Cirque des Baumes.

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Whilst we were camping in the Tarn Gorge, I’d mooted the idea of a walk from the rim of the gorge back down to the campsite, hopefully, by walking downhill, mitigating the worst effects of the heat; but when most of our party completed a walk, TBH and I had driven B to the hospital in the town of Millau instead, to get a painful ear checked out. (He’s okay now, although the problems continued for quite some time after our holiday ended.) That trip was not without it’s own interest – when we drove out of the town, onto the hillside above, we saw a great host of circling Red Kites – but I was extremely disappointed to have missed out on the walk, and so was very pleased when TBH and J agreed to an early morning foray, in J’s case for a second time.

We parked at Point Sublime, with fine views into a misty gorge.

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There were plenty of distractions on hand too, with both butterflies and Wall Lizards about to keep me and my camera occupied.

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Wall Brown.

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I think that this is a Silver-washed Fritillary, you can perhaps see why its called that in the photo below.

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Five-spot Burnet Moth.

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We passed no end of these silken tents, apparently constructed by the caterpillars of the Pine Processionary Moth.

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Another Blue-winged Grasshopper. I think.

The path was steep and narrow, but well worth the effort as it descended past a series of huge rock towers and cliffs.

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J, you will notice, is wearing a shocking pink hat. She has pink Crocs too. Her children are appalled by both, which is, of course, entirely the point. She is making up for the sobriety of her youth. I’m sure she completely sympathises with Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ which begins…

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

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Wall Lizard.

I thought I saw a bird of prey alight on top of a distant tower and the amazing zoom on my camera helped to confirm that fact.

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It was exhilarating to watch the raptor soaring above the hillside, in and out between the karst features, eventually landing not too far above us…

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I have quite a few photos of the bird in flight, none, sadly, very sharp, but I think they show enough detail to suggest that it was a Rough-legged Buzzard, not something that I’ve seen before.

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Wall Lizard.

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Karst scenery.

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This was a terrific walk for butterfly spotting and on this steep hillside section there were a great deal of quite dark butterflies flitting through the trees. They were hard to catch in repose and generally, I think, belonged to species not found in Britain. Frankly, I’m not sure what this is; continental Europe seems to have numerous types of Grayling – I wonder whether this is one of those?

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It was J’s turn to pick out a large bird on a distant rock tower – this time on the one seen ahead in the photo above.

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A Griffon Vulture; soon joined by a companion….

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They didn’t seem to be very busy and I continued to take occasional photos as we descended past the tower.

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A Dusky Heath?

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Another Grayling of some description?

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Looking back up into the Cirque des Baumes.

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Striped Shield Bug – less prevalent , it seemed, than in the Dordogne, but still around.

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The Dryad? Love the eye-spot.

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This small butterfly led me a merry dance and I only managed to photograph it from some considerable distance. Could it be a Glanville Fritillary?

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Having reached the bottom of the valley, we climbed a little way back up to a point under the cliffs…

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Wall Lizard.

Where there was a tiny chapel…

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La Chapelle Saint-Hillaire.

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Sadly, the chapel was locked, but I managed to get an image of the interior through a small hole in the door…

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One final look back up into Cirque des Baumes.

We were down in the valley now and walking along the road, which for me was saved by the butterflies and flowers along the roadside. We passed a garden where a Buddleia was festooned with butterflies and moths, particularly fritillaries which I took to be more Silver-washed.

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Clouded Yellow.

When we were almost back at the campsite we paused by the ‘Mushroom Rock’ to take in the view and wave to friends and family below, then J and TBH rushed ahead to get out of the full glare of the sun and to get a cool drink, but I was distracted again by more butterflies and moths…

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This is a new species to me, a Jersey Tiger Moth, there had been several on the Buddleia earlier, but they were a bit too far away to be photographed very successfully. Unfortunately, you can’t see the stunning red underwings in this photo.

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When I took this shot of another Five-spot Burnet Moth I didn’t even see the two rather striking shield bugs nearby. I wish I had; the purple one in particular looks like it was stunningly patterned.

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Small Skipper.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, this striking insect is not in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’. It will have remain a mystery.

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The underside of a Jersey Tiger Moth.

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Small Skipper and Silver-washed Fritillary.

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Jersey Tiger Moth.

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When we’d been kayaking on the Tarn and had pulled our boats onto a shingle beach to jump into the river and swim, a Scarce Swallowtail landed on the end of one of the kayaks. I managed to get very close to it with my phone, but none of my photos came out well. I was really pleased, then, to get another chance for some photos.

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Large Skipper.

Only a mornings stroll, but the views and the wildlife will stick with me for a long time I suspect.

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Cirque des Baumes.

Tarn Gorge: Griffon Vultures.

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The Cevenne is noted for it’s raptors, perhaps particularly Griffon Vultures, which were successfully reintroduced, starting in the nearby Jonta Gorge. In the late afternoons there could be large numbers of birds circling on thermals overhead. I spent a lot of time watching them, counting them, trying to work out where they had landed, high on the valley sides, and, rather fruitlessly, photographing them.

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Although they are large birds, with a wingspan typically of around 2.8m, they were just too high overhead for the photographs to work well.

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Still, it kept me busy (and I do have some slightly better photos from some of our outings).

Of course, they may not all have been Griffon Vultures (although I suspect that the ones in these photographs are) since several other species of vulture have also been reintroduced and eagles and other birds of prey also frequent the area.

Tarn Gorge: Griffon Vultures.

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.

 

Foulshaw Moss Again

The Calf from Howgill

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Holy Trinity Church Howgill.

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I was surprised by the plain white interior – English churches are usually so austere that they don’t stretch to plaster or paint. It was only built in 1839, but a board inside suggests that there’s been a chapel here for much longer…

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Subsequent, lazy internet research suggests that this house…

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…on the far side of Chapel Beck, was once itself the chapel.

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I was intrigued by this bike, which was propped up by the church; it looked to be in working order, but the saddle, whilst it has springs, has no cover.

This was the evening after my Langdale swimming excursion. The forecast had been once again good, but in actuality there was a good deal more cloud about. In fact, as I drove along the M6 towards the Howgill Fells I was a bit taken aback to see that the sky behind them was absolutely black – it looked as though an almighty thunderstorm was on the way and I didn’t even have a coat with me. Fortunately, by the time I’d parked in the tiny hamlet of Howgill, the skies had cleared considerably.

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The Howgill Fells.

If you look at the map of my route at the bottom you’ll notice an apparent loop at one point, which is where I made a navigational error. I crossed the parched field above when I shouldn’t have, leading me to a gate with a sign on its far side saying ‘Private No Access’. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if I hadn’t been attracting the attentions of a particularly persistent Buzzard. The first time I was strafed by an angry Buzzard was in 2010, so I managed 44 years without ever upsetting any Buzzards, but these days I almost expect to be harassed by them when I’m out, it happens so often. I’m beginning to feel paranoid about it. This one adopted different tactics to any of the others – swooping toward me several times in three separate places, and after the first relatively mild shot across the bows, which was preceded by a few warning kew, kews, it came silently and, on one occasion, from behind. The last time, I could see it way across the valley…

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…and then watched it come back on a bee-line straight towards me, at eye-level, which was a bit disconcerting. I suppose the fact that this has happened several times without any injuries on my part should be reassuring, but, in the moment, that didn’t occur to me, and I took to my heels, which I’m sure was all very amusing for anyone who saw me from the nearby farmhouse of Castley.

Anyway, this…

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…is the path I should have been on.

This…

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…is where Bram Rigg Beck and Swarth Greaves Beck flow into Chapel Beck which ultimately flows into The Lune. Chapel Beck is also fed by Calf Beck, Long Rigg Beck, Stranger Gill, Crooked Ashmere Gills and Long Rigg Gill all of which ultimately feed the Lune. You can perhaps tell from the photo that I was quite a way above Chapel Beck, but sadly the path forsook all of that hard-earned height and dropped down to cross the stream, and, even more sadly, I went with it….

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…to climb White Fell, that long shoulder stretching away on the right of the photo.

It was a long, hot and sticky climb, enlivened by more views of a Buzzard, who, this time, was more interested in hunting prey than in persecuting me.

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Arant Haw. The right hand ridge is my descent route.

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Looking back down my ascent route to the Lune valley from near the top.

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Bram Rigg and Arrant Haw pano.

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Calf Top.

The small tarn close to the summit of Calf Top was completely dried out.

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Looking back to Calf Top from Bram Rigg Top.

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The Three Peaks from Calders.

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Arant Haw from Calders. Black Combe on the right-hand horizon, Arnside Knott and the Kent Estuary in the centre. The lake in the distance is Killington Lake.

Clouds massed again and it got a bit gloomy, but the Lakeland Fells, although quite distant, seemed very sharp and individual hills, like the Langdale Pikes and the Scafells and Great Gable, stood out clearly…

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The Eastern Fells are not quite so distinctive…

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It was getting quite late now, but the sun had dropped below the level of the cloud and the views from Arant Haws and, better yet, from the ridge off Arant Haws were stunning.

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Tebay Gorge and Howgill Fells.

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Howgill Fells.

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Arant Haw.

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Lune Valley, Morecambe Bay, Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary, Killington Lake, Black Combe.

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Tebay Gorge.

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Nine miles (ish) and a fair bit of up and down, Not bad for a Thursday evening.

The Calf from Howgill

Skiddaw Bivvy

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Keswick and Derwentwater – it was quite a bit darker than this photo suggests.

Friday evening. S has a class on the climbing wall in the Sports Centre at Lancaster University. It had been a busy week: S had been the Artful Dodger in his school’s production of Oliver (which was brilliant, although I may be a little biased). I’d also had a late evening at work, so hadn’t managed my usual evening walk(s). What’s-more, the nights had been hot and sticky, at least by local standards, and I’d been finding it hard to sleep. Driving home with S I had an inspiration – a way to get out for a walk and get a cooler night. Back at home I hurriedly grabbed something to eat, threw some things into my rucksack and set-off for Keswick.

I parked in the high car-park behind Latrigg, which was quite full. There were several occupied campervans which I guessed were staying the night, but numerous cars also. A couple approached me and asked about potential wild-camping spots. They’d ended up here by default after having problems with closed roads. It occurred to me afterwards that they may have been heading for the end of Haweswater, because when we were there a few weeks ago, somebody had been larking about with road-closed signs and diversion signs even though there was actually little or no work going on. Anyway, I wasn’t much use to them; I haven’t camped in this part of the Lakes before and haven’t climbed Skiddaw in an absolute age. They decided to try Latrigg, but soon overtook me on the broad path up Skiddaw, looking for a spot on Jenkin Hill, where I saw them again with their tent just about pitched.

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The moon rising over the Dodds.

It was already after sunset when I started my walk and I was surprised by the freshness of the breeze, so much so that I hastily stuffed an extra jumper into my bag which I happened to have in the boot of the car. TBH and I had noticed that the moon was full when we went out for a short stroll after Little S’s theatric triumph, so I was anticipating a light night and that’s how it turned out – I only used my headtorch close to the top of Skiddaw when the ground was rocky and I wanted to avoid a trip.

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I arrived on the top at around half twelve. Even then the sky to the north still held a good deal of light. There were a few people about – I suppose that this is a traditional weekend for fell-runners completing the Bob Graham Round.

I was after something much more modest – a place to kip-down for a few hours. I’d remembered that the highest parts of Skiddaw are very rocky – like a slag heap, one friend has subsequently described it – but felt confident that I would find somewhere. Ironically, given my enthusiasm for wild-flowers, it was the sight of tiny white stars of the flowers of a bedstraw – there are many species – which stood out in the darkness and led me to a spot with at least a thin covering of soil. It’s wasn’t a spot I could recommend – sloping, uneven, hard, stony and not entirely out of the, by now, pretty fierce wind, but, somewhat to my surprise, I not only slept, but slept quite well. It was cold though – I discovered that when needs must I can get right down inside my sleeping bag and close it over my head. Between my sleeping bag, the thin pertex bivvy bag I have and the extra jumper I’d brought I just about stayed on the right side of comfortable.

I woke at around three, momentarily panicking a little because it was so light that I was worried that I’d missed the sunrise, despite the fact that I’d set an alarm for 4.20am, precisely to avoid that eventuality. I should have taken a photograph at three – the colours in the northern sky were superb, but I’m afraid my head was soon down again for a little more shut-eye.

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In the event, I didn’t need the alarm: two groups of people walked past my little hollow about 10 minutes before it was due to go off, timing their arrival on the top just about perfectly for the sunrise.

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It’s a while since I’ve watched a sunrise from a mountain. Perhaps I won’t wait so long this time to repeat the experience.

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There was evidently a layer of cloud hanging low over the Solway Firth to the north and the Eden Valley to the east and odd wisps of mist closer to hand.

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Bassenthwaite Lake.

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An early party on the summit.

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Derwentwater and the surrounding hills.

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Derwentwater and the Fells pano.

For reasons which now escape me, I climbed Skiddaw Little Man in the dark on the Friday night, but I’d stuck to the main path which omits the top of Jenkin Hill, and avoids Lonscale Fell and Lonscale Pike altogether, so on my way back to the car I diverted slightly to take them all in.

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Jenkin Hill, Lonscale Fell and Blencathra behind.

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Looking back to Skiddaw Little Man and Skiddaw. 

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Derwentwater and the Fells from Jenkin Hill.

From Lonscale Pike, I found a slight path, which followed the wall down close to the edge of Lonscale Crags. Part way down, I realised that the weather had already warmed up considerably and decided to sit down to admire the view with a bit of porridge and a cup of tea.

Nearby, I spotted this large caterpillar…

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…which I think is of the Hairy Oak Eggar Moth. B and I saw some similar caterpillars on Haystacks two summers ago.

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Foxglove.

As I got close to the car park again, and was down amongst the bracken covered hillsides, there were numerous moths and some Small Heath butterflies and a host of small birds about. Sadly none of my photos turned out very well.

Back at the car, I dumped my rucksack and set-out to tick-off Latrigg, it being so close by and the weather so favourable. Incidentally, the car park was already full, at 9 in the morning, breaking the usually reliable rule that car-parks in the Lakes are almost empty before 10, I presume because people were seeking an early start to escape the heat of the day. There’s a direct path to the top, not shown on OS maps, but also a more circuitous one, which I chose, partly because I wasn’t in a hurry and partly because I thought it would give better views.

Latrigg was busy with walkers, runners and Skylarks.

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I watched this Skylark in flight and then, after it had landed on a small mound, walked slowly toward it, taking photos as I approached.

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This Skylark…

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…didn’t require the same effort. It landed quite close to the path and then flew just a short distance further on, before having a ‘dust bath’ on the path. Although it was much closer than the first bird, it wouldn’t pose and look at the camera in such an obliging way.

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Keswick from Latrigg.

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Keswick from Latrigg pano.

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Skiddaw massif from Latrigg.

Highly enjoyable, although it did leave me a bit wiped out for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully, I’ll try another summit bivvy, if the opportunity arises – without a tent I can manage with my small rucksack, which wasn’t too heavy, aside from the two litres of water I was carrying.

Skiddaw Bivvy

Kaleidoscope Moon

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I decided to take an evening stroll down to Leighton Moss, thinking that on previous summer-evenings I’d seen Red Deer swimming in the meres near to Grizedale Hide and that maybe I would see them again.

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Dryad’s Saddle.

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Distant Great Spotted Woodpecker.

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In the event, whilst I did spot a couple of deer, they were partially hidden in amongst the reeds. Fortunately, there was plenty more to see.

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I particularly enjoyed the antics of this Little Egret. Unlike Herons – patient hunters which don’t generally move very much or very quickly, Little Egrets wander about, stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pond hoping to dislodge likely prey.

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A nearby tree had seven Cormorants perched in it…

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I knew that Herons and Egrets like to congregate to roost in the evenings, but perhaps Cormorants do too.

There were some Proper Birders in the hide, nice chaps, who told me that there were both Marsh Harriers and Bitterns nesting nearby. They were hoping for a sight of the Bitterns, which didn’t materialise, but we did see both adult Harriers, although somewhat distantly…

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I find that I can only sit in a hide for so long before I start to get itchy feet and when the sun disappeared, perhaps for the last time that day I thought, it was time to move on.

Anyway, I wanted to get home before it got too late. On my way back around the reserve, I diverted slightly to take in the view from the Sky Tower…

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From there I watched a pair of Swans and their large family of cygnets swim across the mere in a stately line and then, reaching their nest, enter into a noisy dispute with some Coots, who obviously felt that they had squatters’ rights.

Then I noticed some sort of commotion in the water, between the two islands of reeds in the photograph above. Fish were jumping out of the water, but not the odd fish rising for a fly, this was lots of fish and the fish were seemingly leaping in groups, with the activity moving around the small area as if something were pursuing the fish beneath the water. I’ve seen this sort of thing once before and that was just after I thought I’d seen an Otter dive into the water from the Causeway which crosses the reserve. In the middle of the area where the commotion was taking place the RSPB have built a small wooden platform. There were numerous birds on that platform and they were all obviously aware of what was going on too. The ducks all took to the water and headed swiftly away. The heron peered at the fish momentarily before unfurling its wings and also departing. Only the small white birds, which looked to be terns of some sort, didn’t seem to be bothered. Meanwhile a second area, along the edge of the mere, had also started to liven up with fish jumping this way and that. Perhaps there were a pair of Otters down there, doing a spot of fishing.

The area where this was all happening was right in front of Lillian’s Hide, so I thought I would head down there to see what I could see. When I got there, the fish were no longer leaping, but a disturbance in the reeds alerted me and there was my Otter, swimming along the channel in front of the hide. I lost sight of it, but there was another chap in the hide and, when I told him there was an otter nearby, he came up trumps by spotting it swimming away.

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Not as good as my photos from this winter, but it’s not often that I get to see an Otter after work, so I was very happy.

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The heron returned and I could see now why the terns were so unperturbed – they weren’t real – I suppose that this is an attempt to attract actual terns to nest on this faux island?

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Buzzard.

By the time I was walking back across the fields towards home, I’d missed the sunset, but there was still lots of colour in the sky.

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The moon was half hidden by this great swathe of pink clouds. Using the zoom on my camera I watched the moon as it was repeatedly veiled and unveiled by the clouds.

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Searching for a title for the post, and reverting, as I often do, to songs titles half-remembered from my youth, I thought I could recall a song called Kaleidoscope Moon.

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A bit of googling however, reminded me that the song I was thinking of was actually ‘Kaleidoscope World’ from the album of the same name by Kiwi band The Chills.

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Other songs on the album were called ‘Rolling Moon’ and my own favourite ‘Pink Frost’, so maybe I had dimly muddled these three and somehow got ‘pink’, ‘moon’ and ‘kaleidoscope’ from the three songs. I’m surprised that I seem to have managed to almost completely forget this band, although some fragment of a memory was clearly lurking in the recesses of my mind, and I’m very happy to have been serendipitously jolted into recollection.

 

Kaleidoscope Moon

Another Orchid Hunt

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Cartmell Fell, the Kent and Whitbarrow Scar from Arnside Knott.

An unexpected window for an evening stroll. I set out intending to walk around the Knott, rather than up it, but, as you can see from the photo above, I did eventually climb to the top. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Some more photos from the garden first…

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As if to prove my point about fledglings lacking caution, this little ball of fluff, a juvenile blue tit, sat in the Sumach in our garden and didn’t move or flinch as I approached with my camera despite noisy entreaties from a parent bird.

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For once, I didn’t start from home, but gave the walk a kick-start by parking in a lay-by on the south side of the Knott. From there the view of Arnside Tower…

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…makes it seem to still be in a good state of repair, rather than the semi-ruin which the view from the far side, which I more usually post, suggests.

I took the gradually ascending path which has become something of a favourite, but then cut back down into the fields of Heathwaite…

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There were lots of Common Spotted-orchids, here seen with Quaking Grass – they often seem to be companions. I’d also been tipped off, by Craig who looks after the local National Trust properties and was one of the attendees of the Grass course I did, that there were some less common orchids growing there.

These…

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…which have been protected from grazing rabbits…

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…are Fragrant Orchids, which I’ve previously seen at Tarn Sike nature reserve last summer. There were also some growing outside the netting, rather bedraggled specimens, but I was able to confirm for myself the strong carnation like scent which gives them their name.

Nearby another netted area held…

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…Lesser Butterfly-orchids, another flower which I was seeing for only the second time, having unexpectedly come across one in a tiny churchyard, also last summer.

There were a few Northern Marsh-orchids nearby too, but they were in the shade and my photos came out even less sharply than the ones above, so I’ve omitted them.

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Dropwort.

I was also hoping to find the Spiked Speedwell which I’d seen flowering here last summer, another first last year, but couldn’t find any, which was not entirely a surprise since Craig had told me that the long spell of hot, dry weather was adversely affecting the speedwell.

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Looking south along the coast.

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A poser. The shape and colour suggests Northern Marsh-orchid, but the markings on the flower look like Common Spotted-orchid. They do hybridise, so that’s probably the explanation.

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By now the light was glorious.

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But the sun was beginning to sink.

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I had one more spot to check out. Craig had perfectly described a patch of bracken, by the path in Redhill Pasture, where there were more Lesser Butterfly-orchids…

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The path continues to skirt the hill from here, but was in the shade, so I decided to climb so that I could keep the light for longer.

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A thrush’s anvil.

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A thrush.

I made an unfortunate choice, following a different path than the one I usually take, which petered out leaving me stranded in very tall bracken, which might not have been so bad were there not brambles and blackthorn growing concealed by the bracken.

Still, the views were worth it…

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And there were wild strawberries to accompany the views – small but very tasty.

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Across Silverdale Moss to the Pennines.

Another Orchid Hunt