Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

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I had set my alarm for an early start, or to put it another way, I left the curtains open, which never fails. A quick cuppa and then I was out, the early sun lighting the clouds in the eastern sky from below, but not yet visible above the horizon. (At this latitude, and this time of year, that does require a bit of a sacrifice of potential sleeping hours.)

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Everything was freighted with pearls of dew and down towards Hawes Water a cloud of mist hung over the trees. I climbed up into Eaves Wood, hoping that the extra height would give me a good view over the low cloud.

With the trees in the wood now fully clad with leaves, the views weren’t as clear as they were after my last early start, but the mist was glowing pink with the early light, so churlish really to complain.

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The mist from Eaves Wood – Ingleborough on the right.

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Cobweb, Sixteen Buoys field.

The mist was more dense than last time. A pale white disc appeared though the murk and then gradually brightened, suffusing the fog with colour as it simultaneously burned it off.

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In the wildflower meadow beyond the lake, the grass was strung with gossamer, which was in turn bedecked with dewdrops.

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I suppose this mass of spider’s webs must always be here, at least at this time of year, but usually goes unnoticed without the coat of sunlit drops to illuminate it.

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It looked likely that anyone who had opted to watch the sunrise from Arnside Knott would also have been treated to a temperature inversion. I don’t suppose that Brocken spectres are a common sight from the Knott.

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In the trees on Yealand Allotment, I had more cheering, but slightly frustrating encounters with families of Marsh Tits and Great Tits; I have lots of photographs showing birds partially obscured by leaves. I did eventually locate a tree-top Chiff-chaff, which was singing it’s name as ever. I also saw a couple of Fallow Deer again, although they too were too veiled by leaves for me to get a very clear photo.

This big, old Horse Chestnut by a gate into Leighton Moss is a favourite of mine.

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We drive past it every weekday morning and I was alarmed to notice, last week, that its large limbs have all been lopped off. I hope that isn’t a precursor to chopping the whole tree down.

This tiny Sedge Warbler, probably weighing about 10g…

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…was singing with great gusto and astonishing volume.

“…exuberant song, full of mimicry, seldom repeating itself, suddenly halting, then tearing off again, always sounding vaguely irritated.”

from The Complete Book of British Birds

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Yellow Iris.

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On this occasion, I had Lower Hide all to myself. Aside from the Greylag Geese and a lone Moorhen, there didn’t seem to be much to see. But with a couple of windows open I could hear warblers on every side. I kept getting brief, occasional views in amongst the reeds, but it didn’t seem likely that I would get a better view than that, until, just as I was thinking of moving on, a pair of birds landed in the reeds right in front of the hide…

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They were Reed Warblers. Like other warblers, migrants from warmer climes. Paler than their close cousin the Sedge Warbler and less yellow than a Chiff-Chaff.

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They shuffled between the reed tops, the nearby bush…

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…and down deeper among the reeds…

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They would fly off for a while, or disappear into the reeds, but eventually they would reappear. Maybe they were building a nest?

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As I reached the Causeway path and looked out into the fields towards Grisedale Farm, I was lucky enough to spot these deer.

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My immediate thought was that they must be Red Deer, because they seemed relatively large, but then I began to doubt myself; if they were Red Deer, why weren’t they in a large group, which is how I’ve usually encountered them locally? Maybe they were Roe Deer and I was mistaken about their size? After the fact, I’ve realised that I should have had the courage of my convictions. Roe Deer bucks have mature antlers at present, whereas Red Deer stags have new antlers, covered in velvet.

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Dog Rose

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Another warbler

Where the causeway crosses a small bridge I always pause to take a look around.

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And to peer into the water…

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Common Backswimmer (I think)

I was astonished by these tiny red mites…

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…so small that I wondered at first if they were inanimate particles undergoing some sort of Brownian motion. But they have little legs, so clearly not.

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From the Public Hide, I took no end of photos of this Heron…

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…which was feeling very chilled, in no hurry at all, and quite happy to pose. Perhaps predictably, it’s the very first photo I took which I prefer from the entire selection.

Although it was probably still what most people would consider to be indecently early to even be up on a Saturday morning, there were quite a few people about now. Birdwatchers are an ascetic bunch; up with the lark and all that. A chap and his daughter (I assumed) had spotted this warbler…

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…which was singing from the reeds. He asked me if I knew what it was. At first I demurred from offering an opinion. Then said that it was a warbler, probably a Reed or Sedge Warbler. I don’t know why I’m so reticent in these sort of circumstances; I’m usually not short of an opinion, or shy about sharing my views. It’s a Reed Warbler. (And even now I’m fighting the temptation to hedge my bets with a ‘probably’ or ‘I think’). Not only does it look like a Reed Warbler, but it sang like a Reed Warbler. Reed and Sedge Warbler’s have similar songs, and it comes as something of a surprise to me to realise that I could tell the difference, at least on that Saturday morning, having already heard both species singing when I could see them clearly as they sang.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a huge variety of wildlife as I have this spring, but then I know I’ve never before made such an effort to get outside to have the opportunity to have encounters. Reed Buntings are a good case in point: I’ve seen far more this year then I’ve previously seen in total.

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Male Red Bunting.

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Yellow Iris with Tree Bumblebee (?)

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Marsh Harrier.

There’s more water to peer in to at the pond-dipping area.

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Pond-Skaters

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View from the Skytower.

This bumblebee…

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…was stock-still, apparently frozen in position.

Whilst I was taking the photo, several of her sister Early Bumblebees arrived to forage…

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But she stayed completely motionless.

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My theory is that, on cold nights, like many we’ve had of late, bumble-bees get benighted, too cold to continue, so they have no option but to stay where they are, effectively asleep until at least the following day, when the sun warms them sufficiently to get them mobile again..

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Ragged Robin in Lambert’s Meadow

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Early Bumblebees again (I think).

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser

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Episyrphus alteatus (?).

All that and still back in time for a latish breakfast. It had been slowish progress however: roughly four hours for a route which I know I can complete in two and a half. Sometimes, taking your own sweet time really pays off.

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

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Little S was invited to a party at the Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole. Looks like another job for taxi-Dad! Once I’d dropped him off with our friends, I had around three hours to wait until the party would finish. The forecast hadn’t been great, but not diabolical either, so – just for a change – I thought I’d get out for a walk!

I started on Mirk Lane which took me up to Newclose Wood where I found another Woodpecker nest. The adult was back and forth to the nest, but it was very difficult to get a clear view for a photograph.

The path, seen above, brought me out to a minor road on the outskirts of a hamlet seemingly composed entirely of fairly new houses. This set the tone for much of the walk, taking me past many large expensive looking properties, most of them with great views across Windermere to the Langdale Pikes. Many of the gardens, and hedges, were full of Rhododendrons which were flowering and looking splendid.

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Wansfell above was lost in cloud, but the weather generally held, bar a few occasional drops of rain. The whole route was resplendent with wildflowers, changing subtly as I climbed the hill and came back down again.

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Foxgloves.

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Meadow Crane’s-Bill, probably.

One short section of roadside verge had three different Crane’s-Bills.

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French Crane’s-Bill, I think. A species introduced from the Pyrenees.

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Wood Crane’s-Bill (I think).

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Windermere.

Skelghyll Lane took me past more grand properties. At one point, I was pleased to see a smaller, more rustic looking building with a traditional round Cumbrian chimney, but then realised that it was actually a garden folly.

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Holbeck Ghyll.

I passed a hedge absolutely cloaked with tent moth caterpillars…

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Water Avens seedhead.

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Low Skelghyll.

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Hol Beck.

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Early Bumblebee on Marsh Thistle (I think, in both cases).

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Marsh Lousewort.

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Lousewort.

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Robin Lane.

Robin Lane, which is part of the old route from Ambleside to Troutbeck, is a favourite of ours and very familiar, but it was really interesting to approach it via the lanes from Brockholes which I’ve never walked before.

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Windermere.

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Cantharis Rustica (Soldier Beetle).

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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Lady’s Mantle.

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Wain Lane, by which I returned to Brockhole, has handsome stone barns all along its length.

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Ribwort Plantain.

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Garden Chafers.

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Roe Deer.

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White-lipped Snail.

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Silver-ground Carpet Moth.

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Honeysuckle.

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Another Wain Lane Barn.

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Another Roe Deer.

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Middlerigg Tarn.

I’ve never been to Middlerigg Tarn before. It’s difficult to get a proper view of the tarn, it being bordered by trees and a high wall, but there are one or two gaps. It’s not in the Nuttall’s Guide to the tarns of the Lake District, or in Heaton-Cooper’s, but it is a very peaceful spot.

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Yellow Irises.

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White Clover.

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Comfrey.

As I was almost back to Brockhole, I was looking over into a field on my right at pony dressed in a Zebra-skin print coat. I noticed a buzzard, relatively close by, sitting on the ground…

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Sadly, it took off just as I was taking a photo.

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White Stonecrop.

I’d been worried about arriving late for the end of the party, but actually arrived with half-an-hour to spare, so was able to get some soup and a pot of tea in the cafe there. Then when I picked up S, he declared his intention to stay a little longer to play on the adventure playground. The weather had improved considerably so that I was able to sit in the sun and read the book I’d brought for just such an eventuality – ‘Counting Sheep’ by Philip Walling.

I’d seen a lot of sheep of many different kinds during my walk. Apparently the UK had more breeds of sheep than any other country. Here are a few examples from my walk…

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This looks some of the very dark Scottish sheep, like Hebridean or Soay, but I’m not sure that it is either of those.

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I’m pretty sure that this is a Swaledale.

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I think that this is a Blue-faced Leicester, but as ever, stand ready to be corrected.

 

 

Walking the Lanes above Brockhole.

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

All we have to do is look.

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How is it that we can have Roe Deer in our garden, even up near to the house, but I still get excited when I see one across a field, partially obscured by reeds? This one, incidentally, is male, unlike the two which were recently in our garden and seems to have lost it’s winter coat completely.

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How is it that I feel drawn to return to Gait Barrows every year to see the reintroduced Lady’s-slipper Orchids and photograph them yet again, even though it’s overcast and the photos won’t be as good as those I’ve taken before?

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Not that I’m complaining.

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I’m very lucky I suppose, that I never tire of the views over the Gait Barrows limestone pavements. Or of our ever changing skies.

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Or Rowan flowers.

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‘You can’t see Venice twice for the first time,’ Mirabel said. After the first excitement of newness, will there always be the same enchantment every year, watching the rose buds open, the irises unfurl? It’s the challenge that faces us all at some point, and which faces me now, twenty years on from the beginning of the garden. And it’s true: you can change the colour of your tulips, you can forswear roses in favour of dahlias, you can even move house and make a new garden, but you can never leave yourself behind. For it is the eye which becomes jaded – the mind, not its object. Even for Traherne it was a struggle to retain that freshness of vision, to protect it from the eroding sea of experience. As he constantly reminded himself, ‘I must become a child again.’ But even if we cannot see all anew each year, we can each time strive to see it deeper, differently: the experience can be enriched not impoverished. A rose at forty or at eighty means something different from a rose at twenty; we naturally bring to it more associations, whether personal or literary or historical, more ‘back story’. And if we can’t see Venice twice for the first time, neither can we step into the same river twice – the world is perpetually changing, renewing itself. See how different a single rose, a single petal can be, not only every year, but every day, and every hour of every day, as the world turns around it – in all weathers, in every season, bud and bloom, calyx and corolla. All we have to do is look.”

Katherine Swift The Morville Hours.

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Traherne is Thomas the seventeenth century poet, Mirabel is Mirabel Osler who writes, like Swift, about gardening. I’ll probably have more to say about ‘The Morville Hours’ at some point, but for now, suffice to say that it is an excellent read, and I’m not an enthusiastic gardener.

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Ear Fungus.

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And all we need to do is look.

That being said, I’m happy to stick with just looking. Any additional interaction is generally unwelcome.

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I wasn’t overly struck with the attentions of these six ponies. Admittedly, they were pretty docile, just following me across the field.

But the calves in the next field ran after me. Now, of course, here in front of my computer I can see that they were inquisitive, gambolling playfully perhaps, and not ravening beasts braying for blood after all.

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Anyway, there were only five of them. And I reached the stile before they made it across the field.

In the next field, there were more like thirty. It was a large field and I felt quite uncomfortable walking across it with all of them behind me. Could they tell that I’d had roast beef for my tea? I only stopped to take a photo once there was a wall between them and me.

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Since this is not something which usually happens to me, four times in one week seems like more than just a coincidence. I shall have to assume that either I have suddenly started to emit some sort of ‘hunter-gatherer’ pheromone which is inducing this behaviour, or that it’s a spring-time, fading-light instinct particular to this season in herding animals. The latter seems more plausible.

All we have to do is look.

Little and Often – Tuning In

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A cool, bright and sunny day, mostly spent at a Rugby tournament at Preston Grasshoppers.

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I was out early for a short walk, but not early enough to catch the clear skies with which the day began. Whilst I was drinking my kick-starting cup of tea, thin high cloud had appeared, spread and, particularly to the east, began to coalesce into a covering layer.

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A Drone Fly?

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This photo, taken from Castlebarrow, clearly shows the ‘sandier’ beach we’ve enjoyed of late along the Silverdale shoreline.

One consequence of my insistence on a daily wander (or two) seems to be that I am tuning in to my surroundings and beginning to pick-up on things I might otherwise have missed. As I came down off Castlebarrow I picked out the tchoo-tchoo of a Marsh Tit and have several poor photos to prove it. Likewise the thin contact calls of Goldcrests – I watched three of them hopping about in the dense foliage of a Yew, failing miserably to get a clear photo of any of them.

Of course, I have many wildlife encounters which fail to produce a photograph. I didn’t manage, for example, to catch the Blackbird which I watched chasing a Magpie above The Lots, apparently pecking at the larger bird’s tail-feathers. Also, I’ve seen Roe Deer in the woods several times of late, but either they have been away too quickly for me, or it’s been too dark to bother trying to photograph them, or I haven’t had my camera with me. (Increasingly, I leave it behind if it’s late and the sky is very gloomy).

I was without a camera recently when, in Eaves Wood, I spotted a Tawny Owl perched on a nearby branch. In fact, at first I didn’t see it, but just noticed that something was awry, out of the ordinary, and that I ought to look again, more closely. The owl’s plumage was extremely effective camouflage against the tangle of branches in the gloomy wood and it took a moment for the shapes to resolve themselves in my brain into an owl, which, due to the steepness of the slope was perched at my eye-level and not five yards away. We stared at each other for a long moment, and then, without ever having made a sound, the owl turned first its head, then its shoulders and then dropped silently from the tree and winged effortlessly away. Magic.

Little and Often – Tuning In

Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

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There was a time when I considered the limestone hills of Furness – Hampsfell, Whitbarrow, Yewbarrow, Cartmell Fell and Scout Scar – this little snippet of the White Peak, overshadowed by the higher hills of the neighbouring Lake District, to be my weekend stomping ground. These days there are more calls on my time, and when I do head away from home for a walk, I tend to follow the crowds to the Lakes or the Dales.

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I do still occasionally get to Brigsteer Woods, especially at this time of year to see the daffodils which crowd the woodland floor. But I ought to come more often, it’s only a 20 minute drive from home.

The daffs are probably near the end of their flowering period, but there’s plenty of other things to see…

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The Bluebells are starting to flower.

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There’s plenty of Wood Anemones too.

I walked past a patch of brambles and a host of insects lifted and hovered briefly before apparently going back to their sunbathing. At first I took them for Honeybees, but they were Drone Flies I think, or most of them were; a hoverfly which imitates a bee.

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Almost every bramble leaf seemed to have a resident fly.

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In fact, I soon realised, every suitable spot was occupied. It was like being on a busy beach in midsummer.

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They weren’t all hoverflies, I did spot a marmalade coloured bee, I suspect a Tawny Mining Bee, but wasn’t fast enough to get the photograph which might have confirmed that fact.

Once again, there were Chiff-Chaffs, merrily chiff-chaffing, and this time I did even manage a picture, although not a great one…

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And another Roe Deer buck, which was calm enough to stand and stare at me for long enough for me to take a few snaps.

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Through the trees I could see the shimmer of what I took to be light reflected on water. The Lyth valley has had problems with flooding in the past, but surely the weather hasn’t been that bad of late?

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I’d forgotten reading about the creation of a new wetland and a hide by the National Trust team from the Sizergh Estate.

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Mute Swan

As luck would have it, the sole occupant of the hide was one of that National Trust team, watching the mere patiently through a sizeable telescope. He told me that these swans, over the back of the new wetland…

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…were Whopper Swans, although given the quality of my photograph, I think I shall have to take his word for it.

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Two squabbling Coots briefly raised a cacophony.

I liked the view across the pools to distant cloud-cloaked Lakeland hills…

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Little Egret.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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Scout Scar.

The dike behind the hide was fringed with a very verdant crop of Ramsons, or Wild Garlic.

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And growing in the dike, I think that this vigorous plant may be Celery-leaved Buttercup…

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Violets.

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More Ash flowers.

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Blackthorn blossom.

The hedge here was thronged with birds, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a pair of Jays but they led me and my camera on a merry, fruitless dance.

Park End Farm had a small orchard of what I took to be the Damsons for which the Lyth Valley was once famous.

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From Park End Farm, I climbed up to Wells Garth. Which gave me a different view of both Park End Moss and Whitbarrow Scar.

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A bird of prey hovered overhead.

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From the outline and the colours, I assume that it’s a male Kestrel, although at first glance I thought it was something larger.

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Yellow Archangel.

From Wells Garth a number of options present themselves. A favourite of mine used to be to continue from here on to Scout Scar. You could also climb up to the tiny Helsington Church. But I needed to take the most direct route back.

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Kent Estuary, Arnside Knott and Whitbarrow Scar.

Friends had bought me a ticket for an am-dram production of Up Pompeii!. And a very enjoyable fest of innuendo, double entendres and unadulterated smut it was too. Titter ye not.

Fool’s Day in Brigsteer Woods

Garden Guests

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Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that it’s not unusual for roe deer to visit our garden. However, I don’t think we’ve ever had four together before. In the photos the deer are actually in next door’s garden. (I don’t suppose that they recognise the boundary). That put them right by one of our windows, or one of them was at least, with the others frustratingly obscured by a fringe of trees…

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Later they were all at the bottom of our garden when I needed to go down to the compost bins. To my surprise they didn’t immediately scarper when I left the house, but huddled in a corner watching me nervously. When I reached the compost bins they rushed to get away – back to next door’s garden via our patio, walking inches past our patio doors were S was leaping about with excitement, apparently unobserved by the deer.

A few mornings later we were visited by a solitary buck, but that time I didn’t get any pictures.

Garden Guests