Party Boat on the Saranac Lakes.

Adirondacks Day 7

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Our home for the day.

For our relatives a summer trip to the Adirondacks is as regular a summer fixture as our own visits to the Llyn Peninsula are for us. One tradition they’ve established is to rent a Pontoon, or Party, Boat and to spend a day on the Saranac Lakes.

Saranac Lakes Map.

This map gives some idea of the complexity of the Saranac chain of lakes. I liked this hand drawn one, because it picks out the Saranac 6. Incidentally, the body of water south of Ampersand Mountain is Ampersand Lake, which allegedly resembles an ampersand sign and hence gives its name to all of the many ‘ampersand’ features in the area.

To be honest, I’m a bit sketchy about our itinerary for the day, but I think we started at the marina on Lower Saranac Lake, travelled through First and Second Ponds and the lock on the Saranac River into Oseetah Lake, briefly into Lake Flower, retracing our route then into Middle Saranac Lake, via another lock, for lunch at Ampersand Beach. I’m not sure whether we ventured into Upper Saranac Lake or not. I do know that we stopped off at several islands for a bit of swimming and leaping into the water.

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Captain A at the helm.

Don’t let the blue skies fool you, there was a strong wind blowing and for the first time on our trip it was really quite cool.

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B takes the wheel.

It was great fun steering the boat and I think we all took a turn. It was safest when I was driving, not due to any nautical prowess on my part, but because that meant I wasn’t blundering about elsewhere on the boat. A couple of times I stood too close to the front, which over-balanced the boat, plunging the front under the water and leaving us all ankle deep. The boat seemed to handle that indignity with ease, but it was a bit alarming.

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‘Little’ S takes charge.

I didn’t take any photos of the locks sadly, each of which we had to go through twice, partly because I was steering on some of those occasions and partly because it was ‘all-hands-on-deck’ when we went through to ensure we didn’t bang into the locks, the lock walls or any other boats.

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W steering.

Given that the boat was essentially a very well-appointed raft, it was surprisingly nippy, although not when I was steering.

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Bluff Island (on the right).

The boys had been hearing all about Bluff Island, and potential feats of derring-do, ever since we booked our flights, but initially we took a look and promised them that we would come back later.

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Mist rising off the water – en route to First Pond.

Mist was rising off the Saranac River in a very atmospheric way, my photos don’t really do it justice.

A Bald Eagle flew along the channel ahead of us. It is in the photo below, but it’s so tiny you can’t really see it.

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Bald Eagle – honest!
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In a channel.
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Mind those buoys.

All of the channels, and some parts of the lakes too, are marked out with regular buoys to show where the water is deep enough. Never-the-less, some sections were very shallow, and that, combined with submerged rocks in places, meant some real caution was required at times.

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A view to Ampersand Mountain?

The boat had a fishing sonar and we had rods with us but I can’t recall anyone actually catching any fish at any point. Fishing was a regular activity during our trip. The boys did occasionally catch something, but not often. Their success rate was probably roughly on a par with Whitehouse and Mortimer, who seem to catch a solitary fish every episode.

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Lakeside Properties.

There were lots of amazing lakeside properties and speculating on how much they might cost became a keen topic of our conversation.

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Living on an island – oh boy we’re having fun.

Some of the properties were on their won private islands. In the photo above what you can see is the boathouse, the house itself is behind in the trees. The people sat outside in the sun on the patio looked very relaxed.

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Captain A’s dream home?

I remember that my brother-in-law was very taken with this rather trim looking island property.

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Lake views.
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Benches – very comfortable unless Mischief decided to share.

The boat was very comfortable. In the early part of the day lying down on a bench meant you were out of the wind, a definite bonus.

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More islands.

After we’d had lunch we came back to this island. There were people picnicking there so we anchored next to one of the adjacent islands and me and the boys swam to have an explore. The island had a couple of campgrounds – they seem to be dotted all over the area. They each have a fire-pit and a toilet and can be rented out.

The picnickers moved on, so we then swam to the rocky little island and I think the boys found some spots for jumping in.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, before we did all that, we landed at Ampersand Beach for lunch. The water is very shallow there and Captain A kicked the DBs overboard to tow the boat ashore…he may have been a pirate Captain in a previous existence.

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Towing the boat through the shallows to Ampersand beach.
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Ampersand beach and Ampersand Mountain?

In some ways this photo is one of several which neatly encapsulate our visit to the Adirondacks: stunning scenery, beautiful beach, nobody about.

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Beached.
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More Lake Views.
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And more.

We’d promised the boys a trip to Bluff Island and we made good on our promise, despite some misgivings. The next two photos are actually videos, if you click on them you’ll be able to watch them on flickr.

First, W and M jumping from a great height…

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The mega leap.

And then the DBs leaping from far too high…

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The mega-mega leap.

This seems to be a very well known spot, but not a challenge many take on. The DBs gathered a bit of an audience of other boatloads when they jumped.

After doing this jump a couple of times each, the DBs declared themselves satisfied. We motored a short distance to a spot with some rather more sedate opportunities for jumping in, tame enough that even I gave it a go.

We had a deadline for returning the boat, and all the other rentals must have been working to the same timings because as we headed into the marina there was a bit of a race to get in and secure a berth.

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Heading back to the marina.

An absolutely fantastic day which will live long in the memory.

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Party Boat on the Saranac Lakes.

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Adirondacks Day 2

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Green Frog

This handsome frog was sheltering under the paddle boards by the shore of the pond the next morning. I thought it might be an American Bullfrog, but they’re huge, up to 8 inches I’ve read. I think this is the very similar, but smaller, Green Frog. The dorsolateral ridges running from the head down the sides of the torso are a distinguishing feature apparently.

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Green Frog.

I think that this is a male, because the ear – the tympanic membrane – is larger than the gorgeous golden eye.

TBH and I needed another shortish outing because of our plans for the afternoon.

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B and M share a paddle board.

So we took to the water again.

Here’s the pond…

Stony Creek Pond.

We were staying on the north side of the southern most bulb – we canoed northwards, past a beaver lodge, under the bridge, which required a bit of care, up beyond the little island almost to the northern extremity of the pond.

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Little S taking it easy.
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Prof A.
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Our destination – a tiny beach.

We were heading for this little beach. The lake bed here was firm and sandy – perfect for swimming. By the boathouse the lake has a deep layer of very soft silt, which makes getting out for a swim a bit awkward, without a paddle board.

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W arriving.

The trees to W’s right are growing on the small island, where there was a Bald Eagle nest. Prof A challenged us to swim to the island and, I think, was a bit surprised when B and I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t all that far, maybe a 500m round trip, at a guess. The island is private, so we didn’t quite go the whole way. We didn’t see any eagles, but we had a good view of the nest.

Once back, I had a bit of a wander. Close by there was a picnic table and a fire-pit – I think this was one of the campgrounds which seem to be scattered around the area – they can be rented at relatively low cost I believe.

There were dragonflies and damselflies of various sizes and colours about. I took numerous blurred photos of a mating pair of damselflies, the male was a lovely combination of royal blue and mauve. I failed too with an orange dragonfly and an electric blue damselfly similar to those I see close to home.

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

I chased this dragonfly along the edge of the lake, but at least I got some relatively sharp shots. I’m reasonably confident with my identification, although online descriptions say that the markings on the body are ‘orange triangles’, whereas to me they look like red hearts.

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

Which reminds me of a blogger I once knew who found heart-shapes everywhere.

I was fascinated too by the plants and fungi under the trees. Although they were all unfamiliar, I was trying to figure out their place in the ecosystem by analogy with the things I see around home. For example…

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Berry.

This plant with its single layer of large leaves and what must have been a single central flower put me in mind of our own Herb Paris.

Time was marching on, and I turned to go back along the fringe of the lake to the boats when I was startled by this monster…

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A Fishing Spider.

In retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t quite as big as it seemed, but it was still, by some distance, the biggest spider I’ve seen in the wild. Feisty too: it kept waving two of its legs at me in a very aggressive fashion, or, at least, it seemed that way.

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A nursery net spider. Notice all of the ghostly baby spiders in the nest.

I think it’s a Striped Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Scriptus. There’s a very similar species, the Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Tenebrosus, but although this spider looks dark, I think that may be more to do with the fact that it was in the shade.

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A beady eye.

Fishing Spiders don’t use a nest for hunting, but the female carries her eggs around in a silken sac before building a nest for her brood when they hatch. That probably explains the aggression. This nest was pretty big. They are also one of the species of spider which practice sexual cannibalism, with the female devouring the male after mating.

I gather that, as the name suggests, Fishing Spiders can hunt in or under the water, eating tadpoles, small fish and insects which live in the water or on the surface. They also hunt in the woods surrounding the lake however.

Talking of hunting…

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A damselfly becomes a meal.

…this damselfly has fallen prey to this fly, which is not too dissimilar from the one in my previous post. During the damselfly’s death throes the pair of them landed on my hat.

The reason we needed a short outing, was that TBH and I had a long drive in prospect. Our daughter A was also in the States, working as a Camp Counsellor at a Summer Camp in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. A was keen to see her uncle, aunt and cousins whilst she was stateside. She could get a 24 hour pass and somehow TBH had convinced herself that West Stockbridge was about an hour-and-half’s drive from where we were staying. When we looked it up again, our app was giving three-and-a-half hours. Each way. And that was before the many wrong turns we took. It was a long day.

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West Stockbridge Shaker Mill.

This was the only photo I took in West Stockbridge. The following day, when we had to repeat the long journey to take A back, TBH and I had a wander around the wonderful Turnpark sculpture park, which was closed, but not locked-up. It was fantastic and I really should have taken lots of photos. Next time!

Whilst we were shouting at the satnav, Prof A took the boys bouldering. Or perhaps that was the next day, maybe they were shopping for a new toy. Or playing with that toy?

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Around Threshthwaite Cove.

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Hartsop Dodd. My route followed the wall up to the ridge and then the skyline to the top.

A couple of weeks after my last outing, so mid-June, and I was out relatively early and parked in the small, free car-park in the hamlet of Hartsop. The car-park was already filling up despite the early hour. The earlyish start and my choice of route – short and not too far from home – were due to my plans for the afternoon.

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Colourful Lichen. Possibly Red Crest (or British Soldier) Lichen.
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Looking along Patterdale to Ullswater.
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Grey Crag (on the right).
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The long wooded ridge of Hartsop above How and Brothers Water.

After a very grey start, the clouds began to break-up and the sun could poke through, making for some glorious views.

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Pano. Ullswater, Place Fell, Brock Crags, Rest Dodd, Grey Crag, Hartsop Dodd.
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The hills around Dovedale: High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield, Cofa Pike, Dollywaggon Pike, and Hartsop above How.
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Patterdale Pano.

Once the sun appeared I started to see a number of what I thought were day-flying moths. In flight, they looked quite dark, and I thought they might be Chimney Sweeper moths, or at least something similar. But then I noticed one land and open it’s wings…

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Mountain Ringlet.

They were Mountain Ringlets! Not the most pre-possessing butterfly, I’ll admit, but very exciting none-the-less. In England, they are only found in the Lake District and are quite elusive. In many years of walking in the Lakes, I’ve never seen them before. Actually, this wasn’t the first one I saw, or attempted to photograph that morning. Despite the fact that the grass was very short, when they dropped down into it they seemed to disappear, and if I approached, hoping to spot them and get a photo, they were shy and would fly-off.

I was lucky with the change in the weather:

“The adults are highly active only in bright sunshine but can be disturbed from the ground even in quite dull weather. They keep low to the ground in short flights, pausing regularly to bask amongst grass tussocks or feed on the flowers of Tormentil or Heath Bedstraw.”

Source

There was lots of Bedstraw flowering, but my efforts to photograph the tiny white flowers weren’t very successful. I assumed that I would continue to see Mountain Ringlets during the rest of the walk, but I didn’t – they were prolific around the summit of Hartsop Dodd, but after that, no more.

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Caudale Head, Caudale Quarry and Red Screes.

Caudale Moor, John Bell’s Banner, Stony Cove Pike – are there any other hills in the Lakes which glory in three different titles? I always think of it as Stony Cove Pike whereas Wainwright goes with Caudale Moor. Although I’ve climbed it many times over the years, it has often been from the Kirkstone Pass, when time has been short. I’ve never had a poke around Caudale Quarry, or climbed any of the ridges which rise on the Troutbeck side, so plenty of scope for further exploration.

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Looking back to Hartsop Dodd.

I was supposed to be in a hurry, but the long steady climb to Stony Cove Pike followed a ramshackle drystone wall, perfect territory for Wheatears. I took lots of photos, all of females oddly, of which this was my favourite…

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Wheatear, female.

The sun had disappeared behind a cloud again, so the light wasn’t ideal, but by now I was in full ‘birding’ mode. There were Crows, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks about too to try to capture, although generally not as close at hand as the Wheatears.

Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks will all sing in flight. I think that this songster was a Skylark…

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Skylark.
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Skylark.

This was definitely a Skylark, the crest is the giveaway, unusually singing from a perch.

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From Stoney Cove Pike: High Street and Thornthwaite Crag.

The sun was shining again, so I sat on the summit to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.

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From Stoney Cove Pike: Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke.
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Thornthwaite Crag.
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Thornthwaite Crag pano.
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Threshthwaite Mouth and Threshthwaite Crag on Caudale Moor.

I had half-planned to include Thornthwaite Crag on my circuit, but the dawdling I been doing, photographing butterflies and birds, did not fit well with my plans so I took the lazy option, a small path which climbed very easily onto the ridge for Grey Crag.

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I’d run out of water, but found a tiny rivulet crossing the slopes here and refilled my bottle. For my birthday, TBH had bought me a water bottle which includes a filter….

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…the chunky white cylinder you can see inside the bottle. To be fair, I’ve been drinking water from Lake District streams with no ill effects for years, but the filter does give some added peace of mind.

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Threshthwaite Mouth, Threshthwaite Crag, Caudale Moor.
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Rest Dodd, The Knott, Rampsgill Head, Kidsty Pike.
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Along the ridge to Grey Crag.

The wind had really picked-up, and I had to stop to shove on an extra layer.

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Threshthwaite Cove.

Some hike stats: around 6 miles and 700m of climbing according to MapMyWalk.

Three Wainwrights: Hartsop Dodd, Caudale Moor, Grey Crag.

My plans for the afternoon? To settle down in front of the googlebox and watch Leicester Tigers trounce Saracens in the Premiership Final. It was a bit tense for a while there, but the result came out right in the end.

Around Threshthwaite Cove.

Whit’s End III

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Hawes Water.

Into June. A slightly longer local walk this time, to Hawes Water and the limestone pavements of Gait Barrows.

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Peacock Butterfly on Bird’s-eye Primrose.
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Peacock Butterfly on Bird’s-eye Primrose.
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Bird’s-eye Primroses.
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Female Damselfly. I think one of the forms of Blue-tailed Damselfly, which come in several colours.
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And my best guess is that this is another form of the same, with its green thorax and lilac ninth segment of its abdomen. Even my field guide admits that female Blue-tailed Damselflies are ‘confusing’.
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Bird’s-eye Primroses and a bug, possibly Oedemera lurida. But equally, probably not.
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Common Blue Damselfly, male.
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Blue-tailed Damselfly, male.
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A gaggle of geese.
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A holey leaf. Guelder Rose I think.

I took a lot of photos of partially devoured leaves this spring; I was amazed by the extent to which they could be eaten and not collapse, whilst still remaining recognisably leaves. I never saw any creatures which were evidently munching on the foliage. Maybe it happens at night.

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Scorpion Fly, male.
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Bird’s-eye Primrose again. With possibly Oedemera lurida again?
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Northern Marsh Orchid.
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Yellow Rattle.
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Germander Speedwell.
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Micro Moth on Yellow Rattle.

In the grassland at Gait Barrows these tiny moths hop about, making short flights around your feet, landing in the grass and apparently disappearing when they land. Close examination sometimes reveals that they have aligned their bodies with a blade of grass or a plant stem and are thus well-hidden. I was lucky, on this occasion, to get a better view.

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I think that this might be a sawfly, but I’m not even confident of that, let alone what kind of sawfly.
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Angular Solomon’s Seal.
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Angular Solomon’s Seal.
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Bloody Crane’s-bill growing in a gryke.
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Lily-of-the-valley.

I met a couple who were holidaying in the area, mainly to see butterflies, but they were looking for the Lady’s-slipper Orchids. I took them to the spot where, for a while, they grew abundantly, but there was nothing there to show them. Such a shame. At least I know that they are growing more successfully elsewhere in the region, but I don’t know where. I think the consensus is that the spot where they were planted on the limestone was too dry.

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Brown Silver-line Moth.
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Dark Red Helleborine, I think. Not yet flowering.
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Maidenhair Spleenwort.
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Lilies-of-the-valley.

The lack of Lady’s-slipper Orchids was in some way compensated by an abundance of Lily-of-the-valley. In my experience, although there are always lots of the spear-like leaves, flowers tend to be in short supply. This year there were lots. I must have timed my visit well.

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Tired Painted Lady.
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Painted Ladies: they have Union Jacks on their faces.

This is from a couple of days later from a neighbour’s garden. We had an afternoon buffet and an evening barbecue to celebrate the jubilee. Being a fervent monarchist, obviously, I was full of enthusiasm for a party. Especially since the weather was so warm and summery. Well…I’m all for extra Bank Holidays. And get togethers with the neighbours, particularly if I’m excused from decorating as a result!

Whit’s End III

Red Screes, Middle Dodd and Scandale

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Roundhill Farm and the start of the Red screes ridge, taken from above Stock Ghyll.

Easter Saturday. I’d been thinking that when I’ve climbed Red Screes in the past, I’ve almost always done it from the top of the Kirkstone Pass. What’s-more, I’d never climbed it via the long ridge which extends southwards towards Ambleside.

I’d dropped B off for a shift at Brockholes again, which meant quite a late start, and a reasonably early finish, so Ambleside, close to Brockholes, and with many parking options, seemed like a sensible place to begin my walk. The forecast had suggested low cloud initially, soon clearing, and I was quite surprised to see that the surrounding hills were still mostly enveloped.

There’s a track out of Ambleside which heads towards the Kirkstone and I took it as far as the farm house at Low Grove, where I dropped a little to cross Stock Ghyll and then through another farmyard at Roundhill Farm before walking a little way up the Kirkstone Road to find the path onto the ridge.

The ridge ahead was still cloaked in cloud, but at least there were views of Ambleside and Windermere opening up behind…

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Loughrigg, Rydal Water and Nab Scar.
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The path ahead.
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Wansfell Pike and Windermere.
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Flesh Crags.

It’s a long steady plod up the ridge, never very steep. Of course, it was another windy day, but nothing like as windy as many other days have been lately. The path skirted around to the left of the crags ahead and somewhere in amongst the crags I found a lovely sheltered spot for a drink, a snack and to admire the views.

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Brock Crags, Low Pike and High Pike on the Fairfield Horseshoe.

Whilst I sat there, the clouds continued to lift. At first the Coniston Fells appeared, then Crinkle Crags and Bowfell. Bizarrely, I could see the Scafells before the Langdale Pikes appeared. Closer to hand, most of the Fairfield Horseshoe had cleared, but it looked like Red Screes itself was stubbornly clinging on to a blanket of clouds.

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Coniston and Langdale Fells, Loughrigg and Rydal Water.
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Frogspawn.
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Red Screes. Taken from the vicinity of Snarker Pike (great name, I thought).
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Looking back to Snarker Pike.

Messers Wainwright and Birkett both decided to omit Snarker Pike from their (arbitrary) lists, but it is a Synge, with it’s magnificent six metres of prominence. Apparently there are 647 Synges in the Lake District. I think the Wainwrights and the Birketts are enough to keep me occupied for now, but I do like a list, so who knows?

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Looking down to the Kirkstone Inn.

I’d seen very few people on the ridge until I was almost at the top, when it suddenly seemed to get quite busy, with several groups heading down the way I had come up and also quite a few people arriving on the top from various directions at much the same time as I did.

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Middle Dodd. Patterdale beyond.

I’d decided to bag Middle Dodd whilst I was in the neighbourhood. Rude not to. It was a slightly strange way to do it, since I essentially descended to the top!

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Brothers Water and Place Fell from Middle Dodd.

There are some quite odd little hollows near to the top of Middle Dodd, where I was once again able to get out of the wind for more refreshments.

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Little Hart Crag and Dove Crag from Middle Dodd..
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Red Screes from Middle Dodd.

I’d felt pretty sure that there would be a path contouring around from Middle Dodd towards the top of the Scandale Pass, which did prove to be the case. It wasn’t a very major path, and there were odd sections of crag and bog to negotiate, but it was reasonable walking.

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Thack Bottom Edge, Scandale Head, Low Bakestones and Dove Crag. More great names.
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Little Hart Crag. Nearer to Dove Crag than to Hart Crag which has always seemed a bit odd to me.

Originally, I’d planned to walk down Scandale, because I’d been looking at it on the map and thinking that I’d never been that way before. But then, looking at the map again, it had occurred to me that I could ‘nip up’ Little Hart Crag, and then ‘nip up’ Dove Crag and come down via High Pike and Low Pike and thus turn a Two Wainwright Day (not bad) into a Six Wainwright Day (stellar). However, when I reached the top of the Scandale Pass the former option seemed much more attractive. It had turned quite grey again, the wind was howling through the pass and the thought of the substantial re-ascent onto Dove Crag was not appealing to me at all. In truth, I’m not sure that different conditions would have made any difference: my heart just wasn’t in it. And I wanted to walk down Scandale.

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Scandale.
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Looking back up Scandale to Little Hart Crag.
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And how was it? Well – the track took me too far from Scandale Beck for my liking. The map shows a path on the other side of the beck – I think I’ll give that a go the next time I come this way. I did enjoy the views though.

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Low Pike and High Pike.
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High Brock Crags and Low Brock Crags. I’m intrigued – I wonder how these parallel lines of crags were formed?
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High Pike again.
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Brock Crags, Low Pike, High Pike pano.
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High Sweden Bridge.

Around High Sweden Bridge there were loads of Primroses flowering. The sun began to break through. I took off a layer. What followed was definitely my favourite part of the day.

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Primroses.
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Wood Sorrel.
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Golden Saxifrage and Common Sorrel leaves.

Wood Sorrel and Common Sorrel are not related, or even in any way very similar, except their leaves both have a pleasant citrusy flavour. Since they were growing cheek by jowl in the woods here, I was able to compare – for my money, the Common Sorrel edges it, but both are very refreshing.

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As I came down the track, approaching the outskirts of Ambleside, a Jay dropped to the ground not far in front of me. I watched it for a while, then turned to take a photo of Loughrigg and Nab Scar again…

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When I turned back, the Jay was boldly displaying itself in a fallen tree. Normally such a shy bird, the Jay didn’t seem very bothered by my presence. Briefly, it was joined by a second Jay. It was very frustrating that I didn’t have my ‘birding’ camera with me. By using the digital zoom, I managed to get shots on my phone which are at least recognisably a Jay, even if they are very blurred. I was able to watch the Jay for quite some time before it eventually flew away.

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The fallen tree.
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Coming down into Ambleside.

It was a bit of a shock, on reaching Ambleside, to find that the usual crowds were there, tucking into ice-creams, which seemed incongruous on what had been another cold day in the hills.

MapMyWalk gives a little over 10 miles and almost exactly 800 metres of ascent (I would that think that 700m is nearer the mark).

Red Screes, Middle Dodd and Scandale

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

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.

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

The year is almost up and the blog is stuck in June. So….better get a shift on.

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

First off, some shots from an evening to Foulshaw Moss when A was dancing.

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An Orb-weaver Spider, possibly a Larinioides cornutus female.
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The limestone hills of home across Morecambe Bay.

Next door neighbour and all-round good-egg BB was interested in our ebikes; I suggested he borrow one and join me for a trip. We cycled to Morecambe. As you can see, the weather was fantastic, but there was a strong wind blowing, unusually, from the South, so that cycling along the Prom was an uphill struggle. The compensation was that on our way back again we felt like we had wings. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of our memorable refreshment stops, at the Hest Bank for a pint on our outward trip and at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands for a lovely meal and a couple more ales in their sunny beer garden.

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Bike maintenance BB style.
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Choppy waves from the end of the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. Lake District Fells beyond.
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X-Ray and TBH in Clarke’s Lot.

Old friend X-Ray visited to catch up. It was very grey day, but we dragged him out for our usual wander around Jenny Brown’s Point anyway.

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Warton Crag and Clougha Pike beyond.
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Another Foulshaw Moss view.

Another taxi-Dad trip to Foulshaw Moss. Things have moved on since then – A has passed her driving test and doesn’t need any more lifts to Milnthorpe. I shall need a new excuse to visit Foulshaw Moss.

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Sedge Warbler (I think).
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Foxglove.
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Birch Polyp.
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Azure Damselfly.
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Green Lacewing, possibly Chrysopa perla.
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Crane Fly.
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TBH cycling past the visitor centre at Leighton Moss.

Finally, a shorter bike ride with TBH which took us to Holme and back via some very quiet lanes. It almost went horribly wrong when I made the mistake of leaving TBH a little behind (she having chosen not to use an ebike) and she, inexplicably, took a left turn, even though I’d mentioned the fact that we would go through Yealand Redmayne. It all worked okay in the end, after a few puzzling moments and a bit of cycling back and forth looking for each other.

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

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Whitbarrow Scar on the left, Eastern Fells on the right.

The day after our Morecambe jaunt. A Saturday. TBH had other things to do, and wanted a rest, but I was hooked and keen to get out again on my bike. The weather was glorious. I decided to take the Morecambe Bay Cycleway in the opposite direction and visit Foulshaw Moss.

The photograph above is taken from a minor lane which runs from close to Dallam Hall almost to Levens Hall. I’ve walked this lane, many years ago, it’s part of the Cumbria Coastal Way. On foot, on a dull day, I found it a bit of a tedious experience, but on a bike it was a revelation – nice and flat, huge open views. Marvellous.

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Whitbarrow Scar and the River Gilpin.

From the village of Levens, the MBC follows minor lanes, and one short section of track, paralleling the busy A590. I’d taken a leaf out of Andy’s book and used satellite images looking for a connection to take me to Foulshaw Moss, which is on the far side of the main road. I found a track which was perfect, directly opposite. In the event, it was clearly somebody’s driveway – I still used, trespassing for a matter of seconds, but I did have the decency to feel guilty about it.

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My trusty steed.

I’d been a bit concerned about getting across the A590, which is a dual carriageway at this point, very lots of very fast moving traffic, but I just had to be patient and eventually I managed to get across without feeling I’d risked life and limb.

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Whitbarrow Scar from Foulshaw Moss.

Since I usually visit in the evenings, I wasn’t quite prepared for how busy the reserve would be. The car park was full. (Admittedly, it is quite a small car park.) I chatted to a Wildlife Trust volunteer who told me it had been even busier earlier in the week.

Most visitors seemed intent on viewing the very distant Osprey nest though, so I could still enjoy a quiet stroll around the boardwalks.

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Greenfinch and Red Poll.

With the sun shining, I was able to see some of the insect life I usually miss in the evenings.

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Four-spotted Chaser.
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Green Hairstreak.
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Large Red Damselfly.
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A blue damselfly – I can’t identify which.
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Two more Large Red Damselflies.
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After perhaps an hour at Foulshaw I set off for home. I’d been considering a different route back, which initially followed the same route to Levens village.

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View across the Lyth Valley from the outskirts of Levens.

From Levens a lane climbs steeply across the slopes of Sizergh Fell. I then travelled back to Milnthorpe on very minor lanes through Sedgwick and then a series of small hamlets which I’ve never visited before: Crosscrake, Stainton and Viver.

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This return route was much more undulating than the outward one had been, which was all well and good until the bike’s battery ran out of juice. The last three or four miles was a good reminder that riding a heavy ebike at the end of a longish day is very hard-work without assistance.

Almost 30 miles, with a little over 400m of ascent. (According to MapMyWalk which has a setting for cycling, despite the name).

The bike/walk combination is definitely something to explore further in the future, I think.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike