Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses

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Early April, when the branches are mostly bare and the birds are busy mating and nesting is a great time to spot and take photos of birds. This Bullfinch photo is a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t taken on a walk, but through our window, by where I was sitting on a Thursday evening.

On the Friday, when I got home from work, having finished for the Easter break, I headed out for a wander round Heald Brow, to the south of the village.

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View of The Howgills.
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Forsythia catching the sun.
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Hazelwood Hall.

I think someone had been doing some major pruning, because a better view of Hazelwood Hall had opened up from the adjoining Hollins Lane. My interest in the hall is due to the gardens, which I believed to be designed by Lancaster architect Thomas Mawson, although the current Wikipedia entry is slightly confusing on that score and seems to imply, in one section, that in fact Mawson’s son Prentice was responsible, only, later on, to state that it was Mawson himself who designed the garden working with another son Edward.

Hazelwood Hall 1926

Certainly the tiered terraces, the loggia and the use of stone pergolas are very similar to other Mawson gardens I’ve visited.

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On Heald Brow, I noticed a Great-spotted Woodpecker in a very distant tree. I’ve included the photo, rubbish though it is, just to remind myself that I saw it, because, quite frankly, I was chuffed that I could pick it out in the tree-tops.

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Likewise this Bullfinch. I know that it’s the second of this post, but I don’t seem to have seen many this year.

The Saturday was a glorious day, a great start to our holidays, so I set-off for Gait Barrows in search of birds and butterflies.

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Violets

I did take no end of photos of butterflies and other insects and even more of birds, but above all else I took pictures of Primroses which seem to have proliferated all around the reserve.

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Primroses with Bee-fly.
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Blue moor grass – typical of limestone grassland.
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Hazel catkins catching the sun
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All that’s left of one of the former hedgerows. Still need to have a proper look at what’s grown back.
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A Drone Fly, I think, but it’s the texture of the wood which I really like.

There were Drone flies everywhere and I took lots of, I suppose, quite pointless photographs of them, but then occasionally what I took to be another Drone Fly would instead transpire to be something more interesting, like this Bee-fly…

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I was quite surprised to see this machinery in the woods by Hawes Water, but the path from Challan Hall around to Moss Lane, which is supposed to be wheelchair friendly, had been getting increasingly muddy and Natural England were having it widened and resurfaced, so bully for them.

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Cherry blossom?
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I can’t really identify lichens and, I think because I can’t, I don’t always pay them the attention they merit. I think this is Ramalina farinacea, but I wouldn’t take my word for it, and, looking again, I think there are probably at least three different lichens in the photo above.

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Honeysuckle leaves, some of the earliest to appear, catching the light.
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Although it was months ago, I remember my encounter with this Comma butterfly very vividly. It was sunning itself on some limestone, as you can see, and I slowly edged toward it, taking a new photo after each stride. Eventually, I upset it and it moved, finally settling on a nearby tree-trunk, at which point I started edging forward again.

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What struck me was that, if I hadn’t seen the Comma land, I don’t think I would have picked it out. Whilst the underside of its wings are drab in comparison to the patterned orange of the upper wings, the underwings are beautifully adapted to conceal the butterfly in a superb imitation of a tatty dead leaf.

This…

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…is a warbler. I don’t think it’s a Chiff-chaff, they have a very distinctive song which I can actually recognise, so I can recall getting excited because this had a different song. Sadly, I can’t remember the song at all, and can’t identify which warbler this is without that additional clue.

No such confusion here…

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…this is a make Kestrel. I wish I’d managed to capture it in flight when it’s colours looked stunning.

And I suspect that this is a Chiff-chaff…

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Though I couldn’t swear to it.

Another mystery here…

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…with a bone suspended in a Blackthorn bush. I know that Shrikes impale their prey on the thorns of this tree, but Shrikes are quite small and I think that this bone is probably a bit too big for that. Also, Shrikes are very rare in the UK these days and are not generally seen this far West (although I know that they have occasionally been spotted at Leighton Moss).

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Ash flowers beginning to emerge.
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More Hazel catkins.
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And again!
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White violets.

I was back at Gait Barrows the following day, but the skies were dull and I didn’t take many photos. On the Monday, I had another local wander, including a visit to The Cove…

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The Tuesday was a bit special, so I shall save that for my next post…

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Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses

Brigsteer Daffodils

 

After dragging ourselves away from the excitement of carpet shopping, we took the kids to Brigsteer Woods. A walk in the woods is always a big hit with them – almost immediately they found a fallen tree trunk laying over a dip which provided an opportunity for feats of daring, balance and agility. The strange little woven-stick buildings I walked past on my last visit were also popular.

From an adult perspective though, the most striking thing was the ubiquity of great drifts of daffodils. Apparently, once upon a time this was a common sight all across Britain, and the reasons that such displays are much less common now are not fully understood.

The whole wood is access area and is criss-crossed with paths. We found a route which took us down, down, down to the right-of-way which runs along the bottom edge of the wood and then another track which brought us back up the hill, eventually back to the car. (If you plan to make a visit, be warned that the right-of-way doesn’t pass through the best areas for daffodils.)

Chiff-chaffs were singing in the trees overhead. Underfoot we found more violets…

This one has the nectar-guide lines. The leaves were tiny and not much use to me for identification purposes. We couldn’t detect a scent. I think that I found the stipules though…

…which have hair-like teeth. The spur was darker than the petals. I think that this is early dog violet.

Although daffodils provide the principle entertainment at the moment, it was clear that there will be a succession. Some area were completely colonised by ramsons….

And it looked to me as though there will be a good display of bluebells too. We even found a solitary scout leading the way….

There were wood anemones and primroses too.  Everything was moss-covered, even the smallest saplings were wearing shaggy socks….

In the shade of a mossy fallen tree we found some large scarlet elf-cup…

Down by the path we also had a ‘Lord of the Flies’ moment when we found a skull mounted on the branch of a small tree….

B was delighted….

…and has brought the skull home with him to add to his bone collection. Judging by the size and the teeth, which all looked like molars, I’m guessing that this is a sheep skull, although I suppose that it could be a roe deer.

Brigsteer Daffodils