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

More Songs About Chocolate and Girls

Well…more pictures of flowers and bugs.

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More bees with white tails, but I think here the central yellow band is on both the abdomen and the thorax making this, most likely, Garden Bumblebees. Presumably sisters from the same nest. I have to say that Marsh Thistles are great value – insects of many kinds seem to adore them.

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser – I read up a little and discovered that this species is ‘a recent resident’ according to ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, which was published in 2013 and is one of a series of a delightful booklets which I really ought to refer to far more often. This date fits very neatly with my initial excitement when I first managed to photograph a male in 2010.

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Here’s a male Broad-bodied Chaser. Incidentally, the very sturdy looking square red stem on the left is that of Figwort, whose tiny flowers are out of all proportion to this very tall and vigorous plant.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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Common Spotted-orchid.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (probably) on Ragged Robin.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Meadow Brown – these are legion at the moment and have been so for a month or more. Surprisingly hard to photograph though since they tend to come to rest deep in the longish grass of the meadows they frequent. 

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Geese, heading north.

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Already?

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Eyebright.

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I diverted from my usual Lambert’s Meadow/Gait Barrows round here to follow this field margin close to Little Hawes Water. This is another part of Gait Barrows where fences have been removed.

I was sure that there would be a bit of a path from the end of the field over the slightly higher ground on the right to the path by Hawes Water. I still think that such a path may well exist, but, if it does, I didn’t find it.

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Still, it wasn’t hard to work a way through and any scratches which resulted were worth it for the view of Hawes Water which that gave me. I’m surprised I haven’t thought to climb up here before, except I suppose that there were trees blocking the view until last year.

I’d forgotten, but my photographs reminded me, that by the stream I spotted the leaves of what I suspect is some sort of helleborine. I need to go back to check whether it is flowering. Maybe this afternoon!

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Hawes Water again.

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Bird’s-eye Primroses.

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Mullein.

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Yellow Iris.

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More old fences and Elders.


 

More Songs About Chocolate and Girls

Elderflower Foraging

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Eaves Wood

Well – that answers one question: the hay was yet to be cut. TBH had been making elderflower cordial, but wanted to try a new recipe (spoiler alert – it’s very nice) and asked if I could bring back 40 heads of elderflower. No problem, I said, there’s loads at Gait Barrows.

I took a circuitous route to Gait Barrows – calling in first at Lambert’s Meadow, Myer’s Allotment and Trowbarrow Quarry.

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I can’t identify this tiny fly, but I was quite taken by its orange speckled wings.

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Volucella pellucens – a striking hoverfly, the larvae of which live in wasps nests as scavengers. Even wasps get pestered in their homes: a comforting thought somehow.

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I’ve been thinking that I really must make more of an effort with grasses and the like, but now I’m looking at a page of sedges which look, to my untutored eye, practically identical. This is one of them, I think, maybe Glaucous Sedge? This is the female spike – pretty striking I thought.

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Another sedge perhaps, maybe one of the many yellow sedges?

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Azure damselfly.

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Another hoverfly.

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I thought taking photos of our wild roses might likewise encourage me to begin trying to distinguish between them, but I clearly need to make notes about the leaves and the thorns and the colour of the stems and I’m probably too lazy to do that. Having said that, since Dog Roses are usually pink, I shall assume that this is a Field Rose.

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A cowslip which has gone to seed.

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Oedemera lurida – the larger green insect on the right.

The flower here is one of those yellow daisies over which I have so much difficulty. I’ve been reading, and enjoying, ‘Chasing The Ghost’ by Peter Marren. It’s subtitled ‘My search for all the wild flowers of Britain’. Except, it turns out that actually it’s his search for the last fifty species he hasn’t seen. Excluding all of the ‘casuals’ – non-native plants which have self-seeded from a garden, or from bird-food or somesuch. And he isn’t going to try to see the many sub-species of dog-rose or whitebeam because they are too numerous and too troublesome to tell apart. Likewise the hawkweeds, of which, apparently, 415 subspecies have been identified. So far. Peter Marren is a Proper Botanist, and he needs expert help. Another comforting thought.

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Yellow Rattle – gone to seed and now showing the ‘rattles’ – the pods in which the seeds literally do rattle. 

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Common Blue butterfly.

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Oedemera lurida again, this time on Mouse-ear-hawkweed, a yellow daisy which has the decency to be easy to identify.

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Unidentified (solitary?) bee on unidentified flower.

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The view from the bench at Myer’s Allotment over the meres of Leighton Moss. 

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Tutsan. 

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Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and apparently it does have antiseptic properties. Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity: allegedly, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread twigs below their beds.

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The leaves, when dried, are reputed to smell like ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber. Ambergris, known in China as ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance’, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or excreted by sperm whales. I remember a dog-walker found some on Morecambe beach year or two ago and sold it for thousands; tens-of-thousands even. It must be true, I read it in a tabloid.

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We have quite a bit of it in our garden. Tutsan that is, not ambergris. It’s a weed I suppose, but a beautiful plant which is interesting year round; the berries go from yellow through red to black. It seems that hoverflies like it just as much as I do!

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The Trough.

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Trowbarrow quarry – there were quite a few people climbing.

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Maybe I should have asked them to fetch me down some elderflowers?

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I couldn’t resist another visit to the Bee Orchids…

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…to try to catch them whilst the sun was shining on them…

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A Gait Barrows view.

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An unusually tall and prolifically flowered Elder. Most of the flowers would have been out of reach, but I didn’t even try, so confident was I that I knew of a plentiful supply of Elder up on the limestone pavement.

There were plenty of other distractions in the grykes up on the pavement. For instance, now that it has just about finished flowering, I spotted several more patches of Angular Solomon’s-seal…

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Tutsan grows in the grykes too, but the red leaves are a sign that it is not exactly flourishing, presumably with little soil or water to thrive on.

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Bloody crane’s-bill.

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Eye bright.

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Field Rose?

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Female Large Skipper. (Large compared to a Small Skipper, but still quite diminutive).

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I watched this bird circling far overhead. Everything about it – size, shape, the way it flew – convinced me that it was a raptor, but if it was I now can’t pin it down to any particular species. I thought it might be another Peregrine, but I can’t see any sign of the moustaches a grey, male Peregrine might show in any of my, admittedly rather poor, photos.

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When I arrived at the spot where I was convinced I would find an abundance of elderflower, I found two stunted shrubs growing from grykes – each with a handful of unopened  flowers, neither use nor ornament for making cordial I assumed.

I eventually found another area of pavement, with a handful of small specimens, which did have almost enough flowers for our purposes.

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With those stowed away in my rucksack, I headed home via Hawes Water. On the disturbed ground there, after last year’s work, there were several tall Mullein plants growing…

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I had to have a closer look because the leaves often have interesting residents. This isn’t what I was expecting however…

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A pair of mating Green Shield Bugs!

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Green Shield Bugs live on the sap of a variety of plants. I didn’t realise that they used to be confined to the south of the country, but have been progressing steadily northward with climate change.

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Best not to pick up Shield Bugs since they can release a noxious smelly liquid, giving them their alternative name of ‘Stink Bugs’.

Incidentally, I picked up my copy of ‘Bugs Britannica’ to see what it had to say about Shield Bugs and discovered that it was co-written by Richard Mabey and Peter Marren. I think mainly by Peter Marren, because I believe that was when Richard Mabey was suffering from the depression which he would go on to write about in ‘Nature Cure’.

Mr Marren is, it seems, a pan-lister, a phenomena which he discusses in ‘Chasing the Ghost’: pan-listers are spotters who are like twitchers on steroids – they have tick-lists for all living things larger than bacteria apparently – fungi, plants, insects, birds, slime-moulds, lichens, etc. Even in the UK that’s tens of thousands of species.

It occurred to me that I might fit into that bracket, except I’m much too lazy. I don’t keep lists and I only very rarely travel to see something in particular. Although, I’ve always enjoyed myself on the few occasions that I have done that – I’m thinking of the saxifrage on Pen-y-Ghent or the gentians in Teesdale.

Anyway, what I was actually on the look-out for were caterpillars of the Mullein Moth…

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Once you get close, they are quite hard to miss!

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Years ago, when we lived on The Row, some Mullein appeared in our garden and, although I suppose they are weeds, they’re large and quite striking, so we left them to flower. Then the voracious caterpillars appeared and completely stripped the plants of leaves and flowers.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

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When I reached the meadows near Challan Hall, I realised that there were perhaps a dozen Elder trees here, all of them plastered with blossom.

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I didn’t need much more, but I cam back a day or two later to discover that the trees were mostly on steep banks, leaving most of the flowers out of reach, and even where they weren’t, the trees were well protected by an understorey of brambles and nettles.

The cordial is well worth it though.

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The verge of the railway line had a fine display of Oxeye Daisies.

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This should have been my first stop for elderflowers – a small elder growing behind our garage.

Elderflower Foraging

Lambert’s Meadow Kaleidoscope.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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Black-tailed Skimmer, female.

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Cantharis rustica – a soldier beetle.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Cheilosia chrysocoma (Golden Cheilosia) – two photos, I think of different insects on different Marsh Thistles. A hoverfly which, for some reason, has evolved to resemble a Tawny Mining Bee.

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Four-spotted Chaser.

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Another hoverfly – possibly Helophilius pendulus.

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Bumblebee on Ragged Robin.

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Common Blue Damselfly, female – I think.

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Azure Damselfly.

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Water Avens – and another hoverfly?

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Heath Spotted -orchid.

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Another Common Blue Damselfly.

Just a short walk, but packed with interest. If the large blue and green dragonfly which was darting about had landed to be photographed too, my day would have been complete. It was an Emperor; large blue and green dragonflies which elude my camera are always Emperors. When they do land, they always somehow transform into Hawkers of one kind or another, lovely in their own right, but not Emperors. One day I’ll catch an Emperor in an unguarded moment.

In the meantime, the colours on offer at Lambert’s Meadow will do just fine.

Lambert’s Meadow Kaleidoscope.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

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One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

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Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

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This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

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Common Blue Damselfly

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The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

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…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

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A crow by Hawes Water.

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In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

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Hawes Water.

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I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

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There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

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I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

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With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

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…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

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There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

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One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

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The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

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…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

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…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

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Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

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Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

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Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

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A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Off-comers and Invertebrates

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Since Whit week, whenever the sun has shone, we’ve witnessed the strange phenomena of people sun-bathing on the sands. I know I’m an advocate of our bay, but it isn’t a beach in a conventional sense, since it is more mud than sand. It was actually much busier than this photo suggests, but one thing the bay has going for it is that there is lots of room to spread out. We have also seen people way out, paddling in the sea, much further out than I would ever venture without a guide. Don’t they remember the horrific accident with the cockle-pickers?

My wander down to the beach was a precursor to another trip to gait Barrows.

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I sat on the path and took no end of photos of this tiny butterfly. I suspect that it’s a Northern Brown Argus, but I couldn’t swear to it.

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Equally, I think that this is an Azure Damselfly, but wouldn’t put up a fight if you contradicted me.

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This, however, is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. I think I’ve seen more of them this year than in previous years put together, although that’s not saying  a great deal, since my previous sightings have been few and far between.

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Finally, a blue-tailed Damselfly.

Off-comers and Invertebrates

Firsts

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I swear, these magpies were sunbathing. I’d barely left the house, and was heading into the ginnel which would take me to Town’sfield and there they were, sunning themselves on the wall. It was then that I realised that I’d left my camera’s battery and memory card at home. But even after I’d been back to retrieve them, the magpies were still chilling out on the wall.

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Naively, I thought this large and distinctive beetle might be easy to identify. But no. I think that it’s probably a member of the Silphidae family, but beyond that, I can’t decide. On the plus side, I did discover the excellent UK Beetles website and have just spent a half hour or so reading about beetles which bury dead birds and others which prey on snails.

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There’s a fair few insects in this post, some of them difficult to identify; not so this one…

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…my first dragonfly of this summer and my first ever Four-spotted Chaser. The British Dragonfly Society website tells me that this species is common throughout the UK, so I’m not sure how they have eluded me for so long.

Of course, once I’d seen one, I spotted another about five minutes later…

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…and I’ve seen more since.

There were lots of damselflies about too. They’re a bit tricky to distinguish between, but I think that these first two…

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..are Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Their eyes are not as vividly red as I would expect, but then again, they definitely aren’t blue either and they have anti-humeral stripes on their thoraxes which aren’t present in the very similar Red-eyed Damselfly.

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This is another first, in a way, because I have seen this species before, but never in this area.

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One principal way to recognise blue damselflies, of which there are several species, is by the mark on the second segment of their abdomen. By that token, I think that this is a female Variable Damselfly, another first for me.

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And, finally, this is a more familiar Common Blue Damselfly, again, identified by the shape of the mark on the second segment.

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I was struck by the rather face-like shape of this large limestone boulder.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that grasses, sedges and the like are impossible to get to grips with, for me at least. This is a sedge, a female flower and part of the male flower at the top of the stem. I wish I knew more. Possibly Green-ribbed Sedge? I thought the female flower was pretty striking.

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A Dingy Skipper.

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Hoverflies too are very difficult to figure out. It’s a shame; there are around 250 species in the UK and many of them are very striking, but also very similar to each other.

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This distinctive leaf beetle is Cryptocephalus bipunctatus, which is another first for me, not surprisingly, since it is scarce in the UK.

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I’ve photographed this dapper hoverfly before, but not been able to identify it, despite the striking shiny golden thorax. Now, I think I may have tracked it down; it is, perhaps, Platycheirus fulviventris. It’s a shame it didn’t open its wings, because, if I’m right, it also has a pleasing black and yellow pattern on its abdomen.

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Another Dingy Skipper on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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I’d been wandering around Gait Barrows, making my way to the cordoned off area, hoping to see a Duke of Burgundy butterfly. I didn’t.

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But I did see this, which I think is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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I only hesitate because distinguishing this from the very similar Pearl-bordered Fritillary is best done by looking at the underside of the wings, but the sun shining through the wings here, nice though it is, has obscured some of the colours slightly.

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None-the-less, I am reasonably confident, especially looking again at this last photo.

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This looks like another place where fencing has been removed – or is this new material waiting to go up?

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What I think is a Dark Red Helleborine with nascent flowers, which have since been eaten.

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Gait Barrows Limestone Pavement.

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Bloody Crane’s-bill.

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

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Cirrocumulus?

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Finally, on Moss Lane, some Alexanders. I’ve previously seen this growing in Cornwall and on the Yorkshire coast, but not here, so another first of a sort.

All of that in one walk and a good chat with a friend from the village I hadn’t seen for a while. How’s that?

Most of it was undertaken at snail’s pace. A bit like putting this post together! Both the walk and the research were highly enjoyable though.


Only one song springs to mind here…

Who was best Blur or Oasis?

Answer: Pulp.

Firsts

Songs of Solomon

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Gait Barrows Meadow.

My obsession with the Bay was at least partially superseded by a similar compulsion to keep paying return trips to Gait Barrows; partly in an attempt to spot the rare butterflies which can be seen there, but in the summer Gait Barrows has plenty of other attractions.

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Yellow rattle.

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Limestone pavement.

Although there are some large open areas of limestone pavement, much of it is wooded and then there are other areas which are partially wooded. It’s quite easy to get a bit lost wandering around in this terrain, and also quite scratched as you forge a route through the generally thorny scrub between adjacent islands of open pavement. Great fun to explore though.

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Azure damselfly.

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Dingy skipper.

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More limestone pavement.

I was looking for some particular plants known to grow in the grykes here, but I was also amazed by the sheer variety of plants which obviously thrive in this rather unpromising looking habitat. A wide selection of native trees and shrubs grow in the grykes and all sorts of flowers and ferns.

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Hart’s tongue fern.

Although I was hoping for butterflies, what I was actually looking for was this…

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

Related to, but distinctly different from, Solomon’s-seal and rarer too. I hadn’t seen it before, but had seen photos the day before on Faceache, drawing attention to the fact that it was currently flowering in the grykes at Gait Barrows.

It’s an odd-name Solomon’s-seal isn’t it? I got to wondering what the connection might be between an Old Testament King (and poet) and this plant. My trusty ‘Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain’, has this…

No one knows for certain why Solomon’s-seal is so called. One explanation is that the circular scars on the underground rooting stem, left by the withered flowering shoots of previous years, resemble document seals. Another theory is that the name arose because of the medicinal value of the plant in ‘sealing’ wounds and broken bones. A poultice made from its powdered roots has also been used to cure black eyes and other bruises. The biblical King Solomon himself was traditionally said to have approved this use.

Meanwhile the marvellous ‘Wildflower Finder’ website adds:

Quinine has been discovered only recently to be a secondary metabolite of several Solomons Seals.

So there’s another potential medicinal use, but I should warn you, if you’re worried about malaria, that metabolising Solomon’s-seals is not advised since the plant is toxic.

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Elderflower.

A fortnight later, I remembered seeing elders in flower on the pavement at Gait barrows, but misremembered the details, so that when TBH wanted flowers to make cordial I was boasting that I knew where I could lay my hands on ‘loads’, a claim which transpired to be very wide of the mark. But more on that in a future post no doubt.

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Yet more limestone pavement.

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Dark red helleborine?

I’ve been fanatically returning, again and again, to three tiny plants which I think are dark red helleborine, trying to ensure that this year I actually see them when they are flowering, and not just after, which usually seems to be the case. Frustratingly, on each visit they don’t seem to have progressed at all, with no extra growth and no sign of flowers beyond a feathery stalk…

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…which, to add insult to injury, something has eaten since I took these pictures.

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Cinnabar moth.

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This path, away from the way-marked nature trail around the nature reserve, is one I’ve wanted to explore for years, I don’t know what it was that made me feel emboldened to go and explore on this occasion. I found that the areas around the path were cordoned off with signs explaining that this was to protect the Duke of Burgundy butterflies during the breeding season. These were exactly the butterflies that I’d come looking for, but I didn’t see any on this or any subsequent visit.

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A hoverfly – rhingia campestris. It’s not often I can identify a hoverfly with any degree of confidence, but this one has a prominent snout, just about visible in the photo.

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Unfurling bracken.

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Another dark red helleborine?

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Rodent – field mouse?

Most unusual to see rodents wandering about in broad daylight, but this was the second I’d seen that day and in both cases they didn’t just disappear, but scampered about, dipping into holes, but then reappearing again shortly.

During recent visits to Gait Barrows, I’ve seen tawny owls flying in broad daylight on four occasions, including twice today. I’ve also heard the owls calling, all of which seems unusual. I was never fast enough to get even a sniff of a photo, but it was wonderful to see them anyway. I guess there’s a nest there’s somewhere.


Following on from my last post, and perhaps appropriately for a post which, even obliquely, references the raunchy ‘Song of Solomon’, some versions of ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

First, the original:

Readers of a certain age will remember the Top of the Pops theme, recorded by Collective Consciousness Society, I know I do.

Whisper it, but I’m not especially fond of Tina Turner’s slow-burn cover, but I do like The Dynamics’ reggae version:

The version I’ve listened to most, over the years, is this one…

…by King Curtis and the Kingpins. Marvellous, especially the last 45 seconds or so.

The vocal delivery and lyrics on this song…

‘You Need Loving’ by the Small Faces, ‘influenced’ Robert Plant and because it was a cover of Muddy Waters ‘You Need Love’…

…written by the inestimable Willie Dixon, Dixon eventually got a writing credit on “Whole Lotta Love’. If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Now…Willie Dixon songs…..

Songs of Solomon