October 2020: More Showers, Rainbows, and Big Clouds.

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The view from Castlebarrow.

The title pretty much sums it up. Photos from lots of different local walks, taken during the second half of October. I was aware that some people were beginning to travel a little further afield for their exercise, but somehow my own radius of activity seemed to shrink to local favourite spots not too far from the village.

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Crepuscular rays on the Bay.
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Rainbow over The Lots

This is my mate D and his pug. I often meet him when I’m out for a local walk. I think I’ve mentioned before how much bumping into neighbours whilst out and about has helped during the lockdown in all of it guises.

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The sun dips towards the sea, from Castle Barrow.

I can’t remember exactly when this happened – let’s assume it was October: I bumped into a chap carrying a fair bit of camera gear in Eaves Wood. He asked if he was going the right way to the Pepper Pot. He was. I saw him again on the top. It turned out he’s working on a book, one in a series, about where to take photos from in the North-West. Based in Lancaster, he’d never been to the Pepper Pot before. Funny how that can happen. Cloud had rolled in and the chances of a decent sunset looked a bit poor. I saw him again, a few weeks later, this time he’d set up his camera and tripod a little further West, in a spot I’d suggested. I hope he got his sunset.

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A paper round rainbow. Just prior to a proper drenching.
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TBH in Eaves Wood.
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Among all the changes which Natural England have been carrying out at Gait Barrows – raising the water level, felling trees, removing fences, putting up new fences in other places etc, they’ve also renovated this old summer house by Hawes Water. Presently, it’s still locked, but eventually it will be an information centre and a vantage point to look out over the lake.
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Around this time, TBH started to take a regular weekend walk together around Jenny Brown’s Point. It was interesting to watch the channel from Quicksand Pool change each week and to contrast the weather and the tides each week.
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Traveller’s Joy by Jenny Brown’s Point.
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From Castlebarrow, heavy showers tracking in from The Bay.
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Late sun from Castlebarrow again.
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The lights of Grange from The Cove.
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Sunrise from our garden.
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TBH by the Pepper Pot on Castlebarrow.
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Post sunset from Castlebarrow.
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The last of the light from The Cove.
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Silverdale Moss from the rim of Middlebarrow Quarry. It had just finished raining, or was just about to rain, or probably both.
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Autumnal birches with a rainbow behind.
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The Shelter Stone Trowbarrow Quarry.
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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.
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The Copper Smelting Works Chimney near Jenny Brown’s and more heavy showers.
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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.
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The Bay from The Cove on a very grey day!
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Cows in the rain.

The brown cow at the back here is a bull. I’d walked through the fields on Heald Brow where they were grazing a few times and he’d never batted an eyelid. But on this day he and a few of his harem where stationed in a gateway. I was considering my options and wondering whether to turn back, but when I got within about 50 yards the bull suddenly started to run. At quite a canter. Fortunately, it was away from me and not towards – he was obviously even more of a wuss than me!

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A White-lipped Snail – the rain isn’t universally disliked.
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Clougha across the Bay.
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Little Egret.
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The yellow feet are a good distinguishing feature.
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Picnic lunch – apple, mushroom soup and a selection of cheeses.

I decided that the best way to make the most of sometimes limited windows at weekends was to head out in the middle of the day and to eat somewhere on my walk. This bench overlooking the Kent Estuary was a particular favourite. Haven’t been there for a while now – must rectify that.

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The tide had heaped up fallen leaves in a long sinuous line.
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Scot’s Pines on Arnside Knott.
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Birches on Arnside Knott.
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Whitbarrow from Arnside Knott.
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River Kent from Arnside Knott.
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A flooded Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. Ingleborough in the background
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Arnside Tower.
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Clouds catching late light.
October 2020: More Showers, Rainbows, and Big Clouds.

October 2020: Rainbow Days

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If you click on this image and then zoom in, you’ll see that the Howgill Fells had a dusting of snow.

Last year, when I got behind with the blog, I dealt with the previous October with a single brief post. Not this time. Last October deserves at least 2 posts.

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Eaves Wood

So, what did I get up to last October? Well, I certainly got out for a lot of walks; almost exclusively from home. I took a lot of photos, generally of cloudy skies, often with a rainbow thrown in for good measure.

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My brolly became my constant companion and my favourite bit of walking kit. It was windy too mind, and my umbrella was turned inside out on a couple of occasions. Which trauma it seems to have survived without any noticeable loss of function.

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Challan Hall and double rainbow.

B took over A’s Saturday morning paper-round, then offered to stand in on Sundays too for his friend E, at which point an ongoing knee problem flared up leaving him unable to walk, requiring surgery and a lengthy convalescence, so muggins ended up doing both rounds. At least I got an early walk in at the weekends. And often an early soaking. I was initially at bit slow finding all of the houses on the rounds, so much so that, on one occasion, the Newsagent sent out search parties. I think I was eventually forgiven – she took pity on me after seeing me doing my drowned rat impression so often.

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Hawes Water and rainbow.
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Eaves Wood from by Hagg Wood.
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The Bay looking moody.
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Sunset from near Hagg Wood.
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Rennie’s Aqueduct, taking the Lancaster Canal over the River Lune. Why was I in Lancaster? I can’t recall.
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Early mist rising off Hawes Water.
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Clearly, it wasn’t always cloudy.
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This has become a bit of a new favourite view, with the Lakeland Fells seen over the woods of Gait Barrows.
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In Eaves Wood.
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Ruskin’s View.

Rugby training, without contact, resumed for B, until the knee injury put a stop to that, which is why I was in Kirkby Lonsdale.

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Fungi intent in taking over a Luneside park in Kirkby.
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Looking toward the distant Howgills.
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Usually when I take photos of Roe Deer in the garden, I use my camera’s zoom to bring them closer. This was taken on my phone, since I hadn’t realised that the deer were there. They eventually hopped over the fence, but were unusually nonchalant about my presence.
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October 2020: Rainbow Days

Bonanza

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Lambert’s Meadow

Another walk during which I took more than two hundred photos. This was a longer walk than the last one I posted about, taking in Lambert’s Meadow and parts of Gait Barrows. It was still only around five miles, which, in ‘butterfly mode’ kept me occupied for three hours.

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Yellow composites – can’t identify them, but they look good.
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Another Seven-spot Ladybird on a Spear Thistle.
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Meadow Brown
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White-lipped Snail and a Copse Snail.

I was looking at something else altogether, when I noticed that a patch of nettles on the perimeter of lambert’s Meadow were surprisingly busy with snails.

Whilst most snails in the UK live for only a year or two, apparently Copse Snails can live for up to seventeen, which seems pretty extraordinary.

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Another White-lipped Snail?
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White-lipped Snail.
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Another Copse Snail?
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Common Spotted-orchid.
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Meadow Brown.
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Ringlet.
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Meadow Brown.

There were some Comma butterflies about too, but they were more elusive and my photos didn’t come out too well.

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A St. John’s Wort – possibly Pale St. John’s Wort.
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Busy Marsh Thistle.
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A faded Bumblebee?

I suspect that this Bumblebee was once partly yellow, but has faded with age. A bit like my powers of recall.

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Male Large Skipper.
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Female Brown Hawker.

Lambert’s Meadow was superb this summer. It felt like every visit brought something new to see. I can’t remember ever having seen a Brown Hawker before, so was excited to see this one. In flight it looked surprisingly red.

Later I saw another…

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Brown Hawker.

…this time high on a tree trunk. I’ve read that they usually hunt in the canopy, so I was very lucky to get so close to the first that I saw. The fact that they generally haunt the treetops probably explains why I haven’t spotted one before.

I love the way the light is passing through dragonfly’s wings and casting those strange shadows on the tree trunk.

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Guelder Rose berries.
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Male Small Skipper.
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Great Willowherb

As I made my way slowly around the meadow, I noticed that a group of four walkers had stopped by some tall vegetation, mostly Figwort and Great Willowherb, at the edge of the field and were enthusiastically brandishing their phones to take pictures of something in amongst the plants. I had a fair idea what they might have seen.

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser
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Female Broad-bodied Chaser.
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Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

There were a number of Broad-bodied Chasers there and, after the walkers had moved on, I took my own turn to marvel at their colours and snap lots of pictures. They’re surprisingly sanguine about you getting close to them with a camera.

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Common Knapweed.
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Male Small Skipper
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A Sawfly – I think! On a Yarrow flowerhead.

This Sawfly was another first for me. I’ve spent a while trying to identify which species it belongs to, but have reluctantly admitted defeat. Depending on which source you believe, there are 400 to 500 different species of sawfly in Britain. They belong to the same order as bees, wasps and ants. If you’re wondering about the name, apparently female sawflies have a saw-like ovipositor with which they cut plants to create somewhere to lay their eggs.

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Soldier Beetle on Ragwort.

There were Soldier Beetles everywhere, doing what Soldier Beetles do in the middle of summer. This one was highly unusual, because it was alone.

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Meadow near Challan Hall.
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Creeping Thistle.

Creeping Thistle is easy to distinguish from other thistles because of its mauve flowers. The fields near Challan Hall had several large patches dominated by it.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee on Spear Thistle.
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Ladies Bed-straw.
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Swallow.
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Burdock.
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Three-spined Stickleback.
Three-spined Stickleback.
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Leech.

I was watching a pair of Wrens which had a nest very close to the bridge over the stream which flows from Little Haweswater to Haweswater, and also watching the sticklebacks in the stream itself, when I noticed a strange black twig floating downstream. But then the ‘twig’ began to undulate and apparently alternately stretch and contract and move against the flow of the water. Soon I realised that there were several black, worm-like creatures in the water. Leeches. The UK has several species of leech, although many are very small, which narrows down what these might have been. I suspect that they are not Medicinal Leeches – the kind which might suck your blood, but the truth is I don’t know one way or the other.

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Mushroom.

A wet spell after a long dry spell always seems to provoke a bumper crop of Field Mushrooms. This summer that happened much earlier than in 2018, when the fields were briefly full of mushrooms, and in not quite the same profusion, but for a few days every walk was enlivened by a few fungal snacks.

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More mature mushroom.

I only eat the smaller mushrooms raw, before the cup has opened and whilst the gills are still pink. The bigger examples are very tasty fried and served on toast, but they need to be examined at home for any lurking, unwanted, extra sources of protein.

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Gait Barrows Meadow.
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Buzzard.
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Self-heal.
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Common Centuary

Common Centuary was growing all over the Gait Barrows meadows in a way I’ve never noticed before. I made numerous return visits, hoping to catch the flowers open, but unfortunately never saw them that way

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Another Gait Barrows view.
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A native allium – Wild Onion?

I think that this is Wild Onion, also known as Crow garlic. A lengthy section of the hedge-bottom along Moss Lane was full of it. These odd looking things are bulbils – which is how the plant spreads. Whilst trying to identify this plant, I came across photos of another native allium – Sand Leek – growing on the coast near Arnside. It’s very striking, but I’ve never spotted it. A target for next summer.

Bonanza

A Weekend with Friends

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Eyebright

Our friends from Herefordshire needed to drop their son back at Lancaster Uni and suggested meeting up for a walk, but the weekend they were travelling coincided with the government relaxing their rules on having guests in your house, so we invited them to stay instead.

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Wild Thyme.

It was so great to see them and enjoy something approaching normality after the strange experience of lockdown.

The weather on the Saturday was atrocious, but we made do with copious cups of tea, catching up and played some board games.

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Cinnabar caterpillars on Ragwort.

The Sunday was much nicer, even sunny for a while, so we compensated for the Saturday by going out twice, before and after lunch.

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A spring at Gait Barrows – the water rises but then disappears again..
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Creeping Cinquefoil.
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First up was a wander around Gait Barrows, specifically to see the extensive lowland limestone pavements there.

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Exploring the limestone pavements at Gait Barrows.

They really are amazing and visiting them with friends who hadn’t seen them before was liking seeing them afresh.

THB and B decided that it was appropriate to lie down and ‘sunbathe’ although they were both still wearing coats.

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Cinnabar Moth.

By the afternoon, it had clouded up quite a bit. I remember that it was very windy too.

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TBF at Jenny Brown’s Point.

But it was still nice enough for us to enjoy a stroll to Jenny Brown’s Point, Jack Scout and Woodwell, where the newts didn’t disappoint and put in an appearance for our guests.

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Jack Scout.

As often seems to be the case now, I was too busy nattering to take many photos, which is perhaps how it should be, but is a bit frustrating in retrospect.

Still, a brilliant weekend, but not one we shall be repeating any time soon, in light of today’s retightening of the rules. Of course, if we registered as a B’n’B, they could probably pay to visit – the virus doesn’t infect paying customers as we all know.

A Weekend with Friends

Small Wonders

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

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

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

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

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

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Wild Thyme.

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Biting Stonecrop.

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Heath Speedwell.

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

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Scorpion Fly, female.

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

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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Ringlet.

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Large Skipper, female.

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Possibly a Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebee.

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A Calla Lily at Woodwell again.

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


Songs about flies?

‘Human Fly’ by The Cramps.

‘I am the Fly’ Wire.

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

Small Wonders

More Songs About Chocolate and Girls

Well…more pictures of flowers and bugs.

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More bees with white tails, but I think here the central yellow band is on both the abdomen and the thorax making this, most likely, Garden Bumblebees. Presumably sisters from the same nest. I have to say that Marsh Thistles are great value – insects of many kinds seem to adore them.

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser – I read up a little and discovered that this species is ‘a recent resident’ according to ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, which was published in 2013 and is one of a series of a delightful booklets which I really ought to refer to far more often. This date fits very neatly with my initial excitement when I first managed to photograph a male in 2010.

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Here’s a male Broad-bodied Chaser. Incidentally, the very sturdy looking square red stem on the left is that of Figwort, whose tiny flowers are out of all proportion to this very tall and vigorous plant.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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Common Spotted-orchid.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (probably) on Ragged Robin.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Meadow Brown – these are legion at the moment and have been so for a month or more. Surprisingly hard to photograph though since they tend to come to rest deep in the longish grass of the meadows they frequent. 

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Geese, heading north.

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Already?

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Eyebright.

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I diverted from my usual Lambert’s Meadow/Gait Barrows round here to follow this field margin close to Little Hawes Water. This is another part of Gait Barrows where fences have been removed.

I was sure that there would be a bit of a path from the end of the field over the slightly higher ground on the right to the path by Hawes Water. I still think that such a path may well exist, but, if it does, I didn’t find it.

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Still, it wasn’t hard to work a way through and any scratches which resulted were worth it for the view of Hawes Water which that gave me. I’m surprised I haven’t thought to climb up here before, except I suppose that there were trees blocking the view until last year.

I’d forgotten, but my photographs reminded me, that by the stream I spotted the leaves of what I suspect is some sort of helleborine. I need to go back to check whether it is flowering. Maybe this afternoon!

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Hawes Water again.

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Bird’s-eye Primroses.

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Mullein.

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Yellow Iris.

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More old fences and Elders.


 

More Songs About Chocolate and Girls

Elderflower Foraging

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Eaves Wood

Well – that answers one question: the hay was yet to be cut. TBH had been making elderflower cordial, but wanted to try a new recipe (spoiler alert – it’s very nice) and asked if I could bring back 40 heads of elderflower. No problem, I said, there’s loads at Gait Barrows.

I took a circuitous route to Gait Barrows – calling in first at Lambert’s Meadow, Myer’s Allotment and Trowbarrow Quarry.

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I can’t identify this tiny fly, but I was quite taken by its orange speckled wings.

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Volucella pellucens – a striking hoverfly, the larvae of which live in wasps nests as scavengers. Even wasps get pestered in their homes: a comforting thought somehow.

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I’ve been thinking that I really must make more of an effort with grasses and the like, but now I’m looking at a page of sedges which look, to my untutored eye, practically identical. This is one of them, I think, maybe Glaucous Sedge? This is the female spike – pretty striking I thought.

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Another sedge perhaps, maybe one of the many yellow sedges?

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Azure damselfly.

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Another hoverfly.

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I thought taking photos of our wild roses might likewise encourage me to begin trying to distinguish between them, but I clearly need to make notes about the leaves and the thorns and the colour of the stems and I’m probably too lazy to do that. Having said that, since Dog Roses are usually pink, I shall assume that this is a Field Rose.

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A cowslip which has gone to seed.

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Oedemera lurida – the larger green insect on the right.

The flower here is one of those yellow daisies over which I have so much difficulty. I’ve been reading, and enjoying, ‘Chasing The Ghost’ by Peter Marren. It’s subtitled ‘My search for all the wild flowers of Britain’. Except, it turns out that actually it’s his search for the last fifty species he hasn’t seen. Excluding all of the ‘casuals’ – non-native plants which have self-seeded from a garden, or from bird-food or somesuch. And he isn’t going to try to see the many sub-species of dog-rose or whitebeam because they are too numerous and too troublesome to tell apart. Likewise the hawkweeds, of which, apparently, 415 subspecies have been identified. So far. Peter Marren is a Proper Botanist, and he needs expert help. Another comforting thought.

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Yellow Rattle – gone to seed and now showing the ‘rattles’ – the pods in which the seeds literally do rattle. 

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Common Blue butterfly.

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Oedemera lurida again, this time on Mouse-ear-hawkweed, a yellow daisy which has the decency to be easy to identify.

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Unidentified (solitary?) bee on unidentified flower.

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The view from the bench at Myer’s Allotment over the meres of Leighton Moss. 

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Tutsan. 

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Tutsan, from the French toute-saine meaning all healthy. Herbalists laid the leaves over wounds and apparently it does have antiseptic properties. Tutsan has a reputation for inducing chastity: allegedly, men should drink infusions made from the plant, and women should spread twigs below their beds.

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The leaves, when dried, are reputed to smell like ambergris and so it is also called Sweet Amber. Ambergris, known in China as ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance’, is a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish colour produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated or excreted by sperm whales. I remember a dog-walker found some on Morecambe beach year or two ago and sold it for thousands; tens-of-thousands even. It must be true, I read it in a tabloid.

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We have quite a bit of it in our garden. Tutsan that is, not ambergris. It’s a weed I suppose, but a beautiful plant which is interesting year round; the berries go from yellow through red to black. It seems that hoverflies like it just as much as I do!

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The Trough.

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Trowbarrow quarry – there were quite a few people climbing.

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Maybe I should have asked them to fetch me down some elderflowers?

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I couldn’t resist another visit to the Bee Orchids…

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…to try to catch them whilst the sun was shining on them…

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A Gait Barrows view.

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An unusually tall and prolifically flowered Elder. Most of the flowers would have been out of reach, but I didn’t even try, so confident was I that I knew of a plentiful supply of Elder up on the limestone pavement.

There were plenty of other distractions in the grykes up on the pavement. For instance, now that it has just about finished flowering, I spotted several more patches of Angular Solomon’s-seal…

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Tutsan grows in the grykes too, but the red leaves are a sign that it is not exactly flourishing, presumably with little soil or water to thrive on.

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Bloody crane’s-bill.

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Eye bright.

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Field Rose?

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Female Large Skipper. (Large compared to a Small Skipper, but still quite diminutive).

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I watched this bird circling far overhead. Everything about it – size, shape, the way it flew – convinced me that it was a raptor, but if it was I now can’t pin it down to any particular species. I thought it might be another Peregrine, but I can’t see any sign of the moustaches a grey, male Peregrine might show in any of my, admittedly rather poor, photos.

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When I arrived at the spot where I was convinced I would find an abundance of elderflower, I found two stunted shrubs growing from grykes – each with a handful of unopened  flowers, neither use nor ornament for making cordial I assumed.

I eventually found another area of pavement, with a handful of small specimens, which did have almost enough flowers for our purposes.

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With those stowed away in my rucksack, I headed home via Hawes Water. On the disturbed ground there, after last year’s work, there were several tall Mullein plants growing…

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I had to have a closer look because the leaves often have interesting residents. This isn’t what I was expecting however…

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A pair of mating Green Shield Bugs!

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Green Shield Bugs live on the sap of a variety of plants. I didn’t realise that they used to be confined to the south of the country, but have been progressing steadily northward with climate change.

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Best not to pick up Shield Bugs since they can release a noxious smelly liquid, giving them their alternative name of ‘Stink Bugs’.

Incidentally, I picked up my copy of ‘Bugs Britannica’ to see what it had to say about Shield Bugs and discovered that it was co-written by Richard Mabey and Peter Marren. I think mainly by Peter Marren, because I believe that was when Richard Mabey was suffering from the depression which he would go on to write about in ‘Nature Cure’.

Mr Marren is, it seems, a pan-lister, a phenomena which he discusses in ‘Chasing the Ghost’: pan-listers are spotters who are like twitchers on steroids – they have tick-lists for all living things larger than bacteria apparently – fungi, plants, insects, birds, slime-moulds, lichens, etc. Even in the UK that’s tens of thousands of species.

It occurred to me that I might fit into that bracket, except I’m much too lazy. I don’t keep lists and I only very rarely travel to see something in particular. Although, I’ve always enjoyed myself on the few occasions that I have done that – I’m thinking of the saxifrage on Pen-y-Ghent or the gentians in Teesdale.

Anyway, what I was actually on the look-out for were caterpillars of the Mullein Moth…

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Once you get close, they are quite hard to miss!

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Years ago, when we lived on The Row, some Mullein appeared in our garden and, although I suppose they are weeds, they’re large and quite striking, so we left them to flower. Then the voracious caterpillars appeared and completely stripped the plants of leaves and flowers.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

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When I reached the meadows near Challan Hall, I realised that there were perhaps a dozen Elder trees here, all of them plastered with blossom.

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I didn’t need much more, but I cam back a day or two later to discover that the trees were mostly on steep banks, leaving most of the flowers out of reach, and even where they weren’t, the trees were well protected by an understorey of brambles and nettles.

The cordial is well worth it though.

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The verge of the railway line had a fine display of Oxeye Daisies.

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This should have been my first stop for elderflowers – a small elder growing behind our garage.

Elderflower Foraging

Nuthatches and Butterflies

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One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

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Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

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This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

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Common Blue Damselfly

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The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

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…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

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A crow by Hawes Water.

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In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

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Hawes Water.

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I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

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There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

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I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

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With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

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…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

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There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

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One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

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The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

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…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

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…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

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Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

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Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

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Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

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A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Firsts

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I swear, these magpies were sunbathing. I’d barely left the house, and was heading into the ginnel which would take me to Town’sfield and there they were, sunning themselves on the wall. It was then that I realised that I’d left my camera’s battery and memory card at home. But even after I’d been back to retrieve them, the magpies were still chilling out on the wall.

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Naively, I thought this large and distinctive beetle might be easy to identify. But no. I think that it’s probably a member of the Silphidae family, but beyond that, I can’t decide. On the plus side, I did discover the excellent UK Beetles website and have just spent a half hour or so reading about beetles which bury dead birds and others which prey on snails.

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There’s a fair few insects in this post, some of them difficult to identify; not so this one…

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…my first dragonfly of this summer and my first ever Four-spotted Chaser. The British Dragonfly Society website tells me that this species is common throughout the UK, so I’m not sure how they have eluded me for so long.

Of course, once I’d seen one, I spotted another about five minutes later…

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…and I’ve seen more since.

There were lots of damselflies about too. They’re a bit tricky to distinguish between, but I think that these first two…

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..are Small Red-eyed Damselflies. Their eyes are not as vividly red as I would expect, but then again, they definitely aren’t blue either and they have anti-humeral stripes on their thoraxes which aren’t present in the very similar Red-eyed Damselfly.

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This is another first, in a way, because I have seen this species before, but never in this area.

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One principal way to recognise blue damselflies, of which there are several species, is by the mark on the second segment of their abdomen. By that token, I think that this is a female Variable Damselfly, another first for me.

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And, finally, this is a more familiar Common Blue Damselfly, again, identified by the shape of the mark on the second segment.

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I was struck by the rather face-like shape of this large limestone boulder.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that grasses, sedges and the like are impossible to get to grips with, for me at least. This is a sedge, a female flower and part of the male flower at the top of the stem. I wish I knew more. Possibly Green-ribbed Sedge? I thought the female flower was pretty striking.

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A Dingy Skipper.

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Hoverflies too are very difficult to figure out. It’s a shame; there are around 250 species in the UK and many of them are very striking, but also very similar to each other.

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This distinctive leaf beetle is Cryptocephalus bipunctatus, which is another first for me, not surprisingly, since it is scarce in the UK.

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I’ve photographed this dapper hoverfly before, but not been able to identify it, despite the striking shiny golden thorax. Now, I think I may have tracked it down; it is, perhaps, Platycheirus fulviventris. It’s a shame it didn’t open its wings, because, if I’m right, it also has a pleasing black and yellow pattern on its abdomen.

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Another Dingy Skipper on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

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I’d been wandering around Gait Barrows, making my way to the cordoned off area, hoping to see a Duke of Burgundy butterfly. I didn’t.

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But I did see this, which I think is a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

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I only hesitate because distinguishing this from the very similar Pearl-bordered Fritillary is best done by looking at the underside of the wings, but the sun shining through the wings here, nice though it is, has obscured some of the colours slightly.

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None-the-less, I am reasonably confident, especially looking again at this last photo.

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This looks like another place where fencing has been removed – or is this new material waiting to go up?

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What I think is a Dark Red Helleborine with nascent flowers, which have since been eaten.

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Gait Barrows Limestone Pavement.

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Bloody Crane’s-bill.

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

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Cirrocumulus?

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Finally, on Moss Lane, some Alexanders. I’ve previously seen this growing in Cornwall and on the Yorkshire coast, but not here, so another first of a sort.

All of that in one walk and a good chat with a friend from the village I hadn’t seen for a while. How’s that?

Most of it was undertaken at snail’s pace. A bit like putting this post together! Both the walk and the research were highly enjoyable though.


Only one song springs to mind here…

Who was best Blur or Oasis?

Answer: Pulp.

Firsts

Songs of Solomon

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Gait Barrows Meadow.

My obsession with the Bay was at least partially superseded by a similar compulsion to keep paying return trips to Gait Barrows; partly in an attempt to spot the rare butterflies which can be seen there, but in the summer Gait Barrows has plenty of other attractions.

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Yellow rattle.

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Limestone pavement.

Although there are some large open areas of limestone pavement, much of it is wooded and then there are other areas which are partially wooded. It’s quite easy to get a bit lost wandering around in this terrain, and also quite scratched as you forge a route through the generally thorny scrub between adjacent islands of open pavement. Great fun to explore though.

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Azure damselfly.

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Dingy skipper.

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More limestone pavement.

I was looking for some particular plants known to grow in the grykes here, but I was also amazed by the sheer variety of plants which obviously thrive in this rather unpromising looking habitat. A wide selection of native trees and shrubs grow in the grykes and all sorts of flowers and ferns.

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Hart’s tongue fern.

Although I was hoping for butterflies, what I was actually looking for was this…

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

Related to, but distinctly different from, Solomon’s-seal and rarer too. I hadn’t seen it before, but had seen photos the day before on Faceache, drawing attention to the fact that it was currently flowering in the grykes at Gait Barrows.

It’s an odd-name Solomon’s-seal isn’t it? I got to wondering what the connection might be between an Old Testament King (and poet) and this plant. My trusty ‘Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain’, has this…

No one knows for certain why Solomon’s-seal is so called. One explanation is that the circular scars on the underground rooting stem, left by the withered flowering shoots of previous years, resemble document seals. Another theory is that the name arose because of the medicinal value of the plant in ‘sealing’ wounds and broken bones. A poultice made from its powdered roots has also been used to cure black eyes and other bruises. The biblical King Solomon himself was traditionally said to have approved this use.

Meanwhile the marvellous ‘Wildflower Finder’ website adds:

Quinine has been discovered only recently to be a secondary metabolite of several Solomons Seals.

So there’s another potential medicinal use, but I should warn you, if you’re worried about malaria, that metabolising Solomon’s-seals is not advised since the plant is toxic.

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Elderflower.

A fortnight later, I remembered seeing elders in flower on the pavement at Gait barrows, but misremembered the details, so that when TBH wanted flowers to make cordial I was boasting that I knew where I could lay my hands on ‘loads’, a claim which transpired to be very wide of the mark. But more on that in a future post no doubt.

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Yet more limestone pavement.

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Dark red helleborine?

I’ve been fanatically returning, again and again, to three tiny plants which I think are dark red helleborine, trying to ensure that this year I actually see them when they are flowering, and not just after, which usually seems to be the case. Frustratingly, on each visit they don’t seem to have progressed at all, with no extra growth and no sign of flowers beyond a feathery stalk…

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…which, to add insult to injury, something has eaten since I took these pictures.

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Cinnabar moth.

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This path, away from the way-marked nature trail around the nature reserve, is one I’ve wanted to explore for years, I don’t know what it was that made me feel emboldened to go and explore on this occasion. I found that the areas around the path were cordoned off with signs explaining that this was to protect the Duke of Burgundy butterflies during the breeding season. These were exactly the butterflies that I’d come looking for, but I didn’t see any on this or any subsequent visit.

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A hoverfly – rhingia campestris. It’s not often I can identify a hoverfly with any degree of confidence, but this one has a prominent snout, just about visible in the photo.

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Unfurling bracken.

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Another dark red helleborine?

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Rodent – field mouse?

Most unusual to see rodents wandering about in broad daylight, but this was the second I’d seen that day and in both cases they didn’t just disappear, but scampered about, dipping into holes, but then reappearing again shortly.

During recent visits to Gait Barrows, I’ve seen tawny owls flying in broad daylight on four occasions, including twice today. I’ve also heard the owls calling, all of which seems unusual. I was never fast enough to get even a sniff of a photo, but it was wonderful to see them anyway. I guess there’s a nest there’s somewhere.


Following on from my last post, and perhaps appropriately for a post which, even obliquely, references the raunchy ‘Song of Solomon’, some versions of ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

First, the original:

Readers of a certain age will remember the Top of the Pops theme, recorded by Collective Consciousness Society, I know I do.

Whisper it, but I’m not especially fond of Tina Turner’s slow-burn cover, but I do like The Dynamics’ reggae version:

The version I’ve listened to most, over the years, is this one…

…by King Curtis and the Kingpins. Marvellous, especially the last 45 seconds or so.

The vocal delivery and lyrics on this song…

‘You Need Loving’ by the Small Faces, ‘influenced’ Robert Plant and because it was a cover of Muddy Waters ‘You Need Love’…

…written by the inestimable Willie Dixon, Dixon eventually got a writing credit on “Whole Lotta Love’. If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Now…Willie Dixon songs…..

Songs of Solomon