Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill

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A Saturday which, forecast wise, hadn’t promised much, suddenly brightened around lunchtime. Over our bowls of soup, I quizzed the family about their plans for the rest of the day, but for one reason or another they were all indisposed. I wanted to make the most of what was turning into a glorious afternoon, and it didn’t take me long to decide what to do: another hunt for Purple Saxifrage, having been a little too early for it on Ingleborough just over a week before.

I hadn’t actually made my mind up whether to tackle the walk on the western slopes of Ingleborough, which had been the original plan for my previous outing, or to head back to Pen-y-ghent where I first saw the saxifrage last year, but as I drove north from Ingleton I noticed that the Hill Inn was doing a roaring trade, likewise the Station Inn at Ribblehead. More importantly, there was a distinct lack of parking spaces and some of the roadside parking was decidedly dodgy, so I opted for Horton and Pen-y-ghent. As I drove down Ribblesdale towards Horton, I passed scores of walkers coming the other way up the road. Presumably, many of them were ‘doing’ the Three Peaks. They’d picked a fine day for it, but to these eyes at least, a lot of them looked hot and knackered and not particularly happy.

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Anyway, Horton was relatively quiet and I was soon climbing the nice steady Brackenbottom path, stopping regularly to take photos of the changing views of Pen-y-ghent.

There were still quite a few people about; mostly, but not exclusively, on their way down. I was quite surprised that there seemed to be a few parties following me up the hill, given that I’d only set-off from my car at around 3.30pm and most walkers seem to be fairly rigid about the times which are suitable for beginning and ending a trip.

As I was taking this photo…

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…a couple stopped to ask me if I was “walking or sight-seeing?” They also wanted to know about the zoom on my camera.

“It’s huge,” I told them

Although, in retrospect, it’s actually more true to say that, of its kind, it has a relatively modest zoom. I thought I might be able to demonstrate.

“You see that limestone cliff pretty much directly below the summit? I’m looking for Purple Saxifrage, and I think maybe I can see a bit of purple from here – the camera should tell me whether I’m right or not.”

I probably sounded like a pompous buffoon, but anyway…

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Taa-dah!

This not only impressed the punters, but also settled my immediate plans: I would stick to the path as far as the lower line of cliffs and would then traverse across beneath those cliffs in search of saxifrage to photograph. After that? Well, time would tell: maybe I could continue below the cliffs as far as the next path up to the summit; or perhaps I would retrace my steps; or maybe, seeing how broken those cliffs are, I could work out a route up through them to the top.

It can be a quixotic business this flowering hunting lark: when I got there, the slope just below the cliffs, which I knew would be steep, seemed maybe a bit steeper than I would have preferred…

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I don’t think it helped my aching calves and slightly wobbly knees that I kept staring up at the cliffs searching for purple…

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I think the sheerness of the rocks was magnifying, in my mind, the gradient of the mossy ground beneath.

At least the treasure I’d come seeking was there, in some abundance….

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I was just pondering on what might be pollinating these early flowers at this altitude when a Bumblebee buzzed over my shoulder in search of nectar.

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I suppose coincidences like this, when the workings of the old grey matter and events in the outside world somehow conspire to run in tandem, only seem eerily common because whenever they happen it’s striking and we remember it.

This bee might be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee, or a White-tailed Bumblebee, or a Northern White-tailed Bumblebee, workers of which species, I’ve just discouragingly read, are ‘virtually indistinguishable in the field’. Or maybe it’s none of the above. Bumblebee identification is very tricky.

Whilst I took these pictures, a second bee, some kind of Red-tailed variety, began to forage from the same clump of flowers, but proved too elusive for me and my camera.

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There seems to be something small and orangey-brown attached to the bees behind, and in this photo…

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…although they are hard to see, several more clinging to her neck. I wondered whether they might be mites, so did a little lazy internet research. Apparently Bumblebees do sometimes host mites, but, somewhat to my surprise, the mites are thought to be generally benign. They live in the bees nests, subsisting on honey and wax and then, at certain times of the year, piggyback a lift to flowers in order to jump a ride on another bee and find a new nest. Free-loaders! However, whether these are mites or not I’m still none-the-wiser.

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Whilst the airiness of my position had upped my pulse a bit, when I stopped staring up at the flowers, and stepped down a yard or two from the cliff I kept feeling that the next section didn’t look too bad after all. Once or twice I decided to descend to easier ground, but always shortly found easier going without that necessity. So, in fits and starts, I made it round to the base of the big crag where I had first spotted the flowers from below…

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Down below…

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…it seemed that Pen-y-ghent, like Ingleborough, has had a substantial landslip, something I shall have to come back to investigate another time.

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At first, I thought that this feature, on the left of the cliff, might be a tower, but in fact it’s a large fissure, what climber’s would call a chimney, I believe. Just beyond here the cliffs, which had always been rather intermittent, gave out altogether, at least for a while. Above I could see more steep slopes and then the second line of crags, presumably of gritstone. These were taller crags and fairly imposing, but on the left you can see the edge of a wide gully which looked like it might be a chink in the mountain’s armour.

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Close to the gully…

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I probably could have got up the gully, it was neither particularly steep or very exposed, but the first little scramble required a large step-up which, not as agile as even the clumsy, inept scrambler I once was, I decided not to attempt. Instead I contoured out on the ledge roughly half-way up the crag opposite.

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And turning the corner, found that I’d also turned the crags and was faced only with a short walk, admittedly up a steepish and unpleasantly loose slope, to the summit plateau.

A wall runs across the top…

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…and a clever S-shaped bend makes two shelters one facing east and one west. I sat in the west facing one, with the sun and a hazy Ingleborough in view.

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It was around 6.30 in the evening. I put a brew on and sat back to enjoy the fact that, after all the crowds I had seen earlier, I now had the top entirely to myself. It can be done, even on this most popular of hills.

Well, not entirely to myself: I could hear the accelerating croaky-rattle of grouse and then heard and felt, rather than saw, something whirr over my head. Thinking that the bird had been so close that it must have been intending to land on the wall until it saw my head, I stood to take a look around…

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Skylark.

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As I was finishing my brew, I heard a runner coming up the path behind me. He’d been surprised by the heat and was gasping for a drink. Fortunately, I had two bottles of water with me – far more than I was ever going to need, so I was able to help out.

Leaving the top of Pen-y-ghent I had to cross the end of this small pond…

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…but as I approached, something jumped from a nearby rock and splashed into the water. Only then did the constant rhythmic droning sound, which I had vaguely attributed to a distant tractor engine or perhaps an unseen drone or helicopter, properly come into focus. And looking along the pool, I could instantly recognise its source…

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My presence caused many of the Frogs to submerge and disappear, but some were not so easily discouraged and I watched, listened and took photos for around twenty minutes.

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I’ve seen this before, once in Wark Forest back in 1985 when my Dad and I were close to finishing the Pennine Way, and the other time at Lanty’s Tarn when we were staying in Patterdale YHA for a big family Easter get-together, which must be of a similar vintage.

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I did think I’d seen Frogs mating much nearer home at Leighton Moss a few years ago, and then again a year later, but now I’m completely convinced that those were in fact Toads.

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What the photos can’t capture is the singing and the frenetic activity, with balls of frogs rolling and surging and other frogs pushing and jumping to join in.

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Frogspawn.

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I think the Frog on the right here has his throat bulging pre-song like a tiny Pavarotti.

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Perhaps this photo, with the boiling surface of the pond and the indistinguishable welter of Frog flesh does go some way to capture their energetic couplings. Hmmm…perhaps ‘couplings’ is the wrong word?

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Some of the Frogs, meanwhile, held themselves aloof. This one seemed to be keeping a beady eye on me.

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Eventually, I dragged myself away. Daylight was short, I knew, and the extension over Plover Hill would add a few miles to my walk, but the light was glorious and it seemed churlish not to continue.

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Plover Hill.

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Red Grouse.

I think that the male, at least, has similar ideas to the Frogs.

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Looking back to Pen-y-ghent.

I suspect I’ve probably been up Plover Hill before, but if I have, I’ve forgotten.

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The descent towards Foxup Moor has one short steep section, but a cleverly constructed section of path cuts down across the slope at an angle, taking the sting out of it.

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Looking back up to Plover Hill.

With both me and the sun losing height, I knew that sunset must be imminent. I kept walking 50 yards or so and then taking another photo.

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Ingleborough on the left. Whernside on the right?

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The last of the sun.

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Afterglow.

Fortunately, sunset photographs can be misleading: I still had plenty of light to walk by…

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The path is Foxup Road, which, at first at least, gave excellent walking through what looked to be very rough and tussocky country. The stream is Swarth Gill Sike…

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…which looked to have waterfalls upstream and would make for an interesting route on to Plover Hill for another day.

At this point I stopped taking pictures and concentrated on getting as far down the hill as I could while the light remained. Sadly, the path eventually became fairly boggy, which was a bit awkward in the poor light. When I reached the end of the walled lane down into Horton, I realised that I couldn’t read the fingerpost and so finally switched on my headtorch. But I knew the walk from there would be relatively easy anyway. My final mile or so, in the gathering gloom, was enlivened by the lyrical calls of Pee-wits and a cacophony of squabbling Jackdaws settling down to roost in a nearby wood.

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Just over 10 miles and 500m of ascent. Not bad for a spur of the moment thing.

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Not that it’s the stats I will remember!

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Pen-y-ghent and Plover Hill

Gait Barrows Again

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Female Common Darter.

A very pleasant wander around Gait Barrows which happened almost a month ago now – how the summer has flown by! It was memorable for the large number of dragonflies I saw – although very few would pose for photos – and, rather sadly, for the dead Fox cub I came across.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

As I manoeuvred to find a good position from which take the photograph above, I almost trod on this large Frog…

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Bumblebee on Betony.

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Speckled Wood.

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The ‘mystery plant’ – flowers still not open, but showing more colour – I need to go back to check on their progress.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

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Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

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Grasshoppers have often been evident from their singing on local walks, but I haven’t always seen them, or my photos haven’t come out well when I have.

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Although this doesn’t have the distinctive shieldbug shape, I think that this is a fourth instar of the Common Green Shieldbug – an instar being one of the developmental stages of a nymph. This website is very helpful.

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Hoverfly.

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On a previous walk I’d been thinking that Hemp Agrimony, which is very common at Gait Barrows, was a disappointing plant in as much as it’s large flower-heads didn’t seem to be attracting much insect life, but that seems to have been a false impression, because on this occasion quite the opposite was true.

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Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

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Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

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The verges of one particular overgrown hedgerow at Gait Barrows are always busy with Rabbits, which usually scatter as I approach, but two of them played chicken with me – not really seeming very concerned and only hopping on a little each time I got closer.

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Time was marching on and I was keen to head for home, but I diverted slightly up the track towards Trowbarrow because I knew that I would find more Broad-leaved Helleborines there. These were much taller and more vigorous than the single plant I had seen earlier.

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Curiously, there was a wasp feeding on the flowers, as there had been on the first one I saw. I noticed earlier this year that wasps seem to like Figwort, perhaps the same is true Helleborines.

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Figwort and Helleborine both have small, tubular flowers – it may be the case that wasps are well adapted to take advantage of this particular niche – different insects definitely favour different kinds of flowers.

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Gait Barrows Again

Nice Weather for….Snails

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Brown-lipped snail.

After a prolonged spell of mostly dry weather, the rains had started to reassert themselves. I decided to get out for s short walk anyway, but to leave my camera at home. But when I stepped out the front door I was almost immediately confronted by an abundance of snails. They were clearly relishing the damp. It was late and very overcast, but the lovely strawberry tones of that first brown-lipped snail had me thinking that a quick tour around the garden could precede my longer wander.

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Another Brown-lipped Snail in paler, more pastel shades.

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A really tiny snail, possibly some sort of Glass Snail.

Elsewhere in the garden, Brown Garden Snails abounded.

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Apparently, they are good to eat. I’ll pass thanks.

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I’m not sure which kind of snail this is…

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…but the swirls of white and dark chocolate colouration on the shell were delightful.

The retaining wall in the back garden was not only busy with snails, but one of the crevices in the wall…

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…was occupied by a very bronzed and relaxed frog. Relaxed in as much as it didn’t seem in the least bit bothered by me or my camera.

Nice Weather for….Snails

Virginia, plain?

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So. Back in the summer – yes, we really had a summer, seems a long time ago now doesn’t it? – back in the summer, when the weather was, for the first time in living memory, genuinely summery, we went away. Can you guess where we were?

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Now you know!

We went to visit my in-laws: the Professor (hi A!) and the Rocket Scientist – how fulfilling must it be to work in a place where you can say: “It is rocket science!” But I digress, both from the truth* and from the story of our holiday. We were staying in Virginia, close to Alexandria, which in turn is close to Washington DC – hence the photo with good ole Abe.

We did many of the things you might expect tourists to do – the presidential memorials, the Smithsonian’s many museums etc, (try the Native American museum’s cafe – superb!), Mount Vernon (George Washington’s house), and some less obvious ones – Fort Washington on the Maryland bank of the Potomac, Chicago live at Wolf Trap (an interesting experience – my sister-in-law was given tickets, she thought at first for a production of the musical Chicago – when she realised that in fact it was the band Chicago, I think she thought they might be more age-appropriate for TBH and I. You know Chicago – all the hits, like ‘If You Leave Me Now’, and, erm, er…..Well anyway, TBH liked the singing, but hated the musical interludes (“Too many notes”). I felt the opposite – a bit Jack Spratt and spouse).

It was a great trip –  a fabulous family get together, great to meet two nephews who we’ve only ever spoken to on Skype before.

And….all the wildlife! Who knew? Not me certainly.

Close to where we stayed was a fabulous place called Huntley Meadows. The land here once belonged to George Mason (one of the Founding Fathers) and was farmland, but it’s now a wetland surrounded by forest.

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The wetland is amazing, with an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. The first striking thing was the number and variety of turtles around. These were relatively small specimens, but we also saw much larger ones swimming out in deeper water.

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On our first visit, we struck lucky and this fellow….

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…swam along a channel straight towards us, then under the boardwalk where we stood and into a large beaver lodge (well it seemed large to me, though I’m not really qualified to say – it’s the first one I ever saw!). The kids were adamant that it was a beaver, and they may well be right, but if it was, it was relatively small for a beaver. Maybe it’s a muskrat? B is sure that it had the wide tail characteristic of a beaver and he’s pretty sharp where natural history is concerned. Either way – we were all very excited.

Less dramatic, but equally fascinating, several bushes nearby had been completely stripped of leaves by these large caterpillars….

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..and these too….

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On subsequent visits we spotted some smaller cousins….

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And in many places we visited we saw tent webs, some quite large…

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…which were full of little wrigglers….

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Of course, where there are caterpillars, there are likely to be butterflies and moths too. And there were. We saw them everywhere we went. In the car park of the local mall, a huge dilapidated hawkmoth. In the woods at Huntley Meadows, this rather muted and well camouflaged butterfly, which perversely, is perhaps my favourite amongst the many we saw…

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And there really were a lot. Large swallowtails were most notable, but the variety in shape and size and colour was astonishing. And all of them new and unknown to us – except, surprisingly, for a handful of Red Admirals. Here’s a small sample….

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As I say, we saw butterflies just about everywhere, but most of these photos were taken at River Farm, the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society, which is on the banks of the Potomac. A wildflower meadow there was particularly rich in insect and bird life. (Imagine a British wildflower meadow on steroids – everything way over head height, huge flowers, huge bees and wasps etc)

Huntley Meadows also had a huge variety of dragonflies. but they were even more elusive than the butterflies and so will have to be represented by just one photo…

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One memorable feature of our stay was the constant loud racket of cicadas. At Wolf Trap – which is an outdoor venue – they were louder than the band. These insects live initially underground as nymphs, but then crawl up a tree to emerge, like a dragonfly does, from their skins. Here is the exuvia (discarded exoskeleton) of a cicada….

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We saw three on the bark of a tree by the Potomac in Washington. And sheltering under the bark of the same tree…

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An adult cicada.

I suspect that this is another….

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…probably of a different species. B found it at River Farm.

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It was dead, and therefore very amenable to being photographed from different angles.

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Another River Farm tenant…

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Here’s the building at River Farm….

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…taken from one of the paths through the meadow. The gnarly old tree in the foreground had my attention because I was both interested and slightly wary of the bustle of activity around the small hollow in it’s trunk…

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I had decided not to take my ‘bulky’ camera away with me – a decision which I began to regret almost immediately we arrived. The rest of the family all had point and snaps with them and at various times I borrowed them all. Some of these photos I took, but not by any means all of them.

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One insect we took a close interest in, but didn’t photograph, were the fireflies which whizzed around the garden every evening as it grew dark. Prof A organised a hunt and the kids had soon filled a jam-jar with them. (Well – not filled, but they had caught a lot.)

Of course wherever there are bugs, there are bound to be predators.

I’m not sure whether this arachnid, photographed in the woods at Huntley Meadows, is a spider or a harvestman.

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These frogs, very green and quite large relative to British frogs, were numerous at Huntley meadows…

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I think that it may be the American Bullfrog.

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These two species of tiny frogs…

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…may have been equally numerous, but we only saw a few, and then only thanks to eagle-eyed B spotting the first of them.

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I found a helpful website on the frogs of Virginia (there seem to be many species) and I think that this may be the Spring Peeper.

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The centre of these large leaves seem to be popular with small frogs. This…

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….is a green treefrog, the pale stripe is pretty distinctive. Here’s another….

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I’ve never seen a treefrog in the wild before, but this was only one of many firsts.

We saw a couple of small snakes during our visit, and quite a few lizards.

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Including a Komodo Dragon (another first)…

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But that was at Washington Zoo!

*I’m not sure that, strictly speaking, Dr A is a rocket scientist, although she is an astrophysicist and she does work for NASA, so how much closer can you get?

Virginia, plain?

Cornucopia

The day after my Langden Castle walk (so over a week ago now) and my third post-work walk in as many days. Once again, I found myself drawn back to Gaitbarrow. I had an idea that I might enjoy a brisk circuit for a change, but as usual I was easily distracted. It was just one week after my previous visit, but in the interval so much had changed. One of the principal changes was that in every sunny spot, there were hosts of damselflies…

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There are several species of blue damselflies, and I can’t usually identify them, but I’m reasonably confident that this is a common blue damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum, because in a full-size version of this cropped photo… 

Damselfly II 

…its just about possible to make out the black shape on the second segment of the abdomen which identifies it as such.

Blue-tailed Damselfly 

Blue-tailed damselfly.

Once I’d paused to photograph the damselflies, I soon noticed grasshoppers jumping and spiders scurrying about…

Wolf spider 

Wolf spider, Pardosa lugubris, carrying egg-sac.

I made a brief foray into the boggy meadow where I recently saw a roe deer. Even after some drier weather the middle section of the path has become welly territory. Some creatures appreciate some damp conditions of course…

Frog 

After the ‘banded snail killing ground’ of my last visit, it was nice to find a banded snail which was clearly flourishing…

Banded snail 

In the meadow on the shore at the end of Haweswater, something drew me into a small scrubby tree in amongst the reeds. I can’t remember now what it was that first attracted my attention, but when I had thoroughly tangled myself in its branches, I discovered that it was flowering, in a very undemonstrative way….

Unidentified tree flower 

Naturally there was a resident damselfly, its silvery wings catching the light beautifully…

Damselfly 

And now that I had started to look, I realised that the tree was also home to a troop of banded snails….

Banded snail 

More banded snails 

Yet another banded snail 

B is always excited by cuckoo spit, I think for the same sort of reasons that makes Horrible Histories in all of its many guises so appealing. I stooped to photograph a gobbet for him…

Cuckoo spit 

..and as I did so, I caught a flicker of movement amongst some grass stems beside a charred log. I didn’t see what moved the grass, but I was hopeful: I rolled away the log, and hey presto!….

Common lizard 

…a common lizard.

Another contrast with a week before: in the meadows….

The flower meadow 

..the yellow rattle is now flowering in abundance…

Yellow rattle 

From the meadows, I took a different route across the limestone pavements than I usually follow. There were still plenty of damselflies to see…

Damselfly on bleached tree root 

…on a weather bleached root stump….

Damselfly on oak leaf 

…on some oak leaves.

Equally abundant, and a delight which will bring me back this way at this time of year, was lily-of-the-valley….

Lily-of-the-valley 

Lily-of-the-valley II 

This one….

Lily-of-the-valley with spider 

…had a tiny spider clinging to it…

Spider on lily-of-the-valley

Sadly, I don’t know what species this one is.

Avocets and bugs galore by Allen Hide; ring ouzels, stonechats and reed buntings in Bowland; and a variety of delights at Gaitbarrow: my cup runneth over.

Cornucopia

Perfect Day

Perfect picnic

I’ve whittled on before about the elements which combine to make a ‘good day on the hoof’. This was hardly a day on the hoof: a short bicycle ride to the end of Moss Lane, a picnic on a bench on the boardwalk overlooking Haweswater and then a circuit around the lake and across the fields and back to Moss Lane. A short walk; very leisurely. Lots of sitting around, lots of blackberry picking, lots of stopping to gawp at nature. But before our jaunt was even half way through TBH had already begun to describe it as a ‘perfect day’.

Whilst we were eating our lunch we were entertained by a multitude of dragonflies hunting over the grassland by the lake, and also watched several butterflies flutter by – a brimstone, a peacock and the only one which had the courtesy to pose for a photo…

Small tortoiseshell on devil's-bit scabious 

…this small tortoiseshell. It was sunning itself on a devil’s-bit scabious, which, from previous visits, I expected to find flowering here early in September, although many of the flowers were not yet open…

Unopened devil's-bit scabious 

…and as many again were only beginning to open…

Partially opened devil's-bit scabious 

It was also no surprise to find grass of Parnassus flowering…

Grass of Parnassus 

…no surprise, but absolutely delightful!

But I was rather taken aback to find this bird’s-eye primrose still flowering…

Late-flowering bird's-eye primrose

…long after it’s usual May and June season.

A picnic with S is a long, drawn-out affair, since he doesn’t like to sit still for too long: a little light grazing, a look around, another morsel of food, a bit more exploring – that’s his modus operandi. He’s keen on company on his mini-forays and whilst exploring we found this…

Hoverfly - helophilus pendulus, probably 

…dapper hoverfly, probably helophilus pendulus, meticulously cleaning itself – first wiping its abdomen with its rear legs, then its face with the front pair. ‘Helophilus pendulus’ is ‘dangling swamp-lover’ apparently. I think Mr Knipe might be described as helophilus. (I’ll leave it to Mike to do gags about ‘dangling’ – he’ll do it better then I will.)

Whilst I photographed the hoverfly, S noticed this female common darter…

Female common darter 

…which seemed very happy for me to get really close to take pictures.

Female common darter again 

There were other species of dragonfly about, big green and blue ones (that’s the official dragonfly fancier’s name for ‘em), but they wouldn’t play ball and land for a photo.

After watching a brimstone several times, seeing it apparently disappear near to a shrub, but then fail to find it’s landing spot, I finally traced one to a spot in the grass behind a bush…

Brimstone 

When we finished our protracted repast and moved on, we found that the common darters were very fond of the boardwalk and would hover just above it before landing briefly, but for long enough for me to get several photos of both males and females, of which this was the sharpest…

Male common darter 

Male common darter.

Strangely, I had a premonition that the dragonflies might not be the only ones enjoying the sunshine on the boardwalk and sure enough…

Common lizard

…there were many common lizards sun-bathing on the timber ‘kerbs’ which run along the edges of the boardwalk. I have occasionally seen them here before, singly and briefly, but this time there were probably about 20 here and we were able to watch them for quite some time, despite S’s best efforts to catch, poke, chase and otherwise rile them.  Naturally, I took loads of photos and will include more in a forthcoming post.

Having expended lots of energy chasing after a brimstone butterfly for a photo, we now watched one alight on knapweed right beside the path. Since it wasn’t buttery yellow, I assume that it’s a paler female. If you look closely you can see the great long, black, bent drinking-straw tongue.

Brimstone feeding 

We’d seen quite a lot of tiny frogs and/or toads in the grass by the shore. In the soggy field at the end of the lake I disturbed a sizeable adult frog, quite pale, almost yellow, with really striking dark blotches, but sadly it had gone long before I had my camera ready.

With lunch over, it was time to consider tea, and to collect blackberries for a crumble.

Blackberrying

In the meadows by Challan Hall, S and I caught one of the tiny toads…

Small toad 

..perhaps we shouldn’t. But somehow, when you’re only wee yourself, there’s something very thrilling about handling the wildlife you see.

Small toad again

Back on Moss Lane, blackberrying and slowly heading back towards our bikes, I was distracted from fruit-picking by these…erm, well, I wasn’t sure what they were…

Field garlic?

I thought of garlic for some reason, and now I think it may be field garlic, allium oleraceum. If I’m right, then these are bulbils, essentially small bulbs. Usually there would be flowers amongst the bulbils, although it being rather late in the flowering season for field garlic, maybe the flowers had been and gone.

Well – no sangria in the park, didn’t need to go to the zoo to see the animals, ‘problems all left alone’? Check. Perfect day? Pretty close.

Perfect Day

Spiders, Snails and a Puzzle

I didn’t manage six miles yesterday, but I did take a circuitous route home from the train station, taking me round Haweswater and through Eaves Wood. It took a while to get work out of my head and to start to fully appreciate my surroundings, but when I reached the open meadow alongside Haweswater I suddenly felt at home and began to relax. There were several large dragonflies quartering the area. I wandered across to the edge of the reed beds, hoping to perhaps find one at rest. I didn’t, but I did come across this magnificent spider…

Now I realise that some people don’t like spiders, but that’s a point of view which I have never understood. This is obviously an orb web spider, probably a female. Araneus diadematus have a white cross on their backs, the pattern here is not quite a cross – more a lizard splayed on a table for dissection, or perhaps a stylized aboriginal art lizard. So what kind of spider is this? – an amazing one.

This banded snail was right by the boardwalked path, and very fetching it is too.

The grass of Parnassus have mostly now finished flowering, but the devil’s-bit scabious is still going strong and the bumblebees were busy taking advantage.

The wet meadow at the end of Haweswater, at the moment partly flooded, is also a great place to find spiders and snails.

I think that this is a dark-lipped banded snail. The shell is a bit the worse for wear; I wonder why?

Having stopped to try to photograph this spider and the snail behind, I noticed this tiny caterpillar on a leaf above…

And this small, thin snail…

And another (different?) orb spider…

I was briefly in the woods…

Which gives me an excuse to post these extracts from Fresh Woods which I’ve been intending to quote for a while.

If we leave the little planting now, it will only be to go to another wood, and there are woods all round us in this rolling country, woods that have names, woods that thrust their pine spears into the sky and stand in solid ranks, woods that crowd the grey roads, woods that are silent and brooding, and others that are alive with the sounds of streams that pass through them. We are going to them all, for I want to take you stalking a hare in a wood, to glimpse the deer in the forest moor, the badger in the Welsh wood just a mile away, and the fox too. If you know how to make crab-apple jelly, or wine from the fruit of the bullace tree, come with me. Come with me to see the woodcock, the tree creeper, and nuthatch. If you are not afraid of a dish of mushrooms that were picked in the wood, or if you are in need of a faggot of kindling, we shall be in such a spot tomorrow, gathering a bag of hazel-nuts or a basket of giant blackberries.

There are other woods, fresh woods, woods in which I will stand tomorrow and the day after. There are always fresh woods, little corners of the countryside where the bird and animal kingdom hold sway, places where we can hear the dawn chorus, or the last little twitter before the birds sleep and the badger ventures on his round. Brush the moss from your jacket and throw away your whittled stick. What company you have been in! What an idle time-waster you have been these past few days! Haste you away across the field, back home with your bag of hazel nuts, your elderberries, your excuses for being where you have been.

In the meadow beyond the woods some tiny frayed edged toadstools were quite striking from above, the pale frills forming a corona around the grey cap.

Down in the grass there were a number of hard to identify plants. Is this a seed head?

This rose tinted leaf had me fooled at first – I thought it was a petal.

I thought that this was groundsel when I saw it, but now I’m not so sure.

I have no idea what this unusual plant is. Nor the tiny yellow spots under the leaves.

Spiders, Snails and a Puzzle