Sunshine in the Garden.

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Bank Holiday Monday was another glorious day. We spent the morning sunning ourselves in the garden again and then most of the afternoon taking an interminably long time to prepare for an overnight trip (of which more to follow).

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We’ve regularly had a female Broad-bodied Chaser in the garden over the last fortnight. I had convinced myself that it was the same one each time, since it seemed to be quite small of its kind, but then, a couple of days ago, I saw two close together, both of the same size, which has obviously put a huge dent in my conviction. Whether or not it was the same one each time, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos.

 

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I took some photos of flowers too. This must be a knapweed of some description. TBH has planted them in the garden in several places. The bees seem to like them too…

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Large Red Damselfly.

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Peony.

I’ve been noticing the sounds of Starlings a lot whilst out and about, since coming across the nest on the Lots. B and I spotted some Starlings which were surely visiting a nest in a hedgerow beside Moss Lane. There have been a lot of Starlings on the feeders in our neighbour’s garden too.

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Here they are perched in the top of our Silver Birch.

 

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Sunshine in the Garden.

Gloucester Old Spot

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Half-term! Astonishingly, the good weather hadn’t given up the ghost just as we broke up, but was set fair and would continue to be pretty good for most of the week. On the first Saturday, TBH took A to Manchester to see ‘Blood Brothers’*, Little S joined a friend’s birthday outing to the flicks to catch the new Star Wars spin-off, leaving B and I to our own devices.

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I persuaded him that a walk would be a good idea and whilst his enthusiasm for the project was a little lukewarm, he soon perked up after demonstrating some fairly gymnastic tree-climbing and really came alive when he spotted this female broad-bodied chaser…

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On the totally unscientific basis of how many I’ve seen so far this summer, this has been a good year for broad-bodied chasers.

We were heading for Hawes Water…

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Where the Irises…

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…had come into flower.

Common Blue Damselflies were seemingly everywhere, mostly in mating pairs…

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B hadn’t seen the new boardwalk.

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Somewhat optimistically, we hoped that the Common Lizards, which on a hot day like this might well have been sunning themselves along the edges of the old boardwalk, might have already adopted the new structure. But I think that will take a while. There were still plenty of damselflies though….

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…if not on the new boardwalk, then very near to it.

At Hawes Villa they keep a small number of Gloucester Old Spot Pigs…

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They seemed to be happily eating dirt and it’s only subsequently that it has occurred to me that this field might once have hosted Pignuts, a common enough plant locally, which might explain their relish.

B was very taken with the pigs and having admired them for a while then wanted to read the sign right through (reading is not usually one of his favourite pastimes).

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“Eat them, to keep them.”, I read. “Do you want to try some?”

He did, so we did. We bought both sausages and burgers. We haven’t tried the sausages yet, but the burgers were delicious. With TBH and A still sticking to their vegan October regime, even the boys and I are eating less meat than we were, and with several local farmers supplying meat directly to customers, and the news that US style stockyards are appearing in the UK, I’m keen to switch to buying meat locally, where I have a fair idea about the welfare of the livestock. Having said that, this has just been a toe in the water so to speak, I need to think about where I go from here.

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B on a Cow Parsley fringed Moss Lane.

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Star of Bethlehem.

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The large stand of Honesty on The Row has finished flowering and the flowers have been replaced by giant seed-heads which resemble thin slices of Kiwifruit.

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Looks like a carpet moth. Maybe Striped Twin-spot Carpet?

This last one is a bit of a cheat, taken the next day, which was spent in the garden cutting down two overgrown coniferous shrubs and then driving back and forth to the tip to dispose of the evidence.

*This is a Sore Point. I wasn’t invited. Because, apparently, I ‘don’t like musicals’. That’s the last time I watch ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ or ‘West-Side Story’ with A when she’s off sick. Or take TBH to the cinema to watch ‘La-La Land’. Apparently, ‘Blood Brothers’ was very good, but I expected as much: it’s a great show.

Gloucester Old Spot

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…

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A Monday evening. With A hobbling about on her dodgy knee after her long DofE training walk, dancing was out of the question for her, so there were no taxi-dad duties for me to perform. I escaped to Gait Barrows, ostensibly to see whether the Lady’s-slipper Orchids were flowering. Some of them were, as you can see above, but some were yet to fully open…

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This is another of my annual flower pilgrimages and it served as a useful excuse, but really, with the sun still shining I was hoping for butterflies. I did see some: Orange-tips, Brimstones, Speckled Woods, but generally they wouldn’t settle to be photographed. Fortunately, there was a great deal more to see, in fact the Lady’s slippers were the last pictures I took in a great haul and I was tempted to appropriate Conrad’s phrase and title the post ‘blogger’s gifts’.

Usually, having come in search of the orchids, I’m a little late for the Lily-of-the-valley. The small areas completed dominated by the broad leaves are always still in evidence…

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But I often struggle to find any flowers; this time there were far more than I’ve ever seen before…

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The tiny, white bells are still quite shy and retiring, but utterly enchanting.

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In addition to the flowers there were hoards of Damselflies about. I took lots of photos, but will content myself with just two…

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Common Damselfly.

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Azure Damselfly.

The colours look very different, but that’s a function of the light which was falling on them at the time. The easiest way to distinguish these males is the pattern on the second segment. The Common damselfly has a solid black omega  – Ω; whilst the Azure has an elongated u, like – ∏ – but the other way up. (You may need to click on the photos to view zoomable images on flickr to pick this out).

Walking through some warm glades, which act as a sun-trap and have often been good for butterflies on previous visits, I spotted something in flight which had all the colour of a butterfly, but which was bigger and more co-operative with regards being photographed…

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Broad-bodied Chaser.

In flight, I thought that it was yellow (the field guide says ‘ochre’), so assumed that it was a female, but the males also start life that colour, but then produce ‘pruinescence’, a dusty blue covering, which process has begun for this male, and is more advanced in this male…

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… which was also basking in the sun, just a few yards from the first dragonfly.

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There were lots of these…

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…Brown Silver-line moths about.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

I need to make a concerted effort with ferns and grasses. Hopefully, I can pick up quite a bit relatively easily, since presently I know next to nothing. I think the fern above is Maidenhair Spleenwort. It’s possible that this…

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…is another spleenwort, or Wall Rue? I’m not sure.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil. New flowers – they will soon be egg-yolk yellow.

I did eventually manage to photograph one butterfly…

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Green-veined White on Bugle.

In pursuit of an Orange-tip, I turned onto a slim-trod along a ride which I have never taken before.

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Which, it transpired, was a very happy choice.

The path brought me to a gate, overlooking a field…

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…which helped me to reset my bearings, since I recognised it.

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Only a couple of days before, I had been reading, again, about Herb Paris. A highly unusual plant, which has been frustrating me, because I know that it grows locally in many locations, but I have never stumbled across it. Anyway, I read that it often grows alongside it’s close relative Dog’s Mercury, a very common plant hereabouts, and when I saw Dog’s Mercury blanketing the woodland floor, I optimistically thought: maybe there will be some Herb Paris nearby.

And was then very surprised when my wish-prophecy came true..

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It’s an odd plant with quite a strange flower, but after years of waiting, I was very pleased to see it.

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From this point, the path seemed to peter out and though I continued doggedly for some time, I eventually admitted defeat and turned to retrace my steps. Except, then I was distracted by another, even slighter tread which was heading into the woods. Almost immediately, I was confronted by a pile of feathers…

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Then another, and another…

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And then several pairs of bird-less wings…

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The wings were all busy with flies, but also with several of these rather striking orange and black beetles – oieceoptoma thoracicum. They aren’t here feast on the carrion, but on the other insects which are attracted to the wings.

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The last time, and the first time, that I saw one of these was on another warm spring day, on Yewbarrow above the Winster Valley, when B joined me for a fabulous walk. It was eight years ago, which I think says something about the power of blogging as an aide memoire; my memory is generally pretty dreadful, but although I didn’t remember their latin name, I did instantly recognise the insects and recall their predatory lifestyle.

That walk was a good one, and the post has a much better photograph of this actually rather handsome beetle. That day we found several badger setts, but these wings were untidily strewn around a Fox’s earth. I found a dead fox cub not so very far away from this spot last year and one summer saw a fox, late one evening, running along the woodland fringe near here. B is quite keen to see the earth, I don’t know whether there is any mileage in bringing him late one evening in the hope that we might see the resident foxes too.

The path which I had diverted onto was clearly a path made by the foxes. It soon forked and forked again. It was difficult to follow, but I persisted and eventually it brought me to a ‘proper’ path, which I recognised, and which was close to where the Lady’-slippers flower.

Down at Hawes Water, work was still continuing quite late into the evening…

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Having started with the last photo I took, here are the first two:

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Stacked timber and…

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planks from the old boardwalk, by the Gait Barrows carpark.

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…

The Lots with Little S

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The day after our trip to Swindale and I managed to persuade Little S to accompany me to check up on the Starling nest. We could see that the nest hadn’t been abandoned and S could see one of the young inside the hollow. We waited for a short time and were soon rewarded by a visit from one of the parents.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Little S was excellent company; he seemed really taken with the Starlings and even more excited by the profusion of flowers on the Lots, where the Buttercups had suddenly appeared and the Green-winged Orchids were particularly rife (although I’m told that when a count was carried out, numbers were actually down on last year, for the first time in several years).

The Lots with Little S

Summertime Blues

And oranges, greens, browns, purples, yellows….

Almost a proper post-work walk this one, since it was the evening of the last day of the summer term. I was out a little earlier than I often am, which meant sunshine for a change and lots of colour. I chose to go back to the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

In the woods I followed a large wasp or hoverfly hoping to see it land. I lost it, but then spotted this apparently besieged beetle…

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I think that this is a Common Sextant Beetle – Nicrophorus vespilloides. I thought that maybe the small brown mites covering the beetle – which I’m pretty sure was dead – were eating it, or had possibly even killed it, but it turns out that the truth is far more interesting and surprising…

“These [Sextant] beetles perform an important service in getting rid of carrion – dead small animals and birds. Males and females cooperate to bury this matter, by digging beneath the bodies to provide a food supply for their larvae.

Adults show an incredible maternal care for the larvae, something very unusual in the insect world. They fly in search of new sources of food at night and readily come to outside lights. They are often seen to be host to very tiny pinkish brown mites which are not parasites but feeders on moulds which would otherwise spoil carrion as a food source for the larvae. These mites use the beetles as a way of getting about. This beetle is commonly seen at light in gardens, often in company with a related, all black species, the black sexton.”

Source

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I’ve had a bumper year for Common Lizards, which is great. With the sun shining I wasn’t at all surprised to find a few more on the boardwalk by Hawes Water.

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Unlike the ones I’ve seen at Foulshaw Moss, these all had their tails. They were very varied in colour.

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Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The lizards weren’t the only ones basking in the sun.

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This one, it seems to me, is more blue than green, somewhat to my surprise.

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Three lizards this time, not a bad haul.

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Hawes Water.

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Meadow Brown.

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“The Robin’s Pincushion (also known as the ‘Bedeguar Gall’) is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is widespread and common, and can be found developing on the stems of wild roses during late summer, acquiring its reddish colour as it matures in autumn. The grubs inside the gall feed on the host plant throughout the winter and emerge in spring as adults. The adults reproduce asexually and only a tiny number are male.”

Source

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Male White-tailed Bumblebee?

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Wild Basil again (the same plant).

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Froghopper – very different from the last one I saw.

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Meadow Brown.

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Mating Gatekeepers.

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Betony.

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Rather tired Common Spotted-orchid.

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Small Skipper on Betony.

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Look at that tongue!

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I had a bit of a wander around an area of limestone pavement which I don’t think I’ve explored before. A surprisingly diverse range of plants seem to thrive in the grykes.

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Hart’s-tongue Fern.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

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Eyebright.

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Great Mullein.

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There were lots of these plants, growing in clumps, with strappy leaves, very dark stems and flowers which don’t seem quite open yet. I’ve had several ideas about their identity, but have eventually discounted them all.

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With it’s succulent leaves, this looks like some sort of stonecrop, but also remains a puzzle. Maybe when it’s flowering fully I’ll be able to identify it?

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Ploughman’s-spikenard.

I was intrigued by the name of this daisy, so had a peek in ‘Flora Britannica’:

“True spikenard or ‘nard’, was an expensive, spicy perfume made from roots of a Himalayan plant…”

I’m not sure why Mabey says ‘was’, since a google search elicits many offers of expensive cure-all Spikenard essential oils.

There are, apparently, several references to Spikenard in the Bible, both Old and New Testament*.

Ploughman’s Spikenard is the poor-man’s English alternative. The “roots have a strong aromatic smell. They are sometimes dried and hung up in cottages as room-fresheners.”

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Dark Red Helleborine.

I’ve been wanting to find some of these since I moved to the area, without really being sure when or where to look. It’s part of the reason I was wandering around on the limestone pavement. I found several plants when I’d given up and was back on the path at the edge of the pavement. Sadly, they’d finished flowering and the flowers were dried brown husks. With one or two exceptions…

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Now I know where to start my search next summer. Roll on.

*  For example: “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

From the King James version of the Song of Solomon. As ever, reliably weird. On which note – it’s probably only me that read this and heard: ‘Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon. Going up…’ If you get the reference and can hear the theme tune now then that probably means that you’re a child of the seventies and your life too was blighted by useless sit-coms. (‘Wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up…’)

 

Summertime Blues

Foulshaw: Lizards, Osprey, Skippers

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A’s dance lessons are almost over for the summer, so I’m conscious of making the most of my last few evening visits to Foulshaw in between taxi-duties. This Monday (now nearly a fortnight ago), having seen a Common Lizard on my previous visit, and it being warmer and sunnier than it was then, I hoped to see more. And I did. Around a dozen.

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Common Lizards are aptly named, in is much as, I suspect that they are very common, but like a lot of wildlife, they often go unnoticed. I tend to see one every now and again, but occasionally, when conditions are right, I’ve seen them in abundance. The last time this happened was quite a while ago, but the post I wrote then featuring lots of pictures of lizards has been one of those posts which has attracted a steady dribble of traffic ever since, so there must be some interest out there.

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Common Lizards can survive losing their tail, in fact will shed their tail in order to escape from a predator.

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Then the tail will grow back.

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Whilst I concentrated on spotting the lizards basking on the boardwalks, I did spot one or two other things.

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This very dark damselfly is presumably a female, but further than that I can not go.

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I heard this juvenile Woodpecker before I saw it. Is it the same one I’ve seen a couple of times before?

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This damselfly is much easier, it’s a male Blue-tailed Damselfly.

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Meadowsweet.

A family who had driven over from Kirkby Lonsdale, hoping to see the Ospreys, asked me which way to look to find the nest. I hadn’t seen it myself, but had an idea of the general direction from a map posted at the carpark. After a bit of vague pointing on my part they had soon spotted the large untidy nest. I took a few photos and it was only after I got home that I realised that to the left and slightly below the nest, on the next tree, there is an Osprey perched.

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(Click on the photo, or any of the others, to see a larger version on Flickr.)

I know that I should be wary about claiming to have photographed an Osprey here, after previously getting over-excited and jubilantly posting photos of the cameras next to the former nest site, in the mistaken belief that they were Ospreys, but I am confident about this one – I took photos using the camera’s digital zoom, and whilst they are rubbish, they are also pretty conclusive. This is only the second time I’ve taken a photo of an Osprey, and the second time that I’ve done so unwittingly. One day, I shall actually see an Osprey properly in this area. But don’t hold your breath.

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Bog Asphodel.

There had been a bit of a dearth of butterflies and moths on this visit, until I came across several Large Skippers in pretty much the same spot where I’ve seen them before.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Creeping Cinquefoil.

If that does prove to be my last visit to Foulshaw this summer, then it was a memorable one to finish on.

Foulshaw: Lizards, Osprey, Skippers

Another Monday Evening at Foulshaw

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Juvenile Great Spotted-woodpecker.

Sometimes you wait and wait for an interesting sighting and on other occasions the birds on the feeders in the car park just ignore you when you pull in and carry on seemingly oblivious as you take photos.

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The red patch on the this woodpeckers head is the tell-tale sign that it is a juvenile.

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Figwort.

Figwort grows near home – at Lambert’s meadow and in Middlebarrow wood – but the plants at Foulshaw Moss were taller and more sturdy. I thought that even the tiny flowers might have been a little less tiny than I’ve seen before.

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Marsh Thistle (possibly).

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Tufted Vetch.

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A female Azure Damselfly – I think.

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Large Skipper.

I’ve puzzled, in the past, over the difference between Large and Small skippers, but I think that patterned brown lower edge to the wing makes this a ‘large’ one (still quite small).

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Tentatively identified as a Common Heath Moth – if it is, then the feathery antennae make it a male.

There were a lot of butterflies and day flying moths about, but as soon as they alighted they tended to disappear into the vegetation, so I can’t be sure whether or not I saw either of the nationally scarce species found here: the Large Heath Butterfly or the Argent and Sable Moth. Another time perhaps.

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Moorhen.

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Swallow.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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Male Reed Bunting.

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Scorpion Fly.

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Large Skipper.

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This hoverfly is pretty distinctive because, although it has the yellow and black colours of many hoverflies, it doesn’t have any lateral stripes, so I thought I would be able to find it in my ‘Complete British Insects’ book, but no such luck.

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This, on the other hand, is, I think, one form of the species Volucella Bombylans, doing a more than passable impression of a White-tailed Bumble-bee. The other form imitates the Red-tailed Bumble-bee. The female lays her eggs in the nests of bees and wasps, where the larvae feed on debris and occasionally the bee larvae.

Another Monday Evening at Foulshaw