Cotoneaster, Galls, Quiz

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Another portmanteau with photos from various days and walks.

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I spent ages photographing a wide assortment of bees on a cotoneaster in our garden. I’ve noticed whilst walking through the village that bees seem to go mad for cotoneasters; every one I’ve passed has been thronged. The light wasn’t ideal and bees will dodge about, so this is the only sharpish picture. And it’s of….a white-tailed bumblebee, or a northern white-tailed bumblebee, or a cryptic bumblebee or a buff-tailed bumblebee. Apparently, the workers of all four species are virtually indistinguishable, and it may require a DNA test to separate them. I haven’t quite got the lab set up yet, so it will have to remain a mystery.

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I keep seeing a coal tit, or possibly different coal tits, dipping in and out of the drystone wall across the track from home, but it isn’t the same hole each time, so maybe there’s something tasty in there, rather than a nest? I am pretty sure that there are both great tits and coal tits nesting either in, or near, our garden because there seems to be a constant chattering of young and I’ve frequently seen both kinds of tits carrying food into shrubs by our neighbour’s fence.

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Aquilegias again.

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This is my flagrant attempt to plagiarise a photo I saw of the orchids on the Lots by a local photographer. His picture was absolutely stunning. I shall have to try again another time. I think I probably shouldn’t have had the setting sun actually in the picture.

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The Bay from the Cove.

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Horseshoe vetch.

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Black-headed gulls.

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Green-winged orchid.

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This is the tree, in the corner of a field close to home, in which I watched a tree-creeper earlier in the spring. It’s a lime, I don’t know which kind, but I have found how how to tell – it’s all down to the hairs on the underside of the leaves apparently. I shall probably check tomorrow.

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All three of our native species have their own mite which infests the leaves and induces them to produce these lime nail galls. (In the process of finding this out I’ve discovered a book “Britain’s Plant Galls: a Photographic Guide” – so tempting!)

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I took lots more, mostly blurred, photos of roe deer in mid-May. Most often, I saw them in pairs, like these two. I wish I could remember where I saw them.

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Post sunset from Castlebarrow.

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And from the Lots.

Around this time, when we should have been camping in Wasdale, we had out first zoom quiz with our camping cronies. I think we’ve had four now. It’s no substitute for sitting around a camp fire after a day in the hills and a barbecue, but it’s a lot better than not seeing each other at all. Better yet, we have volunteers to write the next two quizzes. The Silverdale posse are surely due a win.

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I can’t claim responsibility for this screen shot and I hope nobody objects to me using it. It occurs to me, looking at it again, that we may be falling down, as a quiz team, due to a significant lack of headgear.


Tunes. Three crackers:

Cotoneaster, Galls, Quiz

Beinn Dubh and Mid Hill from Luss

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A and TC climbing out of Luss – huge view of Loch Lomond behind.

After the wash-out of the day before, we had one day to rescue the situation and persuade A and her friend S that winter hill-walking in the Highlands is for them. Our usual procedure for the Sunday of these weekends is to head south for our walk, so that we have a slightly shorter drive home. This year was no exception, and we decided to walk from the village of Luss into the smaller hills (by Scottish standards) on the western side of Loch Lomond.

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Loch Lomond pano – click on this or any other picture to see a larger version on flickr.

The forecast was for kinder weather, which on the whole was what we got, but with a few showers thrown in for good measure.

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A snowy Ben Lomond in the background.

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Puddle full of frogspawn.

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A and S very happy to get their hands on some snow…

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…until their hands got cold that is!

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The Tower Captain and Loch Lomond.

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A chilly lunch.

There was a fierce wind blowing all day and this rather cold looking lunch stop was actually relatively sheltered.

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On the ridge.

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On the rim of Corrie na h-Eanachan.

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Beinn Bhreac and Ben Lomond.

These ‘little’ hills have some pretty impressive corries . It’s a good job we took the opportunity to enjoy these views of Beinn Bhreac, which we climbed on another windy March day a couple of years ago, because as we crossed the rather featureless summit plateau of Beinn Dubh, the weather came in again and we had a a lengthy shower of hail and snow which, given the strong wind blowing, was pretty unpleasant. We stood with our backs to it for a while, but it soon became evident that it wouldn’t be sensible to try to wait it out in such an exposed spot.

We stumbled along and were soon heading downhill which quickly brought some respite and then the weather began to clear again…

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Blue skies reappear.

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‘Boys’ – The Eternal Weather Optimist, The Shandy Sherpa, The Lanky Dane, The Hairy Oatcake.

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The Tower Captain, The Junior Tower Captain, Old Grandfather Sheffield.

The girls seem to have come through the brief squally ordeal unscathed and both seemed to be enjoying themselves. Especially when we discovered some snow patches to slide down…

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S enjoys a bumslide as much as her Dad.

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So does A – she insisted going up and down this bit a few times. It’s a video – you’ll need to click on the picture to play it on flickr – worth it for her grin at the end I think, but then I’m biased.

I think they both want to go again next year, so mission accomplished it seems.

Andy’s account of the day is here.

Beinn Dubh and Mid Hill from Luss

Allt Coire Thoraidh – Cry Me a River

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Eas Urchaidh waterfall on the River Orchy.

Early March, time for our annual get together in the Highlands. This started many years ago as a ‘boys’ weekend, to get as many of us as possible on one place to meet an old friend who was visiting from Denmark. He still comes over from Denmark for the weekend, but we long since abandoned the idea of it being a for ‘boys’ only, so the group has, if anything, swelled over the years. In addition, as our kids have grown up, this has been a good opportunity to introduce them to the delights of winter hill-walking. This year we were joined by A and her friend, the Tower Captain’s daughter S. Imperative then, that we had some decent weather so as not to put them off.

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Eas Urchaidh waterfall on the River Orchy.

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Eas Urchaidh video – click on the image to open it and play it on flickr

Unfortunately, on the Saturday, we had one of the wettest days I can remember. We tried to get out for a walk – thinking that staying down in the forestry might be a good idea. We’d spotted a Caledonian Forest Reserve in Coire Thoraidh and thought we would go and have a look, then continue up to Lochan Coire Thoraidh and possibly down the other side beyond the Lochan.

But it really was chucking it down. The Allt Broighleachan was a raging torrent, which I didn’t recall from our previous visit to these woods. We crossed a slightly awkward ford and had just reached the reserve when we encountered…

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Ford (!) through Allt Coire Thoraidh.

…a ford too far!

I seem to remember that there was some discussion of ‘practising river-crossings’ in threes, or some such lunacy. Andy went off to look for somewhere to jump across.

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Drowned Rats.

But ultimately, sense prevailed, and we turned back.

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Allt Coire Thoraidh ford video.

Watch to the end to see how put-out Andy was by the situation. Doesn’t seem too bothered does he?

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Waterfall – Allt Broighleachan.

When we retraced our steps it was to find that the ford we had already crossed had become more of an extended pool and were forced to divert across a very wet boggy area, guaranteeing wet feet for all.

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Waterfall – Allt Broighleachan – video.

After we got back and hung up all of our drenched gear to dry, it actually briefly stopped raining. It didn’t last too long, but it was sufficient to entice me out again, for a wander towards Inverveigh.

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River Orchy at Bridge of Orchy – looking north.

The map shows another ford there, so I ought to have known how that outing would end.

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River Orchy at Bridge of Orchy – looking south.

I didn’t get far, but the views of the river were worth it.

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River Orchy

Later, the girls played Ticket to Ride in their room, whilst the Tower Captain and I watched England beat Wales at Twickenham on the little telly in ours. Then to the bar where we were staying, the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, for a slap up meal, a few bevvies and the usual mix of silliness, rehashed stories, daft gags and such like.

Not a bad day, considering.

Andy’s account of the day is here.

My own account of our previous visit, when both the river and the waterfalls at the top of this post were frozen over and we climbed Beinn Mhic Mhondaidh in testing conditions, is here.

Now,  a tune in different guises:

I’m presuming that everybody knows the original Julie London version. I’m very fond of that. There’s a great version by Dinah Washington too. The song was originally written for Ella Fitzgerald, but she didn’t actually record it until well after it had already been a hit. Unusually, I’m not overly-struck by her take on the tune. Too lush an arrangement, I think. Having said that, I really love this live rendition, which throws in everything but the kitchen sink and couldn’t be further from the spare, melancholy original…

It’s my favourite tune from Joe Cocker’s brilliant live album ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’.

Allt Coire Thoraidh – Cry Me a River

Gearstones Get-together.

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Gayle Beck, which becomes the River Ribble. Or the River Ribble which has been Gayle Beck.

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A distant view of Ribblehead Viaduct

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Calf Holes

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Ling Gill

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The viaduct again.

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Ingleborough

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Force Gill

These photos are from our pre-Christmas weekend at Gearstones Lodge near Ribblehead. You’ll perhaps have spotted that people are noticeable by their absence – even though the photos come from two sociable walks in largish parties, and the principal pleasure of the weekend is in the catching-up with old friends, general chit-chat and light-hearted banter. It seems I have reverted to type and lived up to my kids image of me as a curmudgeonly misanthrope. My excuse is that I didn’t take any photos of my friends precisely because I was too busy chin-wagging.

The two walks were, firstly, a wander around the area to the south of the lodge, which is packed with interesting features like pot-holes, caves, waterfalls and a steep-sided ravine; and, secondly, a cloudy and eventually wet outing on Whernside.

Andy has a much better account of the weekend here.

One curiosity which he omitted to mention, I think: as we finished out first day’s walking, descending the track which is an old Roman road back towards Gearstones, we were passed by a steady stream of vehicles, which is a bit of a surprise on a rough track. We surmised that the occupants had been shooting on the moors.

It was, as ever, a fantastic weekend. We planned to all get together again, as usual, for the May Bank Holiday weekend, which seems very unlikely now. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too long before we can see each other again and I can once again take lots of landscape photos and apparently ignore my companions.

Gearstones Get-together.

Culture

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At times over the winter, whilst I felt a little disgruntled that I wasn’t getting as much walking done as I would have liked, I also felt very lucky that I was getting out frequently in the evenings for some culture. The kids are old enough to be trusted on their own these days and so TBH and I were even able to go out together occasionally.

It’s not like me to take photos when I’m out, so these two are rarities. They’re both from a Sunday evening at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe, where we went to see Craig Charles. We knew that several friends from the village had tickets, and I met and chatted to quite a few other friends and acquaintances in the audience. I strongly suspect that I also spotted a few former pupils amongst the crowd too. Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that a damn good time was had by all.

The Winter Gardens is a very strange venue – the floor slopes towards the stage, a consequence of its past as a theatre, but which makes dancing difficult; the toilets were outside in a portacabin and the fabric of the building is visibly still much in need of restoration, but it was good to see the place being used, after years of being closed and neglected.

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TBH and I had also seen Craig Charles at the Brewery Arts in Kendal, supported by the magnificent Haggis Horns. That was a slightly strange affair because Mr Charles seemed a bit subdued and didn’t interact with the audience in the way that he has on the other occasions that we’ve seen him. The music was superb however. A remix of Sarah Vaughan’s rendition of Peter Gunn stands out in my memory.

Another strange gig at the Brewery which TBH and I attended was Lee Scratch Perry. The three piece band – drums, bass, guitar – were very good, but where were the keyboard player, horn section and female backing vocalists we could hear? The band would launch into one of the many of the familiar tunes which Perry produced – Police and Thieves, War Ina Babylon, Roast Fish and Cornbread – and Perry would start with a line from the song, or some approximation to a line, but then continue by half singing an apparent stream of consciousness, principally about the audience – how much we liked him, how he much liked us etc ad infinitum. Weird. The concert ended, for us anyway, with a contretemps between Lee Scratch Perry and the security after a bouncer intervened when an audience member offered Perry a spliff. It was all a bit sad, particularly, from my point of view, since I’ve been wanting to see Lee Scratch Parry live for a long time.

Back in October (I think), the Lancaster Music Festival was, as always, a brilliant affair. I caught up with some old friends and saw lots of acts, many of the great fun. In particular, I managed to see The Uptown Monotones several times. They’re from Graz in Austria and if you ever get a chance to see them live, I can promise that you won’t regret it.

Many, many moons ago, I saw John Cooper Clarke open for The Fall in Manchester. I’d been a fan since a school friend had played me live recordings on his Walkman, which at that time was an exciting and expensive novelty. On his ‘Luckiest Man Alive’ tour this winter, he played in the Ashton Hall, which is within Lancaster Town Hall. I went with friends D, M and C from the village. (At no point did we Run – although we did ‘walk this way’). There were two support acts, including Mike Garry, who was excellent, and who, it turned out, had been working with D’s son J in a school poetry workshop earlier that day. The year before, he did a workshop at our kids’ school, which A attended and raved about – it’s the only time I can remember her having anything positive to say about poetry. Anyway, JCC was hilarious. Afterwards, we dropped into the Penny Bank for a pint and D and M were soon dancing and singing along to an excellent Jam tribute band.

Somewhere in amongst all this lot, old friend Uncle Fester drove up from Manchester and we went to see Martin Simpson at the Platform in Morecambe. What a revelation. I was there mainly on the strength of his most famous song ‘Never Any Good with Money’ which is about his father. He played pretty much the entirety of his latest album and much more besides and I loved it. I shall definitely be getting tickets to see him again.

Finally, our friend L asked me if I wanted to see John Shuttleworth at the Grand in Lancaster. I’ve seen him before a couple of times, but not for many years. His act is, I suppose, entirely predictable, but he had me in stitches. It’s the gentlest of humour, very clever and very, very funny.

Rather than try to include samples of all the music I’ve mentioned here, I think I’ll maybe spread them out over several posts. Here’s a start:

Culture

Skiddaw by Ullock Pike

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Bassenthwaite, the Solway Firth and the distant hills of Galloway.

This was actually a weekend away with old friends, the usual crowd, if you are familiar with the blog, but I’m only going to post about the Saturday because we dipped out on the Sunday, due to a dodgy knee and a discouraging weather forecast.

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Ullock Pike.

As you can see, by contrast, Saturday’s weather was superb, although the photos don’t convey the strong wind which was blowing.

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The stoney slopes of Skiddaw.

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Longside Edge.

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Derwentwater and central Lakeland.

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Looking back along the ridge.

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Skiddaw again.

In the photo above, you can see the scar of the main path up from Carlside Tarn to the summit of Skiddaw. Some of us took a more direct route up to the southernmost end of the summit ridge.

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Binsey, with the Galloway hills behind.

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Finally some shelter from the wind and the chance to enjoy some the sunshine.

A great day out in wonderful company. Having said that, I don’t seem to have managed to take many photos of the assembled masses. Andy’s post has more photos generally and more photos of people in particular.

There were a whole host of Birkett’s on this circular and it occurs to me that, now that I’m off it’s high time I updated my Birkett tick list, with which I am way behind.

The last time I climbed Skiddaw it was an overnight affair with a couple of hours of sleep snatched on its stoney flanks.

Skiddaw by Ullock Pike

Hell’s Mouth and Mynydd Cilan

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Serious surfers. 

Hell’s Mouth, or Porth Neigwl, is a huge beach in the south-western corner of the peninsula. Unlike Porth Towyn, where we spend much of our time on these trips, Hell’s Mouth is exposed to the prevailing westerlies and has Proper Surf and is therefore patronised by Proper Surfers. We were there for a walk, on a very windy day. At the sight of the large rollers, B’s eyes lit-up. Next time we visit, we’ll have to come back and let him play in the waves. To be fair, he’s not the only one who will enjoy it.

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Happy Hikers.

For today though, we were making a circuit on the breezy headland of Mynydd Cilan.

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Hell’s Mouth.

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A hardy Painted Lady – I’m not sure how butterflies cope with the winds.

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The hill on the far side of the bay is Mynydd Rhiw. One for a future trip.

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Carn Fadryn and Garn Bach on the right.

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At some point, we managed to get a little of the beaten path and found ourselves bashing through bracken and prickly low-growing gorse. Somebody, I think it was TBH, practically stepped on a snake. Sadly, I didn’t see it, so no photograph, I’m afraid.

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I may have missed the snake, but I did spot this little chap, hurrying across the sand as we were almost back to our charabancs. I think this is the caterpillar of the Fox Moth. I’ve seen them before in the hills – for example in Greenburn Bottom after climbing Helm Crag, or on Rolling End more than 10 years ago now. But apparently they are very widespread and coastal grasslands are another of their favoured habitats.

Hell’s Mouth and Mynydd Cilan

Carn Fadryn – a Perennial Favourite.

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Every trip to the Llyn peninsula inevitably includes an ascent of small, but perfectly formed, Carn Fadryn. Here we are on the summit. I don’t know why A looks so sour, she enjoys a walk, but, thinking about it, she’s not so keen on sitting around. She was probably cold.

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Garn Bach.

Because we’ve climbed it on just about every visit, Carn Fadryn has appeared innumerable times on the blog. You can find some of those previous visits here.

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Looking Westward towards the end of the peninsula.

It wasn’t quite as clear as it has been on some previous occasions, nor did we have the drama of the previous year’s atmospheric sunset, but the views were expansive never the less.

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The Rivals.

 

Carn Fadryn – a Perennial Favourite.

Butterflies on the Mynydds

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Bardsey Island.

A walk at the end of the peninsula, parking on Mynydd Mawr and walking to Mynydd Anelog, will perhaps become a new fixture of our summer trip to the Llyn. The views and the colours are truly spectacular.

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I started this walk at the back of the pack, even in a slow moving group I seem to gravitate towards the rear.

And having started there…

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…I fell gradually farther and farther behind.

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The problem was that I was distracted, not only by the stunning views and the carpet of purple heather and yellow gorse, but also by the profusion of butterflies and my attempts to photograph them.

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Painted Lady underwing, subtler than the more familiar upperwings, but beautiful none the less.

Painted Ladies were the most abundant, but I remember happily counting nine different species of butterfly on this single walk. It’s the kind of thing which makes me inordinately happy. 2019 was a bumper year for butterflies apparently, particularly for painted ladies. The last big year for these migrants was 2009, an influx which I remember well.

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Mynydd Anelog.

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Common Blue on Common Fleabane.

I’ve read that Common Blues did well last summer too, with recorded numbers up over 100%. These two seem intent on increasing the population even further..

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The male is on the right, recognisable because he is more brightly coloured. Which bright colouring includes his aedeagus (analog of a penis). Which came as a bit of a surprise to me!

There were quite a lot of Common Blues about. Here’s another pair…

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Painted Lady on Common Fleabane.

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Drone Fly on Mint.

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Mynydd Mawr.

It wasn’t only the butterflies who were feeling amorous…

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I knew that grasshoppers are very variable in colour within a species, but the differences are quite striking here. I was also surprised by how much smaller the male is than the female…

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I’ve found an excellent online identification guide to crickets and grasshoppers, but I’m still not sure about these. I think they might be Field Grasshoppers.

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Tatty Meadow Brown.

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Mottled Grasshopper. Possibly.

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Small Copper.

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Tatty Painted Lady.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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Red Admiral. Also two types of heather, Ling Heather, which is paler pink and dominant here and, to the right of the butterfly, the darker, purpler Bell Heather.

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Along the coast to the distant Rivals.

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Mynydd Anelog.

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Red Admiral.

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Meadow Brown.

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It may have seemed, earlier in the post, that I had promised nine different species of butterfly, but the post only has photographs of six. What were the other three? Well….I’m fairly confident that one was Small White, but they rarely sit still to be photographed. And…I don’t remember I’m afraid. Possibly Ringlet. Maybe Wall Brown, which I’ve seen here before. Or Gatekeepers? Or Small Heath? Much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting this marvellous walk at eight months remove, there might almost be something to be said for keeping a diary up to date!

My account of the last time we did this walk is here.

Andy’s posts about this walk are well worth a read, and can be accessed here. That’s him, on the right of the final picture.

Butterflies on the Mynydds

Kite Flying and Other Fun at Towyn Farm

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We were at home briefly after our trip to Germany and Holland, but no summer is complete for us without a trip to the Llyn Peninsula with our Camping Friends and so we were soon packing our trailer tent and driving down to Towyn Farm. All of the usual fun was had: barbecues, camp fires, mass games of cricket and kubb, and frequent trips to the beach. At the beginning of this visit, the sea was like the proverbial mill pond and we had, I think, the best snorkeling we have ever had there. There were so many fish to see, including Dogfish and, I think, a Plaice and lots of Wrasse. Later in the week, the winds picked up and so did the waves, which always makes the kids (large and small) very happy because of the opportunity for some body-boarding.

The winds also encouraged us to dig out TBH’s parafoil kite. She’s had it for years, from before we met, which is over 20 years ago, but it needed new lines and it has sat neglected in our garage.

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It’s a stunt kite and remarkably easy to crash. I blame the variable winds. A was the most successful of the kids at keeping it aloft. B’s reactions were hilarious, he got very excited and usually over-compensated for the movements of the kite.

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TBH demonstrates how it’s done. Perhaps.

I’ve always enjoyed flying kites. I once entertained the whimsical idea of flying a kite from the summit of all of the Munros. I think I managed about four. I’ve often carried a pocket kite on walks however. But I don’t have a pocket stunt kite….hmmmm.

Kite Flying and Other Fun at Towyn Farm