Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn

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Tarn Sike is both a stream and a nature reserve. The nature reserve, owned by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, is open to the public, but you’d have to know that it is there, because it’s about 300 yards from the road, and there’s no indication on the ground until you reach the entrance.

The stream is another tributary of the Lune, rising as Rayseat Sike and flowing through Cow Dub and this little tarn…

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…unnamed on the OS map, before continuing as Tarn Sike. On the map it disappears intermittently, presumably going underground, before joining Rais Beck which flows into the Lune. I assume that the water from Sunbiggin Tarn must also come this way although the map doesn’t seem to show any outflow stream.

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Meadow Pipit.

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The reserve is a (very) wet meadow containing distinctly different habitats. In some places tall, lush vegetation predominates.

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Meadowsweet.

I noticed that a lot of the Meadowsweet was infected with a grey rust, or what I assume is a rust, and when I paused to take a closer look, I saw this tiny insect…

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I think that this is a Common Froghopper, a ‘spectacularly variable species, with many dramatically different colour forms’ (Source). Froghoppers are also the species which produce Cuckoospit, a protective froth which the nymph lives inside. Coincidentally, I found another Froghopper a few days after this walk on the keyboard of a laptop at work and I can attest to their athletic prowess – they can really jump!

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Marsh Cinquefoil seed-heads?

In amongst the tall plants, often almost hidden, there were numerous…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids. Many were slightly browned and looked like they might be ‘going over’, but my Orchid book suggests that they flower from mid-June right through July.

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A yellow daisy – possibly Rough Hawkbit.

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Marsh Lousewort – present in huge numbers where the taller plants weren’t so dominant.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

There are also several areas with much less verdant growth, apparently ‘Limestone flushes’. Here there were lots of…

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….Fragrant Orchids. I’ve not seen these before, but have discovered that they can be found much closer to home, so shall be on the look out for them. I’ve read that they smell of carnations, but I can’t say that I noticed that. Hopefully, I’ll have another chance to sample that scent sometime soon.

This…

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…was the first of several similar tiny, delicate structures I saw. I think that you can just about make out a couple of spider legs inside, suggesting that the architect is lurking within. It seems to have woven a stem of Quaking Grass into it’s web. There were also long strands of gossamer acting like guy-ropes, bending the grass stem over and anchoring the structure to the ground below. I would be fascinated to know more precisely what this is, if anyone has any idea?

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As I left the reserve, the sun came out. I was thinking that it was a shame that I hadn’t seen any butterflies yet, when…

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Green-veined White?

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A pair of Small Heath.

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A Chimney Sweeper moth.

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Early Bumblebee.

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Ringlet.

Ringlets, in particular, were suddenly legion, fluttering up from under my feet at almost every step.

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A rush or sedge? I can’t find anything in my guides which looks this much like a blackberry.

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Red Admirals seem to like basking on drystone walls.

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The next meadow which Tarn Sike runs through has clearly been ‘improved’ to some extent, but was packed with wildflowers.

I returned to my car, grabbed my rucksack and set-off again, taking the path which heads across Ravenstonedale Moor and which is parts of the Dales High Way, a long distance walk which, on further investigation, I find very appealing.

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Meadow Pipit.

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Tarn Sike and Ravenstonedale Moor.

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Distant view of Sunbiggin Tarn.

This area is very quiet, even on a sunny, summer Saturday. The only other walker I met all day followed me across the moor here. However, as I was trying to photograph this…

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…Skylark, the peace was shattered by an unexpected racket.

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I’d seen a sign by the road urging ‘Motor Vehicle Users’ to show restraint and wondered what it meant. Now I knew. This is a bridleway and……I’ll let you add your own rant.

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Sunbiggin Tarn.

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Looking back to Great Asby Scar.

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I saw numerous Small Heath butterflies, through most of the day. It was quite breezy and I noticed that, once they had landed, they would almost lie flat on the ground, presumably to get out of that wind.

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The walking is pretty easy-going, over, admittedly quite feature-less moorland, but fortunately, there were lots of small birds about to offer diversion…

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Skylark, crest raised in alarm.

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Skylark, crest down again.

I took lots and lots of photos of LBJs. Over the years, I’ve spent a good deal of time comparing such photos with the illustrations in my Collins Bird Guide and trying to decide whether I’d photographed a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark. After this walk, on which I’m confident I photographed both, I’m inclined to think that all of my previous photos may have been Meadow Pipits. In flight the song and behaviour of the two species is obviously different, but on the ground I’ve always been unsure. My friend, The Proper Birder, tells me that Skylarks are larger and bulkier, but without seeing the two side-by-side that’s hard to differentiation. Of course, the Skylark has a crest, but crests aren’t always raised. I can see here that the Skylark’s chest is paler and much less streaked and that it has a heavier beak. Will this mean that I no longer agonise over identifying moorland LBJs? Probably not.

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Great Ewe Fell.

The path took me past the enclosed field seen in the photo above. Curiously, the air here was full of Swallows, which had been absent until now. Did the relatively high concentration of sheep in the fold attract flies and mean rich-pickings for the hirundines?

I’d been climbing, almost imperceptibly, and now the views were beginning to open out.

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Gracetemoor and the Northern Howgills, where the Lune rises.

A pair of Buzzards were circling above the stand of trees by Gracetemoor (an unusual name for a farm!).

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I picked up the path on the far side of the road and followed it as far as the first gate. By the wall, there was a large, spectacular thistle…

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…I think, Musk Thistle. Easy to overlook plants like thistles, but the flowers on this are really quite stunning…

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Attractive to bumblebees too!

I left the path here and climbed up to Great Ewe Fell. I was surprised to see toadstools fruiting at this time of year, but saw many more from that point on…

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As soon as I started to gain some height, the views were magnificent.

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Northern Howgills again.

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Bents Farm and Wild Boar Fell

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Wild Boar Fell and Northern Howgills panorama – click to see larger version. (Same applies  to all other photos).

Just short of the top of Great Ewe Fell there was a small cairn – as much excuse as I needed to stop and drink in the views again.

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Shortly beyond, another cairn, this one at least in the vicinity of the actual top and a new view towards the Northern Pennines and the Upper Eden Valley.

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Looking along the limestone hills toward Great Asby Scar.

I suppose I might have climbed from here onto the higher Nettle Hill, but I had a more attractive target in mind…

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…the Potts Valley. I’ve often looked at this spot on the map and thought it looked like it would be delectable.

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Even the area of six enclosed fields and its two stands of mature trees was attractive. I was intrigued by the building, which seems too remote to be more than a barn, but which does have a chimney and seems to be in an excellent state of repair.

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Juvenile Wheatear. (I think).

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Potts Beck.

Now, I’ve strayed off my Lune Catchment exploration a little here, over the watershed, since Potts Beck is a feeder of the Eden, transforming into Water Houses Beck and then Helm Beck before it gets there.

Somewhere hereabouts I also crossed some other kind of border. Before Great Ewe Fell, I’d passed numerous sink-holes, enough to suggest that I was in limestone country, but after Ewe Fell I started to encounter exposed scars, crags, clints and grykes. The change seemed to influence the relative prevalence of birds – where pipits and larks had dominated, now there seemed to be Wheatears in every direction I looked, particularly along the dry-stone wall which ran alongside Potts Beck.

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I never really had a firm plan for the day, but when I’d looked at the map I’d thought that I would either climb directly out of the Potts Valley and onto Little Asby Scar, or would continue along the stream and take the field paths into Little Asby before heading onto the scar. The second route was definitely Plan B, held in reserve in case it proved difficult to get across the wall in the valley bottom. In the event, there was a ladder stile, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that the Potts Beck itself might be hard to cross. Fortunately, I found a spot where a couple of small islands in the stream made it possible to hop across dry-shod relatively easily.

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Once across, I took a slender tread which contoured back towards the top fringe of Armaside Wood. I watched a Buzzard, I think a tiercel, swooping back and forth across the valley. As I approached the trees, he swept over the top of the canopy, seemingly to take a closer look at me. A similar thing happened when I was walking in the valley of the Wenning a few weeks ago, although on that occasion the female was also present and both birds were audibly vexed by my presence. Ever since my close encounter with a Buzzard a few years ago, I’ve been a bit wary of them in the summer and so decided to turn more steeply uphill away from the trees and any potential nest.

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Wild Thyme.

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Biting Stonecrop.

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Armaside Wood and the Potts Valley.

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Little Asby Scar.

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Another Wheatear.

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I stopped by this cairn and embarked on a doomed attempt to make a decent cup of tea. The wind had increased considerably and my stove didn’t function well. This is not the cairn marked on the map, but must be close to the high-point marked with a spot-height of 356m.

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Sunbiggin Tarn again and the eastern fringe of the Lake District hills.

Dropping down towards the minor road, I watched a large and fleet-footed Hare race away. I’ve seen Hares several times this year, but am never fast enough to get even close to taking a photo.

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Bell Heather.

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Sunbiggin Tarn from Grange Scar.

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Eden Valley and Northern Pennines from north of Great Kinmond.

I picked up the Dales High Way again to take me down towards Tarn Moor and the car. I needed to get home, but even if I hadn’t the weather wasn’t looking promising for continuing the walk on to Great Asby Scar. In addition to the strengthening wind, high frets of cirrus…

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…and lower, wind-smoothed clouds…

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..not to mention the dark threatening masses advancing from the west, all presaged a downturn in the weather.

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Wheatear.

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Skylark with huge grub.

Things had changed rapidly and the skies were now an ominous grey. Still time, however, for a pair of Curlews to circle me making their distinctive calls. I’m convinced this behaviour must be to deflect attention from a nest – several times now this year, Curlews have flown around me even as I’ve continued to walk along a path.

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The light was far from ideal, so I’m reasonably pleased with my photos.

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Down where the path met the road, and then along the road verges, the ground was very wet and there was another fine display of flowers. Due to the, by now, very strong wind, it was hard to get pictures, but these…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids came out less blurred than the others. I included this second because it seemed much darker then the others I saw that day…

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Sunbiggin Tarn Circuit

This was another area which I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time, although I always thought that when I came I would climb Great Asby Scar – that will have to wait for another trip. Poring over my maps to trace the various sources of the Lune has spurred me on to finally check out this area and the Lune Catchment has come up trumps yet again.

Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

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Howgill Fells from Master Knott.

Small, unassuming hills often give the best views. The view across the Lune Valley to the Howgill Fells from Master Knott, a little knobble on the eastern side of Firbank Fell is a case in point.

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Panorama – click on the photo (or any others) to see larger versions on Flickr.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This was another after work outing and another chapter in my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

I’d driven up the narrow road from Black Horse on the A684. For once I’d  done a bit of research in advance and had read that it was possible to park on the verge here. And it was, just about, but my car is small and I don’t think I would park here again – it was a bit tight.

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One advantage of this high starting point was the view back down the road of the Lune Valley to the south.

I was here to visit Fox’s Pulpit. The map suggests that it might be a little way from the road, but in fact I could see it as soon as I pulled up. This is it…

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Apparently, the meeting commemorated here, which happened in 1652, is considered by some to be the beginning of the Society of Friends, or Quakers.

This small field…

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…is shown on the OS map as a graveyard, but in Fox’s time there was a Church here.

One gravestone still remains…

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Fox preferred to preach outside in the open, although, it occurs to me that if there were around ‘a thousand seekers’ present then getting them all into a small hillside chapel may have been impractical anyway.

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George Fox had an interesting life but the fact that will stick with me, I think, is that he was born in the village of Drayton-in-the-Clay in Leicestershire, not so far from where I grew up. It’s called Fenny Drayton now and I’m pretty sure that I’ve cycled through the village a few times, although all of them a very long time ago.

On the short walk from Fox’s Pulpit to the top of Master Knott I was entertained by this Silver Y Moth…

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…which proved devilishly difficult to photograph. There was quite a breeze and each time it flew I wasn’t completely convinced that it could control the flight. After landing it would continue on foot, walking surprisingly quickly, often low down beneath the grass and other vegetation. You can just about see the Y on its wing which gives it its name.

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“I try quite hard to learn the flowering plants but must confess to having long ago thrown in the towel when it comes to the pea family.”

A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright

And this from someone who elsewhere in the book talks authoritatively about obscure things like Rusts and Smuts and Lichens and Liverworts. I’m going to tentatively hazard that the single flower above is Bush Vetch (but am ready to be corrected).

From Master Knott I returned to the road, taking the path to the north which heads down into the Lune Valley. It shortly brought me to the field in the foreground here, just beyond the gate, which was decidedly wet underfoot and full of interesting flora and fauna.

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I wasn’t fast enough to photograph the wonderful black and red Cinnabar Moth, the Small Heath butterflies or any of the small birds, but I enjoyed seeing them. Many of the very vigorous plants looked like they had either just finished flowering or were just about to flower. Some were giving a fine display, however…

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Heath Spotted-orchid.

I’m pretty confident that this really is Heath Spotted, unlike the last orchid I identified as such on the blog, which I’m even more uncertain about now – I’m more inclined to think that is was Common Spotted after all.

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Ragged Robin.

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Ringlet.

The next field had been recently mown, but was just as busy with butterflies and equally mobbed with dragonflies.

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The trees on the right border a tributary of the Lune, unnamed on the OS map.

These…

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…flew past me and then landed close enough by for me to locate them afterwards. They are Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Britain’s longest species at around 8cm.

This is the male…

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…he has already transferred semen to his accessory genitalia and is grasping the back of the female’s head with his anal appendages in the hope that she will curl the tip of her abdomen forward to transfer that semen.

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Red Admiral.

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Meadow Brown.

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When I reached a road, the path went straight across, but there was a sign warning me that the footbridge over the Lune I hoped to cross, Fisherman’s Bridge, had been damaged during flooding and was unusable. Sometimes, these signs get left in situ even after the damage has been repaired, so I decided to take a look myself.

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Perhaps the completely overgrown state of the first section of the path should have acted as an additional warning. The bridge was more than just damaged, with even the substantial piers have been shorn off – the top of one was lying close by in the river still.

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Back up the hill then to brave the nettles and return to the road. Actually, I contemplated following the former railway line which also runs along the valley – I chose not to in the end, but there’s a brilliant potential cycleway there waiting for development. Anyway, after consulting the map, I decided to head south along the road.

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Stocks.

It’s a B-road, but wasn’t busy, and didn’t make for bad walking at all.

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Another Red Admiral.

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The Old School House and Firbank Church Hall – date stone shows 1860 – possibly also once part of the school?

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Yet another Red Admiral.

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A Carder Bee (?) on Foxgloves.

One advantage of walking on a road is the accompanying hedges – often better maintained than ‘internal’ hedges and full of a massive diversity of life. Having been reading ‘A Natural History of the Hedgerow’ I was more alert than usual to that diversity, and took great delight in noticing just how many species were present. Not that I did it properly; in 2015, I’ve learned, Dr Rob Wolton published an article about a two year study he had carried out of a 90m length of hedge near his home in Devon. He had discovered a staggering 2070 different species in the hedge, and that was with some species still to be identified and having ignored rusts and mildews. Apparently he thinks the actual total might be closer to 3000.

I didn’t spot quite that many on this walk!

The hedges here were full of webs or nests…I’m not sure what to call them. Some were large blanket webs like others I’ve seen this year, but in other cases smaller webs seemed to have been used to knit leaves together to make some sort of home…

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In many of the webs, I could see clumps of pale shapes which I took to be pupae…

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Another advantage of walking on the road was that it brought me to…

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Naturally, I felt compelled to take a peek inside…

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This church, built in 1841, replaced the chapel on the hill, which was destroyed in a storm a few years before. There is no stained glass, but the view from this window more than compensates, although I don’t think my photo quite captures it…

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Stepping outside I found, in an unmown area close to the entrance to the grounds, this…

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…which I believe is a Butterfly Orchid, a first for me. I’m not sure however, whether it’s a Lesser Butterfly Orchid or a Greater Butterfly Orchid. Sadly, it was in deep shade, which is presumably why the photo hasn’t come out too well.

This very large bumble bee was behaving rather oddly, for a bee, sedately exploring this leaf in the hedge.

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The size, and the behaviour, made me wonder whether this could be a queen, but looking at the photo again, I now think that this is a worker, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The tail looks white, but there is a subtle line of buff at the edge of that white which suggests that identification.

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Lune Viaduct.

I left the road here, taking a path through more newly mown fields which bordered the Lune. A screen of trees prevented any more than glimpses of the river, but in the unmown fringes of the field there was the compensation of a number of Common Knapweed flowers…

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They seemed to flourish here in this part of the Lune Valley and I would see many more during the remainder of the walk. The bees liked them too. This might be a Garden Bumblebee. Might.

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But this is a Tree Bumblebee, which, I’ve realised this year, are ubiquitous.

If I hadn’t paused to admire the Knapweed and its attendant bees, I would never have noticed…

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…this shield bug. It took me a while to track down the exact species, so that I was tempted to just call it ‘bronze’ because of its colour. And that’s exactly what it is, a Bronze Shieldbug, widespread but not particularly common apparently. Quite similar to the Forest Bug, which I photographed on Hutton Roof some years ago.

The track transferred to the riverbank side of the trees, which meant that I could see these…

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…Monkeyflowers.

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Lincoln’s Inn Bridge.

I joined the Dales Way here briefly, between Lincoln’s Inn Bridge and Luneside Farm.

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Luneside.

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Garden Bumblebee on Common Knapweed (I think).

I detoured a little here, an out-and-back past Prospect House (where the dogs in the garden watched me with suspicion) to…

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St. Gregory’s or the Vale of Lune Chapel. The third steeplehouse on our walk, steeplehouse being George Fox’s preferred term for a church – although none of these have had steeples. Actually, only the Firbank Church is still in use; the first obviously was ruined, although the local Quaker Meeting House at Briggflats still commemorates Fox’s sermon with a June outdoor meeting; and this last, although still consecrated is in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

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“This chapel was built in the early 1860s by the Upton family, when the London and North Western Railway was building its Ingleton branch and sent a Scripture Reader to the navvies. Attached to a cottage, it is a plain building perhaps designed by a railway engineer; but inside a delightful and colourful series of stained glass windows by Frederick George Smith depict river scenes, trees and plants, as well as birds and animals found locally. These were installed in about 1900 when the church was refurnished.” Source

The Upton family owned Ingmire Hall which is very close by.

 

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The furniture in the church was apparently by Waring and Gillow of Lancaster. (The Gillow family owned Leighton Hall which is close to home).

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Unusual roof-lights.

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One of the windows designed by Frederick George Smith. I took photos of them all, and can’t decide whether or not to make a fuller post with more pictures of St. Gregory’s; I rather liked it.

In edition to the windows mentioned above, there are also windows featuring personifications of Peace…

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…Justice and Fortitude which one source says are of William Morris design.

It doesn’t take long to look around St. Gregory’s, but it’s well worth a visit. I sat in the porch for a moment or two, to have a drink and decide which way to go next.

Back to Luneside, I decided, where the sheep dogs, all, fortunately, caged securely, went berserk again, although, judging by the wagging tails, they may have been enthusiastic rather than angry.

In the fields south of Luneside I heard a commotion from a Hawthorn. It wasn’t the familiar yaffle, but sounded none-the-less like a Green Woodpecker. Then came an answering call from the hedge ahead of me. As I approached the hedge, a bird within the hedge, tried to fly out, away from me, but flew straight into the wire net fence beside the hedge. It was a juvenile Green Woodpecker…

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After a moment of contemplation it decided to climb the fencepost, somehow jamming itself between the wire and the post so that I couldn’t really see it.

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Those claws are well-adapted for climbing!

The adult meanwhile was even more strident now…

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As I walked away from the hedge, the adult flew ahead of me…

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…before looping back to the youngster in the hedge.

Beside the Lune here, there’s a odd little Nature Reserve, a thin little strip along the riverbank.

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Leading to Killington New Bridge.

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From here I took the lazy decision to follow the road in the most direct route back to the car. It was getting late and the weather had deteriorated, with a layer of cloud spreading in from the west and a few spots of rain in the air

The hedgerows were once again festooned with webs…

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…containing hanging white cylinders…

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But now, perhaps because it was quite late and a bit gloomy, there were moths evident too…

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I think that this is an ermel moth, specifically Yponomeuta Cagnagella. Apparently, the ‘gregarious larvae clothe with extensive silken tents’ the Spindle shrubs on which they live. And looking at the photos, these leaves could well be Spindle.

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Former Country Pub the Black Horse after which the road junction is named.

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A stream, another tributary of the Lune, runs beside the A road here.

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At New Field farm everyone was busy, trying to get the silage in before the forecast rain arrived…

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Juvenile Wheatear, I think.

Fox's Pulpit

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

Whitsun Weekend at Home

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Last weekend the surfnslide crew came to stop for the weekend. We’ve had a few Whitsun get togethers before, both down in Herefordshire at their house and here in Silverdale. This one was all too brief, just the long weekend, but got our week off to a great start, and, to me at least, has made it feel like I’ve had a much longer break than a week. (Not a bad trick!)

As usually seems to be the case, the weather was a bit mixed, but we definitely made the most of it, filling in the time between decent spells of weather with various board games and the usual menu of chit-chat and cups of tea.

On the Saturday morning, before the storms came, we had a short stroll down to the Cove and then across the Lots, where we played frisbee for a while as you can see above.

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At the Cove some of the children wanted to explore the smelly cave and another fetid little hole they have discovered on the other side of the Cove at the base of the cliff.

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The back of the Cove is once again resplendent with a mass of small yellow flowers, I think it’s Sea Radish, although, having just read the relevant entry in ‘The Wildflower Key’, I now know how to distinguish Sea from Wild Radish, so I shall check on my next trip. Anyway, the radishes, of whatever variety, were thronged with various small insects.

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This striking red weevil like creature (I can’t find what it actually is) was the smallest I photographed.

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I think that this rather dapper chap may be some kind of Saw Fly, but there over 400 British species and my ‘Complete British Insects’ only has photographs of a handful of them.

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There were many Bumblebees, but they are constantly on the move and always hard to photograph.

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This is a Red-tailed Bumblebee, a worker. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake: it’s finally sunk in that the huge bumblebees I see, mainly in the spring, and the much smaller ones I see in the summer, are of the same species, the size difference being because queens are so much larger than workers.

On the other hand, random titbits of information seem to nestle in obscure corners of my brain. I knew, when I saw it, that this…

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…was a ladybird larva. With a bit of lazy internet research I now think it to be a 7-Spot Ladybird larva. Odd looking creature.

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There were a fair few hoverflies about too. I was pleased to capture an image of this specimen in flight, and doubly chuffed to find that it is easily identifiable, because of the pattern on the abdomen, as Episyrphus Balteatus, a very common species which apparently sometimes migrates in swarms from continental Europe. Quite a competent flier then!

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Alongside the radishes there is a substantial patch of Crosswort. My collection of herbals and plant books have little to say about this unassuming plant with it’s whirls of tiny yellow flowers, but I am always cheered to find it.

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The plant surreptitiously creeping into the righthand-side of the photo is Goosegrass or Cleavers or Stickyweed, a close relative of Crosswort. Both are Galiums, apparently from the Greek Gala meaning milk, as Goosegrass at least was sometimes used as a rennet in the production of cheese.

On the Lots, the Early Purple Orchids have finished, and the Green-winged Orchids…

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…are not far behind. According to ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’, Green-winged Orchids were once widespread, but ‘must now be considered a threatened species’. A sobering thought.

After our short outing, the afternoon brought a terrific display of dark skies, lightning and thunder and then very heavy rain. We watched from our patio as impressive bursts of forked lightning cleaved the skies and listened to the rumbles of thunder, apparently coming from all sides. When the long threatened deluge finally arrived, we retreated inside. Quite a show while it lasted though.

Whitsun Weekend at Home

Free Lunch

Across the fields and the golf course to Leighton Moss – Free Lunch – Home via Myer’s Allotment

Silverdale has an annual food fair, a recent innovation, and this year TBH won a voucher there in the raffle, exchangeable for lunch for two in the cafe at the Leighton Moss visitors’ centre. The boys were, indeed are, still at school, but TBH and A had now finished so the three of us wandered over for a bite. When we got there, it was to find that their electricity was off due to some work being done by the suppliers, but the centre has photo-valtaic panels and they seemed to be coping remarkably well. A enjoyed her humus and falafel wrap, despite it being ‘too leafy’ and TBH and I both loved our prawn salad.

TBH couldn’t be induced to venture onto the reserve (and to be fair, we did need to get home for the boys return from school) but the promise of striking Cinnabar Moth caterpillar lured TBH and A to join me in visiting Myer’s Allotment on our return journey. Here they are…

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…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

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There was plenty to see within the reserve too.

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Rock Rose.

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Harebells.

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Self-heal.

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A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!

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Normal service is resumed! Caption competition anyone? I think that those contrasting antennae are very expressive.

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Hoverfly on Ragwort.

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Bumblebee on Ragwort.

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Meadow Brown.

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I suppose the Meadow Brown is one of or drabbest butterflies. But I have to confess that I’m still captivated none-the-less.

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Damselfly.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee.

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Gatekeeper  Butterfly and Common Red Soldier Beetle.

Ardent followers of Beating the Bounds, if such a beast exists, will have seen photographs of Gatekeepers many times before; most, if not all, taken in North Wales, where we camp each summer and where Gatekeepers are extremely common. In fact I associate them with that area, because I’ve always assumed that we don’t get them here. Oops. Wrong again. Mea culpa.

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I almost missed this Gatekeeper too. It was resting low on Ragwort, very still, with its wings folded and very close to the ground. The dark patches are apparently scent scales and are only found on males.

I was studying that particular Ragwort because of its other residents…

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

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There weren’t as many caterpillars evident as there had been on my previous visit, but there were enough to make good on my promise. Not that it mattered particularly; A was very happy photographing butterflies with her iPod. Nice to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Free Lunch

ISO 3200

A walk to Myer’s Allotment with a defective camera brain.

Summer is in full swing, although you wouldn’t know that now, looking out of our windows at soft, low skies and heavy rain. But anyway, summer, of a sort, is here, which means Hogweed flowering on the verges of Bottom’s Lane and Soldier Beetles doing what comes naturally…

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Apparently Soldier Beetles hunt small insects, but I’ve only ever seen them doing one thing, they seem to be very single-minded.

The dreadful grainy nature of the photos is due to the fact that I had the ISO set to 3200. Which is very frustrating, but at least I know now that I haven’t broken it, which was my original diagnosis. I have no recollection of changing the setting, but then I only discovered the mistake when I inadvertently pressed the wrong button on the camera, or I suppose, in the circumstances, the right button.

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I’ve seen striking back and yellow bugs like this one, with their stark geometrical markings, on Hogweed before, and even tentatively guessed at what they are, but I’m now doubting my previous opinion, so I shan’t compound the error by restating it here.

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In Burtonwell Wood, and under the bracken at Myer’s Allotment, a number of fungi seem to be flourishing, probably a consequence of the abundant rainfall we’ve had of late.

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Lambert’s Meadow Common Spotted-orchid. (Probably)

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This grass seed-head was catching the sun and looked so pink that at first glance I mistook it for a flower.

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Agrimony.

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There’s a reason I haven’t given up on this walk and it’s poor quality pictures, and the reason is the treasure I found at Myer’s Allotment. There’s a fair bit of Ragwort growing in the open glades there and Ragwort is an important food plant for…

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…Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. In their burglar’s stripy jerseys they look like they will be easy pickings for predators. In actual fact I managed to walk past several plants before I noticed any of the residents, although once I’d seen one plant festooned with caterpillars I quickly realised that many other Ragwort plants were similarly busy. In any case, the vivid yellow and black get-up is intended to draw attention: it’s a warning. Ragwort contains strong concentrations of alkaloids and is highly poisonous, and since they feed on it, the caterpillars are also highly toxic and can brazenly feast with no fear of interference.

Cinnabar, rather appropriately, is a toxic ore of Mercury. It is often bright scarlet which is presumably the link to these moths, because the adults are black and scarlet. I photographed adults here earlier in the year; you can see photos in this post. At that time the females were presumably laying eggs; I would hazard a guess that the caterpillars on any one plant are all part of the same brood. They were certainly all of very similar sizes on each plant, whereas across different plants their growth varied enormously: in some cases they were tiny…

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Others were relatively huge…

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The caterpillars were pretty ubiquitous, even sneaking into this photo I took of Lady’s Bedstraw..

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The Soldier Beetles were almost as pervasive…

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And completely predictable…

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This grasshopper…

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…- I shall stick my neck to and say that it is a Common Green Grasshopper – was much less of an exhibitionist, I only noticed it because I was examining the labyrinth of insect-bored canals on the large flake of bark which it was sitting beside.

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I shall have to get myself back to Myer’s Allotment now that I’ve (accidentally) sorted out the problem with my camera. Sadly, there’s no option to similarly reset my defective grey matter.

ISO 3200

Pond Life

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Most of the time the sea in the Bay is pretty placid. But once in a while we do get some waves. Here’s some evidence from one of our local walks with our American cousins.

On another local walk we visited Burtonwell Wood rift cave…

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The passage runs parallel to the cliff-face, and part way along there’s a spot where it’s possible to climb up to a ‘window’…

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From the cave we walked to Woodwell. We often visit, but this time we came prepared with nets and plastic tubs…

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The kids caught quite a variety of pond life. I think that this…

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…is probably a Three-Spined Stickleback. (But, as always, I stand ready to be corrected.)

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Pond Skaters.

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I’d call that upside down insect a Water Boatman, my field guide tells me that it is a Common Backswimmer (also know as a Water Boatman). The rather splendidly red snail is a Great Ramshorn (I think).

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This must be a Water Beetle, but I’m really not sure which kind.

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Here, the Water Boatman has a silvery sheen due to a trapped air bubble which it uses to enable it to breath.

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We were all fascinated by the contents of our tubs.

Well…almost all…

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Later that day we wandered into Eaves Wood for a bit of tree-climbing. Professor A can never resist joining the kids…

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Once again, B’s busted arm proved to be a great hindrance…

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Here we all are by the Pepper Pot…

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Pond Life

More Garden Critters

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Common Blue Damselfly

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Very common in our garden on this particular sunny day. There were a couple of larger dragonflies quartering the airspace above the garden, but they weren’t so obliging in posing for photos as the damselflies.

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Green Shield Bug.

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Bumble-bee. Bombus….Pascuorum? Perhaps.

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Flowering Currant leaf on a fern.

The flowering currant in the bottom corner of our garden doesn’t look very well. I don’t think that it appreciates the shade it sits in beneath the large hazel.

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Another Bumble-bee. Bombus…Humilis?

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And another Bumble. Bombus…Horturum? (To be honest, I don’t have much of a clue.)

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This looks like another specimen of the dapper fly that had me confused a few weeks ago. It looks quite like the Empis Tessallata in my field guide, but when I search for images on t’internet the resemblance isn’t half so strong. So I’m stumped.

Still having lots of fun with my new(ish) camera however.

More Garden Critters