Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Adirondacks Day 2

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Green Frog

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

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Green Frog.

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

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

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B and M share a paddle board.

So we took to the water again.

Here’s the pond…

Stony Creek Pond.

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

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

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

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W arriving.

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

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

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

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

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

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

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

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

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Berry.

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

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

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A Fishing Spider.

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

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

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

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A beady eye.

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

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

Talking of hunting…

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A damselfly becomes a meal.

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

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

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West Stockbridge Shaker Mill.

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

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

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Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

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.

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Common Carder Bee.

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.

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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.

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Hoverfly – possibly Helophilus pendulus.

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…

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Garden Snail.

This first is definitely a Garden Snail, with its dark bands on its shell.

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Copse Snail?

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.

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Small skipper.

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.

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Honey bee on Common Knapweed.

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.

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Common Darter.

There were lots of dragonflies about too, but they were mostly airborne, and surprisingly difficult to spot when they landed.

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Guelder Rose berries.
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Another Common Carder bee.
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Angelica, tall and stately.
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And very busy with a profusion of insects.
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Sicus ferrugineus.

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.

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Sicus ferrugineus again.

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.

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Female Common Blue and Hoverfly?
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Female Common Blue.

You’ll notice that a lot of the insects are on Mint flowers. Earlier in the year it would have been Marsh Thistles.

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Drone-flies. Probably.

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.”

Source

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Meadow Brown.

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.

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Silver Y Moth.

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!”

Source

The scientific name is Autographa gamma which I rather like. And gamma, γ, is at least as good an approximation as y to the marking on the moth.

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Female Common Blue Damselfly, green-form (I think).
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Rather tired Ringlet.

For a while I watched the dragonflies darting about overhead, trying to see where they went when they flew into the trees. Eventually, I did notice the perch of another Migrant Hawker, high overhead…

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Migrant Hawker.
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Volucella pellucens.

Volucella pellucens – the Pellucid Fly, or the Pellucid Hoverfly, or the White-banded Drone-fly. Three ‘common’ names; I’ve used apostrophes because for a creature to have a ‘common’ name suggests it’s a regular topic of conversation in households up and down the country, which seems a bit unlikely, unfortunately.

“The fly is very fond of bramble blossoms”, according to my Field Guide.

“Its larvae live in the nests of social wasps and bumblebees, eating waste products and the bee larvae.

Source.

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Common Blue Damselfly?

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.

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Volucella pellucens – bucking the trend by feasting on Mint, instead of Bramble.
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Comma

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.

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Comma.

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.

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Green-veined White.

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.

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Green-veined White.
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Meadow Brown.
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Volucella pellucens, on mint again.

Brambles have a very long flowering season – maybe Pellucid Flies like to branch out when other favoured plants are available.

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Hoverfly.

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.

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Green Bottle.
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Another Meadow Brown.
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Another female Common Blue Damselfly – not so heavily cropped – I liked the grass..
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Sicus ferrugineus – not perturbed by me, my camera or the presence of one of the White-tailed Bumblebees.
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Ichneumon wasp?

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.

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Whatever it is, it kept me well-entertained for a few minutes.

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Eugh! A slug! But even this slug, which was on an Angelica stem, has a rather striking striped rim to its foot.

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Male Common Blue Damselfly.
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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.”

Source

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.

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Male Common Blue Damselfly.
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Soldier Beetles – as usual making love not war.
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My ‘hunting ground’.
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Large Skipper. Not large. Notice the much more mottled wings than the Small Skipper at the start of this lengthy post.
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Large Skipper.
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Gatekeeper.

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!

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

Whit’s End III

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Hawes Water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whit’s End III

Whit’s End II

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Dame’s Violet, Green Alkanet, Cow Parsley, Buttercups, Docks.

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.

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From there I walked along Inman’s Lane along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along the Row. Inevitably, I was heading for…

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Lambert’s Meadow.
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Mating Crane flies. Possibly Tipula oleracea which is common and favours damp grasslands.

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.

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Ichneumonid Wasp?

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.

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Mating Chrysolina polita. Perhaps.

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.

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Mating Chrysolina polita. Perhaps.
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Weevil, possibly Phyllobius pomaceus.
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Ichneumon Wasp?
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A Honey Bee. I think.
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Scorpion Fly, female.
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Scorpion Fly, female.
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Sawfly, Tenthredo mesomelas. Possibly.
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Troilus luridus.

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.

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Green Shield Bug.

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…

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Green Shield Bug.

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.

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Hoverfly.
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Variable Damselfly, female, I think.

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.

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Green-veined White on Ragged Robin.
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Greenbottle.
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Another female Variable Damselfly on Guelder Rose.
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Chrysolina polita. I think.
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Dandelion Clock.
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Silver-ground Carpet Moth.
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White-lipped Snail.
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A very different White-lipped Snail.
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Brown-lipped Snail.
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Nettle leaf with rust fungus – Puccinia urticata?
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Later in the day, a double rainbow from our garden.
Whit’s End II

Whit’s End I

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Sawfly, possibly Tenthredo mesomelas.

One of the advantages of teaching, it can’t be denied, are the very generous holidays. And what would you do with those holidays? Decorate the house of course! Famously, painting the Forth Road Bridge, colloquially at least, is a Sisyphean task, needing to be recommenced as soon as it has been finished. It sometimes feels like our household decorating is on a similar scale. On this occasion, with A imminently leaving home*, she and Little S were swapping rooms. Both rooms needed redecorating, in the case of A’s room, twice, after she decided she didn’t like the pink paint she had initially chosen. All of their belongings had to be shifted, the furniture was moved and in some cases replaced. It was a major undertaking.

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White-lipped Snail

When a lull in proceedings provided an opportunity to sneak out for a bit, I didn’t go far, but went on a Lambert’s Meadow safari, to see what I could see. On this occasion, the first thing I spotted was a gorgeous bluey-green weevil on a nettle. My photographs of the tiny creature didn’t come out well, but I saw another later. After that, my eye seemed to be in, and it turned out, of course, that there was plenty to see, if you looked carefully.

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Brown-lipped snail.
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A nettle leaf nest. Lots of species live on nettles, including many of our common, colourful garden butterflies.
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Another Brown-lipped snail.
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Water Avens.
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Ragged Robin and Guelder Rose.
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Guelder Rose.
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Cucumber Green Orb Spider.

This spider was tiny. The photos (I took loads) don’t really do it justice; to the naked eye it seemed to be luminous yellow. I was very chuffed to have spotted it, since it was absolutely miniscule.

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Guelder Rose flower with a very long-legged fly. Some sort of mosquito?
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Green Shield Bug.
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Scorpion Fly, male. The curled ‘stinger’ is for display only.
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And again – possibly the same fly.
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A leaf beetle – possibly Chrysolina polita.

Leaf beetles have become firm favourites – they are so often bright, shiny, metallic colours. As often seems to be the case, once I’d seen one of them I suddenly seemed to spot lots more.

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Mating Chrysolina polita (perhaps).
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I drew a blank with this one. It had orange elytra (hard front wing which protects the hind wing). I think it is probably some kind of Soldier Beetle.
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A colourful fly.
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Common Blue Damselfly.
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Azure damselfly (I think).
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Yellow dung fly, male.
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Common Carder Bee on Ragged Robin.
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Another Scorpion Fly. This time a female, without the extravagantly curled tail.
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And again.
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7-Spot Ladybird.

I don’t know why this should be the case, but I often seem to spot ladybirds in the hedges along Bottom’s Lane.

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Ladybird, probably a Harlequin.
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Ladybird, probably a Harlequin.
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Wych Elm seeds. I think.

My modus operandi on my entomology wanders is to walk slowly scanning the vegetation for any movement on contrasting colours. I kept getting caught out by Wych Elm seeds which seemed to have settled all over the place – a good sign I hope.

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Dewberry Flowers?

These flowers seemed to be a bit on the big side to be bramble flowers, and based on the fact that I’ve found Dewberries before along Bottom’s Lane before, I assume that they are Dewberry flowers.

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Dewberry Flowers?

As ever, I’m more than ready to be corrected by anybody who actually knows what they are talking about.

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New Sycamore Leaves
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Spangles – made by tiny gall wasps.
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Ants and aphids.

I remember reading that ants ‘farm’ aphids, but I’m not sure that I’ve often seem them together.

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A Soldier Beetle, possibly Cantharis Rustica.
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Weevil, possibly Phyllobius pomaceus.
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Cantharis Rustica again, I think. You can see the ‘robust mouth parts’ well here. (Source)

When I got home, in no hurry to be indoors, I had a wander around our garden, photographing some of the ‘weeds’ growing there.

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Pink Campion.
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Welsh Poppy.
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Bumblebee on Aquilegia.
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Aquilegia Vulgaris.
Whit’s End I

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

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

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

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

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

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

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Whitbarrow Scar and the River Gilpin.

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

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My trusty steed.

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

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Whitbarrow Scar from Foulshaw Moss.

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

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

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Greenfinch and Red Poll.

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

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

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View across the Lyth Valley from the outskirts of Levens.

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

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

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

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

Foulshaw Moss by Bike

Thirty Photos in Search of an Author.

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The Bay and Grange from Middlebarrow W

Unusually, for my recent posts, all of these photos are from a single lazy local walk, a few miles spaced out over several hours, during which I took lots of photos and stopped for several brews.

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Bugle.
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Sun-dappled path through Middlebarrow Wood.
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Mayflowers.
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Arnside Tower doorway.
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The view from Arnside Tower over Silverdale Moss to Beetham Fell.
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Green Hellebore in Middlebarrow Wood.
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I don’t think I’ve noticed the large size of the seeds which develop inside the flowers.
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Sweet Woodruff.
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Herb Paris.
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Reed beds at Silverdale Moss.
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Paddock near Far Waterslack.
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Buttercups.
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Daisies (of the Galaxy?)
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Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill.

Quite clever of this tiny flower to incorporate both the names of two birds and two hyphens in its name.

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Heading towards Hawes Water.
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A swimmer.

I managed quite a bit of swimming this summer, but am still jealous of this solitary bather, since I’ve never swum in Hawes Water. It’s quite hard to see how you could get in through the reeds, although a couple of the houses on Moss Lane have private jetties.

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Bird’s-eye Primroses growing in some of the cleared land. Vindication of Natural England’s tree-felling policy?
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Femal Mallard.
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Tadpoles and fish in the stream between Little Hawes Water and Hawes Water.
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Azure Damselfly (I think).
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Bluebells, Gait Barrows.
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Limestone Pavement, Gait Barrows
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Angular Solomon’s-Seal growing in a grike.
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Looking towards Trowbarrow from a brew stop.
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Eaves Wood.
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Inman Oaks.
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Blue Tit. I watched blue tits going in and out of this fissure last spring. I wonder of it was the same pair nesting this year?
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This Nuthatch was also in-and-out, of a neighbouring tree, presumably bringing food to a nest.
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Male Blackbird on our garden wall.
Thirty Photos in Search of an Author.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

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Shield Bug, Pale Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Knapweed Fritillary, and wasp, sawfly or ….a?

Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)

This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.

Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…

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Meadow Brown on Horse Mint

I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..

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Another Meadow Brown.

…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.

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Pale Clouded Yellow

Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.

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Pale Clouded Yellow
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Clouded Yellow

Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.

I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.

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Cleopatra

They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….

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Cleopatra

…they’re quite different.

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Knapweed Fritillary

We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.

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Knapweed Fritillary

But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.

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A pair of Knapweed Fritillary

I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.

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A mating display?
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Wood White?
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Wall Brown
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Rock Grayling.
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Grizzled Skipper?

This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.

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Common Blue.
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Common Blue
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Common Blues.
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Common Blue.

I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.

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Holly Blue. I think.
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If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.

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Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.

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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot.
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Striped Shield Bugs – mating?
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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot with a passenger.
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Hairy (or Sloe) Shieldbug.
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Assassin Bug?

There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.

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My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.

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I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.

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I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.

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As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…

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Here’s another…

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…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…

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Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…

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And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…

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Robber Fly

…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.

All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth
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A colourful micro moth.

One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…

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It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Meadow Clary
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.

Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.

A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…

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Thornapple

This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.

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Thornapple

I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.

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Thornapple leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.

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Thornapple seeds – highly poisonous.
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Thornapple seeds.
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Thornapple flowers.

They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.

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Field Eryngo?

Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.

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It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.

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Seedheads of a mallow? I liked the shapes.
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Robin’s pincushion galls.
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A Common Lizard I think.
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These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.

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This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!

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And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

Home from Carnforth

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Warton and Warton Crag behind.

Long-suffering readers of this blog may remember that there was a time when I worked one afternoon a week in Carnforth and a walk home from there was a weekly part of my commute. These days it’s not something I do very often, which is a shame because it’s a great walk, with numerous route options, all of them enjoyable.

On this occasion, one of the boys bikes need dropping off at the cycle shop for repairs; I can’t remember if this was when B had so completely buckled one of his wheels that it was beyond repair, or when the derailleur on S’s bike broke and his chain fell off.

“I put my chain by the path and somebody stole it!”

Later, when the whole family went to Trowbarrow to look for the ‘stolen’ chain, I asked, “Where exactly did you leave it?”

He pointed. Directly at a broken, black bike chain, which he apparently couldn’t see.

“Did you leave it beside this chain? Or could this be yours?”

“It wasn’t there earlier!”, he was adamant.

Anyway, I saw the opportunity to accompany TBH to the bike shop, and then to walk home afterwards.

After TBH dropped me off, I’d walked across the fields from Millhead to Warton and then climbed up to the Crag Road, where a stile gives access to the top of a lime kiln. The slight elevation of this spot gives some nice views…

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Warton and a distant Ingleborough on the left.

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Warton again and the Bowland Hills on the horizon.

A set of steps lead down beside the lime kiln…

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So I had a wander down…

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…to peer inside.

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Another distant view of Ingleborough.

I followed the limestone edge up to the back of the large quarry car park and then headed on up to the top.

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The Bay from near the top of Warton Crag.

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It was a hot day and I dropped down from the top to my new favourite view point, where tree-clearance has exposed a small crag and some expansive views.

I sat for some time, drinking in the views as well as the contents of my water bottle. A buzzard coasted past. I’d already watched another hovering above the fields near Millhead.

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Foxgloves.

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Male Scorpion Fly. Is it holding a morsel of food?

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Red Admiral.

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A hoverfly – Platycheirus fulviventris – possibly?

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Greenbottles.

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I think that this striking fungi is a very dark specimen of Many-zoned Polypore or Turkeytail fungus. 

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This fungus varies enormously in colour. It generally grows on dead wood and is here devouring a tree stump.

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Dog Rose.

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Honeysuckle.

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Hoverfly – Episyrphus Balteatus.

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I was happily photographing roses and honeysuckle when an orange butterfly flew across the path, almost brushing my face as it passed. I tried to follow its flight, but soon lost it. I assumed it was a fritillary of some kind; I’m always disappointed if they pass without giving me a chance to identify them. Fortunately, a little further down the path, I came across another fritillary feeding on a red clover flower…

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It’s a Dark Green Fritillary, exciting for me because I’ve only seen this species once before.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Cinnabar Moth.

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A white-tailed bumblebee species on a Bramble flower.

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Reflexed Stonecrop.

At Barrow Scout Fields, the gulls were making a fuss; it’s often worth a few moments scrutiny to see what’s upsetting them. I’m glad I stopped this time…

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At first I assumed that I’d spotted a Marsh Harrier with a gull chick, but only one gull gave chase, and that half-heartedly, and the gulls are usually extremely energetic when mobbing the resident harriers. Anyway, I could soon make out that the raptor was carrying quite a large fish. It seemed likely that it was an Osprey, which the photo confirms. It made a beeline northwards, presumably heading back to the nest at Foulshaw Moss, on the far side of the River Kent. The nest has webcams stationed above it and I’ve been following the progress of the nesting pair and their two chicks online, so was doubly pleased to see one of the parent birds with what looks to me like a good sized family take-away.

I’m, intrigued by the fish too. Barrow Scout Fields were three agricultural fields until they were bought by the RSPB in 2000 and restored as wetlands. Have the RSPB stocked the meres they created with fish I wonder, or have fish eggs arrived naturally, on the feet of wading birds for example? Whichever is the case, the fishing Osprey and its large prey are surely testament to the charity’s successful creation and management of this habitat.

I hadn’t moved on from watching the disappearing Osprey, before another drama began to unfold in the skies overhead…

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Two raptors this time, with one repeatedly nose-diving the other. The slightly smaller bird, the aggressor, is a Marsh Harrier, a female I think, which is probably defending a nest in the trees at the edge of Leighton Moss.

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The agility of the other bird, a Buzzard, which repeatedly flipped upside-down so that it could face its attacker, was astonishing.

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I have no sympathy with the Buzzard, since I’ve been subjected to similar dive-bombing attacks by Buzzards on several occasions. This went on for quite some time and I took numerous photos; I was royally entertained.

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Looking across towards Leighton Moss.

I peeked over the bridge here to peer into the dike running alongside the Causeway Road and saw a Water Forget-Me-Not flowering in the middle of the dike. Sadly, it was in deep shade and my photo has not come out too well. I shall have to revisit.

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Yellow Flag Iris.

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Unnamed tributary of Quicksand Pool.

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Spear-leaved Orache.

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Sea Beet, with flowers…

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Both sea beet and orache (in its many guises, there are several British species) are prized as spinach substitutes by foragers. I really must get around to trying them both.

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Quicksand Pool.

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A roof finial (I think that’s the right term) at Jenny Brown’s cottages. I’m surprised I haven’t photographed it before. 

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Speckled Wood butterfly.

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This seemed to be the day which just kept on giving: after the dark green fritillary, the osprey, the aerial battle between the harrier and the buzzard, one last gift – a group of Eider Ducks resting on the sands at the edge of Carnforth Salt Marsh. I’ve seen Eiders here before, but not often. It was a shame they were so far away, but when I tried to get closer they swam away.

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Oystercatchers.

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Quicksand Pool and Warton Crag.

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Looking along the coast to the Coniston Fells.

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Another Dog Rose at Jack Scout.

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Large Skipper female.

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Curled Dock (I think).

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Named for its curly leaves.

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If I’m right, then these flowers will turn red then eventually brown.

Curled Dock is yet another spinach substitute apparently, crammed with vitamins.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The mystery vigorous plant in Woodwell pond is revealed to be Arum Lily or Calla Lily. 

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A non-native relative of our own Cuckoo Pint – the showy white part is a spathe not petals.

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Close to home and a distant view of the Howgills on the horizon.

A lovely walk of a little under eight miles – who’d believe so much interest could be crammed into one short stroll?


Now, if your patience isn’t completely exhausted, some fishing songs. First up, a tune I’ve always liked:

This one, is actually ‘Sufficient Clothes’ but was released as ‘Fishing Clothes’ after a Lightnin’ Hopkins was misheard.

Listening to it again, it turns out there’s not too much fishing in this one either:

But it is by the late, great Tony Joe White. Seems I don’t actually know many songs about fishing after all.

Home from Carnforth