In Search of Butterflies and Orchids

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Speckled Wood Butterfly.

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

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

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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.

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

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

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Song Thrush with snack.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Black-tailed Skimmer.

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

Another short ride brought us to Trowbarrow Quarry…

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…where there were lots of these…

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Common Spotted Orchid.

But far fewer of these…

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Bee Orchid.

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

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

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Dingy Skipper.

Which flew close enough to this…

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Common Twayblade.

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

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Another Bee Orchid.

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Another Speckled Wood.

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

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Common Blue on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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Rock Rose.

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

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Another Dingy Skipper. 

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

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

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Large Red Damselfly.

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

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser.

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Common Blue Butterfly.

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Our Trusty Steeds.

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

In Search of Butterflies and Orchids

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…

More Butterflies and Leaves

Eaves Wood – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – White Creek – Far Arnside – The Cove – The Lots

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Red Admiral.

Early October, the weekend after we had a houseful, and in a typical Sod’s Law sort of a way the weather is fantastic, sunny, bright and even warm.

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Comma.

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In Eaves Wood.

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This Crane’s-bill doesn’t quite match any of the plants in ‘The Wild Flower Key’ so I wonder if it is a garden escapee?

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I was a bit puzzled by the colouration of this dragonfly, but having consulted my field guide, I now think that it is probably an older female Common Darter.

I ventured onto a small path on Arnside Knott which I haven’t taken before, which took me past…

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…a fox’s earth?

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Arnside Knott view.

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Arnside Knott panorama.

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Whitbarrow Scar.

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This area of marshy foreshore at White Creek has appeared during the time that I’ve lived in the area. It’s become quite wet and treacherous to walk on.

But there were still some Sea Asters…

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…flowering there.

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Burnett Rose.

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Bryony Berries.

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I took these photos of berries and leaves to help me identify a tree I didn’t recognise, but sadly I’m still none the wiser.

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Holly.

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Bell Heather.

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Sunset from the Cove.

I would have been nice if this weather had materialised a week earlier, so that we could have shared it with our friends. But, then again, it’s a bit churlish to complain; I enjoyed having to myself after all.

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These last two ‘bonus’ photos are from a different walk, back in September, when apparently I walked to Jack Scar to take some sunset photos (but no other photos!)

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More Butterflies and Leaves

Pulchritudinous Pruinosity

Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – The Row – Myer’s Allotment.

Later that day: A Tour of Trowbarrow

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Ragged Robin

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A Green-veined White on Cuckooflower.

Cuckooflower is one of the food-plants for the caterpillars of Green-veined  White. This butterfly was flitting from Cuckooflower t0 Cuckooflower, ignoring the many other blooms on offer. Green-veined Whites favour damp areas, which makes Lambert’s Meadow a perfect environment for them.

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Emerald Damselfly (I think).

At Myer’s Allotment my every step seemed to raise clouds of damselflies. Once landed again, they weren’t always easy to pick out against the ground, despite, in some cases, their vivid metallic colouration.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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The Cinnabar.

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Bee Fly.

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Myer’s Allotment view.

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Broad-bodied Chaser (again).

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Black-tailed Skimmer.

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A new dragonfly to me and therefore very exciting. This is either a female or an immature male. Males ‘develop a blue pruinescence on the abdomen darkening to the rear with S8-10 becoming black’. (This from the British Dragonfly Society website).

S8-10 refers to the eighth to tenth segments of the tail.

Pruinescence, or pruinosity, is a dusty looking coating on top of a surface. Well I never. I particularly like pruinosity and shall be using it at every suitable opportunity. ‘Look at the pruinosity on ‘ere!’ for example.

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Another Green-veined White. (I think).

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Common Blue.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil (with bee).

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Fossilised Coral at Trowbarrow.

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More Trowbarrow fossils.

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I think that this might be a Tree Bumblebee, a species which only arrived here from Mainland Europe this century and has spread rapidly, helped by the profusion of bird-boxes in the UK, where it tends to build nests, even sometimes evicting resident Blue Tits in the process. (Yes, I know, the temptation to draw some kind of political parallel here would be almost overwhelming were I of the persuasion that we can somehow up-anchor and sail away across the Atlantic, as many people seem to be at present. But I’m not.)

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Common Blue Damselfly.

Pulchritudinous Pruinosity

Loafing

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Last Whit a female Broad-Bodied Chaser visited our garden. This year we had two. Then another a couple of days later, or possibly a return visit from one of the first two. I half hoped that one of them had adopted our garden as its territory, but dragonflies are short-lived in their adult phase, and I’m not sure that they are at all territorial.

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If I hadn’t spent so much time loafing in the garden in the sunshine, I might have missed our visitors, so there’s something to be said for a little inaction.

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When the golden Summer has rounded languidly to his close, when Autumn has been carried forth in russet winding-sheet, then all good fellows who look upon holidays as a chief end of life return from moor and stream and begin to take stock of gains and losses. And the wisest, realising that the time of action is over while that of reminiscence has begun, realise too that the one is pregnant with greater pleasures than the other – that action, indeed, is only the means to an end of reflection and appreciation. Wisest of all, the Loafer stands apart supreme. For he, of one mind with the philosopher as to the end, goes straight to it at once, and his happy summer has accordingly been spent in those subjective pleasures of the mind whereof the others, the men of muscle and peeled faces, are only just beginning to taste.

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And yet though he may a little despise (or rather pity) them, the Loafer does not dislike nor altogether shun them. Far from it: they are very necessary to him…It is chiefly by keeping ever in view the struggles and the clamorous jostlings of the unenlightened making holiday that he is able to realise the bliss of his own condition and maintain his self-satisfaction at boiling-point.

Kenneth Grahame from the essay Loafing, collected in Paths to the River Bank

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I was struck by the size of the bees feet in this photo. Some trick of perspective?

If I didn’t have clamorous boaters anxious to wring the most out of their days on the Thames to observe, as The Loafer in Grahame’s essay goes on to do, I could at least wonder at the industry of the bees in amongst the Green Alkanet in the garden.

I did get out for the occasional stroll. The first was a late evening outing. It began with the cheerful accompaniment of a Blackbird singing…

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Then I seemed to be handed from the territory of one Chaffinch to another. They were perched in trees, on TV aerials, telephone wires, but every stretch of my route seemed to have an on looking Chaffinch. Finally, when I reached Jack Scout it was Thrushes and Blackbirds which dominated again.

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One Blackbird hopped around by my feet on the path, apparently unconcerned by my proximity.

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I’d hoped that by heading to Jack Scout I would find the last of the sunshine, but even there the paths were mostly in shade, although the birds overhead could still enjoy the sun…

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The low-angled light, where it could be found, worked nicely for photos though…

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I had a couple of fleeting glimpses of a Green Woodpecker and then followed it’s mysterious yaffle around the field, eventually creeping under an Oak in which the bird was perched and laughing (astonishingly loud up close), but just out of sight behind a screen of leaves. Needless to say, when I tried to move to get a view, and maybe a photo, the Woodpecker heard my inept attempt at stealth and was off and away in a flash.

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Loafing

Not November

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There’s a gale already raging outside as the latest winter storm rolls in off the Atlantic. These photos then, from the end of October, taken during a family stroll around Hawes Water and back home, are the antithesis of everything we’ve experienced since they were taken, full as they are of light, warmth, blue skies, butterflies, and leaves of myriad colours. Although November’s long since gone I’m put in mind of this poem by Thomas Hood, which, I’m surprised to find, I don’t seem to have shared through this forum before:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

November seems to be doggedly persistent this year having dragged on for at least twice it’s allotted interval now. I hope it exhausts itself soon.

Not November