Cirque des Baumes Again

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Last time we came this way, we drove up to the view point at Point Sublime, left the cars up at the rim of the gorge, and walked back down to the campsite. It proved to be one of the most memorable mornings of the trip, so, naturally, we were keen to repeat that outing this time.

The views from the top of the gorge defy superlatives. I think I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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The campsite is down there somewhere, in the trees.
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The top of Cirque des Baumes – looks steep. It is.

Last time we visited, I was absolutely fascinated by the vultures we regularly saw overhead, and spent quite a bit of time both watching them and photographing them, mostly producing fairly useless photos. This time, perhaps the novelty had worn off a bit and I wasn’t as engaged as I had been. Never-the-less, they are amazing to watch and from the top of the gorge we had great views.

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Griffon Vulture (I think)
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Of course, having not been so intent on getting a photo of the vultures, I actually got my best yet. Inevitable perhaps. There’s probably a moral there somewhere, for a clever person to tease out.

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Griffon Vulture. Big.
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Wall Brown.
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B nonchalantly standing much too close to the edge.
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A vulture on an even more airy perch.
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The head of Cirque des Baumes again.
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Grasshopper.
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Grasshopper.
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I suspect that this is a Common Lizard – I think the most widespread reptile species, but I’m not sure.
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Likewise.
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Descending into the cirque.
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It’s quite a sketchy path through really impressive scenery. Some of us were taking our time to save our aged knees (and take photos) and the kids raced ahead of us, only to reappear above and behind us somehow.

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As we dropped past one of the large towers, a vulture wheeled just overhead, the closest encounter I’ve had by far. Sadly, my hasty photos, with the light behind the huge scavenger, didn’t come out too well, but it was a very exciting few moments.

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This looks like a Meadow Brown, except they usually have some orange on the underwing. So, I’m hoping that it’s actually a Tree Grayling which would make it another new species to me, in what was a bumper year for butterflies.
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Common Blue, I presume. There were a lot of them about.
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Actually, this might well be a Tree Grayling.
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Silver-washed Fritillary. Possibly.
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Unidentified, but colourful grasshopper.
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Unidentified, but rather lovely moth.

Last time we visited, the Best Butterfly Moment of the holiday – surely everybody has ‘Best Butterfly Moments’ in their holidays? – was the Small Purple Emperor I spotted by the Tarn. This time it was a number of Southern White Admirals which were flitting about near to the end of our descent, where the trees started to get bigger, but there was still plenty of sunshine filtering through.

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Southern White Admiral.
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Southern White Admiral.
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Southern White Admiral.

Stunning creatures. It was a species I didn’t know existed until this summer. Marvellous.

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Looking back up the Cirque.
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A member of the Dead-Nettle family, I suspect.

Most plants seemed to have finished flowering, perhaps as a result of the tree-cover and also the heat, so it was nice to find this small but attractive flowers.

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Wall Brown.

As I approached the bottom of the ravine I met a group who asked if they were going the right way for Point Sublime. They weren’t, having taken the the turn which leads up to La Chapelle Saint-Hillaire, a tiny church nestling under cliffs. My attempts to produce “Go back and turn left” in my rusty school French met with blank looks, but fortunately one of the group spoke very good English. I didn’t envy them the steep ascent in the midday heat, but they were at least young and they all looked very fit.

Sadly, a locked gate blocked the last part of the path to the church, so no photographs this time, although there are a few on my post from our last visit.

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Almost down: looking into the steep-sided ravine at the bottom of the gorge.
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Crag Martin

My own short climb up to the chapel wasn’t wasted energy, partly because the views from near the church are superb, but also because I actually managed to catch a hirundine in flight. Not the sharpest photo, but better than I expected. Crag Martins are apparently quite similar to our own Sand Martins, but with broader wings, lacking a darker band on their chests and with ‘diagnostic’ twin white patches on their tails. I’d been enjoying watching the martins deftly skimming across the surface of the huge cliff which looms over the latter part of the descent, so was very happy to have a closer encounter and a chance to take some photos. You can see in the picture how closely they hug the cliffs in their long sweeps, a bit like watching swallows in their low sallies across a pond or field, but with the different challenge of a vertical surface to follow.

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Looking back at Cirque des Baumes from the road.
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The Tarn from the ‘Mushroom Rock’. The campsite is in the trees by the big shingle bank on the left.

Of course, one consequence of walking down and leaving the cars is that somebody has to go back later to collect them. What a hardship!

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The same view later in the day.
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Another Vulture

More Point Sublime photos to come.

Cirque des Baumes Again

And On to the Tarn Gorge

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A relaxing with a book.

All good things come to an end, and eventually we had to move on from the Dordogne. Fortunately, we were only moving on to the Tarn Gorge, just as we did on our previous trip. This time, as you can see, Andy had booked plots with a direct view of the river, which was rather magnificent.

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B knows how to use a hammock.

Sitting around the campsite chilling out is surely a key ingredient of any camping trip and I certainly did a lot of that on this trip. I got through a lot of reading material. I didn’t use our hammocks, but the rest of the family all loved them and there was often keen competition to secure a berth, since we only had two between us.

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Little S doesn’t know how to use a hammock.

Regular swims in the river were also key. I’d bought a full-face mask with integrated snorkel from Aldi before the trip and it might just be the best eighteen quid I ever spent. The fish here were plentiful, varied and absolutely fascinating. I only wish I had photos to share.

The Dangerous Brothers, including Andy, an honorary DB, (ODB ?), spent much of their time climbing the cliffs to find ridiculously high spots from which to launch themselves, sometimes with a large inflatable shark in tow, which they christened DB Aquatic. I don’t have any photos of them jumping (I preferred not to watch), but there’s some slo-mo footage of their antics on Andy’s blog here.

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By contrast with our last visit, I don’t seem to have taken many photos around the campsite, which is odd because the views are amazing. The cliffs up the valley were lit at night (B was convinced it was the sunset, bless him) and although they looked huge from below, we realised, later in the week when we went up to the rim of the gorge to watch the sunset, that they were actually only a tiny portion of the entire valley side.

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I suppose wasps are always a feature of camping in the summer. This trip was no exception, but this year we had the added joy of regular visits from hornets. I can’t decide if these two photos show hornets or not. I’m not sure they’re big enough – certainly, when they were buzzing around our tent they seemed much bigger than this – about the size of Jack Russel at least.

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On the drive between the two campsites, at an Aire, we even spotted a Hornet’s nest, a football sized paper sphere hidden away in amongst some brambles.

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Common Blue – of course!
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Southern White Admiral.
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Comma.
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Dusky Heath – I think.
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Wall Brown,
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Wall Brown.
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Rock Grayling.
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Grasshopper.
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Grasshopper – possibly Red-winged.

We did quite a bit of walking whilst we were in the Tarn Gorge, so lots more wildlife and scenery photos to come, and I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, but when we were travelling back to the UK we witnessed a rather sobering event, when French customs officers found a man stashed away in a fellow holiday-maker’s Trailer Tent. I assume that the contents of the trailer had been jettisoned to make room for the man – presumably an asylum seeker trying to get to the UK. Frankly, it was all pretty alarming. We’d never been out of sight of our own trailers, and hadn’t stopped near the port, so when they were searched we didn’t have any stow-aways.

When we finally got back, after two solid days of driving and an overnight ferry, we did find one unscheduled passenger though, a shield bug…

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I don’t know if this is a species found in the UK or not, but it did demonstrate how easily you could inadvertently import a non-native species. I don’t think we’d brought any hornets back with us, fortunately.

And On to the Tarn Gorge

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

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Shield Bug, Pale Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Knapweed Fritillary, and wasp, sawfly or ….a?

Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)

This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.

Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…

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Meadow Brown on Horse Mint

I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..

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Another Meadow Brown.

…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.

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Pale Clouded Yellow

Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.

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Pale Clouded Yellow
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Clouded Yellow

Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.

I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.

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Cleopatra

They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….

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Cleopatra

…they’re quite different.

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Knapweed Fritillary

We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.

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Knapweed Fritillary

But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.

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A pair of Knapweed Fritillary

I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.

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A mating display?
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Wood White?
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Wall Brown
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Rock Grayling.
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Grizzled Skipper?

This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.

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Common Blue.
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Common Blue
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Common Blues.
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Common Blue.

I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.

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Holly Blue. I think.
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If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.

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Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.

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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot.
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Striped Shield Bugs – mating?
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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot with a passenger.
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Hairy (or Sloe) Shieldbug.
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Assassin Bug?

There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.

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My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.

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I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.

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I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.

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As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…

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Here’s another…

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…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…

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Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…

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And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…

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Robber Fly

…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.

All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth
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A colourful micro moth.

One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…

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It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Meadow Clary
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.

Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.

A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…

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Thornapple

This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.

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Thornapple

I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.

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Thornapple leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.

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Thornapple seeds – highly poisonous.
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Thornapple seeds.
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Thornapple flowers.

They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.

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Field Eryngo?

Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.

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It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.

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Seedheads of a mallow? I liked the shapes.
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Robin’s pincushion galls.
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A Common Lizard I think.
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These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.

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This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!

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And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

Red-letter Day, White-letter Hairstreak.

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Warton Crag

Another collection of photos from several local walks. The weather, at this point, was very mixed and there were several days when I didn’t take any photos at all.

A visit to Woodwell yielded lots more photos of newts, although the light was poor and the photos are all decidedly murky.

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A pale newt.

This newt seemed much paler than any of the others. I also thought it looked bloated – a female with eggs to lay?

It certainly was of great interest to other newts. I watched some of them follow it around the pond. Eventually three gathered around it and all of them seemed to be nudging its belly. Just after I took this photo…

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…there was some sort of excitement and the newts all seemed to thrash about and then disperse rapidly.

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Here’s another newt which looks very swollen in its midriff, as does the lefthand one of this pair…

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Small Skipper
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Dryad’s Saddle.
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Comma.
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Mottled Grasshopper – I think.
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Enchanter’s Nightshade.
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Enchanter’s Nightshade Leaves
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Soldier Beetles – making love not war.
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Musk Mallow.
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A Mallow? Perhaps a garden escapee?

Mallows are often quite big plants, but this was low growing and I can’t find anything which comes even close to matching it in ‘The Wildflower Key’.

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Wild Thyme.
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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars.
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Honey Bee on Rosebay Willowherb.
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Red Clover
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Coniston Fells from Jack Scout.
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The Limestone Seat at Jack Scout.

My obsessive compulsive photography of butterflies, even common and rather dull species like Meadow Browns, sometimes pays dividends. This brown butterfly…

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White-letter Hairstreak.

…turned out to be a kind I had never seen before. That’s not entirely surprising since hairstreak species generally live up in the treetops. I wonder if it’s significant that the photograph of this species in the little pamphlet guide to the butterflies of this area also depicts a White-letter Hairstreak feeding on Ragwort?

This Ragwort was in the shade and although the butterfly stayed fairly still and I was able to take lots of photos, I was struggling to get a sharp shot.

Two walkers approached, I assumed, from their respective ages, a father and son. The Dad observed my antics with an arched eyebrow and observed:

“It’s not going to open its wings is it? Not to worry, there’s another one behind you, and it does have its wings on show.”

I turned around to see…

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Small Skipper.

…a Small Skipper. Lovely, but not the once in a blue moon opportunity I had been enjoying. I did find the hairstreak again. It even moved into the sunshine, but then insisted on perching in awkward spots where I couldn’t get a clear view…

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White-letter Hairstreak.
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Traveller’s Joy.
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Toadstools.
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Water Lily.
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Brown-lipped Snail.
Red-letter Day, White-letter Hairstreak.

Hare Today

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During my post-work summer evening walks, especially in the Lune valley and the Bowland hills, I often see hares. Usually, however, they are so well hidden in their forms that I only spot them as they shoot off and am way too slow to get any photographs, my walk from Hornby last summer being the one exception. On my walks around home, though, a sight of a hare is much more of a rarity. I know that they are present, because I once spotted a pair, briefly, in Eaves Wood and also a lone hare in a field by The Row, when we lived over there, but both of those sightings were a long while ago.

Which perhaps explains why, when I saw this pair in a field by Hollins Farm, calmly stooping under a gate, I tried to convince myself that they were some sort of large, escaped domestic rabbits. I should have known better: their size, their long black-tipped ears, their long legs, their colour, their movement and speed, their black and white tails – all mark them out as hares and not rabbits.

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During the mating season a female hare will apparently lead a male on a very lengthy chase before she deems him a fit partner. Here, she ducked back under the gate and then walked along the edge of the field with the gullible male following on the wrong side of the field. Halfway across the field, she, rather gleefully I thought, cut across the field, leaving the duped male sitting forlornly by the fence watching.

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Shortly, a second male appeared and began to race after the female. Hares can apparently manage 45mph and their velocity around the field was certainly something to behold.

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Meanwhile, the first male had worked out that he needed to retrace his steps and was crossing the field in pursuit of the other two.

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Of course, my interpretation of the events may be wide of the mark, but this little local drama certainly enlivened a fairly dull, overcast day.

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I was wandering around Heathwaite on my way up Arnside Knott. There were lots of butterflies about, mostly, but not exclusively, Meadow Browns. Lots of other insects too.

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Although the light wasn’t great, I was very happy taking photos, both of the insects and of  the flowers which I’ve learned from Peter Marren are collectively called ‘yellow composites’ – dandelion like flowers in seemingly endless subtle varieties: hawkweeds, hawkbits, hawk’s-beards and  cat’s-ears. I was noticing how, on closer inspection, there were actually obvious differences between the flowers, although I’m still not sure that I could link those differences to pictures in a flower-key and actually manage to identify any of the awkward so-and-sos.

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I was quite taken with this view along the coast, which I usually photograph from much higher up the hillside. It may have been the presence of an elder in flower in the foreground which inspired my appreciation.

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I’d hoped to find Northern Marsh Orchid and Fragrant Orchid in flower, I’ve certainly seen them here before, but no sign. The profusion of Oxeye daisies was some compensation.

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A hoverfly doing a passable impersonation of a honeybee, possibly a Drone Fly.

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This little pink flower has me stumped. It looks a little like Betony or Self-heal, but isn’t either of those two.

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The tiny flower of Salad Burnet.

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Common Green Grasshopper, possibly.

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A Snout Moth, possibly?

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The view along the coast from ‘higher up the hillside’.

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A St. John’s Wort?

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Wood Ants.

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Heath Spotted-orchid.

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Dropwort.

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That view again, but from higher still.

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I dropped down onto the northern side of the Knott and the telephoto on my camera confirmed my suspicion that, in an inversion of the normal run of things, the Cumbrian Fells were experiencing better weather than we were on the margins of the bay.

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Longhorn beetles – Strangalia melanura.

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Dog Rose.

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Thyme-leaved Speedwell. Possibly.

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Lesser Butterfly Orchid. 

The butterfly orchids were tiny – much smaller than than when I’d seen them in this same spot in Redhill Pasture last year, surely a consequence of the prolonged dry weather.

Sod’s law was in operation, and I arrived home just as the weather improved considerably. This large vigorous daisy…

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…had appeared in the flowerbed by our garage. It’s Feverfew, a non-native herbal plant which has become a naturalised weed.

Take of Feverfew one handful, warm it in a Frying-pan, apply it twice or thrice hot; this cures an Hemicrania: And the crude Herb applied to the Top of the Head cures the Head-ach.

This is from ‘The Compleat Herbal of Physical Plants’ written by John Pechey in 1694. The curious thing is that clinical trials have shown that Feverfew is effective in the treatment of ‘Hemicrania’ – halfhead, or migraine as we know it today.

TBH didn’t much like it in our border though and I have subsequently hoicked it out. I have spotted it growing in several other places around the village I’m pleased to report.


Had to be Peggy Lee ‘Fever’ and The Cramps cover of same…

There seem to be hundreds of versions of this song, but this is the original, by Little Willie John…

Hare Today

Butterflies on the Mynydds

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Bardsey Island.

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

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

And having started there…

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…I fell gradually farther and farther behind.

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

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

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

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Mynydd Anelog.

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Common Blue on Common Fleabane.

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

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

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

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Painted Lady on Common Fleabane.

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Drone Fly on Mint.

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Mynydd Mawr.

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

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

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

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Tatty Meadow Brown.

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Mottled Grasshopper. Possibly.

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Small Copper.

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Tatty Painted Lady.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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

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Along the coast to the distant Rivals.

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Mynydd Anelog.

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Red Admiral.

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Meadow Brown.

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

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

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

Butterflies on the Mynydds

Mouse Will Play

Eaves Wood – Arnside Tower – Far Arnside – Park Point – White Creek – Blackstone Point – New Barns – Copridding Wood – Arnside Knott – Redhill Woods – Hagg Wood – Black Dyke – Silverdale Moss – Gait Barrows – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Redbridge Lane – The Row – Hagg Wood

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Big clouds and the beach at Far Arnside.

The best day of my solo week was the Thursday, which was windy and changeable, but which also brought quite a bit of sunshine. Because the forecast wasn’t great, I decided to stay close to home again.

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Sloes.

Last autumn, I collected some sloes with a view to making some sloe gin. I was a bit early and the sloes hadn’t had their first frost yet, but I’d read that you can just stick them in the freezer and achieve the same affect, which I duly did. I’m sure that I warned TBH about the sloes. Well, fairly sure. Anyway, she forgot, and added the sloes to her breakfast smoothie one morning, thinking they were frozen blueberries. The resulting smoothie was more crunchy than smooth, being full of bits of the stones from the sloes and it was also mouth-puckeringly tart.

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Marooned tree-trunk.

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I’ve posted pictures of these fossilised corals from Far Arnside a couple of times before.

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They aren’t always easy to find, which doesn’t make much sense, I know, but I was pleased to find them again on this occasion and spent a happy few moments seeking them out on the rocks.

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Vervain?

This delicate and inconspicuous plant bears slender spikes of pale lilac flowers. It is hard to understand why our ancestors regarded such a modest and unassuming plant as immensely powerful.

from Hatfield’s Herbal by Gabrielle Hatfield

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Can’t think that I’ve noticed this plant before, but there was quite a bit of it blowing about in the stiff wind on the rocks hard by the shore. It was apparently sacred to the Druids, widely regarded as a panacea in the Middle Ages, and thought to be both used by witches and proof against witchcraft.

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Looking along the shore towards Grange.

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A similar view taken not too much after the previous photo. You can see that the weather was very changeable.

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Burnett Rosehip.

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The Kent Estuary.

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A Tellin. I don’t know whether it’s a Thin Tellin or a Baltic Tellin, but I was interested to read that the creatures which occupy these shells can live beneath the sand at densities of up to 3000 per cubic metre.

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A shower on the far bank.

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Meathop Fell across the Kent – bathed in sunshine again.

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The Kent at New Barns.

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Big Clouds over Meathop Fell.

After our stay in the Tarn Gorge, where most flowers seemed to have already gone over to seed, I was on the look-out to see what was still in bloom at home. The refreshing answer was that there was so many things flowering that I soon lost count.

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Sea Plantain.

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A Hoverfly on a Hawk’s-beard. I wish I could be more specific, but Britain has several species of Hawk’s-beard and over 250 kinds of hoverfly and I can’t be sure about either of these.

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Mallards.

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Sea Campion.

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Another hoverfly – possibly Helophilus Pendulus.

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And yet another kind, also unidentified.

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Creeping Thistle and, I think, a Mason Bee (22 resident British species).

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Mason bees, although closely related to social wasps, are solitary hunters which stock their nests with various insects to feed their larvae.

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Sea Aster.

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Yet another kind of hoverfly, perhaps a Drone Fly, this time on Yarrow.

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And another, on Common Knapweed, I think.

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This has been quite a year for fungi, and this walk was no exception, with many different sizes, colours and forms seen.

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A rather faded Brown Argus butterfly.

This area is unusual because it’s on the northern limit of the Brown Argus and the southern limit of the Northern Brown Argus, but has both species. I’ve rarely seen either though, so this was a bit of a bonus.

In Greek mythology, Argus was a giant with a hundred eyes.

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More fungi.

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Bedeguar Galls, home to wasp grubs.

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Common Darter, this colouration is typical of older females.

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The view from the Knott, excellent though it was, was curtailed somewhat by clouds obscuring the larger hills of the the Lake District, which, to some extent at least, justified my decision not to head for the hills for a walk.

I stopped for half an hour, to sit on a bench and make a brew. I chatted to a couple of chaps I’d met earlier in the walk and was also befriended by a wasp, which was apparently fascinated by my phone and insisted on crawling all over it.

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A bumblebee on what looks like Marsh Woundwort, although it wasn’t growing in a remotely marshy spot.

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Blackberries – I ate plenty during this walk.

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A male Small White (I think).

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That bumblebee again. I can’t see any pollen-baskets, so is it a male or a Cuckoo Bee?

image

Arnside Knott pano (click on this, or nay other, image to see larger version on flickr.

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Bittersweet.

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Painted Lady.

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Leighton Beck.

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Greater plantain.

A common plant with many names: Broad-leaved Plantain, Rat’s-tail Plantain, Banjos, Angel’s Harps. To the Anglo-Saxons it was Waybread, one of their nine sacred herbs and another powerful medicinal plant. I remember playing with these as a child – gently pulled away from the plant, a leaf would bring with several long thin fibres – the challenge was to get longer ‘guitar strings’ than your friends. Who needs Fortnite?

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It wasn’t only me enjoying the blackberries!

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Heron.

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Middlebarrow and Arnside Knott.

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Unidentified Umbellifer.

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Arnside Knott across Silverdale Moss.

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Little Egret.

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These look like mutant Blackberries, but in fact they are a related species: Dewberries. They have fewer segments and are so juicy that they tend to disintegrate when picked. In my opinion, they’re superior to blackberries. They’re apparently more common in Eastern England, but I now know several spots where they grow.

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Speckled Wood.

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Orpine.

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More fungi.

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Grasshopper (possibly Common Green Grasshopper).

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This is the field adjacent to the one where I found lots of mushrooms just a couple of days before. All along this track there was a new rash of small mushrooms.

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A little later I passed through another field with, if anything, even more mushrooms.

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Banded snail.

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Of course, mushrooms are fine in the field, but even better with a piece of rump steak and a creamy blue cheese sauce….

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Fine way to finish a fine day.

Mouse Will Play

An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

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We didn’t travel away from the campsite often when we were in the Cévennes, but we did have one grand day out. The journey itself was interesting, giving us another opportunity to look down into the Tarn Gorge.

And also to enjoy some more roadside entomology.

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It seems that as well as a bewildering variety of Grayling butterflies, the Continent is also home to several similar species of Ringlets. This is one of those. It looks very like a Marbled Ringlet, but online sources refer to that as an Alpine species. I remember seeing something similar when we visited the Vosges, although revisiting my post from the time I can see that it was perhaps slightly different. And also, to my surprise, a photo of what looks very like a Silver-washed Fritillary, so that I may have been wrong about never having seen one before.

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I can’t find this tiny moth, either in my field guide or online, so I don’t know what it’s called, but I do know that it’s stunningly patterned.

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This is a Red-winged Grasshopper, similar to the Blue-winged variety which featured in a recent post. You can’t see the bright red flashes which appear, to startling affect, when the insect hops into flight, but you can see the red hind-legs…

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Marbled Ringlet?

The drive over the higher ground was pleasant without being spectacular. It brought us to Meyrueis…

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In the valley of the Jonte, a tributary of the Tarn.

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Above Meyrueis, we stopped again briefly at a small hillside chapel – Notre-Dame du-Rocher…

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I enjoyed the contrasting colours of these flowers…

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And have included this second photo because of the tiny, pale Ladybird in the top left corner of the white flower.

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Gatekeeper.

We were soon underway again, heading for the excellent Grotte de Dargilan, of which more to follow…(eventually).

An Excursion to the Jonte Valley.

The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

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One of the things which I really enjoyed in France was the abundance and variety of the butterflies. They were everywhere; although, often quite difficult to photograph. Whilst the Dordogne had been impressive in that regard, the Tarn Gorge area was better yet. What follows then is a collection of photographs of some of the butterflies, and other insects, which I saw in and around the campsite. (There will be even more butterflies to come, from various days out.)

First up, the Lesser Purple Emperor, in German the Kleiner Schillerfalter, or Smaller Shimmer Butterfly. Like many of the other insects here, I spotted this during a short afternoon wander a little way upriver. Here are the underside of the wings…

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And here when they are slightly open…

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Brown, orange and white you’ll notice, but when opened a fraction more…

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Bright, iridescent blue! Absolutely stunning. I’ve been wondering how the wings could  change colour like that and eventually tracked down an explanation: apparently the scales on the wings have tiny structures on them which diffract light waves and subsequently cause interference which gives the iridescent colour.

That was the first and, so far at least, only Lesser Purple Emperor I’ve ever seen; but there were some more familiar species about too.

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Large Skipper.

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A very tatty Peacock.

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Common Blue(?)

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Comma (Robert le Diable to the French).

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This is another species which was new to me, although they can be found in England. It’s a Marbled White.

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Dragonflies like this one…

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…were extremely common along the river’s edge. I’m pretty confident that it’s Onychogomphus uncatus, the Large Pincertail Dragonfly.

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There were more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Although the related Banded Demoiselle…

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…seemed to be more prevalent. I think that this…

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…female is a Banded Demoiselle, because they are apparently brighter than female Beautiful Demoiselles.

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A Blue-winged Grasshopper. I wish I could show you what it looked like in flight, when those blue wings were on show. It’s not only Schillerfalters which can undergo a startling transformation of colour.

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Another female Great Green Bush-cricket, this time in our Kubb set.

Finally, back to butterflies and one that got away, just about. I saw lots of Swallowtails during our trip, but this is the only one I managed to photograph*.

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This was in the village of Les Vignes and taken from a considerable distance. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

(*The photograph in a previous post was of a Scarce Swallowtail, a similar and related species.)

The Kleiner Schillerfalter and Other Beautiful Bugs.

A Different World.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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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.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…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.

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A male Small White, I think.

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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…

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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?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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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.

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

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Grasshopper.

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

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Speckled Wood.

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

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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.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

A Different World.