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…’)

 

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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

In Search of Butterflies and Orchids

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Speckled Wood Butterfly.

After my early morning outing, I took A and S for a dip at our local swimming hole. I didn’t swim – I settled down on the shingle by the river, down behind the bank, which kept the wind off, and enjoyed a couple of cups of tea and a book.

The following afternoon, I tried to entice the kids out for a bike ride, but only A was interested. It was TBH’s idea – I wanted to visit Myer’s Allotment, Trowbarrow Quarry and Gait Barrows, on the hunt for butterflies and orchids and TBH suggested that connecting them by cycling between them would make it feasible to include all three in one afternoon trip.

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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.

After my flurry of visits last spring, this was the first time I’d visited Myer’s Allotment since. I never seem to see many butterflies here, which is ironic since it’s a Butterfly Conservation Reserve, but there are always compensations, chiefly the fantastic view of Leighton Moss.

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I’m pretty hopeless with yellow daisies, but I think that this might be Rough Hawkbit, based more on the photo I took of the very hairy leaves than on the flower.

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Song Thrush with snack.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Black-tailed Skimmer.

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Only the second time I’ve seen a Black-tailed Skimmer and both have been at Myer’s Allotment.

Another short ride brought us to Trowbarrow Quarry…

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…where there were lots of these…

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Common Spotted Orchid.

But far fewer of these…

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Bee Orchid.

I’ve been aware that these can be found in the area for quite some time, but am very pleased to have finally seen some. The flower is adapted to mimic a bee apparently, in order to attract bees to facilitate cross-pollination. The plants take five to eight years to reach maturity, but are usually monocarpic, meaning that once they have flowered and set seed they die and won’t flower again.

Whilst A and I were crawling about looking for Bee Orchids to photograph, a movement caught the corner of my eye and turning I spotted this tiny…

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Dingy Skipper.

Which flew close enough to this…

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Common Twayblade.

…to attract my attention and which in turn was growing close to…

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Another Bee Orchid.

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Another Speckled Wood.

On a warm, sunny afternoon the open glades at Gait Barrows seem to be perfect for butterflies.

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Common Blue on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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Rock Rose.

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This has me very confused. The flower looks like a Crane’s-bill flower, but the leaves, seen out-of-focus in the background,  are more like a pea type plant

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Another Dingy Skipper. 

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We saw lots of Dingy Skippers and several orange butterflies. Mostly they were pretty elusive, but one sat where I could get a couple of photos…

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I think that this is a Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary.

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Large Red Damselfly.

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Azure Damselfly. I know – it looks very like the Common Blue Damselfly above. Fortunately they have a distinctive mark on the second segment of their abdomens.

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser.

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Common Blue Butterfly.

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Our Trusty Steeds.

TBH’s walk/cycle idea, henceforth know as going on a Wicycle, worked very well. Might even do it again some time. It’s even possible that if we do it a few times, I might finish one of our short cycling sections without feeling jelly-legged when I switch back to Shank’s Pony.

In Search of Butterflies and Orchids

Serendipty Squared

Eaves Wood – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Coldwell Meadows – Coldwell Limeworks – Silverdale Moss – Hawes Water – Eaves Wood

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By rights, this post should have been an account of a walk from the Leck Fell Road taking in Coum Hill and Gragareth via Ease Gill. I had it all planned: I drove as far as Cowan Bridge, but the car was playing up, unexpectedly losing power without warning or any apparent reason; so, reluctantly, I drove home – with some difficulty – left the car outside the local garage, and walked home through the village. Later, I decided to cut my losses by heading out for a local wander.

The previous week, when I’d been in Eaves Wood looking for Cuddlytoy-Makeshift -Orienteering-Controls, I was distracted by a proper hullabaloo issuing from a Birch tree which was listing from the perpendicular. I recognised the commotion as the distinctive uproar of a Woodpecker nest, with what sounded like several chicks demanding food. I scanned the tree and soon found the hole in the trunk which housed the nest. I watched for a while, but whilst both parent birds approached, they became agitated and wouldn’t visit the nest under the glare of my attention, so I left them to it. Now I was back. I could only hear one young bird this time, but it was making-up for having to perform solo by protesting its extreme hunger with remarkable vigour.

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I assumed that the other chicks had fledged and that this one would be on the point of leaving too, but I was back there a few days later, with some old friends, and the single chick was still there, and still every bit as volubly voracious. We watched it poking its head through that porthole and clammering for sustenance. This morning, however, I was back again and all was finally quiet.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Amongst the Buttercups near Hawes Water there were many Rabbits, a couple of them black. Escaped pets or the descendants of escapees?

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Blue-tailed Damselflies.

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This…

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…has me stumped. It may be a teneral damselfly, that is, a recently emerged adult which doesn’t yet have its adult colouration.

In Eaves Wood I’d seen many Squirrels. It occurred to me that, although they are always about, there are times of the year, this being one of them, when Squirrels are more active and therefore more evident. I was also thinking about a Squirrels drey and the fact that, whilst in theory I know that Squirrels live in a nest made of sticks, I”d never actually seen one before.

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Ironic then, that when I watched this Squirrel, it climbed up a Scots Pine to…

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…a drey!

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

I was intrigued by a loud tearing sound in the reeds at the edge of the lake and went to investigate the cause. I was very surprised to find that the culprit was this little Blue Tit…

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Yellow Rattle.

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Because I find Orchids very difficult to identify, but also absolutely fascinating, I’ve long wanted a field guide dedicated solely to them. Usually, if I wait long enough, the Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster will fulfil my needs and this winter that’s exactly what happened. So I am now the proud owner of ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’ by David Lang and have become an expert.

‘Yeah right’, as A would say. This looks to me very, very like Northern Marsh Orchid, especially the majaliformis sub-species. Except, this was growing in a relatively well-drained meadow, not a marsh, and the sub-species is only found within 100 metres of the coast, and this meadow is a little further than that from the Bay.

As is often the case, I didn’t have an exact route in mind; I’d thought of going to take another gander at the Lady’s-slipper Orchids, but chose instead to take another path through Gait Barrows – one that I knew would take me past several patches of…

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…Lily-of-the-Valley.

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It was getting late, but rather than doubling-back towards home, I took the track out of the nature reserve onto the road, without really knowing where I would go next. When I reached the road, I noticed a small notice attached to a gate almost opposite. It said something like “Welcome to Coldwell Meadows AONB Nature Reserve”. I decided to investigate.

Good choice! In the meadow, no doubt tempted by the lush, un-grazed grass, were a small herd of Fallow Deer…

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These are not a native species, and whilst I have seen feral deer in this area before, the last time I did so was quite a few years ago. I assume that these are more escapees, perhaps from the Deer park at Dallam?

I also saw a Marsh Harrier, and managed to get a photo, but not a very good one.

At the far side of the field from the road a small, and very tempting, gate gave on to woods. I thought I could guess where it would take me, and I was right: a short downhill stroll brought me to the ruined chimney of Coldwell Limeworks and from there it’s only a few strides to the footpath which runs along the edge of Silverdale Moss.

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I was gazing into the distant views of the setting sun and the meres of the Moss, when a crashing sound in the hedgerow focused my attention closer to hand. I couldn’t see anything in the hedge, but there in the long grass, just over the drystone wall….

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…a Roe Deer Buck. He watched me closely for a while, then barked in the eerie way they do, and bounded around the corner – the long vegetation seemingly necessitating a gait more like that of a bouncing gazelle than what I would normally associate with our own Deer.

After he’d rounded a corner and disappeared, another bark surprised me, and then a Doe, or at least, I think it was a Doe, jumped out of the grass, where she had been completely hidden, and also leapt away.

I waited a moment: there were still rustlings in the hedge. Sure enough, a third Deer appeared, quite a bit smaller than the other two…

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…but this one didn’t run away. Retreating rather in small stages, anxiously keeping an eye on me all the while and not really seeming to know quite what to do.

A bit of a puzzle this little group. I don’t think Roe Deer live in family groups and Roe Deer Kids are usually born between mid-May and mid-June, so the third Deer probably wasn’t new-born. But, on the other had, Bucks are territorial in the summer, with the rut running from mid-July to the end of August.

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The former Cloven Ash.

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With the light now very low, this might I suppose, have been enough excitement for one night, but back in Eaves Wood for the final leg of the walk, two different raptors slalomed impressively through the trees. One was a Buzzard…

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…the other, wasn’t a Buzzard, but apart from that I don’t really have any clue what it was.  Very fast and very agile between the tightly-spaced tree-trunks, it will have to remain a mystery.

Ease-gill and Gragareth are both very fine, and will wait for another walk. This last minute replacement worked out pretty well!

‘You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you just might find,
You get what you need.’

Serendipty Squared

Butterflies, Birds, Bees, Beetles and Buffoonery

Eaves Wood – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – The Row – Hagg Wood

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A Brimstone on Bluebells in Eaves Wood.

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Robin on fence post, 16 buoys field.

I’d been a disappointed with the quality of my photos of the Eiders I’d seen at Jenny Brown’s Point, but put it down to low light. Now that I was out again, a couple of evenings later, I noticed that my photos were still grainy and lacking definition. Realisation dawned that camera muppetry was once again to blame, or perhaps I should say photographer muppetry: somehow I’d inadvertently changed the ISO setting. Again. This time to 1600. Resetting the ISO is paradoxically one of those things which is really easy to do accidentally, when you don’t want to, but nigh on impossible to achieve when that is your actual intention. I wasn’t reduced to tears, but there may have been a slight elevation in my blood pressure and a good deal of bad-tempered muttering.

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Goldfinches seem to be everywhere at the moment, which is no bad thing. Especially when your camera is finally working properly again and you need something to take your mind off the infuriation caused by a misbehaving inanimate object.

A section of garden by Challan Hall Mews is completely over-run with Campion. My kind of gardening: I can’t imagine much effort is required and it looks fantastic.

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On the open ground by Hawes Water I turned over a rotting log, beneath which I once found a Common Lizard. This time I found a large ground beetle, agile, fast moving and therefore rather difficult to either photograph or identify…

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In size and shape very like a Violet Ground Beetle. But not very violet.

This damselfly, by the Hawes Water boardwalks, was much more obliging…

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I think that this might be a female Common Blue Damselfly. However, I find it very difficult to identify male damselflies, and females are even more hard to distinguish.

I’ve seen quite a few Orange-tips whilst I’ve been out and about this spring. But the rule with Orange-tips, and in fact most ‘whites’, is that they never sit still long enough to be photographed. Well, not usually anyway…

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This was the second I’d managed to photograph that day.

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I think that this is a solitary bee.

“Most people are familiar with honey bees and bumblebees, but look closely and there are smaller furry bees moving from flower to flower. There are around 20,000 described bee species worldwide. Most of these bees are known as solitary bees with only 250 bumblebee species, 9 honey bee species and a number of social stingless bees worldwide. In Britain we have around 270 species of bee, just under 250 of which are solitary bees. These bees can be amazingly effective pollinators and as the name suggests tend not to live in colonies like bumblebees and honey bees.”

This from the Wildlife Trusts website.

Some of our cuckoo bee species have a yellow collar like this, but they generally also have a paler tail and are much bigger than this bee was. As to which of the 250 species this is from – I have no idea.

This…

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…also had me confused. At first I suspected that it was some sort of hoverfly doing a really good impression of a Honey Bee, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually a Honey Bee doing a really good impression of a hoverfly doing a really good impression of a Honey Bee. Perhaps. If it is a Honey Bee, it’s a good deal paler then those I’m used to seeing, but then I think Honey Bees are quite varied.

Is there anybody out there wants to lend me a hand, with my one man b….entomological identification?

Oh no, now I’m misquoting Leo Sayer. Shoot me now!

Butterflies, Birds, Bees, Beetles and Buffoonery

Free Lunch

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

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

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

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…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

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There was plenty to see within the reserve too.

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Rock Rose.

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Harebells.

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Self-heal.

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A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!

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

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Hoverfly on Ragwort.

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Bumblebee on Ragwort.

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Meadow Brown.

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

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Damselfly.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee.

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Gatekeeper  Butterfly and Common Red Soldier Beetle.

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

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

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

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

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

Free Lunch