A Feast of Flora and Fauna

The Row – Challan Hall – Haweswater – Gait Barrows Circuit – Moss Lane – The Row

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A beautiful sunny afternoon stroll with TBH. The boys were trampolining in Morecambe, thankfully without incident, A was otherwise occupied and so we were free for a quiet roam.

(A bit of a spoiler – Dad: there are photos coming up which you won’t appreciate.)

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Azure Damselfly.

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TBH spotted this little vole sitting by a field path. I think that it’s a Bank Vole rather than a Field Vole (but stand ready to be corrected).

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It was even less concerned by our presence than the Blackbird which featured in my last post. In fact, it was so bold that I wonder whether it’s devil-may-care attitude has subsequently got it into hot water. I took endless snaps and TBH eventually decided to see just how tame it was and bent down and stroked it’s back.

That got it moving, but perhaps not with the urgency we had expected and rather than making a beeline for the nearby hedge, it ran towards me, over my shoe, around my ankle and then we lost it in some longer grass.

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The wildflower meadow (where we saw the Vole).

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Gait Barrows Limestone Pavement.

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White-spotted Sable Moth

We spotted a couple of these nationally scarce day-flying moths, a first for me.

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Scorpion Fly

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Lady’s-Slipper Orchids

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Lily-of-the-Valley.

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Rock Rose.

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Dingy Skipper (another first for me).

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Green Lacewing.

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Common Blue.

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In the rides between the trees in Gait Barrows, out of the wind, it was really very warm and there were butterflies everywhere. As well as the ones I managed to photograph we also saw Brimstones, Orange-Tips and other Whites, and a few Fritillaries.

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I was intrigued by these striking white flowers growing in profusion in one stretch of the hedge-bottom, opposite some cottages on Moss Lane. I now think that they are Star of Bethlehem, an introduced species – possibly someone has planted some bulbs here along the verge.

A Feast of Flora and Fauna

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…

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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.

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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…

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…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…

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…before dropping down into the brambles…

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

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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…

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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…

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…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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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…

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…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

The Caldbeck Fells

Carrock Pike

The approach to the foot of the mountain resembled the approaches to the feet of most other mountains. The cultivation gradually ceased, the trees grew gradually rare, the road became gradually rougher, and the sides of the mountain looked gradually more and more lofty, and more and more difficult to get up.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

That’s from 1857, but it’s still a pretty fair description of my drive to the foot of Carrock Fell. When I climbed out of the car I was surprised by the cold slap of the wind. My ascent would take a rising line under the right-hand corner of those broken crags and then into and up a grassy gulley to the skyline, where the gradient eases. But first, I paused a while to watch a buzzard’s slow trawl along the top edge of the crag and then a a kestrel poised above a lone tree silhouetted against the sky.

One way and another, my scramble to bag the Birketts has stumbled this year. First my damaged ankle kept me off the hills and since then I’ve climbed hills on the edge of the Pennines, in the Forest of Bowland and in North Wales, but the only times I’ve been out in the Lakes I either haven’t climbed any hills or I’ve re-ascended tops which I’ve already ticked off. So for this away-day I’d chosen something to give the whole thing a bit of a kick-start: unfamiliar territory with nine relatively easy ‘summits’ to be bagged.

Of course, nothing’s ever easy: although my parking spot near Stone Ends Farm gave me a pleasingly high start, the first part of the climb was fairly steep. In the event, despite the need for windscreen-wipers on my eyes as perspiration gushed down my forehead, I found a nice steady rhythm and enjoyed the challenge.

At the top edge of the crags, I paused again as three ravens repeatedly sailed past, gurgling their lovely catarrhal croaks. I didn’t get much further up the path before my progress was halted again: a grouse stood proud on the hillside just ahead. I expected that it would whirr noisily away, but instead it just ducked down behind some heather so that only it’s head was showing…

Solitary grouse 

I waited with my camera, hoping that it would show itself more fully. A kestrel swooped by; maybe it was the kestrel I had seen from below. If it was a kestrel: it was surprisingly pale, but the right sort of size and shape.

Eventually, my patience paid off: the grouse trundled across the heather onto a prominent perch on a rock and then a second popped-up from a hiding place…

Two grouse 

…and then a third…

Three grouse 

…and a fourth. The three ravens made a reappearance and all five grouse launched themselves onto the wind. Even when they took off, they were eerily quiet, none loosed that abrupt rattling ‘here I am, shoot me’ call. I wondered whether they were a family group. None had the red wattle which distinguishes the male.

Up and up and up again, till a ridge is reached and the outer edge of the mist on the summit of Carrock is darkly and drizzingly near. Is this the top? No, nothing like the top. It is an aggravating peculiarity of all mountains, that, although they have only one top when they are seen (as they ought always to be seen) from below, they turn out to have a perfect eruption of false tops whenever the traveller is sufficiently ill-advised to go out of his way for the purpose of ascending them. Carrock is but a trumpery little mountain of fifteen hundred feet, and it presumes to have false tops, and even precipices, as if it were Mont Blanc. No matter; Goodchild enjoys it, and will go on: and Idle, who is afraid of being left behind by himself, must follow.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

In fact, Carrock Fell is not a serious offender in this regard, at least not from the direction from which I climbed it, and I was soon on the top. What’s more, unlike the maniacally energetic Goodchild and the indolent Thomas Idle, I had a view, even if it was “like a feeble water-colour drawing half sponged out”. Goodchild and Idle are the alter-egos of the close friends Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. They took a tour of Cumberland together and then satirised themselves in Dickens’ Household Words.

I must confess that I’d never heard of their tour, or their report of it, until I bought this book…

A real find

…from the Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster this week. It’s from 1954 and looks like marvellous stuff, starting with early travellers like William Camden, Daniel Defoe and Celia Fiennes, taking in the writers of Tour Guides like Pennant and West, the Romantic Poets (Wordsworth fits both of the last two categories), and finishing with more recent Lakeland luminaries like Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Cannon Rawnsley, W.G.Collingwood, Walpole and W. Heaton Cooper, who also provides illustrations and the jacket painting.

Only now, as I flick through it again, have I discovered a neat, typed name and address label, dated “Aug ‘75”,  which shows that a previous owner of the book lived in a house just across the road from home.

Anyway, back to my walk: Dickens makes no mention of the remains of an iron-age hill-fort on the summit of Carrock Fell. After the grandeur of Tre’r Ceiri earlier this summer, I found it distinctly underwhelming by comparison.

Carrock Fell hill-fort 

My next target would be High Pike, seen here on the right…

Carrock Fell cairn and onward route 

…although there were a couple of minor bumps on the soggy ridge inbetween which I would slalom to incorporate, because of their Birkett status.

At first I mistook this huge fly, mesembrina meridiana, for a substantial bumble bee, purely because of its size.

Huge mesembrina meridiana 

Diverting to Round Knott at least took me wide of the most egregious bog.

Carrock Fell 

Looking back to Carrock Fell.

Round Knott cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind. 

Round Knott Cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind.

High Pike 

High Pike

So far I’d had the hills to myself. On the boggy ridge I saw a walker with a collie heading the other way, but we didn’t meet since I’d left the main path to take in Round Knott. Now as I approached the final climb to High Pike I met another single walker, with two collies. Neither were on leads. Both were very friendly. One much too friendly. After it had put its paws on my chest, sniffed my privates and nestled it’s snout in my bum, I pushed it away with a trekking pole, on which I then skewered it’s owner, explaining, as he breathed his last, that not everyone likes dogs and that if he’d been a little more considerate he could have avoided being  kebabed.

No I didn’t. I smiled weakly and said something innocuous like, “Nice day for it.”

“I thought I’d got the hills all to myself,” with a grin.

A fellow misanthrope; I warmed to him. Maybe I won’t garrotte him on this occasion.

He strode away, unaware of his narrow escape.

Looking back to Carrock Fell 

Carrock Fell again.

The next walker I met also had a collie, or perhaps I should say that the next collie I met also had a walker in tow? I began to worry that I’d stumbled into some strange convention for lone walkers with collies, like something from Sherlock Holmes, but the next walkers I met were a couple with a boxer and something like a lurcher.

High Pike summit 

High pike has a fair accumulation of summit furniture: a trig pillar, an untidy, sprawling cairn and a stone bench. Squadrons of wasps flying in formation low to the turf were everywhere. They didn’t bother me whilst I ate some lunch, and I wondered what they were doing in such an apparently unpromising spot if they weren’t there to mug walkers and steal their sandwiches.

High Pike, and the Caldbeck Fells in general, are renowned for their mineral wealth and geological interest. I didn’t spot much, but I did pass a bright, white rock with an intricate crystalline structure embedded in the path…

High Pike geology 

Three more minor bumps to negotiate on route to Knott: Hare Stones, Great Lingy Hill and Little Lingy Hill. All three have cairns optimistically plonked close to where it’s almost possible to imagine that there might be a highest point. They give pleasant, rough, almost pathless walking.

Knott from Great Lingy Hill 

Wainwright says of Great Lingy Hill: “Acres of dense fragrant heather make this the most delectable top in Lakeland for a summer day’s siesta.” I thought it seemed a bit wet for that, but when the sun almost shone on Little Lingy Hill, I did spread my cag on the sward, stretch out and shut my eyes for a while.

Knott from Little Lingy Hill 

The crossing from Little Lingy Hill was wetter and rougher then anything I had yet encountered. That didn’t seem to perturb this….

Wary common lizard 

common lizard, which squirmed through the grass and disappeared before I could get a better picture.

Despite the fact that when I’d last seen them they’d been heading in the opposite direction, the misanthrope and his dogs had some how made it to the top of Knott before me. Maybe they’d made the unfortunate decision not to have a wee snooze. They strode away when they saw me coming to mar their splendid isolation.

The air had cleared a little and the hills across the Solway Firth had become more than the vague hint of landscape which they’d been up to that point. From my grandstand seat I watched showers tracking across the plains which flank the estuary.

A heavy shower 

Skiddaw seen over Great and Little Calva 

Skiddaw seen above Great and Little Calva.

Threatening clouds 

Threatening clouds.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott 

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott.

Another boggy ridge took me Coomb Height, the final Birkett of the day. I descended by Grainsgill Beck and then followed the unfenced road by the River Caldew to Mosedale, where I was surprised to find a cafe operating in the local Friends Meeting House.

Mosedale Friends Meeting House 

The cakes looked nice and the tea was hot and wet and reasonably priced.

1702 

Next door, in the barn attached to the Meeting House, was an Aladdin’s cave come charity shop.

An unusual charity shop 

In the meeting house was a display of rubbings of dates and initials taken from local houses and associated with the Quaker community. This area is one of the birthplaces of Quakerism; George Fox is another of the early writers anthologised in Prose of Lakeland. Walking through Mosedale I noticed a couple of houses with initials and eighteenth century dates. This one…

A Quaker home 

…a large double fronted house with an air of shabby gentility and an unkempt garden looked particularly romantic and worthy of exploration.

Date and initials

The Caldbeck Fells

Foulshaw Moss and Meathop Moss

Pond at Foulshaw

Two nature reserves, which, as the crow flies, are close to home, but being on the other side of the Kent estuary, have mainly passed under my radar until recently. Foulshaw Moss figures prominently as a vast yellow expanse in the winter view from Arnside Knott.

 Foulshaw Moss 

Whilst there’s potentially a wealth of wildlife to spot here, the most notable inhabitants on my recent evening visit were the damselflies.

Large Red Damselfly 

The large red damselflies were numerous. but quite hard to spot since they seemed to prefer a partially concealed perch, under a leaf or in the midst of a clump of reed or grass stems. 

Large Red Damselfly III 

Large Red Damselfly IV

The blue damselflies were much more brazen, with clouds of them occupying prominent positions across a bush or some reeds.

Azure damselfly I 

Azure damselfly II 

Since there are several species of blue damselfly I’m usually very tentative in any identification.

Azure damselfly on bog myrtle

But I’m reasonably confident that these are azure damselflies, the U shape on the second abdominal segment is the give away. There were some blue-tailed damselflies about too, but they were very wary of me and my camera.

As for this one….

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…I’m not sure…a female?

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I’ve had no luck with the identity of this fly or this…

Unidentified Moth

….delicately pretty small moth.

But I think that this…

Broken-barred Carpet?

…might be a broken-barred carpet moth.

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I guess that this is a hoverfly, but that’s as far as I’ve got.

Bog myrtle flower (?)

Male catkin, bog myrtle.

Bog myrtle

There’s quite a bit of bog myrtle about. It has a wonderful pungent aroma when the leaves are brushed. Apparently it was used to add bitterness to beer in the days before hops were used. (And, I’ve discovered, Fraoch’s scrumptious Heather Ale uses bog myrtle as a well as heather.)

Meathop Moss is, like Foulshaw, a raised mire, with sphagnum moss retaining water and creating peat – up to a depth of six metres apparently.

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Vegas-era-Elvis insect. You’d think this would be distinctive enough for me to be able to find it in my field guide. You’d think.

Meathop looks more like a sphagnum bog than Foulshaw….

Meathop Moss Boardwalk, views to Cartmell Fell 

…with the kind of plants you would associate with that environment.

Like…

Sundew 

Sundew.

Cranberry 

Cranberries 

Cranberries.

Bilberry 

Bilberries.

Seadhead 

And others which I don’t know, like this grass.

This had me flummoxed…

Mystery flower 

…but…

Mystery flower II 

…I’m now thinking that it’s cross-leaved heather, and that these flowers aren’t open yet.

Another mystery flower 

These curious green-yellow flowers (?) are still puzzling me.

A curled leaf on a low shrub attracted my attention; inside this attractive spider…

Spider in rolled leaf 

The hedgerow near the entrance to the reserve (with it’s contradictory notices “Welcome” and “Members Only”, I chose to believe the former) was liberally arrayed in small silken nests.

Tents 

No residents evident, so I tore one open and found lots of small caterpillars…

Tent caterpillar

Foulshaw Moss and Meathop Moss

Roeburndale

Back in the late eighties, in the final months of my lengthy sojourn in Manchester, I discovered, just down the road from the sweeping coliseums of the Hulme crescent block where I lived, a nondescript shop-front which hid the local offices of the BTCV – the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. I’d previously spent a week on one of their volunteering holidays, eating and sleeping in Llanberis and working at the back of Cwm Idwal, repairing the fence around an experimental area to shield it from the depredations of sheep. (It cost me the princely sum of £23 – funny the things I can remember, given how useless my memory generally is.) At the time I was searching, without much success, for my first teaching post, and when I learned that if signed up for voluntary work I would not only keep my dole, but be entitled to an extra tenner a week, I didn’t hesitate for a moment.

We worked four days a week and then I think, on each Friday, we went for a walk – although I don’t remember any of those walks very clearly, which is odd. Memory, or my memory at least, is capricious: the things that I do remember are an odd assortment: bouncing around in the back of a minibus full of tools and other volunteers; sitting down with a flask of tea in a field in Cheshire somewhere, watching a blazing bonfire of brashings and admiring with satisfaction the neat lines of a newly laid hedge; the sweaty setting of cobbles on a path in Lyme Park on a bitter February day; the utter frustration of my attempts at dry-stone walling. Each day was different: we tended to be allocated to different projects every day, and I’ve never met such a disparate cross-section of society as I did in those few months.

One job in particular sticks in my mind. Nestled between a North Manchester housing estate and a railway cutting was a small marsh, an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Left to it’s own devices the marsh was silting up, alder and willow had begun to colonise and the marsh was slowly becoming scrub. Previous working groups had cleared some of the trees and dug out a small pond. Our task was to build a boardwalk across the marsh to the pond so that local primary schools could use it for pond-dipping trips. My first visit to the marsh was with a working group, but what the project leader really wanted was not a one-off visit from a working party, but a small number of volunteers to help build the boardwalk over a few days. And so, for a change, I spent several days in a single location building that boardwalk. It’s a bittersweet memory: it was a pleasant place to work, with a surprising variety of birdlife, but although kids from the estate had enthusiastically helped us with the work, we had strong reservations about the long term future of the project. On the last day we took several photos of our handiwork: one week later we returned to take more pictures of the charred and vandalised skeletal remains.

Anyway, whilst we sawed and dug and hammered and nailed, I had a lots of lengthy conversations with the young guy who was running the project. He must have been around my own age: though its hard to credit it now, I was a young guy too, once upon a time. I’m afraid I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that he was tall, with dark, curly hair; that he was friendly; passionate about urban conservation projects and angry about the penny-pinching of his superiors which, he felt, had prevented us from building a more vandal-proof structure. He told me that at the end of the week he would be taking a group of student volunteers from what was then Manchester Polytechnic to the Forest of Bowland for a long weekend of conservation work. Did I want to tag along? We would be staying in a camping barn, would I be okay to rough it?

Since the answer to both questions was a definite yes, that was how I made my first visit to the Forest of Bowland, without suspecting that only a few months later I would be moving to live and work just a few miles away in Morecambe. We stayed in a camping barn in Roeburndale, guests of the Middlewood Trust. I remember quite a bit about that weekend: that the sun shone; that we stumbled back across the fields in the dark after a foray to the pub in Wray; that although most of the work was coppicing in the wooded valley, I chose to climb up on to the moor and work on a dry-stone wall, which given my ineptitude seems inexplicable; that the birdsong on the moor more than compensated for my lack of progress with the wall. Above all I remember that the river Roeburn and the steep wooded slopes above it were beautiful.

Now here’s the curious thing: although I’ve lived close to Roeburndale since I moved to this area just after that first visit, I’ve hardly ever been back there. The problem is one of access: there are no rights-of-way along the valley. In fact, just one path drops into the valley, and that immediately climbs out again without following the river at all. However, I’ve discovered that there is now a permission path which does follow the valley. Which, in a very round-about way, finally brings me to the actual subject of this post.

It was the day after our return from Herefordshire. Surprisingly, the sun was shining and we had one more day of freedom before we were back to the grindstone. TBH didn’t even have that luxury; she had paperwork to do which couldn’t be ignored any longer, so it was down to me to entertain the kids. They had been remembering their swim in the Duddon a year ago, and so a trip to a river seemed appropriate. Why not the Roeburn?

 Permission 'path'.

The permission path seems to be little used and is barely evident on the ground, a few waymarkers here and there on fenceposts are just about sufficient to make it reasonably easy to follow.

We took a friend along, and with four small pairs of eyes on the lookout, we were destined to spot a lot of insect life in the meadows, especially since one pair belonged to B who has an unerring knack of finding interesting bugs and such like.

Cockchafer

Cockchafer

Crane fly - Tipula maxima 

A large crane fly, the largest British species, Tipula maxima.

Another crane fly 

A smaller crane fly.

Green Tiger Beetle 

A green tiger beetle.

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 Another dark bee.

 River Roeburn

The Roeburn and its valley is every bit as beautiful as I remember it.

River roeburn 

We found a spot where the water was reasonably deep. The sun shone down into the amber depths.

River Roeburn 

It should have been idyllic. But it wasn’t. Now the insects were finding us! We were eaten alive. Tiny midges were the culprits, but despite there minuteness we were all soon covered in angry red weals. It’s making me itch ferociously just remembering it.

The kids tried to soldier on and stoically enjoy themselves.

Paddling in the Roeburn 

Three of the crew – note that B isn’t cold, he’s scratching for all he’s worth.

Well, three of them soldiered on: little S just went into meltdown. He hated the midges, the river, the water, the rocks and, most of all I think, he hated me. In his defence, we’d broken down on the motorway the night before on the way home from Herefordshire, after setting off late, and we didn’t get him into his bed until around 2 am, so he was bone tired.

A did a wonderful job of cheering him up as we walked back to the car, improvising stories about bears and honey.

Back across the meadows 

We made one brief stop on our way home, to look at the confluence of the Roeburn and the Hindburn, which I’d read on the internet is a good place for a swim. Nobody there on that day – maybe there were more midges.

Confluence of the Roeburn and the Hindburn

I shall have to return to Roeburndale someday soon, maybe in the autumn, or in the spring when the redstarts are returning. Perhaps to follow this route.

Roeburndale

A Golden Y, and Bugs and Spiders Galore

To get to Allen hide B and I had a short stroll along the edge of a meadow. The path was lined with tall grass and nettles. Maybe it was his height, maybe his 20/20 vision or maybe B is just more observant than me, but I have never seen such a variety of insect life as I did on this occasion with B pointing them out. There were bugs, beetles, spiders and flies in every shape and colour you could want.

Some of them we’ve tentatively managed to identify. Others are a mystery.

A soldier beetle?

Maybe a soldier beetle – possibly Cantharis pellucida

A snipe fly? (The downlooker fly) 

Perhaps a snipe fly, also known as the down-looker-fly because of this typical head down perch. It darts from its perch to snatch other insects in mid-air.

An acrobatic ladybird

A seven spot ladybird making a delicate transition between grass blades.

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I’ve drawn a blank on this one.

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This too.

Cardinal beetle

Cardinal beetle – Pyrochroa serraticornis

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Another as yet unidentified..

Click beetle

Click beetle – probably Athous haemorrhoidalis (no I’m not making that last bit up, nor do I know why). Click beetle because of the loud click they make when they jump.

Weevil 

Weevil – Phyllobius pomaceus . “The scales clothing this weevil can be golden green or bluish green. Abundant on stinging nettles, where the larvae feed on the roots.

We saw no end of these – they were indeed ‘abundant on stinging nettles’.

Mating weevils 

Look Dad, here’s two which are mating.”

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No idea.

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 Keine ahnung. (Rather dapper I thought.)

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 A yellow dung fly?

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We saw lots of these: nettle leaves apparently partially eaten and rolled with a web inside.

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B suggested that some sort of spider might be the culprit. Since then, I’ve discovered that there are species of saw-flies and of weevils which roll leaves up. But at present, my favourite candidate is the caterpillar of the nettle tap moth. “The larvae usually spin a web on the upper surface of the nettle leaf which draws the leaf into a folded shelter”. (Source)

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Spiders, I’m afraid, are even more of a mystery then insects.

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But with so many bugs about, the spiders were out in force too.

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One of the weevils we saw looked to be seconds away from becoming dinner.

I think that this…

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…is a wolf spider, carrying a silken egg-sac full of her young behind her. It looks like she has dinner already in hand.

As does this, mainly hidden, spider…

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Finally, even with B’s keen eye, we walked past this….

Golden Y

….from a distance it was very convincingly disguised as a dead leaf.

Up close, it’s stunning.

Golden Y II

I think, that it’s a beautiful golden y, Autographa pulchrina. But it could be a plain golden y. Autographa jota. Even after consulting this superb online identification guide I’m not 100% confident.

The prize for identification goes to B however. After our walk, and a hurried tea, I went out again (to help put up bunting through the village for the jubilee, ardent monarchist that I am), but I left B with my field guide hoping that he would enjoy browsing through it. When I cam home, he had written on the blackboard we have on our kitchen wall….

Tenthredo livida

It’s a sawfly. A rather striking, mostly black fly with white tips to its antennae and apparently a bulbous white nose (although that’s actually white around it’s mouth). I’d taken several photos, but sadly none came out too well. I’d also flicked through the book, but without B;s success.

A Golden Y, and Bugs and Spiders Galore