Our trip to America was amazing. The Adirondacks is definitely my new ‘happy place’. But coming home to my old ‘happy place’ was great too. Reunited with my camera, where would I go?
Well, initially, no further than the garden. And then not much further – a meander to Lambert’s Meadow, along The Row, past Bank Well to Myer’s Allotment and then back the same way. A very short walk which took quite a while because it was packed with interest. Well, packed with insects at least.
The tractor (and its driver) spent hours, long into the night, circling this field. Doing what? Not ploughing. The grass was removed, but, if anything, the ground seemed to have been compacted. Whatever, the gulls were very taken with the activity and followed the tractor slavishly.
At first I thought this was a Forest Bug, which is superficially quite similar, but I think the stripy antennae are the clincher.
There were lots of grasshoppers about, but they have a habit of springing away just as I get my camera focused.
This garden plant, growing on the verge of The Row, was absolutely mobbed with bees and hoverflies.
I also took photos of the leaves of this plant, and based on those I think it might be Hogweed. Which, I find, is reputedly very good to eat – apparently the seeds are widely used in Iranian cuisine and taste a little like Cardamon. Who knew?
Ever since I read that Willowherb is the food-plant of the Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, I’ve kept an eye open, hoping to spot another. (Here’s the first.) It’s been many years, but my efforts eventually paid off…
A very large and striking caterpillar. The adult moth is even more imposing. (There’s one at the top of this very old post).
We drove to the picturesque town of Wilson, on the shore of Lake Ontario, with the promise of amazing cookies. Sadly, the cookie shop was shut.
We had a back-up plan however: a picnic at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, followed by a round of Frisbee-Golf. Anyone who watched me, many years ago, shanking, slicing, topping, over-hitting, or under-hitting a golf ball around Heaton Park pitch-and-putt will no doubt remember how frustrating I found that.
I’m afraid I was equally patient with Frisbee Golf and was soon distracted by the many Monarch Butterflies on the flower beds around the park. I wasn’t the only one who became disenchanted, so many of us knocked off after 5 ‘holes’ (actually nets). Prof A is almost as ridiculously competitive as I am though and insisted that the DBs keep going until he took the lead, at which point he declared the game over. Fair play; I’d have done the same myself if I was even remotely in contention.
Much of the park was manicured parkland, but there were areas which had been left to go ‘wild’:
Down by the rocky shore of Lake Ontario I completely failed to capture the large, colourful Grasshoppers which were flitting about.
Every holiday needs a bit of down time, a chance to relax and do nothing much. It’s a forte of mine. One morning, the rest of the party upped-sticks and headed out to do…..something energetic no doubt. I opted to stay at the ranch and read my book. I’d been reading ‘Freedom’ by Jonathon Franzen, but I think by now I had switched to ‘Anathem’ by Neal Stephenson, which was equally brilliant and enjoyable but in a completely different way. Like the other books of his I’ve read, it was very thought provoking, but at the same time a ripping-yarn. Anyway, I was intending to read my book, but I was distracted by a flock of Bluejays which were flitting about in the trees surrounding the property and occasionally venturing onto the lawns. I have several very odd photographs of patches of lawn, a wheelbarrow, trees etc which if you stare hard enough reveal a small, distant patch of blue which, with imagination, might just about be a bird.
There was always something to see around the house. The Japanese beetles were always about. Likewise damselflies and dragonflies. There were a large variety of toadstools…
…both on the lawns and beneath the trees. Squirrels could be heard chattering in the trees most of the time, and we occasionally saw them; diminutive, red squirrels which seemed to be permanently angry about something or other. There were deer about too, although they were quite elusive in the trees. One memorable, moonlit night we heard a cacophony of coyotes howling. It’s probably a cliche to say that the sound was eerie, but…well, it was eerie.
Harvestmen were ubiquitous, particularly on the garage doors for some reason. Butterflies would occasionally flutter by, but I very rarely managed to catch up with them. This was a rare exception…
It’s obviously a fritillary, but which kind? I thought a quick bit of internet research would help, although given how difficult I’ve generally found fritillaries to identify in the past, I’m not sure why I thought that. It turns out that in the Adirondacks there are three fritillaries – the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Great Spangled Fritillary and the Atlantis Fritillary which are very difficult to distinguish between. I think this was one of those.
When the others got back from whatever they’d been up to, TBH was keen to take the dog for a short walk along the track.
Prof A had already warned us that the track over the bridge was private, and in case we weren’t sure roughly every two yards, on both sides of the track, there were lengthy notices pinned to trees warning of the dire consequences of trespassing. However, TBH wanted to see the view from the bridge and once she has an idea in her head there’s not much which will deflect her. She assured me that injunctions on the signs were, improbably, against leaving the track and entering the trees. So we went to look at the view from the bridge. The top photos shows the channel linking the different parts of the pond. On satellite images it looks like a narrower stretch of the pond, but when we paddled through it, perhaps because of the vegetation growing in the water and the obvious flow, it felt more like a river or stream joining two separate ponds.
At the back of the pond here you can see the island we had paddled beyond, and which B and I had swum to.
We were at home for a few days before heading off for our big summer trip. I guess we must have been busy, I didn’t get out much, but when the sun shone I did have a wander to Lambert’s Meadow, to see what I could see. Our trip, which I’ll hopefully get to soon, was to the USA. I didn’t take my camera, but I did take a ridiculous number of photos on my phone, so there’s a lengthy selection process ahead.
The photos from this short local wander can be a bit of a dress rehearsal then; I took three hundred, a nice round number, and about par for the course when I spend a bit of time at Lambert’s Meadow.
Of course, there’s a great deal of repetition; my first eleven shots that day were all of Migrant Hawkers; there were several on and around a thicket of brambles where I entered Burtonwell Wood from Silverdale Green. An easy decision in this case, just to crop the most likely looking pictures and then chose my favourite.
On the other hand, this Common Carder bee, on the same set of unripe blackberries, only posed for a single photo.
When I look at the photos which have come up to scratch, although I took quite a lot of photos of bumblebees, of various species, there’s a preponderance of Common Carder bees amongst the ones I’ve chosen. Admittedly, I am a bit biased in favour of Common Carders, for two reasons; firstly their lovely ginger colour, and then the fact that they are relatively easy to distinguish from other common species; but I think that there may be a bit more to it than that; I seem to have more luck getting sharpish images of Common Carders than of other bumblebees; I’m beginning to think that they may linger that little bit longer on flowers than other species.
The single shot I took of the disappearing rump of a Roe Deer in the woods was a bit disappointing, and so is not here, partly because I get much better opportunities to photograph deer in our garden. This tiny spider feasting on a fly, on the other hand, is included because I rarely manage to catch spiders with their prey, even though it was taken in the shade and isn’t especially sharp.
I’ve decided to keep the photos largely chronological, and not to group them thematically, and, for instance, put all of the hoverflies together, something I have done on occasion with previous similar posts.
This particular hoverfly might be Helophilus pendulus. Sometimes called ‘the Footballer’ apparently, because of its bold markings. Rather lovely in my opinion. However, there are several very similar species, so I could be wrong. Helophilus means ‘marsh-lover’ which would fit well with this location.
I did put these two snails together, the better to compare and contrast their shells…
This first is definitely a Garden Snail, with its dark bands on its shell.
My best guess is that this is a copse snail; they are usually more mottled than this, although they do seem to be quite variable.
There were lots and lots of butterflies about, which was rather wonderful, although at first I thought none of them would alight long enough for me to get any decent photos. However, if you hang around long enough, your chance eventually comes.
This photo gets in because of the photo-bombing bug. I think the bug might be a Potato Capsid, but my confidence is even lower than usual.
There were lots of dragonflies about too, but they were mostly airborne, and surprisingly difficult to spot when they landed.
With a bit of lazy internet research, I’ve unearthed two different ‘common’ names for these odd looking flies: Ferrugineus Bee-grabber and Thick-headed Fly. The photo in my Field Guide shows a mating pair and this pair, although they moved around the mint flower a lot, didn’t seem likely to be put-off. In fact when I wandered back around the meadow I spotted a pair, probably the same pair, still mating in much the same spot. The adults feed on nectar, but the larvae are endoparasites, over-wintering and pupating inside Bumblebees.
Ferruginous means either: ‘containing iron oxides or rust’, or ‘reddish brown, rust-coloured’; which seems appropriate. I’m guessing that ferrugineus is the latin spelling.
You’ll notice that a lot of the insects are on Mint flowers. Earlier in the year it would have been Marsh Thistles.
My best guess is that these are Drone-flies. They are excellent Honey bee mimics, but, as far as I know, don’t harm bees in any way, so good for them. More lazy research turned up this titbit:
“Recent research shows that the Drone-fly does not only mimic the Honeybee in look, but also in the way that it moves about, following the same flight patterns.”
I haven’t counted, but I’d be willing to bet that I took more photos of Meadow Browns than of anything else. There were a lot about. I resolved not to take any more photos of what is, after all, a very common and slightly dull species, at which point the local Meadow Brown community seemed to agree that they would disport themselves in front of my lens at every opportunity, in a ‘you know you want to’ sort of way, and my resolve kept crumbling.
Silver Y moths, on the other hand, seem to stay low in the grass and continually flap their wings, which must be very energy inefficient. Although they breed in the UK, they also migrate here (presumably from mainland Europe).
“The Silver Y migrates to the UK in massive numbers each year – sometimes, an estimated 220 million can reach our shores in spring!”
This damselfly has me a bit confused; it has red eyes, but those beer pump handle markings (my Dragonfly field guide says ‘rockets’ – I think messers Smallshire and Swash need to get out more) suggest the blue-form of the female Common Blue Damselfly, so I’m going for that. This makes me think that I have probably misidentified damselflies in the past. What am I talking about? Of course I’ve misidentified damselflies – I’ve probably misidentified just about everything! All I hope for is that my percentage accuracy is gradually improving – I’ll settle for that.
Like the Silver Y, the Comma is named for a mark on its wings, but it’s on the underside so you can’t see it here.
I took lots of photos of rather distant Commas and then this one landed pretty much at my feet, so close, in fact, that I needed to back up a little to get it in focus.
White butterflies don’t often rest long enough to be photographed. They are also very confusing – this could, to my non-expert-gaze, be a Small White, a female Orange-tip, or a Green-veined White. But the underwings reveal that it is a Green-veined White.
Brambles have a very long flowering season – maybe Pellucid Flies like to branch out when other favoured plants are available.
The sheer variety of Hoverflies is amazing, but also frustrating, because they are so hard to identify. This could be a Drone-fly, but it has dark patches on its wings. I’m edging towards Eristalis horticola but with my usual very low degree of confidence.
This creature led me a merry dance; it was constantly on the move, roving around the leaves and stems of a Guelder Rose bush, then flying off, disappearing from view, only to return seconds later. At first I thought it was a Sawfly, but it was very wasp-waisted so now I’m inclined to think it was an Ichneumon wasp.
Tentatively, it could be a male Ichneumon extensorius which has the bright yellow scutellum, black unbanded antennae and black and yellow legs and body. However, my online source says “hardly any British records exist for this species”, which is a bit off-putting.
Whatever it is, it kept me well-entertained for a few minutes.
Eugh! A slug! But even this slug, which was on an Angelica stem, has a rather striking striped rim to its foot.
When I spotted this creature, on a Figwort leaf, at first I thought I was seeing another of the yellow and black creatures I had seen before. It has a yellow scutellum, and substantially yellow legs. But – the antennae are orange, it lacks the narrow waist, and its abdomen is heavily striped. It was much more obliging than the previous creature, both in terms of posing for photos and in terms of being readily identified. It turns out this is a Figwort Sawfly.
“The larvae feed on Figwort plants and are usually seen in August and September. The adults are carnivores mainly, hunting small flies and other insects.”
Hmmmm – usually seen in August and September – I think I need to go and have a look at some Figworts.
Incidentally, I was hoping I would see some Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonflies, and usually look out for them in an area of tall plants – Great Willow-herb and Figwort – by the path which crosses the meadow. I didn’t see any, but in looking I noticed that the generally tall Figwort plants were much shorter and less numerous than usual. I suspect they were suffering due to our unusually hot and dry summer.
Blimey – I made it to the end! Well done if you did too. If my holiday posts take this long to put together, I will never catch up!
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.
After a very grey start, the clouds began to break-up and the sun could poke through, making for some glorious views.
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…
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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…
This was definitely a Skylark, the crest is the giveaway, unusually singing from a perch.
The sun was shining again, so I sat on the summit to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.
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.
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….
…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.
The wind had really picked-up, and I had to stop to shove on an extra layer.
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.
Into June. A slightly longer local walk this time, to Hawes Water and the limestone pavements of Gait Barrows.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The next time I escaped from the woes joys of decorating, I managed a slightly longer walk. I think I wanted to visit this little scrap of verge where Elmslack Lane becomes Castle Bank and I knew I would find Dame’s Violet flowering.
From there I walked along Inman’s Lane along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along the Row. Inevitably, I was heading for…
It’s quite easy to ignore Crane Flies, Daddy-Long-Legs; they’re common and plentiful, their larvae – leatherjackets – are a garden pest and I think some people are freaked out by their ridiculously long legs. But I thought the silvery-grey hue of this amorous pair, and the golden iridescence caught in the wings of the lower partner where very fetching.
I think this is an Ichneumonid wasp. It could be a sawfly, a digger wasp or a spider-hunting wasp, but on balance I’m going for an Ichneumon. After that I’m struggling. Apparently, there are around 2500 British species. Identifying them requires a microscope and an expert. Most species are parasitoids, meaning that they lay their eggs in other species of insects, caterpillars and grubs, and the larvae will eat and eventually kill the host. From my limited reading, I get the impression that each species of wasp will specialise in preying on the caterpillar or larvae of one particular species.
Some of the photos which follow are bound to look familiar, if you read my last post. Hardly surprising that if you walk in the same place just a couple of days apart, the bugs and beasties which are about and active are likely to be the same each time.
I’m reasonably confident that this Shield Bug is Troilus luridus. I’ve seen this given the common name ‘Bronze Shield Bug’ online, but my Field Guide gives another species that title, so I’ll stick with the latin name.
I took lots of photos of this Green Shield Bug and as a result was lucky enough to catch it in the act of taking wing…
You can see how the outer wings have adapted as a cover for the hind wings, so that when they’re on a leaf or a stem it’s hard to imagine that they even have wings.
Variable Damselflies are not listed in the handy booklet ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, a publication whose long title completely belies its actual brevity. So, if this is a Variable Damselfly, which I think it is, the species must have fairly recently arrived in the area.
Easter Sunday brought some warm weather, warm enough for butterflies anyway!
TBH and I had a local wander, around Hawes Water, across Yealand Allotment, over Cringlebarrow to Summer House Hill and back via Leighton Moss.
I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the Standing Stones on Summer House Hill, there are only four of them after all, which doesn’t really seem to add up to a ‘circle’ as such. I should have done my research more thoroughly! The Historic England website reveals that it is a scheduled monument, and that a 1930s survey found ‘socket-holes’ where 13 additional stones were originally sited and signs of a shallow ditch which ran around the circle. I wonder whether there’s a connection to the large walls on nearby Warton Crag, now thought to be Bronze Age?
The day after my outing on Sheffield Pike. More sunshine. A local walk for a change.
At Arnside Tower Farm I waited ages for the traffic to clear – the herd were being fetched in for milking and I waited until they’d all passed before crossing the track they were using. A couple of the farms collies joined me as I walked away from the farm. I’ve never owned a dog and have no intention of getting one, but if I ever changed my mind I would want a collie – they seem like such intelligent dogs. I thought this pair would turn back when we passed the Tower, but they didn’t. Maybe they would eventually head back to the farm if I continued down the lane toward the campsite? No.
In the end, I turned back myself and they followed me all the way back to the farmyard, at which point I apparently lost my magnetism and they trotted off to investigate something else.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……
…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.
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.
A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.
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.
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!
Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.
An absolutely stunning creature.
A little further along…
Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?
Views from the walk home…
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.