Turnstones on Roa Island

P4110002

Male Eider.

P4110009

Turnstone (non-breeding plumage).

P4110011

Edible Crab.

P4110017

Sea Spider.

P4110020

Butterfish.

P4110024

Broad-clawed Porcelain Crab.

P4110033

Chiton (possibly Lepidochitona cinerea).

P4110041

Starfish…

P4110044

…walking.

P4110043

Snot?

P4110046

Herring Gull.

P1100699

Juvenile Herring Gull (probably).

P1100726

Roa Island just keeps on giving and giving. Every visit throws up something new. This time both the wind and the water were perishingly cold and we didn’t find quite the same abundance as usual. Apart, that is, from B, who has an eagle eye for these things. Sea Spiders and Chitons are both new to me. Sea Spiders aren’t actually spiders, but do have an extraordinary resemblance, whilst Chitons are molluscs with eight overlapping plates. A found the Chiton – when she pointed it out in a shallow pool I assumed that what she’d seen was just a fragment of a seashell.

Whilst the others retired to the shelter of the car to eat their packed tea, I wandered back down to the end of the jetty and tried to capture images of flying gulls. Slightly quixotic behaviour, since the light was fading, and the gulls raced past downwind, but they were relatively stately when they flew back upwind so it wasn’t impossible.

Many of the stones we overturned were covered in eggs (or roe) of some kind. The roe, in turn, was often covered in Whelks. I couldn’t decided whether the Whelks were laying eggs or eating them. Several stones also had blobs of creamy white or emerald green…well, we’ve christened it ‘snot’, for want of any more accurate knowledge.

No doubt, we’ll be back again sometime this summer.

Turnstones on Roa Island

Strawberry Dahlia Anemone

P9170030

Green Shore Crab.

Another one of our sporadic visits to Roa Island occasioned by a relatively low tide falling on a Saturday when we were all free.

P1080859

Roa Island Lifeboat Station and Piel Island.

I’ve reported before that every overturned rock on Roa Island reveals hordes of Shore Crabs. This crab wasn’t even bothering to hide…

P9170039

Although in amongst the rocks and shells it was actually surprisingly difficult to spot.

P9170042

Sponge. Myxilla incrustans?

P9170044

Butterfish.

P9170051

We caught numerous Shannies and Butterfish.

P9170056

Shanny.

P9170059

Starfish.

And found lots of Starfish and Brittlestars.

P9170060

This is my favourite photo from the day, but also something of a conundrum: the banded tentacles are a distinctive feature of the Dahlia Anemone, whilst the red, spotted body is characteristic of the Strawberry Anemone. So this must be a Strawberry Dahlia Anemone?

P9170064

Sponge. Estuary Sponge?

P9170067

Long-clawed porcelain crab. I think.

P9170069

Common Brittlestar.

P9170070

Ophiocomina nigra – the Black Brittlestar. Possibly.

P9170078

Four-horned Spider Crab.

P9170080

As the tide reached it’s lowest point and some areas of seaweed were revealed, we were able to find lots of small spider crabs, I suspect of several different species. What a lot of these small spider crabs have in common is the way in which they decorate themselves with bits of weed or seashells. Also the fact that they are hard to hold still to photograph, unlike their surprisingly docile larger cousins…

P9170083

Edible Crab.

Something I think I’ve only really fully appreciated since we started to visit Roa Island is the fact that really low tides will always be at around sunset…

P1080861

(..or too early in the morning for us to have made it around the Bay to Roa!)

 

Strawberry Dahlia Anemone

Winging in the Blossoming

Clark’s Lot – Woodwell – Jack Scout.

If you go down to Woodwell today be sure of a big surprise. The pond has silted up quite considerably, and at one end the water is very shallow, and in that shallow water there must be thousands of tiny fish…

P1060183

Every attempted photo of a fish was later revealed to be a group shot. It was teeming. My best guess is that these are Three-Spined Sticklebacks, like the ones I used to catch in the brook with a bucket when I was a boy.

P1060179 

Great tit (and emerging ash flowers).

The wind was in the North, and pretty icy, but the sun was shining and if you could find a sheltered spot it actually felt warm for a change.

– it’s april(yes, april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be

The agility of Blue Tits never ceases to amaze; this one…

P1060187 

…was acrobatically hanging upside down whilst worrying the edge of a decaying piece of bark. Apparently they eat mostly caterpillars. I don’t know whether there were any beneath that flake of bark. I hope so.

Chiff-chaffs are generally much easier to hear than to see, as they often sing their distinctive song from the very tops of tall trees. But Jack Scout doesn’t have many tall trees, specialising instead in thickets of prickly things like gorse, brambles, holly, hawthorn and blackthorn. So this chap was chanting his name from a prominent, but relatively low, branch…

P1060194 

…before dropping down into the brambles…

P1060195 

…to play hide-and-seek in the way that two-year-old children do: ‘I can’t see you therefore I’m hidden’.

P1060203 

This Bullfinch looks like it’s escaped from the set of the Angry Birds movie.

A brief glimpse of two butterflies circling, spiralling, dancing together, took me over towards the boundary wall, away from the cliff, the bay and the cold wind. Of course, when I reached the spot where the butterflies had been, they were long gone. I did eventually see one again…

P1060209 

But here beneath the wall it was like I’d walked in from a winter’s day to a centrally-heated room. The contrast in temperature was quite astonishing. And, almost immediately, there were other things to look at.

I’ve been puzzled this spring by the behaviour of Bumblebees. There are lots of them about and they are all very busy, but none of them seem ever to be feeding. What are they up to?

This one…

P1060206 

…buzzed over, landed on some moss, and then apparently did nothing.

I was photographing the Primroses, when I became peripherally aware of something strange flying across the clump.

P1060210 

It was a tawny orange and looked something like a bee, but clearly wasn’t a bee. What’s more, it had thin, black, scalloped-edge wings which were perpetually in rapid motion, flickering back and forth and giving the impression of some bizarre bee/bat hybrid hovering over the primroses.

P1060208 

Some moths imitate bees in appearance. So do many hoverflies. Even some bees impersonate other bee species. But this didn’t look even remotely like a hoverfly. Nor particularly like a moth. A second appeared…

P1060218 

The curious, black, improbably thin, bat-like wings were revealed to be actually just the top edge of larger wings. And the hovering was an illusion created by the constant trembling palpitation of those wings.

P1060223 

These are Bee-Flies.

The furry brown body and the long proboscis, together with the dark brown front edges of the wings make this fly very easy to recognise…Although appearing to hover while feeding, it usually clings to the flowers with its spindly legs. The larvae live as parasitoids in the nests of mining bees.

from Collins Complete British Insects by Michael Chinery

A parasitoid, I learn, differs from a parasite in that it will eventually kill or paralyse its host and then eat it. A slightly gruesome creature then, but fascinating just the same. What’s more, the presence of these flies surely indicates that their hosts can’t be too far away, and after being captivated by a Tawny Mining Bee last year, I’d love to find them closer to home. Actually, I have seen one closer to home, feeding on Blackthorn blossom…

P1060225 

last spring.

My attempts to get to grips with birdsong have not been a massive success, but sometimes knowing that you don’t know can even pay dividends. (I’m in danger of slipping into Rumsfeldisms here if I’m not careful.) I could hear a bird singing from a very tall ash. I was fairly confident that it wasn’t a Robin, or any kind of Tit or Finch, and obviously not a Thrush or a Blackbird, nor a Nuthatch, which I seem to have recently become reasonably confident about picking out. Quite a musical song, I thought…

P1060227

…and there it was, way up in the blue, a Dunnock! I had no idea that they could sing like that.

(The RSPB page on Dunnocks has a handy sound file.)

So, alright, it’s a Dunnock. We get them in the garden, mostly on the ground under the hedges. You could maybe accuse it of being a bit drab. But I was thrilled to spy it way up there in the very tallest tree, proclaiming it’s territory.

(all the merry little birds are
flying in the floating in the
very spirits singing in
are winging in the blossoming)

All of the unattributed quotes are from e.e.cummings. Inevitably. Illimitably.

Winging in the Blossoming

Oxburgh Hall

P1040571

Our last day in Norfolk. We were heading home in fact, but wanting to make the most of our opportunity, had decided to stop en route at Oxburgh Hall. Not that it was really on our homeward route, but in retrospect, it was well worth a bit of a diversion.

P1040573 

There’s was lots to see. So much so that we didn’t get around to a walk around the extensive woods in the grounds.

P1040590 

The house was interesting, both inside and out.

P1040594 

You can possibly tell that it was the moat, and the views of the house across the moat which captivated me.

P1040602 

I think the kids might pick their visit to the tight little priest hole as their highlight of the day. I deferred that pleasure for another visit – I had an unpleasant image of myself stoppering the entrance like Winnie the Pooh stuck in Rabbit’s hole with washing dangling from his legs.

P1040620 

But, as I say, it was definitely the moat for me. It had a huge cast of attendant dragonflies and damselflies. Some of the dragonflies were of quite a size – I like to think that they were Emperor’s, but I’m only speculating. Other dragonflies were mating in flight, quite a curious thing to see. I took lots of photos, none of them even remotely successful. The damselflies were more accommodating, often settling on a lily pad…

P1040576 

These are red-eyed damselflies, which are apparently very fond of lily pads, and who don’t venture as far north as Silverdale: always nice to spot something not found on our home-patch.

P1040595 

The moat is fed by water diverted from the River Gadder and very clean and clear looking it is. And abundantly full of fish. I wondered whether it had been stocked.

P1040603 

There seemed to be at least two sorts of fish swimming about. Smaller stripy ones swimming nearer the bottom of the moat…

P1040605 

…not sure what these are. Perch are quite heavily striped, but they aren’t really small. The larger fish however…

P1040608 

…with their red fins, I think are probably Roach.

Meanwhile this bundle of fluff looks drab enough to be a young Coot, except that the colour on its beak makes me suspect that it might actually be a Moorhen.

P1040580

The formal gardens were resplendent, not just with flowers, but also with butterflies and moths. I would have been flummoxed by this little, colourful moth – it isn’t in my field guide, but fortuitously I discovered that it is a Mint Moth when a picture was posted over at Quercus Community

P1040627 

P1040632 

Peacock.

P1040643 

We did manage a little wander down to a pleasant flower-filled meadow where there were many more butterflies and dragonflies. I think that these are both Common Darters, although I’m not at all confident with dragonflies.

P1040648 

And I’m guessing, thanks to an informative comment in a previous post, that this…

P1040652 

….is a Turkey Oak acorn.

I watched a little drama unfold whilst I was photographing the dragonflies. A ladybird ran along the top bar of the fence, straight into the clutches of one of the Darters…

P1040655

Both are predators, but I feared for the ladybird in a quarrel. However, the dragonfly seemed quite perturbed by the ladybird, and after a cursory examination allowed it to continue on its way.

Oxburgh Hall

Pond Life

P1040326

 

Most of the time the sea in the Bay is pretty placid. But once in a while we do get some waves. Here’s some evidence from one of our local walks with our American cousins.

On another local walk we visited Burtonwell Wood rift cave…

P1040329

The passage runs parallel to the cliff-face, and part way along there’s a spot where it’s possible to climb up to a ‘window’…

P1040331 

P1040335 

From the cave we walked to Woodwell. We often visit, but this time we came prepared with nets and plastic tubs…

P1040339 

The kids caught quite a variety of pond life. I think that this…

P1040340 

…is probably a Three-Spined Stickleback. (But, as always, I stand ready to be corrected.)

P1040345 

Pond Skaters.

P1040351 

P1040352 

I’d call that upside down insect a Water Boatman, my field guide tells me that it is a Common Backswimmer (also know as a Water Boatman). The rather splendidly red snail is a Great Ramshorn (I think).

P1040354 

This must be a Water Beetle, but I’m really not sure which kind.

P1040356 

Here, the Water Boatman has a silvery sheen due to a trapped air bubble which it uses to enable it to breath.

P1040359

We were all fascinated by the contents of our tubs.

Well…almost all…

P1040336

Later that day we wandered into Eaves Wood for a bit of tree-climbing. Professor A can never resist joining the kids…

P1040364 

Once again, B’s busted arm proved to be a great hindrance…

P1040368 

Here we all are by the Pepper Pot…

P1040373

Pond Life

A Short Stroll Along The Shore

P9040752

With members of our little tribe now working or studying at four different schools we had a staggered back to school arrangement. The boys had a weeks more holiday left when I started back and had gone away to County Durham for some peace and quiet. (Peace and quiet for those of us left behind, obviously.)

On the Thursday afternoon, with the sun still beating down, TBH, A and I decided to get out for some fresh air. We didn’t go far. Just down to the Cove and then a little way along the shore.

P9040754 

The ladies decided to cool their feet in the channel, whilst I took a closer look at this rockfall…

P9040757 

Part of the charm of the outdoors is the way things change with the seasons and the weather and even the time of day. We’re well used to seeing the course of the channels in Morecambe Bay changing for example, we expect it, and the changes are frequent and sometimes quite dramatic, but I was bit taken-aback to find these large boulders and the matching scar where they had tumbled to the beach. The striking colour revealed is evidence of the haematite present, which was quarried nearby at Red Rake at the back of The Cove.

P9040762 

Apparently, I was missing out on shoals of tiny fish which were hurrying about in the shallow channel.

P9040765 

But there were bigger fish too, quite a few of them it seemed. We saw the splashes as they sprang from the water from time to time, and this heron..

P9040768 

…seemed to be finding rich pickings, when we weren’t disturbing his fishing.

P9040770 

I’ve cropped these already, they aren’t as sharp as I would like, but you can see a successful catch below.

P9040771 

It really was all wonderfully peaceful and not solely because the Dangerous Brothers were away terrorising their grandparents.

P9040778 

TBH and A headed home at this point, but I extended the saunter just a little by heading up Stankelt Road to Sharp’s Lot.

P9040783 

There’s a wilding apple tree there which seems to produce a lot of fruit every year. Last year I was bit late in visiting it. This year I was too, although at least there was still some fruit on the tree.

P9040782 

The apples are pretty tart, not as tooth-curlingly sharp as crab apples, but not really dessert apples. I imagine they’d be good for jam, but I’m only guessing really.

P9040786 

This year seemed to be a bumper year for hazelnuts. Certainly, the large tree which hangs over the bottom corner of our garden was shedding large quantities of nuts for a few weeks. Although many of the shells held disappointingly small kernels when you cracked them.

P9040787 

P9040788 

Acorn.

P9040789

Sloes.

Another autumn has passed without my fulfilling my regular promise to myself to make some sloe gin. I don’t like gin at all (something to do with drinking it in inappropriate measures in the dim and distant past, perhaps) but I do enjoy sloe gin. And I suppose that’s the problem – if I make some, I’ll only end up drinking it, which is probably not advisable.

A Short Stroll Along The Shore

Roa Island Rock-Pooling Again

A’s birthday. We went to Fell Foot Park for a picnic lunch. This was the first of many visits over the last couple of months. Actually, we’re now calling it ‘Fell Ten Foot Park’, but that followed a later visit, and that story will have to wait.

On this occasion we tried to make a shelter with some trekking poles, a couple of tarps that somebody gave us, we can’t agree on who it was that donated them, and a few odd tent pegs and guy lines which were knocking about in a box in our garage. Unfortunately, it turned out that there was only one guy and a piece of very stretchy, thin bungee cord, the original purpose of which completely eludes me. Quite surprisingly, despite the strong swirling winds, we eventually managed to erect a reasonably durable structure. The kids were disproportionally excited by the whole palaver and I’ve subsequently picked up some more guys in a sale and am even contemplating buying a larger tarp – anything which keeps the kids entertained in the outdoors is worth considering.

Later, we met some friends on the beach at Aldingham for a very windy and therefore quite fierce Birthday barbecue. I managed not to singe the meat too much I think, although the same can’t be said for the flimsy beach tent I put up to try to provide a bit of a wind-break, and which now has a few prominent scorch marks.

Birthday girl with crab 

After that, we were back to Roa Island to gate-crash a meeting of a local Marine Conservation group. We’ve done this before: some of our friends are members and they tip us the wink as to when rock-pooling events are planned. I have to say that the group are exceptionally friendly and it’s great to be there in numbers, partly because between a few of you more things are spotted and also because some of the group members are very knowledgeable and happily identify finds and share their knowledge.

A has always been a bit wary of crabs. No – that’s an understatement: she’s always been inclined to squealing and running away whenever crabs are present. But today she suddenly discovered her inner crab-fiend. There were several other children there who were also a bit reluctant to handle the abundant crustaceans – A became crab ambassador, coaxing them to hold steadily larger crabs as their confidence increased.

B with shore crab 

The dangerous brothers, meanwhile, have never really had any such qualms, although S looks quite pensive here, I’m not sure why.

S with crab, looking slightly pensive. 

Shore crab 

Long-suffering readers will know that we’ve been to Roa Island a few times before. There are always reliably huge numbers of shore crabs and edible crabs, but I was thrilled to find, under some weed by the jetty….

Porcelain crab 

….a Broad-clawed Porcelain Crab. (The light wasn’t great, so the photos are generally not up to much, but I haven’t seen one of these before and was very happy to now.)

We arrived a couple of hours before low tide, and the water was already as low as I have seen it before. When low tide came around, we were able to explore much further into the channel then we ever have before. Down on the edge of the water every small pool or over-turned bit of seaweed was teeming with life.

Tiny spider crab 

We found no end of these tiny spider crabs. There are at least three species found in UK waters and I wouldn’t like to say which of those these are.

Another weed covered spider crab 

They adorn themselves with weed, or sponge – we found one covered in sponge but my photos are just too blurred to use.

Another tiny spider crab 

This one doesn’t have the weed clothing and the slightly thicker front legs make me think that it might be a Scorpion Spider Crab, but I wouldn’t take my word for it if I were you.

Brittle star 

By this time A had switched her focus to Starfish and Brittlestars, which were equally abundant and wonderfully varied.

A's starfish collection 

We also spotted a Lion’s-Mane Jellyfish again, although this was much smaller than the one we saw before, and indisputably dead.

A few fish were found, including several Butterfish. I got better photos last time….

Wriggley butter fish 

….but I do like the way that this conveys the fish’s ability to squirm and slide around dry parts of the beach.

This one…

Shannie 

…is a Shanny, I think, and they too can survive out of the water, at least for a while.

With the tide being so far out, we saw lots of sponge too. I’m going to tentatively say that this….

Sponge covered rock

…is Estuary Sponge, but as always, I stand ready to be corrected.

Roa Island Rock-Pooling Again