Third Stone From The Sun

Hagg Wood – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – Myer’s Allotment – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood – Elmslack.

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I watched this blue tit going in and out of a narrow crevice in an oak tree close to home. I took several photos, all blurred, except for the ones where the bird was too quick, or I was too slow and all the pictures show is a tree trunk. These two are the least bad. I assumed that there must be a nest here, but on subsequent visits I haven’t noticed any further activity.

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Marsh Marigolds at Lambert’s Meadow.

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Female Chaffinch with nesting material.

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New sycamore leaves.

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Dog Mercury – virtually ubiquitous in our woods, with nondescript flower so easily overlooked.

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Buzzard.

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Myer’s Allotment.

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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.

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Silverdale Station with train – any passengers?

I’ve been intrigued by our local bus and train services. Both the buses and the trains seem to be travelling without passengers, at least most of the time. There’s something very poignant about the apparently futile, but quietly heroic effort to keep these services running in the present circumstances.

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Trowbarrow Quarry.

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Dandelions?

Yellow dandelion-like flowers are often still a bit of a mystery to me. With tiny leaves and very-short stems, these didn’t look like very typical dandelions, but I think that may just be down to the impoverished soil of the quarry floor.

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Comma on willow catkins.

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Peacock.

This was an excellent walk for butterflies. There were brimstones about too, but they wouldn’t pose for photos.

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Bee fly.

Three years ago I didn’t know what a bee fly was; now I realise that, in early April, they are everywhere. Another indication of the value of putting a name to the things that you notice whilst out and about.

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Coltsfoot.

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Forget-me-nots.

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Violets and celandines.

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Primroses.

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Grey squirrel.

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Wren.

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Woodrush.

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Elmslack.

This roadside verge is one of the most cheering sights when the sun is shining and the celandines are flowering.

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Celandines.

The flowers close when the sun isn’t shining, but the way they strain towards the sun when it is on show is almost comical: like a class full of primary school kids with their hands up, all earnestly entreating their teacher, “Pick me, pick me”.

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Quince.

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Definitely dandelions.

The tune was supposed to be ‘Third Stone from The Sun’ by Jimi Hendrix, but I can’t find an original version. Nor can I find either BBC session version of his ‘Driving South’ one of which was on the original ‘Jock Hols’ tape.

(“But who is Jock Hols?”, asked TBF)

So, here’s a highly enjoyable alternative, ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ by Ringo Starr:

Third Stone From The Sun

Sauvages de ma rue*

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White Violets in a large roadside patch by Jack Scout.

“In a recent YouGov poll, just 6% of 16- to 24-year-olds were able to correctly name a picture of a wild violet. The same poll showed nearly 70% of respondents would like to be able to identify more wild flowers.”

This is another conglomeration of photos from various walks, still back at the tail-end of March.

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A misty pre-dawn.

Back then, I sometimes managed to get out early, before sitting down at the computer for the day’s work. That has since gone by the by, as I have started to sleep in a little longer, with no need to get up for a daily commute.

Being a creature of habit, I’ve often walked the same route on consecutive days, occasionally branching out to go somewhere different.

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Arnside Tower.

Variations on a walk around Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow were a favourite for a while. For some reason, I seem to be incapable of walking past Arnside Tower without taking a picture of it.

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Mist over Silverdale Moss.

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Arnside Tower again! (On another day)

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Pheasant feather?

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Early sun in Middlebarrow Woods.

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Mist over Hawes Water.

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Toothwort – this is the earliest I’ve seen this flowering. The plants I used to visit every year, which seemed to have survived their host tree being chopped down have now gone. But fortuitously, I found another, larger, patch nearby.

We talk a lot about plant blindness – what if putting names on plants could make people look at them in a different way?

The quotes in this post are all taken from a Guardian article ‘Not Just Weeds‘, about the growing phenomena of pavement chalking to identify wildflowers in urban areas. I knew I would enjoy the piece, when it started with the somewhat unexpected phrase “a rising international force of rebel botanists”, which is not a combination of words I ever thought I would encounter – it conjures up images of an orange clad Stars Wars force armed with hand lenses and wild flower keys.

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Hawes Water.

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Goldfinch.

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Silverdale from Castlebarrow.

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Green Hellebore.

In my experience, the effort required to try to put names to plants has made me look at them in a different way. And treasure them too. I’ve been really thrilled, for example, to have found this large clump of Green Hellebore, which I must have walked past hundreds of times before and missed, in Middlebarrow Woods.

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One anonymous London tree name chalker said: “I’ll keep labelling as I go on my daily walks. I think it’s really tapped into where people are right now.

“Botanical chalking gives a quick blast of nature connection, as the words encourage you to look up and notice the tree above you, the leaves, the bark, the insects, the sky. And that’s all good for mental health. None of us can manage that much – living through a global pandemic is quite enough to be getting on with. But it’s brought me a great amount of joy.”

And so, on the subject of joy, to today’s musical choice. I realised, when it was too late, that a post about vitamin D ought to have been accompanied by a sunshine song. So, here it is a day late:

Once, I’d settled on ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, it was quite difficult to decide which version to use. If I’d managed to find a video of Jimi Hendrix, during the Lulu show, dismissing ‘Hey Joe’ as ‘rubbish’ and breaking into ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ as a tribute to Cream, who had announced that they had split that day, then it would have been that version hands down. I like the original. There’s a great version by Ella Fitzgerald again. But, in a serendipitous moment, whilst I was pondering those three, I stumbled across this version by Spanky Wilson, which I’d never heard before. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’ve heard of Spanky Wilson before. Enjoy.

*Sauvages de ma rue – wild things of my street. An underground guerrilla movement of rebel botanists. Maybe.

 

Sauvages de ma rue*

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…

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A Monday evening. With A hobbling about on her dodgy knee after her long DofE training walk, dancing was out of the question for her, so there were no taxi-dad duties for me to perform. I escaped to Gait Barrows, ostensibly to see whether the Lady’s-slipper Orchids were flowering. Some of them were, as you can see above, but some were yet to fully open…

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This is another of my annual flower pilgrimages and it served as a useful excuse, but really, with the sun still shining I was hoping for butterflies. I did see some: Orange-tips, Brimstones, Speckled Woods, but generally they wouldn’t settle to be photographed. Fortunately, there was a great deal more to see, in fact the Lady’s slippers were the last pictures I took in a great haul and I was tempted to appropriate Conrad’s phrase and title the post ‘blogger’s gifts’.

Usually, having come in search of the orchids, I’m a little late for the Lily-of-the-valley. The small areas completed dominated by the broad leaves are always still in evidence…

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But I often struggle to find any flowers; this time there were far more than I’ve ever seen before…

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The tiny, white bells are still quite shy and retiring, but utterly enchanting.

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In addition to the flowers there were hoards of Damselflies about. I took lots of photos, but will content myself with just two…

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Common Damselfly.

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Azure Damselfly.

The colours look very different, but that’s a function of the light which was falling on them at the time. The easiest way to distinguish these males is the pattern on the second segment. The Common damselfly has a solid black omega  – Ω; whilst the Azure has an elongated u, like – ∏ – but the other way up. (You may need to click on the photos to view zoomable images on flickr to pick this out).

Walking through some warm glades, which act as a sun-trap and have often been good for butterflies on previous visits, I spotted something in flight which had all the colour of a butterfly, but which was bigger and more co-operative with regards being photographed…

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Broad-bodied Chaser.

In flight, I thought that it was yellow (the field guide says ‘ochre’), so assumed that it was a female, but the males also start life that colour, but then produce ‘pruinescence’, a dusty blue covering, which process has begun for this male, and is more advanced in this male…

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… which was also basking in the sun, just a few yards from the first dragonfly.

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There were lots of these…

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…Brown Silver-line moths about.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

I need to make a concerted effort with ferns and grasses. Hopefully, I can pick up quite a bit relatively easily, since presently I know next to nothing. I think the fern above is Maidenhair Spleenwort. It’s possible that this…

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…is another spleenwort, or Wall Rue? I’m not sure.

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Bird’s-foot Trefoil. New flowers – they will soon be egg-yolk yellow.

I did eventually manage to photograph one butterfly…

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Green-veined White on Bugle.

In pursuit of an Orange-tip, I turned onto a slim-trod along a ride which I have never taken before.

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Which, it transpired, was a very happy choice.

The path brought me to a gate, overlooking a field…

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…which helped me to reset my bearings, since I recognised it.

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Only a couple of days before, I had been reading, again, about Herb Paris. A highly unusual plant, which has been frustrating me, because I know that it grows locally in many locations, but I have never stumbled across it. Anyway, I read that it often grows alongside it’s close relative Dog’s Mercury, a very common plant hereabouts, and when I saw Dog’s Mercury blanketing the woodland floor, I optimistically thought: maybe there will be some Herb Paris nearby.

And was then very surprised when my wish-prophecy came true..

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It’s an odd plant with quite a strange flower, but after years of waiting, I was very pleased to see it.

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From this point, the path seemed to peter out and though I continued doggedly for some time, I eventually admitted defeat and turned to retrace my steps. Except, then I was distracted by another, even slighter tread which was heading into the woods. Almost immediately, I was confronted by a pile of feathers…

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Then another, and another…

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And then several pairs of bird-less wings…

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The wings were all busy with flies, but also with several of these rather striking orange and black beetles – oieceoptoma thoracicum. They aren’t here feast on the carrion, but on the other insects which are attracted to the wings.

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The last time, and the first time, that I saw one of these was on another warm spring day, on Yewbarrow above the Winster Valley, when B joined me for a fabulous walk. It was eight years ago, which I think says something about the power of blogging as an aide memoire; my memory is generally pretty dreadful, but although I didn’t remember their latin name, I did instantly recognise the insects and recall their predatory lifestyle.

That walk was a good one, and the post has a much better photograph of this actually rather handsome beetle. That day we found several badger setts, but these wings were untidily strewn around a Fox’s earth. I found a dead fox cub not so very far away from this spot last year and one summer saw a fox, late one evening, running along the woodland fringe near here. B is quite keen to see the earth, I don’t know whether there is any mileage in bringing him late one evening in the hope that we might see the resident foxes too.

The path which I had diverted onto was clearly a path made by the foxes. It soon forked and forked again. It was difficult to follow, but I persisted and eventually it brought me to a ‘proper’ path, which I recognised, and which was close to where the Lady’-slippers flower.

Down at Hawes Water, work was still continuing quite late into the evening…

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Having started with the last photo I took, here are the first two:

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Stacked timber and…

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planks from the old boardwalk, by the Gait Barrows carpark.

Herb Paris, Lily of the Valley and more…