Middleton Nature Reserve

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Migrant Hawker.

Being the continuing adventures of a taxi-driving Dad.

Last Saturday, B had a rugby match, playing hooker (he’s suitably bonkers) for his school team away at Morecambe High (where, many moons ago, I used to teach). Unlike some of his contemporaries, B doesn’t seem too concerned about whether his team win or lose, just so long as the result seems fair, and at the end of the game declared: “That was fun!”, despite his team having taken a bit of a hammering.

Afterwards, we dashed home, but, in my case, only for a quick turn around, as I took Little S to a nerf gun birthday party in – guess where – Morecambe. I realise that the rational thing to do would have been to take both boys to both events, but it seemed easier at the time to do it this way. With S dropped off, only a few minutes late for his war game, I had the best part of two hours to kill and decided to go hunting for one of the three Wildlife Trust reserves which I knew to be somewhere around Heysham. Idiotically, I hadn’t checked the exact locations in advance, so resorted to driving around, with more hope than confidence, until I spotted a likely looking car park and found that I had stumbled upon Middleton reserve.

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After a bite of lunch, and whilst walking around the reserve, I met a man who told me that he remembered when this was the site of a petrochemical plant. Now it has two large ponds and a mixture of meadows and scrub.

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Hoverfly, possibly Helophilus pendulus, on an Alder leaf.

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Fox and cubs.

This patch of waste ground maybe a tad unprepossessing at first glance, but look a little closer and there is a great deal to enjoy. I was very much put in mind of Richard Mabey’s marvellous book The Unofficial Countryside, which is about how nature, left to its own devices, can reclaim scraps of once industrialised land like this.

The sun was warm and there were no end of dragonflies about, although few of them would pose for a photo.

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Female Common Darter.

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Speckled Wood.

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Blackberries.

There were lots of flowers still in bloom and it was obvious that, had I had been here earlier, in the summer, there would have been even more to see.

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Wild Carrot, the ancestor of all domestic carrots.

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When the flowers turn into spiny seeds, the umbel curls in on itself.

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More hoverflies on what I assume are Michaelmas Daisies.

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A willowherb?

I could hear the contact calls of small birds from all sides and, with lots of teasels and other tall seed-heads about, I wondered whether they might be Goldfinches. Eventually, they flew across the path ahead of me, then settled above me, on teasels growing on a high bank. Here’s some of them…

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The photo didn’t come out brilliantly and only a small part of the charm are here, but the flocks of Goldfinches which gather at this time of year are delightful, so I wanted to include the photo anyway.

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Common Toadflax.

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Mute swans – could they still be nesting in mid-September?

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There were plenty of half-hidden reminders of the areas past – the remnants of tarmac covered surfaces, these huge tyres, odd bits of buildings here and there, but they mostly seem to be slowly disappearing.

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Abundant Haws.

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Crane Fly.

A blade of grass apparently dancing in a way completely contrary to the direction of the wind alerted me to this spider, which was busy constructing a web.

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Male Common Darter.

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As I came to the end of my walk and was running out of time before needing to head off to pick up Little S, I came to a really sheltered spot where, not only were there even more dragonflies, but, in addition, the Common Darters were sunning themselves in obvious spots, as seems to be their wont.

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Male Common Darter.

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Male Common Darter.

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Alder cones.

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Male Common Darter.

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Mating Common Darters. I’ve been confused in the past by the colour of females like this one, expecting the females to be yellow, but this pale blue colour is apparently typical of older females.

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Drone fly, or something similar, on Evening Primrose.

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Guelder Rose berries.

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Middleton Nature Reserve

A Different World.

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Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

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Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

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I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

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A male Small White, I think.

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Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

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Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

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The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

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Grasshopper.

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I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

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Speckled Wood.

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A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

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I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

A Different World.

Gait Barrows Again

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Female Common Darter.

A very pleasant wander around Gait Barrows which happened almost a month ago now – how the summer has flown by! It was memorable for the large number of dragonflies I saw – although very few would pose for photos – and, rather sadly, for the dead Fox cub I came across.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

As I manoeuvred to find a good position from which take the photograph above, I almost trod on this large Frog…

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Bumblebee on Betony.

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Speckled Wood.

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The ‘mystery plant’ – flowers still not open, but showing more colour – I need to go back to check on their progress.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

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Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

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Grasshoppers have often been evident from their singing on local walks, but I haven’t always seen them, or my photos haven’t come out well when I have.

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Although this doesn’t have the distinctive shieldbug shape, I think that this is a fourth instar of the Common Green Shieldbug – an instar being one of the developmental stages of a nymph. This website is very helpful.

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Hoverfly.

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On a previous walk I’d been thinking that Hemp Agrimony, which is very common at Gait Barrows, was a disappointing plant in as much as it’s large flower-heads didn’t seem to be attracting much insect life, but that seems to have been a false impression, because on this occasion quite the opposite was true.

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Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

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Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

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The verges of one particular overgrown hedgerow at Gait Barrows are always busy with Rabbits, which usually scatter as I approach, but two of them played chicken with me – not really seeming very concerned and only hopping on a little each time I got closer.

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Time was marching on and I was keen to head for home, but I diverted slightly up the track towards Trowbarrow because I knew that I would find more Broad-leaved Helleborines there. These were much taller and more vigorous than the single plant I had seen earlier.

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Curiously, there was a wasp feeding on the flowers, as there had been on the first one I saw. I noticed earlier this year that wasps seem to like Figwort, perhaps the same is true Helleborines.

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Figwort and Helleborine both have small, tubular flowers – it may be the case that wasps are well adapted to take advantage of this particular niche – different insects definitely favour different kinds of flowers.

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Gait Barrows Again

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

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Howgill Fells from Master Knott.

Small, unassuming hills often give the best views. The view across the Lune Valley to the Howgill Fells from Master Knott, a little knobble on the eastern side of Firbank Fell is a case in point.

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Panorama – click on the photo (or any others) to see larger versions on Flickr.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This was another after work outing and another chapter in my exploration of the Lune catchment area.

I’d driven up the narrow road from Black Horse on the A684. For once I’d  done a bit of research in advance and had read that it was possible to park on the verge here. And it was, just about, but my car is small and I don’t think I would park here again – it was a bit tight.

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One advantage of this high starting point was the view back down the road of the Lune Valley to the south.

I was here to visit Fox’s Pulpit. The map suggests that it might be a little way from the road, but in fact I could see it as soon as I pulled up. This is it…

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Apparently, the meeting commemorated here, which happened in 1652, is considered by some to be the beginning of the Society of Friends, or Quakers.

This small field…

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…is shown on the OS map as a graveyard, but in Fox’s time there was a Church here.

One gravestone still remains…

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Fox preferred to preach outside in the open, although, it occurs to me that if there were around ‘a thousand seekers’ present then getting them all into a small hillside chapel may have been impractical anyway.

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George Fox had an interesting life but the fact that will stick with me, I think, is that he was born in the village of Drayton-in-the-Clay in Leicestershire, not so far from where I grew up. It’s called Fenny Drayton now and I’m pretty sure that I’ve cycled through the village a few times, although all of them a very long time ago.

On the short walk from Fox’s Pulpit to the top of Master Knott I was entertained by this Silver Y Moth…

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…which proved devilishly difficult to photograph. There was quite a breeze and each time it flew I wasn’t completely convinced that it could control the flight. After landing it would continue on foot, walking surprisingly quickly, often low down beneath the grass and other vegetation. You can just about see the Y on its wing which gives it its name.

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“I try quite hard to learn the flowering plants but must confess to having long ago thrown in the towel when it comes to the pea family.”

A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright

And this from someone who elsewhere in the book talks authoritatively about obscure things like Rusts and Smuts and Lichens and Liverworts. I’m going to tentatively hazard that the single flower above is Bush Vetch (but am ready to be corrected).

From Master Knott I returned to the road, taking the path to the north which heads down into the Lune Valley. It shortly brought me to the field in the foreground here, just beyond the gate, which was decidedly wet underfoot and full of interesting flora and fauna.

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I wasn’t fast enough to photograph the wonderful black and red Cinnabar Moth, the Small Heath butterflies or any of the small birds, but I enjoyed seeing them. Many of the very vigorous plants looked like they had either just finished flowering or were just about to flower. Some were giving a fine display, however…

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Heath Spotted-orchid.

I’m pretty confident that this really is Heath Spotted, unlike the last orchid I identified as such on the blog, which I’m even more uncertain about now – I’m more inclined to think that is was Common Spotted after all.

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Ragged Robin.

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Ringlet.

The next field had been recently mown, but was just as busy with butterflies and equally mobbed with dragonflies.

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The trees on the right border a tributary of the Lune, unnamed on the OS map.

These…

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…flew past me and then landed close enough by for me to locate them afterwards. They are Golden-ringed Dragonflies, Britain’s longest species at around 8cm.

This is the male…

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…he has already transferred semen to his accessory genitalia and is grasping the back of the female’s head with his anal appendages in the hope that she will curl the tip of her abdomen forward to transfer that semen.

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Red Admiral.

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Meadow Brown.

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When I reached a road, the path went straight across, but there was a sign warning me that the footbridge over the Lune I hoped to cross, Fisherman’s Bridge, had been damaged during flooding and was unusable. Sometimes, these signs get left in situ even after the damage has been repaired, so I decided to take a look myself.

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Perhaps the completely overgrown state of the first section of the path should have acted as an additional warning. The bridge was more than just damaged, with even the substantial piers have been shorn off – the top of one was lying close by in the river still.

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Back up the hill then to brave the nettles and return to the road. Actually, I contemplated following the former railway line which also runs along the valley – I chose not to in the end, but there’s a brilliant potential cycleway there waiting for development. Anyway, after consulting the map, I decided to head south along the road.

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Stocks.

It’s a B-road, but wasn’t busy, and didn’t make for bad walking at all.

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Another Red Admiral.

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The Old School House and Firbank Church Hall – date stone shows 1860 – possibly also once part of the school?

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Yet another Red Admiral.

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A Carder Bee (?) on Foxgloves.

One advantage of walking on a road is the accompanying hedges – often better maintained than ‘internal’ hedges and full of a massive diversity of life. Having been reading ‘A Natural History of the Hedgerow’ I was more alert than usual to that diversity, and took great delight in noticing just how many species were present. Not that I did it properly; in 2015, I’ve learned, Dr Rob Wolton published an article about a two year study he had carried out of a 90m length of hedge near his home in Devon. He had discovered a staggering 2070 different species in the hedge, and that was with some species still to be identified and having ignored rusts and mildews. Apparently he thinks the actual total might be closer to 3000.

I didn’t spot quite that many on this walk!

The hedges here were full of webs or nests…I’m not sure what to call them. Some were large blanket webs like others I’ve seen this year, but in other cases smaller webs seemed to have been used to knit leaves together to make some sort of home…

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In many of the webs, I could see clumps of pale shapes which I took to be pupae…

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Another advantage of walking on the road was that it brought me to…

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Naturally, I felt compelled to take a peek inside…

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This church, built in 1841, replaced the chapel on the hill, which was destroyed in a storm a few years before. There is no stained glass, but the view from this window more than compensates, although I don’t think my photo quite captures it…

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Stepping outside I found, in an unmown area close to the entrance to the grounds, this…

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…which I believe is a Butterfly Orchid, a first for me. I’m not sure however, whether it’s a Lesser Butterfly Orchid or a Greater Butterfly Orchid. Sadly, it was in deep shade, which is presumably why the photo hasn’t come out too well.

This very large bumble bee was behaving rather oddly, for a bee, sedately exploring this leaf in the hedge.

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The size, and the behaviour, made me wonder whether this could be a queen, but looking at the photo again, I now think that this is a worker, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The tail looks white, but there is a subtle line of buff at the edge of that white which suggests that identification.

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Lune Viaduct.

I left the road here, taking a path through more newly mown fields which bordered the Lune. A screen of trees prevented any more than glimpses of the river, but in the unmown fringes of the field there was the compensation of a number of Common Knapweed flowers…

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They seemed to flourish here in this part of the Lune Valley and I would see many more during the remainder of the walk. The bees liked them too. This might be a Garden Bumblebee. Might.

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But this is a Tree Bumblebee, which, I’ve realised this year, are ubiquitous.

If I hadn’t paused to admire the Knapweed and its attendant bees, I would never have noticed…

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…this shield bug. It took me a while to track down the exact species, so that I was tempted to just call it ‘bronze’ because of its colour. And that’s exactly what it is, a Bronze Shieldbug, widespread but not particularly common apparently. Quite similar to the Forest Bug, which I photographed on Hutton Roof some years ago.

The track transferred to the riverbank side of the trees, which meant that I could see these…

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…Monkeyflowers.

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Lincoln’s Inn Bridge.

I joined the Dales Way here briefly, between Lincoln’s Inn Bridge and Luneside Farm.

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Luneside.

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Garden Bumblebee on Common Knapweed (I think).

I detoured a little here, an out-and-back past Prospect House (where the dogs in the garden watched me with suspicion) to…

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St. Gregory’s or the Vale of Lune Chapel. The third steeplehouse on our walk, steeplehouse being George Fox’s preferred term for a church – although none of these have had steeples. Actually, only the Firbank Church is still in use; the first obviously was ruined, although the local Quaker Meeting House at Briggflats still commemorates Fox’s sermon with a June outdoor meeting; and this last, although still consecrated is in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

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“This chapel was built in the early 1860s by the Upton family, when the London and North Western Railway was building its Ingleton branch and sent a Scripture Reader to the navvies. Attached to a cottage, it is a plain building perhaps designed by a railway engineer; but inside a delightful and colourful series of stained glass windows by Frederick George Smith depict river scenes, trees and plants, as well as birds and animals found locally. These were installed in about 1900 when the church was refurnished.” Source

The Upton family owned Ingmire Hall which is very close by.

 

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The furniture in the church was apparently by Waring and Gillow of Lancaster. (The Gillow family owned Leighton Hall which is close to home).

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Unusual roof-lights.

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One of the windows designed by Frederick George Smith. I took photos of them all, and can’t decide whether or not to make a fuller post with more pictures of St. Gregory’s; I rather liked it.

In edition to the windows mentioned above, there are also windows featuring personifications of Peace…

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…Justice and Fortitude which one source says are of William Morris design.

It doesn’t take long to look around St. Gregory’s, but it’s well worth a visit. I sat in the porch for a moment or two, to have a drink and decide which way to go next.

Back to Luneside, I decided, where the sheep dogs, all, fortunately, caged securely, went berserk again, although, judging by the wagging tails, they may have been enthusiastic rather than angry.

In the fields south of Luneside I heard a commotion from a Hawthorn. It wasn’t the familiar yaffle, but sounded none-the-less like a Green Woodpecker. Then came an answering call from the hedge ahead of me. As I approached the hedge, a bird within the hedge, tried to fly out, away from me, but flew straight into the wire net fence beside the hedge. It was a juvenile Green Woodpecker…

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After a moment of contemplation it decided to climb the fencepost, somehow jamming itself between the wire and the post so that I couldn’t really see it.

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Those claws are well-adapted for climbing!

The adult meanwhile was even more strident now…

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As I walked away from the hedge, the adult flew ahead of me…

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…before looping back to the youngster in the hedge.

Beside the Lune here, there’s a odd little Nature Reserve, a thin little strip along the riverbank.

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Leading to Killington New Bridge.

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From here I took the lazy decision to follow the road in the most direct route back to the car. It was getting late and the weather had deteriorated, with a layer of cloud spreading in from the west and a few spots of rain in the air

The hedgerows were once again festooned with webs…

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…containing hanging white cylinders…

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But now, perhaps because it was quite late and a bit gloomy, there were moths evident too…

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I think that this is an ermel moth, specifically Yponomeuta Cagnagella. Apparently, the ‘gregarious larvae clothe with extensive silken tents’ the Spindle shrubs on which they live. And looking at the photos, these leaves could well be Spindle.

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Former Country Pub the Black Horse after which the road junction is named.

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A stream, another tributary of the Lune, runs beside the A road here.

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At New Field farm everyone was busy, trying to get the silage in before the forecast rain arrived…

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Juvenile Wheatear, I think.

Fox's Pulpit

Firbank Fell – Three Steeplehouses Walk

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