will little posts with arrows by the path too. Clearly, there was some sort of event on, and the groups were all taking the Glencoyne Head path. It had been reasonably quiet up till now, despite the fine weather, and I decided to stick with my original plan on the basis that I’d get more peace that way.

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Sheffield Pike. High Street range beyond.
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Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones.

It would have been easy to bag Stybarrow Dodd from White Stones, but I’m glad I decided not to as the day turned out to be a long one as it was.

White Stones is not a Wainwright, but Hart Side is. It all seems pretty arbitrary. Both are Birketts, as are a whole host of little pimples between those two and Aira Force. It’s a broad grassy ridge, a tad boggy in places, but I only saw two other people on it, the views were expansive and it made for great walking. Mostly downhill too.

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Blencathra from Hart Side.
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As I said, it was a bit damp in some spots. For some reason this marooned stile tickled my funny bone.

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Place Fell from Swineside Knott.

Talking of arbitrary, Swineside Knott has two whole contours to call its own. It’s a few strides off the path, but Wainwright promises the best view of Place Fell, a hill which is very high in my estimation. Add to the that the fact that Swineside Knott is another Birkett, so another tick to be grabbed and I was persuaded to make the very slight detour. The top is completely underwhelming, but step a few paces more, to the crags below, and the views are indeed superb. Time for one final drinks stop!

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Ullswater and Patterdale from Swineside Knott.
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Swineside Knott. Sheffield Pike behind.
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Dowthwaite Head and Dowthwaite Crag. Blencathra behind.
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The Mell Fells and Gowbarrow from Common Fell.

Common Fell, on the other hand, has the feel of a proper hill, if a low one. It’s probably not the best one which Wainwright left out of his books, but I liked it.

Now – there’s a rabbit hole to get lost down – which is the best hill in the Lakes which isn’t a Wainwright? Black Combe? (Although that will be an Outlying Fell).

Round How and Bracken How are also Birketts, and again they seem a bit like pointless pimples on the map, but it turns out that Round How also commands a terrific view of Place Fell and Ullswater. Bracken How has no such redeeming feature, but it doesn’t take much climbing.

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Place Fell from Round How.
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Aira Beck.

No photograph of Aira Force – the paths down to the waterfalls are currently closed after a tree fell and has made the paths dangerous. Walking down through the woods by Aira Beck was very pleasant though. The longish walk back to the car was much nicer than it might have been because there’s a path which keeps you off the busy A592. In fact, I suspect that you can walk from the Aira Force car park all the way into Glenridding without having to walk on the road.

MapMyWalk gives about 11½ miles and 785 metres of ascent. I think the latter is a bit of an underestimate.

Also 3 Wainwrights: Glenridding Dodd, Sheffield Pike and Hart Side.

And 11 Birketts: Glenridding Dodd, Heron Pike, Sheffield Pike, White Stones, Hart Side, Birkett Fell, Brown Hills, Swineside Knott, Common Fell, Round How, Bracken How.

Phew! Good training for some bigger days to come.

Sheffield Pike Circuit

The Bug Hotel

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Copper Underwing.

The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.

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Long-tailed Tit. Not all that blurred!
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Possibly the same Long-tailed Tit. But they’re usually in groups, so it could just as easily be another.
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Mating flies in the beech hedge.
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Speckled Wood butterfly.
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Hoverfly on Montbretia.
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Common Carder Bee on Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.

I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…

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So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp. And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.

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I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.

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Large Rose Sawfly?

I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.

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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Male?
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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Female?

There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.

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Volucella Pellucens on Mint.

This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!

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I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.

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This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……

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Tachina Fera

…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.

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Possibly Eristalis arbustorum.

Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.

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A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.

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The Guelder Rose hedge.

Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.

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Guelder Rose berries.

There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!

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Migrant Hawker.

Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.

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And again.

An absolutely stunning creature.

A little further along…

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Migrant Hawker on Figwort.
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And again.
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Honey bee, I think.

Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?

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A very tatty Skipper.
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Small White.
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Common Darter on Figwort.

Views from the walk home…

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Looking a bit black over The Howgills.
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But the sun catching Farleton Fell.
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Rosehips.

Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.

The Bug Hotel

Green Dock Beetle

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Hawes Water

I was missing the flower rich meadows of the Dordogne and the multitude of butterflies and moths and other insects which the abundant flowers attract. So I set out for a short meander around Hawes Water, with my camera with me for once, with the express intent of finding something interesting to photograph.

Some patches of knapweed growing between Challan Hall and Hawes Water gave me just what I was after.

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Tree Bumblebees? On Common Knapweed.

Mainly bees, which by late summer have faded quite a bit and so are even harder to identify than they are earlier in the summer.

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Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.

Not to worry – I very happily took no end of photos.

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Tawny Mining Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Another Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Not-even-going-to-guess bee. On Ragwort.
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A drone fly, a bee mimic – one of the Eristalis species?
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Green Dock Beetle

I think this is a Green Dock Beetle. Pretty colourful isn’t it? I took lots of photos of this charismatic (or should I say prismatic?) little fella. With hindsight, I think the patterns on the knapweed flowerhead are pretty special too. Apparently, the larvae of these beetles can strip the leaves of a dock plant in no time flat. Likewise the massive leaves of a rhubarb plant. I don’t recall seeing them before, but shall be checking out docks more carefully this summer.

More about dock beetles here and here.

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Green Dock Beetle.
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Episyrphus Balteatus? In flight!
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Not sure about the bee – but look what’s lurking below the flower – an orb-web spider.
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Phaonia valida?
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Devil’s-bit Scabious.
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And finally, the hedgerow close to home which was cut down has new fences along each side and there’s plenty growing in that space – whether or not that’s the hawthorns and blackthorns of which the hedge was originally composed remains to be seen.

Green Dock Beetle

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

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Blurred Long-tail Tit. All Long-Tail Tits are blurred.
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Blue Tit.

Some plants in the garden are fantastic value, not just in themselves, but for the wildlife they attract.

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I think these tall yellow daisies are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. Related to sunflowers, they’ve spread like mad in our garden, giving a long-lasting bright splash of colour in mid to late summer.

This is what the BBC Gardener’s World website has to say about them…

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies​/​moths and other pollinators. It nectar-pollen-rich-flowers and has seeds for birds.

The long stems seem to be good places for dragonflies to rest. And they are certainly attractive to pollinators.

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Hoverfly. Possibly a Drone Fly.
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Brown-lipped Smail.
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Greenbottle.
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Marjoram also seeds itself quite freely around the garden and seems to be particularly attractive to bees. I hope this is a Garden Bumblebee, seems appropriate, but the white-tailed bumblebees are difficult to distinguish between.

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Peacock.
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And another.
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A pair of fawns, their spots beginning to fade. They came right up to our windows, seemingly unaware of the people watching on the other side of the glass.
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And, completely unrelated, TBH booked us all in for a family session of Foot Golf at Casterton golf course. As you can see, the views there aren’t bad at all.

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We were all a bit rubbish at the golf, but we had a good giggle.

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

Getting About

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These photos are from another end of September autumnal walk. It was the Sunday after my longish walk in the Bowland Hills, but the weather was much nicer and I was joined, at least initially, by TBH and Little S. (Who is, of course, now much taller than me).

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We took our usual preferred route around the coast to Arnside. I think this might have been the weekend when this usually quiet route was thronged with people, presumably all enjoying the slight relaxation in the lockdown restrictions.

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I have to confess to being a little jealous of the three people sailing small dinghies on the Kent estuary. It looked like great fun. I’ve done a bit of dinghy sailing over the years and have always enjoyed it. TBH and I are contemplating joining Arnside Sailing Club, although I suspect she is most enthused by the fact that they own a few stand-up paddle-boards.

After an alfresco lunch in Arnside, TBH and Little S left me for a direct route home, but, it being a beautiful afternoon, I was keen to prolong the walk.

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A distant Ingleborough from the south side of the Knott.
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Looking South, Eaves Wood, Warton Crag and Ward’s Stone, where I’d been the day before.
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Looking out to The Bay.
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The Fells of the Lake District from near the Toposcope.
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Looking South down the coast from Heathwaite – notice the edge of the firm sand and the channel beside it.
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Pano Looking South.
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Red Admiral on Buddleia.

The hedge on the coastal side of the caravan park at Far Arnside was full of Buddleia and Bindweed and they, in turn, were festooned with bees and butterflies, which kept me distracted for quite a while. Since I was on my own, there was nobody to moan about my entering ‘Butterfly Mode’.

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Burdock I think.
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The sands had looked so attractive from the Knott that I decided to drop down that way and follow the edge of the firm sand to Knowe Point.

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Overhead, two people were flying powered paragliders. Apparently, this arrangement is called a paramotor. Makes sense I suppose. It certainly looked exhilarating.

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I was intrigued by the potential of this mode of transport and, as is often the case, found myself lost down a rabbit-hole of Youtube videos. I have to say that low-level flying looked like terrific fun. I’m not much good with heights though, and this feat of daring gives me sweaty palms even when I think about it.

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Looking back to Arnside Knott and Heathwaite.

Meanwhile, at work, a new colleague has been talking about her husband’s love of land yachting, which looks more up my street and which these great expanses would no doubt be ideal for. The problem, of course, with paramotors, land yachts and sailing dinghies, is that they all require kit and cost money. With Shanks’ Pony you can get away with a cheap cag and a pair of shoes which is why I think it’s always destined to be my favourite way of getting about (although, of course, some people do seem to rather obsess over their endless gallimaufry of expensive gear).

Getting About

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

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Shield Bug, Pale Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Knapweed Fritillary, and wasp, sawfly or ….a?

Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)

This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.

Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…

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Meadow Brown on Horse Mint

I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..

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Another Meadow Brown.

…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.

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Pale Clouded Yellow

Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.

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Pale Clouded Yellow
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Clouded Yellow

Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.

I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.

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Cleopatra

They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….

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Cleopatra

…they’re quite different.

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Knapweed Fritillary

We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.

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Knapweed Fritillary

But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.

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A pair of Knapweed Fritillary

I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.

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A mating display?
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Wood White?
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Wall Brown
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Rock Grayling.
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Grizzled Skipper?

This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.

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Common Blue.
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Common Blue
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Common Blues.
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Common Blue.

I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.

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Holly Blue. I think.
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If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.

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Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.

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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot.
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Striped Shield Bugs – mating?
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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot with a passenger.
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Hairy (or Sloe) Shieldbug.
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Assassin Bug?

There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.

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My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.

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I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.

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I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.

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As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…

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Here’s another…

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…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…

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Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…

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And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…

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Robber Fly

…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.

All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth
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A colourful micro moth.

One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…

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It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Meadow Clary
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.

Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.

A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…

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Thornapple

This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.

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Thornapple

I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.

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Thornapple leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.

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Thornapple seeds – highly poisonous.
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Thornapple seeds.
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Thornapple flowers.

They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.

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Field Eryngo?

Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.

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It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.

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Seedheads of a mallow? I liked the shapes.
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Robin’s pincushion galls.
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A Common Lizard I think.
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These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.

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This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!

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And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

Heysham Moss

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St. Peter’s Church, Heysham.

Back in the summer, when the sun was shining, and the rules changed (how many times have they changed since then?), so that we were allowed to meet five friends outdoors, all B seemed to want to do was meet his school friends in Heysham and swim with them in the Bay. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to swim in the Bay, and particularly not right next to a Nuclear Power Plant, but B is old enough and daft enough to make his own choices these days, and my own squeamishness is probably not well-founded.

Since public transport was still frowned upon, I found myself with time to kill between dropping him off and meeting him for the return journey.

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The graveyard at St. Peter’s has a stunning view across the Bay to the hills of the Lakes.

I first visited St. Peter’s church in Heysham village, the picturesque part of Heysham, hoping to look inside and see the Viking hog’s-back graves there, but that will have to wait, since the church was locked up.

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The remains of St. Patrick’s Chapel.
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11th Century rock-cut graves and the Lake District hills again.

From Heysham headland, I drove a short hop to visit Heysham Moss. It’s a Wildlife Trust reserve which has been on my radar for a while. Last time I came looking for it, I took a wrong turn, but, fortuitously, stumbled upon Middleton Nature Reserve. This time I had satnav and a postcode. Sadly, whilst these got me to the right neck of the woods, I couldn’t see the entrance – it’s just away from the road on a right-of-way – although I was parked really close to it. I spent a frustrating half-an-hour venturing along narrow, slippery, nettle-fringed paths, which I presume are the preserve of local kids and/or dog-walkers, but none of which got me into the reserve. Having returned to the car and decided to ‘have one more go’, I quickly found the entrance. I’m glad I tried again.

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Common Hemp-Nettle. Possibly.
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The reserve is very wet in places, as the name Moss implies, but it also has a large area of raised peat, quite rare I think in lowland areas.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies about, not all of them very cooperative when I wanted to take photos. Also, a few Silvery Y Moths, a day-flying summer immigrant.

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Marsh Woundwort.
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Marsh Woundwort.
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Very square stems.
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Wild Angelica.
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 Ichneumon extensorius. Male. Possibly.

I had great fun taking numerous photos of what I now think is a male  Ichneumon extensorius. Apparently, this is a dimorphic species, in that the male and the female are very different.  Ichneumon wasps are parasites, laying their eggs in the bodies of moth and butterfly caterpillars. But the adults eat nectar, which fits with the behaviour of this male, which was feasting on the angelica and seemed quite oblivious of my attention.

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Common Fleabane – I think – an attractive daisy when the flowers are properly open!
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Skullcap – I think.
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Redshank. Perhaps.
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Busy Soldier Beetles.
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Purple Loosestrife.
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Meadow Vetchling?
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A pale bee – some sort of Carder? – with very full, very yellow pollen baskets.
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Bog Myrtle.
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Small Copper.
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Common Darter.
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I think this is Wild Angelica again – a very purple example.
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Great Willowherb.
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Heysham Moss

I just about had time for a circuit of the reserve – I shall definitely be back for another look.

Heysham Moss

Harlequins, Angelica and Ragwort Honey.

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Mid-July brought clouds and rain.

In an effort to start catching-up, I’ve shoved photos from at least three different walks into this post.

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A mature Roe Deer buck in the fields close to home.
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Wildflowers in Clarke’s Lot.
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Lady’s Bedstraw.

If you click on the photo and zoom in to enlarge on flickr, you will see that, unbeknown to me when I took the photo, two of the flower heads are home to ladybird larvae, of which more later in this post.

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Fox and Cubs.
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Tutsan berries.
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Mullein.
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Feverfew.
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Hoverfly on Marsh Thistles.
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Guelder Rose Berries.
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A Carpet Moth – possibly Wood Carpet.
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Hogweed busy with Soldier Beetles.
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Meadow Sweet.
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Broad-leaved Helleborine?

I was very chuffed to spot this rather small, straggly Helleborine – at least, that’s what I think it is – by the path into Eaves Wood from the Jubilee Wood car-park, because although I know of a spot where Broad-leaved Helleborines grow every year, by the track into Trowbarrow Quarry, I’ve never seen one growing in Eaves Wood before.

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Common Blue-sowthistle.
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Common Blue-sowthistle leaf.
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Dewberry.

Dewberries are fantastic, smaller, juicier and generally earlier than blackberries, every walk at this time offered an opportunity at some point to sample a few.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

These are some of the afore-mentioned Helleborines, not quite in flower at this point, in fact I missed them this summer altogether.

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Lady’s-slipper Orchid leaves.

I missed the Lady’s-slipper Orchids too. Some leaves appeared belatedly, after the rains returned, long after they would usually have flowered. I don’t know whether they did eventually flower or not.

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Dark-red Helleborine?

And I kept checking on the few suspected Dark Red Helleborines I’d found at Gait Barrows, but they seemed reluctant to flower too.

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The pink gills of a fresh Field Mushroom.

As well as the Dewberries, I continued to enjoy the odd savoury mushroom snack.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine by Hawes Water.
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Wild Angelica with ladybirds.
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Wild Angelica.
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Wild Angelica.
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Yellow Brain Fungus.
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Dryad’s Saddle.
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A slime mould?

I thought that this might be Yellow Slime Mold, otherwise know as Scrambled Egg Slime or, rather unpleasantly, Dog Vomit Slime, but I’m not really sure.

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White-lipped Snail.
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Comma butterfly.
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Red Campion.
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False Goat’s Beard? A garden escapee.
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Inkcaps.
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Harebells.
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A profusion of Ragwort at Myer’s Allotment.
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Honey-bee on Ragwort.

Spying this Honey-bee on Ragwort flowers, I was wondering whether honey containing pollen from a highly poisonous plant might, in turn, be toxic. Then I began to wonder about the many insects, especially bees, which were feeding on the Ragwort: are they, like the Cinnabar Caterpillars, impervious to the alkaloids in the Ragwort.

It seemed perhaps not; although there were many apparently healthy insects on the flowers, now that I started to look, I could also many more which had sunk down between the blooms. Some were evidently dead…

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A Ragwort victim?

Whilst others were still moving, but only slowly and in an apparently drugged, drowsy way.

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A drowsy hoverfly.

If the Ragwort is dangerous to insects it seems surprising that they haven’t evolved an instinct to stay away from it.

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Mullein.
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Yellow Rattle.
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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.
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Gatekeeper.
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Mixed wildflowers at Myer’s Allotment.
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Bindweed.
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A Harlequin ladybird emerging from its pupae.

The leaves of single sapling by the roadside were home to several Harlequin Ladybirds in various stages of their lifecycle. Unfortunately, the leaves were swaying in a fairly heavy breeze, so I struggled to get sharp images.

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Discarded pupae?
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Another emerging Harlequin.
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Harlequin larvae.

Fascinating to see, but the Harlequin is an invasive species from Asia, so worrying for the health of our native ladybirds.

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Rosebay Willowherb.
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Greater Plantain.
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Burdock.
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Hogweed.
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Small Skipper.
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Red Admiral.
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Melilot.
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Bee on Melilot.
Harlequins, Angelica and Ragwort Honey.

Red-letter Day, White-letter Hairstreak.

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Warton Crag

Another collection of photos from several local walks. The weather, at this point, was very mixed and there were several days when I didn’t take any photos at all.

A visit to Woodwell yielded lots more photos of newts, although the light was poor and the photos are all decidedly murky.

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A pale newt.

This newt seemed much paler than any of the others. I also thought it looked bloated – a female with eggs to lay?

It certainly was of great interest to other newts. I watched some of them follow it around the pond. Eventually three gathered around it and all of them seemed to be nudging its belly. Just after I took this photo…

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…there was some sort of excitement and the newts all seemed to thrash about and then disperse rapidly.

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Here’s another newt which looks very swollen in its midriff, as does the lefthand one of this pair…

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Small Skipper
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Dryad’s Saddle.
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Comma.
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Mottled Grasshopper – I think.
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Enchanter’s Nightshade.
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Enchanter’s Nightshade Leaves
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Soldier Beetles – making love not war.
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Musk Mallow.
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A Mallow? Perhaps a garden escapee?

Mallows are often quite big plants, but this was low growing and I can’t find anything which comes even close to matching it in ‘The Wildflower Key’.

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Wild Thyme.
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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars.
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Honey Bee on Rosebay Willowherb.
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Red Clover
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Coniston Fells from Jack Scout.
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The Limestone Seat at Jack Scout.

My obsessive compulsive photography of butterflies, even common and rather dull species like Meadow Browns, sometimes pays dividends. This brown butterfly…

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White-letter Hairstreak.

…turned out to be a kind I had never seen before. That’s not entirely surprising since hairstreak species generally live up in the treetops. I wonder if it’s significant that the photograph of this species in the little pamphlet guide to the butterflies of this area also depicts a White-letter Hairstreak feeding on Ragwort?

This Ragwort was in the shade and although the butterfly stayed fairly still and I was able to take lots of photos, I was struggling to get a sharp shot.

Two walkers approached, I assumed, from their respective ages, a father and son. The Dad observed my antics with an arched eyebrow and observed:

“It’s not going to open its wings is it? Not to worry, there’s another one behind you, and it does have its wings on show.”

I turned around to see…

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Small Skipper.

…a Small Skipper. Lovely, but not the once in a blue moon opportunity I had been enjoying. I did find the hairstreak again. It even moved into the sunshine, but then insisted on perching in awkward spots where I couldn’t get a clear view…

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White-letter Hairstreak.
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Traveller’s Joy.
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Toadstools.
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Water Lily.
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Brown-lipped Snail.
Red-letter Day, White-letter Hairstreak.