Juvenile Heron.

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Another surprise. A Sunday afternoon stroll through Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots, down to Myer’s Allotment for the view of the Moss, and then back along the Row and across the fields. It was dull, but mild, and I’d hoped I might see some late season dragonflies, which I did, but only one, and that quickly flew by and out of sight.

As I passed Bank Well, something caught the corner of my eye. Double-taking, I was wondering why there was a pale grey boulder in the midst of the pond, when it had surely never been there before? The tall reeds around the pond made further investigation difficult, but once I’d realised that I was looking a Heron, I was surprised to see that it didn’t move, Herons usually being very shy birds, easily spooked. This one sat stock still whilst I moved around the pond looking for the best vantage point, taking many photos. Maybe this unusual behaviour can be put down to the fact that this is a juvenile; an adult bird would have a white crown and several distinctive black patches….

Heron

Here’s one I took earlier at Leighton Moss in 2011.

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Juvenile Heron.

Middleton Nature Reserve

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Migrant Hawker.

Being the continuing adventures of a taxi-driving Dad.

Last Saturday, B had a rugby match, playing hooker (he’s suitably bonkers) for his school team away at Morecambe High (where, many moons ago, I used to teach). Unlike some of his contemporaries, B doesn’t seem too concerned about whether his team win or lose, just so long as the result seems fair, and at the end of the game declared: “That was fun!”, despite his team having taken a bit of a hammering.

Afterwards, we dashed home, but, in my case, only for a quick turn around, as I took Little S to a nerf gun birthday party in – guess where – Morecambe. I realise that the rational thing to do would have been to take both boys to both events, but it seemed easier at the time to do it this way. With S dropped off, only a few minutes late for his war game, I had the best part of two hours to kill and decided to go hunting for one of the three Wildlife Trust reserves which I knew to be somewhere around Heysham. Idiotically, I hadn’t checked the exact locations in advance, so resorted to driving around, with more hope than confidence, until I spotted a likely looking car park and found that I had stumbled upon Middleton reserve.

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After a bite of lunch, and whilst walking around the reserve, I met a man who told me that he remembered when this was the site of a petrochemical plant. Now it has two large ponds and a mixture of meadows and scrub.

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Hoverfly, possibly Helophilus pendulus, on an Alder leaf.

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Fox and cubs.

This patch of waste ground maybe a tad unprepossessing at first glance, but look a little closer and there is a great deal to enjoy. I was very much put in mind of Richard Mabey’s marvellous book The Unofficial Countryside, which is about how nature, left to its own devices, can reclaim scraps of once industrialised land like this.

The sun was warm and there were no end of dragonflies about, although few of them would pose for a photo.

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Female Common Darter.

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Speckled Wood.

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Blackberries.

There were lots of flowers still in bloom and it was obvious that, had I had been here earlier, in the summer, there would have been even more to see.

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Wild Carrot, the ancestor of all domestic carrots.

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When the flowers turn into spiny seeds, the umbel curls in on itself.

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More hoverflies on what I assume are Michaelmas Daisies.

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A willowherb?

I could hear the contact calls of small birds from all sides and, with lots of teasels and other tall seed-heads about, I wondered whether they might be Goldfinches. Eventually, they flew across the path ahead of me, then settled above me, on teasels growing on a high bank. Here’s some of them…

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The photo didn’t come out brilliantly and only a small part of the charm are here, but the flocks of Goldfinches which gather at this time of year are delightful, so I wanted to include the photo anyway.

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Common Toadflax.

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Mute swans – could they still be nesting in mid-September?

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There were plenty of half-hidden reminders of the areas past – the remnants of tarmac covered surfaces, these huge tyres, odd bits of buildings here and there, but they mostly seem to be slowly disappearing.

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Abundant Haws.

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Crane Fly.

A blade of grass apparently dancing in a way completely contrary to the direction of the wind alerted me to this spider, which was busy constructing a web.

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Male Common Darter.

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As I came to the end of my walk and was running out of time before needing to head off to pick up Little S, I came to a really sheltered spot where, not only were there even more dragonflies, but, in addition, the Common Darters were sunning themselves in obvious spots, as seems to be their wont.

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Male Common Darter.

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Male Common Darter.

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Alder cones.

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Male Common Darter.

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Mating Common Darters. I’ve been confused in the past by the colour of females like this one, expecting the females to be yellow, but this pale blue colour is apparently typical of older females.

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Drone fly, or something similar, on Evening Primrose.

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Guelder Rose berries.

Middleton Nature Reserve

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

Skelwith Bridge – Skelwith Force – Elter Water – Elterwater – Little Langdale – Slater Bridge – Stang End – High Park – Colwith Force – Skelwith Bridge.

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The Langdale Pikes seen across Elter Water. 

How appropriate, after a post about favourite walks, that in my next bit of catching up from the summer hols, I’m recounting a walk which, in slight variations, I’ve walked many times, in all seasons, in all weathers, alone on occasions but often with big groups of friends and which definitely qualifies at least as one of my favourites, particularly for when time is short, or the forecast is a bit iffy.

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Skelwith Force.

A dodgy forecast was partly responsible for us choosing this route. We were going out with our friends Beaver B and G and their family again; the original plan had been to get the boats out on one of the lakes, but with showers, possibly prolonged, expected, we decided that a low level walk was a better option. We’d actually run through a number of alternatives the night before and it was eventually G who suggested something in this area.

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Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Leptura quadrifasciata).

This was spotted by Little B pretty much at the top of the track between Langdale and Little Langdale and it led us both a merry dance as we tried to photograph it in damp and gloomy conditions. It’s led me on another merry dance as I’ve tried to identify it – I was struck by it’s superficial resemblance to the Sexton beetle which I photographed recently, which wasn’t helpful because this is not even a closely related species.

We’d had drizzle, then a bright spell as we lunched by Elter Water, then rain as we climbed up and over into Little Langdale. Now it began to brighten up.

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Little Langdale Tarn.

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Slater Bridge.

Over Slater’s bridge and heading along Little Langdale we paused a while to watch cyclists riding their bikes through a ford on the infant River Brathay and then, a little further along, spotted a Roe deer down by the stream.

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Little Langdale. Blake Rigg on Pike O’Blisco and Busk Pike on Lingmoor behind.

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Stang End.

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The barn at Stang End with it’s impressive tiers of stacked fire wood.

Our perseverance through the rain was paying off now with some beautiful warm, sunny weather. The garden at Stang End was busy with Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies sunning themselves.

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High Park.

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Colwith Force.

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Peacock butterfly.

We interrupted this large beetle, here already scuttling for cover, as it was preying on the earthworm seen in the top left of the picture.

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Here is the predator after I’d fetched him (or her) out of hiding…

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I’m reasonably sure that this is a Violet Ground Beetle, Carabus violaceus, although there are several very similar species of large, black beetles which also have that violet tint.

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I haven’t featured a Robin in the blog for an unusually long time. This one looks a bit tatty,  but juvenile Robins have speckled feathers, which are moulted at around two to three months, so could this be a juvenile, born in May or June, which has almost changed into adult plumage?

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Almost back, crossing the footbridge near Skelwith Bridge.

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We were quite late finishing, having not set-off particularly early, and had wondered whether the promised tea and cake at Chesters By The River would be thwarted, but the new take-away section (well, new since I was last there) was still serving, so a mutiny by the kids was averted. I had the beluga lentil dish, seen near the front of the counter above, as an alternative to cake, and very nice it was too. Chesters, both cafe and shop, had been very busy when we had passed earlier and their success seems well deserved. If only they would reinstate the missing apostrophe in their name, I could thoroughly recommend a visit.

Skelwith Bridge and Little Langdale Stroll

A Tawny Owl on the Windowsill.

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The title just about says it all. We came home from our camping trip and were spreading out wet stuff on the patio to dry.

“There’s an owl on the windowsill!” Little S told us.

I hadn’t looked up to notice at that point.

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The owl was even less observant. It would occasionally half open its eyes to look at us without much curiosity, but then quickly dozed off again.

Of course, if you have an owl on your windowsill, then you can have your photo taken with it…

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It was around two o’clock when S first spotted the owl.

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It stayed all day. Around nine in the evening, by which time it was getting pretty dark, the owl had started to look a little more lively, although it still seemed to be dozing from time to time.

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I sat outside and watched it for quite a while, hoping to see it fly off. When all I could see was a dark shadow of the top of its head, I moved inside and watched it through the window, but eventually gave up. Even when it finally flew it would be too dark for me to see anything. Sometime before midnight it did eventually leave.

Since then, when we open the curtains in the morning, we keep checking to see if it has returned, but it hasn’t yet.

A Tawny Owl on the Windowsill.

Aira Force

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Once we had discovered that our friends had never visited Aira Force before, that seemed like an obvious thing to do whilst we were in the area. The main car park was full and we were quite lucky to get two spaces in the additional Park Brow parking a little up the road toward Dockray. We dropped down to the visitor centre where the kids discovered a bit of a playground…

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I suppose there will eventually come a point when they feel that they are too mature and sophisticated for this kind of thing, but it hasn’t happened yet and I’m in no hurry for them to get there.

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Of course, a good tree to climb is even better than a manmade substitute, a fact which B reminded me of when he appeared, grinning rather cheekily, above the roof of the snack kiosk.

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When we eventually got going again, our friend Little B (there were really too many people on this trip with christian names beginning with B!) , spotted this striking caterpillar…

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Alder Moth caterpillar.

…determinedly making its way across a very busy path.

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On the bridge below Aira Force.

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Dipper.

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Our route was a simple one, we followed the paths up one side of the stream and then came back down on the other side.

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Little B is something of a kindred spirit; she loves nature and took lots of photographs. She will surely have a blog of her own in years to come. There were quite a few toadstools emerging in the woods and she was evidently fascinated. When we came across this enormous specimen…

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She stood by it to give me some scale.

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High Cascades.

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Ullswater.

Aira Force

Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

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With high-tide generally falling around the middle of the day and therefore not much beach on offer at that time, we did a tiny bit more exploring than we sometimes do when we are on the Llyn, which is to say: some. We have once before been down to the end of the peninsula, but that was 7 years ago, and at that time the Llyn coastal path hadn’t been opened, so today’s walk wouldn’t have been possible.

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Bardsey Island.

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Former Coastguard lookout station on Mynydd Mawr.

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The coastal heath on Mynydd Mawr, with its patchwork of purple heather and low-growing, yellow gorse looked wonderful, and the sea, a fairly mundane blue in my photos, was a scintillating, almost unreal seeming, glittering turquoise in the flesh.

It was also breathtakingly clear – this was the day, my kids have reminded me, when TJF correctly picked out the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, whilst his Dad and I poured scorn on the idea, trying to persuade him that it was Anglesea he was looking at. In our defence, he had first tentatively suggested that those distant hills were in Pembrokeshire, which was patently ridiculous. So honours even then. Sort of.

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Two views of Mynydd Anelog.

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I suspect, but can’t recall, that this walk was Andy’s suggestion. Certainly he, and some of the others, have done it before, but for us it was a revelation. I took many, many pictures of the view along the coast and fell steadily further behind the group.

Then, with distractions closer to hand as well, the situation only got worse…

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Having been wrong about this before, I hesitate to offer a definitive opinion here, but I’m pretty sure that this is a male Linnet and not a Red-poll, the grey head and black tail-feathers being the deciding features.

I think that these gregarious black caterpillars are almost certainly destined one day, hopefully, to be Peacock butterflies.

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I’ve been a bit worried about Peacock butterflies. They are generally very common close to home and probably the most regular visitors to the Buddleia bushes in our garden. But until recently I’ve hardly seen any this year, and none in the garden. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so thorough when I pulled out all of the nettles I found in our flower beds a while back, since this is the caterpillars food-plant.

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As we dropped down into the gap between Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog we were sheltered from the wind and there were lots of butterflies about. This…

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…Wall Brown can stand in for them all. It’s not a species I see at home, although apparently it is present in the area.

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Common Fleabane.

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Looking back to Mynydd Mawr.

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Carn Fadryn see through intervening rain, the Rivals just about visible on the left.

We had a few spots of rain as we left the top of Mynydd Anelog (after our customary summit sit-down rest), but then the weather held off long enough for most of the party to have made it back to the cars, or near enough. Most of the party: TBH and Little S and I had been dawdling on the minor lane – I was introducing Little S to the delights of foraged Sorrel from the road verge – so that we were caught in the next fierce shower, which was first hail and then a really drenching rain. It wasn’t sufficient to put a dampener on a really excellent walk however.

Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

Norber, Crummack Dale, Austwick Beck

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Oxenber Wood, from just above Austwick.

My post-work walking outings this year have been exceptional. So much so that I’m almost regretting the fact that work has come to an end for the summer*. This walk started on a sunny afternoon in Austwick, a picturesque village which, inexplicably, I completely neglected to photograph.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar and Nappa Scars.

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Robin Proctor’s Scar.

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Moughton Scar.

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Wheatear.

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Skylark. I think.

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Classic perched Norber Erratic.

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Skylark and Meadow Pipit – the Proper Birder told me that Skylark’s are larger!

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I spent quite a long time exploring the famous Norber Erratics, zig-zagging back and forth taking photographs of birds, boulders and the expanding views. I was pleased that the erratics were so clearly of a different rock than the underlying white limestone, having been mistaken about erratics before.

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I wasn’t expecting to stumble across a manhole cover. A caver’s dig?

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Seems likely. A quick google reveals that this is indeed a dig, an attempt to find an easier route into Nappa Scar Cave, which was itself discovered by a digging party in 2013.

The very white, highly-textured limestone, made for very distinctive drystone walls…

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View to a distant Pendle Hill.

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Pen-y-Ghent above Moughton Scars

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Ingleborough from Norber.

Unusually, this post has no photographs of butterflies, although I did see quite a number of Small Heaths in the grassy areas between the Limestone Pavements and some Red Admirals later on.

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Pen-y-Ghent across the head of Crummack Dale.

Crummack Dale is surrounded on all sides by limestone scars and at it’s northern end by two sets of cliffs with a large area of limestone pavement in between. I’ve camped near Austwick on several occasions in the past and feel that I must have been this way before, but, then again, if I have then surely I would remember: this is truly breath-taking scenery. To me it compared with seeing High-Cup Nick or Malham Scar for the first time. My photos totally fail to do justice to it, but perhaps that explains why it isn’t as well known as it might otherwise be – it is difficult to capture the grandeur of this scenery in a photo.

This photo…

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…was taken at Sulber Gate. Next time I’m in this area I intend to sit here and make a brew and eat a lengthy picnic whilst I enjoy this view.

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Panorama, click on the photo (or any other) to see a larger version on Flickr.

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Thieves Moss.

I was a bit surprised to discover that this area, in amongst all of this limestone, is genuinely a moss, that is wet and boggy, with Bog Asphodel and Cotton Grass and a few acid-loving plants you might not expect to see hereabouts.

I wouldn’t normally include a picture of a stile…

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…but this is named on the map: it’s the Beggar’s Stile. A path continues from here along the edges of Moughton Scars and I must come back to try that path sometime soon, but on this occasion I wanted to drop down into Crummack Dale.

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To seek out another tributary of the Lune, Austwick Beck, which is the dark line in the middle of the photo below…

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And which flows out of a cave mouth, which was unfortunately rather difficult to photograph because the sun was just above the horizon, making the light difficult.

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Austwick Beck Head.

To the east…

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…another stream flows down to join Austwick Beck from a spring at Moughton Whetstone Hole, somewhere else I shall have to come back to explore another time.

The Limestone Pavements had been busy with Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. This wall was  host to several families of Wheatears, juveniles and adults alike, all perching on the crest of the wall, or the wire, or the fence posts…

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Juvenile Wheatears.

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Crummack.

As I approached Crummack I could near a Buzzard calling from the crags off to the right. I scanned in vain, but couldn’t pick it out, until it flew away from the crag and apparently straight for me. It made a bee-line, but then veered off when it was about half-way between me and the crag, landing in the trees surrounding the farm at Crummack. I wondered whether the apparent flight in my direction was just a coincidence and continued to check the trees trying to spot the bird. I couldn’t see it, but could still hear it calling and then I noticed a second, larger Buzzard, presumably the female, heading up the valley towards the trees.

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When I lost sight of this second Buzzard, I wandered a bit further down the valley, but stopped again a little way on to admire the view. The smaller Buzzard, the male, now made a second flight, arrow-straight and unmistakably heading directly for me, this time leaving it much later to veer off and return to the trees. This was nothing like the close shave I had in the past, but I definitely felt like I was being warned off. I did get a photo of the male, just as it changed course, but it is disappointingly blurred.

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Part of the reason I’d stopped was to consult my map in order to amend my route. The western side of the valley was now in deep shade, so I opted to take the track across the dale towards Studrigg Scar.

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Clapper bridge over Austwick Beck.

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The track on the far side of the valley turned out to be a narrow affair, slightly overgrown and overrun with flies. It might have been a disappointment, given how shady it was, but for the fact that many of the verdant plants hanging over the path were canes loaded with Raspberries.

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Most weren’t ripe, but there were still more then enough for me, and they were delicious. I don’t think I’ve seen such a fine crop of wild raspberries since I was walking in the Black Forest something like 30 years ago.

From the tiny hamlet of Wharfe, rather than heading straight back to Austwick, I crossed this little brook…

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…cheerful with Monkeyflowers….

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…then over Wharfe Gill Sike and round the hillside under Wharfe Wood and Oxenber Wood (more places to come back to explore). I had hoped that I could chase the sunshine up the hillside, but it was much faster than me and I finished the walk in shade, although I could see that the sun was shining still on the slopes of the hills above Bentham.

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Flascoe Bridge and Austwick Beck.

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The final section of path had a fine display of the tall and showy Giant Bellflower, though it was getting a bit dark to take photos. This has appeared here on the blog before, but I’m much more confident about my identification this time, partly because ‘The Wild Flower Key’ is excellent, especially now that I am beginning to know my way around it a bit, but also because there are several very detailed wildflower plant websites available now.

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Norber, Crummack Dale, Austwick Beck