The Bug Hotel

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Copper Underwing.

The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.

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Long-tailed Tit. Not all that blurred!
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Possibly the same Long-tailed Tit. But they’re usually in groups, so it could just as easily be another.
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Mating flies in the beech hedge.
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Speckled Wood butterfly.
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Hoverfly on Montbretia.
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Common Carder Bee on Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.

I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…

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So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp. And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.

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I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.

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Large Rose Sawfly?

I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.

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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Male?
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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Female?

There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.

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Volucella Pellucens on Mint.

This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!

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I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.

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This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……

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Tachina Fera

…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.

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Possibly Eristalis arbustorum.

Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.

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A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.

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The Guelder Rose hedge.

Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.

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Guelder Rose berries.

There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!

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Migrant Hawker.

Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.

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And again.

An absolutely stunning creature.

A little further along…

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Migrant Hawker on Figwort.
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And again.
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Honey bee, I think.

Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?

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A very tatty Skipper.
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Small White.
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Common Darter on Figwort.

Views from the walk home…

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Looking a bit black over The Howgills.
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But the sun catching Farleton Fell.
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Rosehips.

Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.

The Bug Hotel

Green Dock Beetle

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Hawes Water

I was missing the flower rich meadows of the Dordogne and the multitude of butterflies and moths and other insects which the abundant flowers attract. So I set out for a short meander around Hawes Water, with my camera with me for once, with the express intent of finding something interesting to photograph.

Some patches of knapweed growing between Challan Hall and Hawes Water gave me just what I was after.

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Tree Bumblebees? On Common Knapweed.

Mainly bees, which by late summer have faded quite a bit and so are even harder to identify than they are earlier in the summer.

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Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.

Not to worry – I very happily took no end of photos.

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Tawny Mining Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Another Common Carder Bee? On Common Knapweed.
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Not-even-going-to-guess bee. On Ragwort.
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A drone fly, a bee mimic – one of the Eristalis species?
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Green Dock Beetle

I think this is a Green Dock Beetle. Pretty colourful isn’t it? I took lots of photos of this charismatic (or should I say prismatic?) little fella. With hindsight, I think the patterns on the knapweed flowerhead are pretty special too. Apparently, the larvae of these beetles can strip the leaves of a dock plant in no time flat. Likewise the massive leaves of a rhubarb plant. I don’t recall seeing them before, but shall be checking out docks more carefully this summer.

More about dock beetles here and here.

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Green Dock Beetle.
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Episyrphus Balteatus? In flight!
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Not sure about the bee – but look what’s lurking below the flower – an orb-web spider.
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Phaonia valida?
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Devil’s-bit Scabious.
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And finally, the hedgerow close to home which was cut down has new fences along each side and there’s plenty growing in that space – whether or not that’s the hawthorns and blackthorns of which the hedge was originally composed remains to be seen.

Green Dock Beetle

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

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Blurred Long-tail Tit. All Long-Tail Tits are blurred.
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Blue Tit.

Some plants in the garden are fantastic value, not just in themselves, but for the wildlife they attract.

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I think these tall yellow daisies are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. Related to sunflowers, they’ve spread like mad in our garden, giving a long-lasting bright splash of colour in mid to late summer.

This is what the BBC Gardener’s World website has to say about them…

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies​/​moths and other pollinators. It nectar-pollen-rich-flowers and has seeds for birds.

The long stems seem to be good places for dragonflies to rest. And they are certainly attractive to pollinators.

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Hoverfly. Possibly a Drone Fly.
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Brown-lipped Smail.
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Greenbottle.
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Marjoram also seeds itself quite freely around the garden and seems to be particularly attractive to bees. I hope this is a Garden Bumblebee, seems appropriate, but the white-tailed bumblebees are difficult to distinguish between.

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Peacock.
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And another.
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A pair of fawns, their spots beginning to fade. They came right up to our windows, seemingly unaware of the people watching on the other side of the glass.
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And, completely unrelated, TBH booked us all in for a family session of Foot Golf at Casterton golf course. As you can see, the views there aren’t bad at all.

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We were all a bit rubbish at the golf, but we had a good giggle.

August: Garden Wildlife + Foot Golf.

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

The year is almost up and the blog is stuck in June. So….better get a shift on.

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

First off, some shots from an evening to Foulshaw Moss when A was dancing.

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An Orb-weaver Spider, possibly a Larinioides cornutus female.
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The limestone hills of home across Morecambe Bay.

Next door neighbour and all-round good-egg BB was interested in our ebikes; I suggested he borrow one and join me for a trip. We cycled to Morecambe. As you can see, the weather was fantastic, but there was a strong wind blowing, unusually, from the South, so that cycling along the Prom was an uphill struggle. The compensation was that on our way back again we felt like we had wings. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of our memorable refreshment stops, at the Hest Bank for a pint on our outward trip and at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands for a lovely meal and a couple more ales in their sunny beer garden.

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Bike maintenance BB style.
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Choppy waves from the end of the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. Lake District Fells beyond.
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X-Ray and TBH in Clarke’s Lot.

Old friend X-Ray visited to catch up. It was very grey day, but we dragged him out for our usual wander around Jenny Brown’s Point anyway.

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Warton Crag and Clougha Pike beyond.
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Another Foulshaw Moss view.

Another taxi-Dad trip to Foulshaw Moss. Things have moved on since then – A has passed her driving test and doesn’t need any more lifts to Milnthorpe. I shall need a new excuse to visit Foulshaw Moss.

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Sedge Warbler (I think).
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Foxglove.
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Birch Polyp.
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Azure Damselfly.
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Green Lacewing, possibly Chrysopa perla.
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Crane Fly.
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TBH cycling past the visitor centre at Leighton Moss.

Finally, a shorter bike ride with TBH which took us to Holme and back via some very quiet lanes. It almost went horribly wrong when I made the mistake of leaving TBH a little behind (she having chosen not to use an ebike) and she, inexplicably, took a left turn, even though I’d mentioned the fact that we would go through Yealand Redmayne. It all worked okay in the end, after a few puzzling moments and a bit of cycling back and forth looking for each other.

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses

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Early April, when the branches are mostly bare and the birds are busy mating and nesting is a great time to spot and take photos of birds. This Bullfinch photo is a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t taken on a walk, but through our window, by where I was sitting on a Thursday evening.

On the Friday, when I got home from work, having finished for the Easter break, I headed out for a wander round Heald Brow, to the south of the village.

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View of The Howgills.
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Forsythia catching the sun.
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Hazelwood Hall.

I think someone had been doing some major pruning, because a better view of Hazelwood Hall had opened up from the adjoining Hollins Lane. My interest in the hall is due to the gardens, which I believed to be designed by Lancaster architect Thomas Mawson, although the current Wikipedia entry is slightly confusing on that score and seems to imply, in one section, that in fact Mawson’s son Prentice was responsible, only, later on, to state that it was Mawson himself who designed the garden working with another son Edward.

Hazelwood Hall 1926

Certainly the tiered terraces, the loggia and the use of stone pergolas are very similar to other Mawson gardens I’ve visited.

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On Heald Brow, I noticed a Great-spotted Woodpecker in a very distant tree. I’ve included the photo, rubbish though it is, just to remind myself that I saw it, because, quite frankly, I was chuffed that I could pick it out in the tree-tops.

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Likewise this Bullfinch. I know that it’s the second of this post, but I don’t seem to have seen many this year.

The Saturday was a glorious day, a great start to our holidays, so I set-off for Gait Barrows in search of birds and butterflies.

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Violets

I did take no end of photos of butterflies and other insects and even more of birds, but above all else I took pictures of Primroses which seem to have proliferated all around the reserve.

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Primroses with Bee-fly.
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Blue moor grass – typical of limestone grassland.
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Hazel catkins catching the sun
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All that’s left of one of the former hedgerows. Still need to have a proper look at what’s grown back.
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A Drone Fly, I think, but it’s the texture of the wood which I really like.

There were Drone flies everywhere and I took lots of, I suppose, quite pointless photographs of them, but then occasionally what I took to be another Drone Fly would instead transpire to be something more interesting, like this Bee-fly…

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I was quite surprised to see this machinery in the woods by Hawes Water, but the path from Challan Hall around to Moss Lane, which is supposed to be wheelchair friendly, had been getting increasingly muddy and Natural England were having it widened and resurfaced, so bully for them.

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Cherry blossom?
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I can’t really identify lichens and, I think because I can’t, I don’t always pay them the attention they merit. I think this is Ramalina farinacea, but I wouldn’t take my word for it, and, looking again, I think there are probably at least three different lichens in the photo above.

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Honeysuckle leaves, some of the earliest to appear, catching the light.
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Although it was months ago, I remember my encounter with this Comma butterfly very vividly. It was sunning itself on some limestone, as you can see, and I slowly edged toward it, taking a new photo after each stride. Eventually, I upset it and it moved, finally settling on a nearby tree-trunk, at which point I started edging forward again.

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What struck me was that, if I hadn’t seen the Comma land, I don’t think I would have picked it out. Whilst the underside of its wings are drab in comparison to the patterned orange of the upper wings, the underwings are beautifully adapted to conceal the butterfly in a superb imitation of a tatty dead leaf.

This…

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…is a warbler. I don’t think it’s a Chiff-chaff, they have a very distinctive song which I can actually recognise, so I can recall getting excited because this had a different song. Sadly, I can’t remember the song at all, and can’t identify which warbler this is without that additional clue.

No such confusion here…

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…this is a make Kestrel. I wish I’d managed to capture it in flight when it’s colours looked stunning.

And I suspect that this is a Chiff-chaff…

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Though I couldn’t swear to it.

Another mystery here…

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…with a bone suspended in a Blackthorn bush. I know that Shrikes impale their prey on the thorns of this tree, but Shrikes are quite small and I think that this bone is probably a bit too big for that. Also, Shrikes are very rare in the UK these days and are not generally seen this far West (although I know that they have occasionally been spotted at Leighton Moss).

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Ash flowers beginning to emerge.
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More Hazel catkins.
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And again!
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White violets.

I was back at Gait Barrows the following day, but the skies were dull and I didn’t take many photos. On the Monday, I had another local wander, including a visit to The Cove…

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The Tuesday was a bit special, so I shall save that for my next post…

Birds, birds, birds…and Primroses

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

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Shield Bug, Pale Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Knapweed Fritillary, and wasp, sawfly or ….a?

Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)

This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.

Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…

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Meadow Brown on Horse Mint

I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..

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Another Meadow Brown.

…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.

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Pale Clouded Yellow

Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.

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Pale Clouded Yellow
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Clouded Yellow

Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.

I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.

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Cleopatra

They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….

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Cleopatra

…they’re quite different.

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Knapweed Fritillary

We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.

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Knapweed Fritillary

But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.

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A pair of Knapweed Fritillary

I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.

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A mating display?
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Wood White?
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Wall Brown
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Rock Grayling.
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Grizzled Skipper?

This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.

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Common Blue.
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Common Blue
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Common Blues.
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Common Blue.

I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.

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Holly Blue. I think.
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If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.

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Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.

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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot.
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Striped Shield Bugs – mating?
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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot with a passenger.
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Hairy (or Sloe) Shieldbug.
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Assassin Bug?

There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.

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My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.

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I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.

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I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.

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As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…

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Here’s another…

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…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…

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Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…

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And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…

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Robber Fly

…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.

All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth
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A colourful micro moth.

One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…

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It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Meadow Clary
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.

Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.

A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…

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Thornapple

This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.

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Thornapple

I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.

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Thornapple leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.

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Thornapple seeds – highly poisonous.
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Thornapple seeds.
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Thornapple flowers.

They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.

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Field Eryngo?

Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.

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It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.

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Seedheads of a mallow? I liked the shapes.
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Robin’s pincushion galls.
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A Common Lizard I think.
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These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.

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This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!

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And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

Thistles and Caterpillars

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Hoverfly – Episyrphus Balteatus.

A short walk from home on a dull, overcast day, but somehow I still managed to take over two hundred photographs. I was in what my family and friends have started to refer to as ‘Butterfly Mode’ although, on this occasion, there weren’t many butterflies amongst that legion of pictures.

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillar.

The first pit-stop, where walking turned to gawking, was occasioned by a long stand of Ragwort on the verge of Elmslack.

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As is so often the case, many of the plants were occupied by numerous Cinnabar caterpillars.

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Given how striking they are, it’s surprisingly easy to breeze past and miss them.

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Why is the ant piggybacking the caterpillar?
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Ragwort on Elmslack.

A few days later, somebody removed all of this Ragwort which ignited a heated debate online, part of an ongoing argument between those who favour neatly trimmed roadside verges and the wildflower enthusiasts who would prefer wild plants to be fostered to aid our pollinators and other wildlife.

Unwisely, I plunged into said debate, but soon wished I hadn’t. The crux here is that Ragwort is poisonous to Horses and Cattle and the field next to Elmslack has horses on it. Having said that, the British Horse Society doesn’t recommend ‘the blanket removal of Ragwort’, due to its contribution to biodiversity so….I’ll leave that one to wiser heads.

From Elmslack I took the path along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along The Row. A path loops off The Row and visits Dogslack Well, where there’s still an old hand-pump in situ. There was more Ragwort there, and because I was looking to find more Cinnabar caterpillars, I spotted this…

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Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar – possibly.
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Orange stripe and hair in tufts – I’m fairly sure this is a Ruby Tiger.
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Common Sorel seeds – I think.
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Spear Thistle.

In my quest to identify the local flora, I’ve largely ignored thistles, because, well…thistles are thistles: prickly and uninteresting and frankly a bit of a nuisance where they grow across paths..

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A hairy flowerhead with yellow-tipped spines.

I’ve been revising my opinion of late. This spring, the Marsh Thistles on Lambert’s Meadow and their popularity with insects, have prompted a defrosting in relations. The UK has numerous species of thistles. And when you start to look properly, they’re quite endearing…

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Each lobe on the leaves very sharp and also yellow-tipped.
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Well, I think so at least.

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Tutsan

The path deposited me back on The Row, by Bank Well, from where another path drops steeply down to Lambert’s Meadow.

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Self-heal.
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Episyrphus Balteatus again, on Marsh Thistle – very different from the spear thistle flowers.
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Lambert’s Meadow.
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Common Spotted-orchid
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Another Common Spotted-orchid.
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Tree Bumblebee on Marsh Thistle.
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More Self-heal.
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Common Spotted-orchid with unidentified green insect.

There always seems to be something to see at Lambert’s Meadow. On this occasion it was a tiny drama I spotted when I was looking at orchids…

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Comb-footed Spider (?) and Scorpion Fly.
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It was hard to see exactly what was going on and, as you can see, my camera struggled to focus where I wanted it to, but I think the spider had bitten off more than it could chew.

Certainly, the fly eventually emerged alone…

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The escaped fly, on Fen Bedstraw, I think.

From Lambert’s Meadow I took a circuit around Burtonwell Wood, then along Bottom’s Lane to Hagg Wood and across the fields home.

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Seven-spot Ladybird.
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There seemed to be lots of ladybirds about.

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Glowering skies
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The dog walker in the field is a neighbour who I often say hello to on my walks. She was with her grandson and they’d been looking at the ladybirds on the thistle in the foreground of this shot. She spotted me photographing the same ladybirds and since then our conversations have been enlivened by a shared interest in entomology. She tells me that she and her grandson keep caterpillars and watch them go through their various metamorphoses. Marvellous.

Incidentally, the thistle had done well to survive – mostly where they’d emerged in the fields around home they had been very aggressively treated with weedkiller, so that in some cases the grass around the thistle was also killed off over quite a large radius.

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White Stonecrop.
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I’ve spotted White Stonecrop in a few places around the village this summer, growing on walls. Apparently, it’s native to the Southwest, but introduced elsewhere.

Speaking of introduced plants: a host of plants have appeared on a patch of disturbed ground by the track which runs past our house. I wondered whether somebody had scattered a packet of wildflower seeds there?

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Pineapple Weed

Pineapple Weed is not a native plant, but is throughly naturalised. Walk through it, where it has colonised a muddy gateway, and the distinctive aroma of pineapples it emits will reveal the reason for the seemingly incongruous name.

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Sun Spurge.
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Poppy
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Unidentified but rather lovely moth.

Putting together this post has taken longer than the walk it records, but since I’m stuck at home and it’s raining, that’s a good thing!

Thistles and Caterpillars

Small Wonders

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The view from Castlebarrow – Warton Crag, Clougha Pike and the shorn fields around home.

Unlike my last post, this one features photos taken on numerous different walks, over a week.

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I climbed Arnside Knott to watch the sunset. By the time I reached the top, it had clouded up, so these shots from beside the Kent Estuary earlier in the walk were better than those taken later.

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In my many visits to Gait Barrows I’d noticed a few low sprawling shrubs with pointed glossy leaves. I kept checking on them to see what the flowers looked like.

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I’m very pleased to report that this is Wild Privet, especially since I have been misidentifying Geans as Wild Privet until this year.

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Wild Thyme.

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Biting Stonecrop.

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Heath Speedwell.

“What I did not fully realise when I set out was the unexpected reward that comes from searching for wild flowers. Flower finding is not just a treasure-hunt. Walking with your head down, searching the ground, feeling close to nature, takes you away from a world of trouble and cares. For the time being, it is just you and the flower, locked in a kind of contest. It is strangely soothing, even restorative. It makes life that bit more intense; more than most days you fairly leap out of bed. In Keble Martin’s words, botanising takes you to the peaceful, beautiful places of the earth.”

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Scorpion Fly, female.

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“Meanwhile Brett was diverted by the insects visiting the flowers…I felt an unexpected twinge of envy. How exciting life must be, when you can take a short walk down to the river bank and find small wonders in every bush or basking on a flower head, or making themselves comfortable under a pebble. Why don’t more of us look for Lesne’s Earwigs instead of playing golf or washing the BMW?”

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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Ringlet.

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Large Skipper, female.

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Possibly a Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebee.

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A Calla Lily at Woodwell again.

Both quotes are from ‘Chasing the Ghost’ by Peter Marren.


Songs about flies?

‘Human Fly’ by The Cramps.

‘I am the Fly’ Wire.

Other songs which spring to mind: ‘Anthrax’ by The Gang of Four for its line ‘I feel like a beetle on its back’, or, similarly ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’ which has Howard Devoto declaring ‘I am an insect’. But I’ve shared both of those before, I think. Californian punk band Flipper also recorded a version of ‘There Was An Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly’, but, to be frank, I never really liked it. It’s altogether a very punky collection of songs. I’m not sure whether that reflects a squeamishness about insects in mainstream music, or just the fact that it’s with punk that I am best acquainted? There must be some good butterfly songs, but aside from ‘Caterpillar’ by The Cure, which, again, I’ve shared before, I can’t think of any at present.

Small Wonders

Home from Carnforth

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Warton and Warton Crag behind.

Long-suffering readers of this blog may remember that there was a time when I worked one afternoon a week in Carnforth and a walk home from there was a weekly part of my commute. These days it’s not something I do very often, which is a shame because it’s a great walk, with numerous route options, all of them enjoyable.

On this occasion, one of the boys bikes need dropping off at the cycle shop for repairs; I can’t remember if this was when B had so completely buckled one of his wheels that it was beyond repair, or when the derailleur on S’s bike broke and his chain fell off.

“I put my chain by the path and somebody stole it!”

Later, when the whole family went to Trowbarrow to look for the ‘stolen’ chain, I asked, “Where exactly did you leave it?”

He pointed. Directly at a broken, black bike chain, which he apparently couldn’t see.

“Did you leave it beside this chain? Or could this be yours?”

“It wasn’t there earlier!”, he was adamant.

Anyway, I saw the opportunity to accompany TBH to the bike shop, and then to walk home afterwards.

After TBH dropped me off, I’d walked across the fields from Millhead to Warton and then climbed up to the Crag Road, where a stile gives access to the top of a lime kiln. The slight elevation of this spot gives some nice views…

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Warton and a distant Ingleborough on the left.

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Warton again and the Bowland Hills on the horizon.

A set of steps lead down beside the lime kiln…

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So I had a wander down…

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…to peer inside.

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Another distant view of Ingleborough.

I followed the limestone edge up to the back of the large quarry car park and then headed on up to the top.

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The Bay from near the top of Warton Crag.

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It was a hot day and I dropped down from the top to my new favourite view point, where tree-clearance has exposed a small crag and some expansive views.

I sat for some time, drinking in the views as well as the contents of my water bottle. A buzzard coasted past. I’d already watched another hovering above the fields near Millhead.

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Foxgloves.

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Male Scorpion Fly. Is it holding a morsel of food?

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Red Admiral.

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A hoverfly – Platycheirus fulviventris – possibly?

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Greenbottles.

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I think that this striking fungi is a very dark specimen of Many-zoned Polypore or Turkeytail fungus. 

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This fungus varies enormously in colour. It generally grows on dead wood and is here devouring a tree stump.

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Dog Rose.

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Honeysuckle.

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Hoverfly – Episyrphus Balteatus.

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I was happily photographing roses and honeysuckle when an orange butterfly flew across the path, almost brushing my face as it passed. I tried to follow its flight, but soon lost it. I assumed it was a fritillary of some kind; I’m always disappointed if they pass without giving me a chance to identify them. Fortunately, a little further down the path, I came across another fritillary feeding on a red clover flower…

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It’s a Dark Green Fritillary, exciting for me because I’ve only seen this species once before.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Cinnabar Moth.

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A white-tailed bumblebee species on a Bramble flower.

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Reflexed Stonecrop.

At Barrow Scout Fields, the gulls were making a fuss; it’s often worth a few moments scrutiny to see what’s upsetting them. I’m glad I stopped this time…

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At first I assumed that I’d spotted a Marsh Harrier with a gull chick, but only one gull gave chase, and that half-heartedly, and the gulls are usually extremely energetic when mobbing the resident harriers. Anyway, I could soon make out that the raptor was carrying quite a large fish. It seemed likely that it was an Osprey, which the photo confirms. It made a beeline northwards, presumably heading back to the nest at Foulshaw Moss, on the far side of the River Kent. The nest has webcams stationed above it and I’ve been following the progress of the nesting pair and their two chicks online, so was doubly pleased to see one of the parent birds with what looks to me like a good sized family take-away.

I’m, intrigued by the fish too. Barrow Scout Fields were three agricultural fields until they were bought by the RSPB in 2000 and restored as wetlands. Have the RSPB stocked the meres they created with fish I wonder, or have fish eggs arrived naturally, on the feet of wading birds for example? Whichever is the case, the fishing Osprey and its large prey are surely testament to the charity’s successful creation and management of this habitat.

I hadn’t moved on from watching the disappearing Osprey, before another drama began to unfold in the skies overhead…

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Two raptors this time, with one repeatedly nose-diving the other. The slightly smaller bird, the aggressor, is a Marsh Harrier, a female I think, which is probably defending a nest in the trees at the edge of Leighton Moss.

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The agility of the other bird, a Buzzard, which repeatedly flipped upside-down so that it could face its attacker, was astonishing.

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I have no sympathy with the Buzzard, since I’ve been subjected to similar dive-bombing attacks by Buzzards on several occasions. This went on for quite some time and I took numerous photos; I was royally entertained.

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Looking across towards Leighton Moss.

I peeked over the bridge here to peer into the dike running alongside the Causeway Road and saw a Water Forget-Me-Not flowering in the middle of the dike. Sadly, it was in deep shade and my photo has not come out too well. I shall have to revisit.

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Yellow Flag Iris.

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Unnamed tributary of Quicksand Pool.

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Spear-leaved Orache.

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Sea Beet, with flowers…

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Both sea beet and orache (in its many guises, there are several British species) are prized as spinach substitutes by foragers. I really must get around to trying them both.

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Quicksand Pool.

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A roof finial (I think that’s the right term) at Jenny Brown’s cottages. I’m surprised I haven’t photographed it before. 

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Speckled Wood butterfly.

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This seemed to be the day which just kept on giving: after the dark green fritillary, the osprey, the aerial battle between the harrier and the buzzard, one last gift – a group of Eider Ducks resting on the sands at the edge of Carnforth Salt Marsh. I’ve seen Eiders here before, but not often. It was a shame they were so far away, but when I tried to get closer they swam away.

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Oystercatchers.

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Quicksand Pool and Warton Crag.

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Looking along the coast to the Coniston Fells.

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Another Dog Rose at Jack Scout.

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Large Skipper female.

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Curled Dock (I think).

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Named for its curly leaves.

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If I’m right, then these flowers will turn red then eventually brown.

Curled Dock is yet another spinach substitute apparently, crammed with vitamins.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The mystery vigorous plant in Woodwell pond is revealed to be Arum Lily or Calla Lily. 

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A non-native relative of our own Cuckoo Pint – the showy white part is a spathe not petals.

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Close to home and a distant view of the Howgills on the horizon.

A lovely walk of a little under eight miles – who’d believe so much interest could be crammed into one short stroll?


Now, if your patience isn’t completely exhausted, some fishing songs. First up, a tune I’ve always liked:

This one, is actually ‘Sufficient Clothes’ but was released as ‘Fishing Clothes’ after a Lightnin’ Hopkins was misheard.

Listening to it again, it turns out there’s not too much fishing in this one either:

But it is by the late, great Tony Joe White. Seems I don’t actually know many songs about fishing after all.

Home from Carnforth