A Different World.

P1150904

Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

P1150908

Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

P1150911

I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

P1150913

I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

P1150914

I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

P1150917

Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

P1150920

…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

P1150923

A male Small White, I think.

P1150924

Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

P1150929

Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

P1150936

Bumblebee on Knapweed.

P1150949

Painted Lady.

P1150957

Red Admiral.

P1150970

Another Peacock’s-tail.

P1150973

Eyebright.

P1150977

Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

P1150979

The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

P1150988

Grasshopper.

P1150989

I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

P1150994

Speckled Wood.

P1150995

A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

P1150998

I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

P1160003

Female Common Darter.

P1160018

Another Brimstone.

P1160028

Male Common Darter.

Advertisements
A Different World.

Gait Barrows Again

P1150658

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.

P1150670

Male Migrant Hawker.

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

P1150666

P1150682

Bumblebee on Betony.

P1150688

Speckled Wood.

P1150697

P1150708

P1150709

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

P1150724

Broad-leaved Helleborine.

P1150729

Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

P1150733

Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

P1150739

Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

P1150746

Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

P1150748

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.

P1150759

P1150754

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.

P1150766

Hoverfly.

P1150777

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.

P1150781

Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

P1150788

Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

P1150801

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.

P1150807

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.

P1150817

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.

P1150820

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.

P1150827

Gait Barrows Again

Summertime Blues

And oranges, greens, browns, purples, yellows….

Almost a proper post-work walk this one, since it was the evening of the last day of the summer term. I was out a little earlier than I often am, which meant sunshine for a change and lots of colour. I chose to go back to the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

In the woods I followed a large wasp or hoverfly hoping to see it land. I lost it, but then spotted this apparently besieged beetle…

P1150346

I think that this is a Common Sextant Beetle – Nicrophorus vespilloides. I thought that maybe the small brown mites covering the beetle – which I’m pretty sure was dead – were eating it, or had possibly even killed it, but it turns out that the truth is far more interesting and surprising…

“These [Sextant] beetles perform an important service in getting rid of carrion – dead small animals and birds. Males and females cooperate to bury this matter, by digging beneath the bodies to provide a food supply for their larvae.

Adults show an incredible maternal care for the larvae, something very unusual in the insect world. They fly in search of new sources of food at night and readily come to outside lights. They are often seen to be host to very tiny pinkish brown mites which are not parasites but feeders on moulds which would otherwise spoil carrion as a food source for the larvae. These mites use the beetles as a way of getting about. This beetle is commonly seen at light in gardens, often in company with a related, all black species, the black sexton.”

Source

P1150353

I’ve had a bumper year for Common Lizards, which is great. With the sun shining I wasn’t at all surprised to find a few more on the boardwalk by Hawes Water.

P1150357

Unlike the ones I’ve seen at Foulshaw Moss, these all had their tails. They were very varied in colour.

P1150359

Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The lizards weren’t the only ones basking in the sun.

P1150363

This one, it seems to me, is more blue than green, somewhat to my surprise.

P1150369

Three lizards this time, not a bad haul.

P1150372

Hawes Water.

P1150373

Meadow Brown.

P1150375

“The Robin’s Pincushion (also known as the ‘Bedeguar Gall’) is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is widespread and common, and can be found developing on the stems of wild roses during late summer, acquiring its reddish colour as it matures in autumn. The grubs inside the gall feed on the host plant throughout the winter and emerge in spring as adults. The adults reproduce asexually and only a tiny number are male.”

Source

P1150377

Male White-tailed Bumblebee?

P1150386

Wild Basil again (the same plant).

P1150396

Froghopper – very different from the last one I saw.

P1150397

Meadow Brown.

P1150400

Mating Gatekeepers.

P1150404

P1150411

Betony.

P1150415

Rather tired Common Spotted-orchid.

P1150417

Small Skipper on Betony.

P1150420

Look at that tongue!

P1150464

I had a bit of a wander around an area of limestone pavement which I don’t think I’ve explored before. A surprisingly diverse range of plants seem to thrive in the grykes.

P1150436

Hart’s-tongue Fern.

P1150439

Maidenhair Spleenwort.

P1150447

Eyebright.

P1150454

Great Mullein.

P1150471

There were lots of these plants, growing in clumps, with strappy leaves, very dark stems and flowers which don’t seem quite open yet. I’ve had several ideas about their identity, but have eventually discounted them all.

P1150474

With it’s succulent leaves, this looks like some sort of stonecrop, but also remains a puzzle. Maybe when it’s flowering fully I’ll be able to identify it?

P1150477

Ploughman’s-spikenard.

I was intrigued by the name of this daisy, so had a peek in ‘Flora Britannica’:

“True spikenard or ‘nard’, was an expensive, spicy perfume made from roots of a Himalayan plant…”

I’m not sure why Mabey says ‘was’, since a google search elicits many offers of expensive cure-all Spikenard essential oils.

There are, apparently, several references to Spikenard in the Bible, both Old and New Testament*.

Ploughman’s Spikenard is the poor-man’s English alternative. The “roots have a strong aromatic smell. They are sometimes dried and hung up in cottages as room-fresheners.”

P1150486

Dark Red Helleborine.

I’ve been wanting to find some of these since I moved to the area, without really being sure when or where to look. It’s part of the reason I was wandering around on the limestone pavement. I found several plants when I’d given up and was back on the path at the edge of the pavement. Sadly, they’d finished flowering and the flowers were dried brown husks. With one or two exceptions…

P1150491

Now I know where to start my search next summer. Roll on.

*  For example: “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

From the King James version of the Song of Solomon. As ever, reliably weird. On which note – it’s probably only me that read this and heard: ‘Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon. Going up…’ If you get the reference and can hear the theme tune now then that probably means that you’re a child of the seventies and your life too was blighted by useless sit-coms. (‘Wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up…’)

 

Summertime Blues