Gait Barrows Again

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Female Common Darter.

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

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Male Migrant Hawker.

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

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Bumblebee on Betony.

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Speckled Wood.

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

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Hoverflies on Hemp Agrimony.

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Robin’s Pincushion Gall.

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Wall-rue (I think), a fern.

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Knapweed and St. John’s Wort.

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

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

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Hoverfly.

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

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Buff Footman (I think), a moth.

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Another Common Green Shieldbug nymph – perhaps the final instar.

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

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

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

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

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Gait Barrows Again

Burns Beck Moss

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A post work outing which neatly divides into two parts, so I’ve decided to split it over two posts. The first of which covers a trip to Burns Beck Moss Nature Reserve. It’s a wetland reserve with Burns Beck, a tributary of the Lune naturally, running through it. It’s access land, but the information board near the entrance asks that you stick to the path, and given how wet it is, it seems both reasonable and sensible to use the mostly-duckboarded route.

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I was struck by how many Ringlets I saw, in fact by how many I’ve seen generally so far this summer. Since then, today in fact, I’ve chatted with somebody much better informed than I am, who tells me that species like Ringlets, and also Meadow Browns and Gate-keepers, which can feed on a variety of grasses, have been very successful in recent years and have been extending their range northwards, perhaps because of our milder winters and wetter summers which benefit grasses.

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This small bridge over the beck was home to a pair of Common Lizards, happily sunning themselves until I came along and disturbed them.

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Wind Farm on unnamed (on OS map) hill south of Burns Beck Moss.

There was a lot of Valerian flowering on the moss; it seemed to be very attractive to a variety of hover-flies.

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Small Skipper.

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A Crane Fly, couldn’t say which one.

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Possibly Snipe Fly.

The flies which are missing from my photographs are the many Horse Flies, or Clegs, which were making a meal of my calves. This has happened on many of my other evening walks this summer, but I haven’t usually reacted – this time I ended up with numerous angry red weals which itched like crazy and took the best part of a week to disappear completely.

Opposite the reserve an old quarry gives plenty of off-road parking. The road-side verges and the edges of the quarry provided more flowers to photograph…

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A Willow-Herb?

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Meadow Crane’s-bill: more often seen on verges than meadows these days.

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Pencilled Crane’s-bill (I think), an introduced species.

There was lots of Hogweed on the verges, all of it very busy with Soldier Beetles and numerous small flies, but I also spotted this small, but rather handsome moth…

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I’ve tried, in vain, to identify it from my Field Guide.

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Likewise, this flower, which seems very distinctive, with it’s pea-type flowers and very narrow leaves. I thought it would be very easy to identify, but…wrong again! It was growing, very successfully, from spoil heaps of gravel at the edge of the quarry and shall remain a mystery, at least for now.

Burns Beck Moss

Another Monday Evening at Foulshaw

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Juvenile Great Spotted-woodpecker.

Sometimes you wait and wait for an interesting sighting and on other occasions the birds on the feeders in the car park just ignore you when you pull in and carry on seemingly oblivious as you take photos.

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The red patch on the this woodpeckers head is the tell-tale sign that it is a juvenile.

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Figwort.

Figwort grows near home – at Lambert’s meadow and in Middlebarrow wood – but the plants at Foulshaw Moss were taller and more sturdy. I thought that even the tiny flowers might have been a little less tiny than I’ve seen before.

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Marsh Thistle (possibly).

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Tufted Vetch.

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A female Azure Damselfly – I think.

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Large Skipper.

I’ve puzzled, in the past, over the difference between Large and Small skippers, but I think that patterned brown lower edge to the wing makes this a ‘large’ one (still quite small).

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Tentatively identified as a Common Heath Moth – if it is, then the feathery antennae make it a male.

There were a lot of butterflies and day flying moths about, but as soon as they alighted they tended to disappear into the vegetation, so I can’t be sure whether or not I saw either of the nationally scarce species found here: the Large Heath Butterfly or the Argent and Sable Moth. Another time perhaps.

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Moorhen.

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Swallow.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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Male Reed Bunting.

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Scorpion Fly.

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Large Skipper.

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This hoverfly is pretty distinctive because, although it has the yellow and black colours of many hoverflies, it doesn’t have any lateral stripes, so I thought I would be able to find it in my ‘Complete British Insects’ book, but no such luck.

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This, on the other hand, is, I think, one form of the species Volucella Bombylans, doing a more than passable impression of a White-tailed Bumble-bee. The other form imitates the Red-tailed Bumble-bee. The female lays her eggs in the nests of bees and wasps, where the larvae feed on debris and occasionally the bee larvae.

Another Monday Evening at Foulshaw

The Great Stone and the River Wenning

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Tufted Vetch.

A warm and rather sultry mid-week evening. I parked near to the Punch Bowl in Low Bentham and have to admit that the tables lavishing in the sunshine outside the pub looked very tempting. But I had miles to go and photos to take, so – another time. Some of the first part of the climb out of the valley was on minor roads, which weren’t busy at all and anyway had the compensation of the diverse flora and fauna of the average untrimmed roadside verge.

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Tree Bumblebee.

This Bumblebee, unusually, didn’t seem to be intent on doing anything purposeful at all, just exploring this small bark-free area of a tree trunk and soaking up some rays. I wondered if the communal nest was somewhere nearby.

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Dog Rose.

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Beyond this hedgerow you can see Ingleborough, which was to dominate the view throughout almost the entire walk, but the reason I took the photo was the fact that the hedge here was draped in more webs.

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Tent moths again, I suspect, but I couldn’t see any caterpillars this time.

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Volucella Pellucens on Ground Elder.

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Drone Fly (or something similar).

I left Mill Lane, embarking on a section of the walk which passed through a series of pastures, some with stock, some without, some which had been grazed, some which hadn’t, at home the silage cut had begun, but not here.

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The White Clover in this field was thronged with bumblebees which seemed to favour it over the even more prolific buttercups.

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Bumblebee on White Clover.

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Painted lady.

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Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough.

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I’m reading John Wright’s book ‘A Natural History of the Hedgerow’ at present, and it is making me scrutinise hedges even more thoroughly then I generally would. On thhis walk, many of the ‘internal’ hedges I passed (i.e. between two fields rather than bordering a road) had grown out into separate shrubs and trees and were no longer stock-proof, requiring an accompanying fence. The one above however had recently been laid.

The building at the end of the hedge is Willow Tree, where I would cross a minor road and Eskew Beck in quick succession.

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This hillside above the Weening is criss-crossed by a multitude of both paths and small streams and there’s plenty of scope for return visits with substantially different routes. Beyond the farm of Oakhead, I climbed beside the County Beck and then turned right onto an abrupt change of terrain. Suddenly I was on undrained moorland, wet underfoot and heavily populated with burbling Curlews…

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It was slightly odd, because uphill of the access area the land reverted to farmland – I wondered why this area had never been ‘improved’. Whatever the reason, I was glad it hadn’t.

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Gragareth, Whernside, Ingleborough. Again.

A short stroll across the moor brought me to…

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…the Great Stone, a glacial erratic, or, alternatively, a bit of debris dropped by Old Nick when he was building Devil’s Bridge at nearby Kirkby Lonsdale. Incidentally, both the route, and that bit of local folklore are lifted from Graham Dugdale’s book ‘Curious Lancashire Walks’.

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Somebody has carved steps in the boulder to give easy access to the top, so, having clambered up to admire the view, I settled down to get the stove on to make a brew, something I do far too infrequently on these evening rambles.

This has to be one of the best places from which to view all three of the Three Peaks…

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Whernside.

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Ingleborough.

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From there, I dropped down across more open moorland, crossing Burbles Gill…

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Small Heath.

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I don’t think I’ve seen quite such a concentration of Curlews in one place before – even when I walked around Roeburndale earlier this year, they weren’t this numerous.

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The walk along the wooded Branstone Beck was very pleasant. At one point I disturbed a whole family of Wrens. They all came streaming out of a small shrub, each little red-brown ball heading in a slightly different direction, it was like watching one of those cute fireworks which get set off in-between the really impressive ones. One of the Wrens, I presume a juvenile, didn’t go very far and sat in plain view for a while, whilst a parent sat on a nearby branch presumably exhorting her offspring to move away from the nasty man.

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In amongst the trees, in the wet ground here, there were quite a few orchids. This one…

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…with a single lower lip to the flower looks to me like Heath Spotted-orchid, but this one growing nearby…

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…with the lower part of the flower more obviously divided into three is more like Common Spotted-orchid. Of course, just to add to the confusion, orchids are well known for hybridising.

The remainder of the walk was along the Wenning, although frustratingly it wasn’t always clearly in view, because of the trees growing on the bank, and beyond High Bentham it passed through a large, manicured and rather dispiriting caravan park.

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I actually have two John Wright books on the go at the moment, I’ve also been dipping in to ‘Hedgerow: River Cottage Handbook Number 7’. Whilst the titles might sound similar, this book is more straightforwardly a book for prospective foragers. In it Wright opines that Sweet Cicely can be as dominant on roadside verges in the North as Cow Parsley is in the South. I must be looking in the wrong places, because I don’t find it very often. Some umbelliferae are poisonous, so I suppose caution should be exercised, but if the leaves smell of aniseed and the seeds are relatively large then you probably have Sweet Cicely.

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Sweet Cicely.

Sweet Cicely has traditionally been used, as the name implies, as a sweetener, with tart fruit like gooseberries and rhubarb and it genuinely is surprisingly sweet. I took one to chew on and then, when I’d finished, was very tempted to go back for more. I should probably issue the additional caution that my diet doesn’t include anything remotely sugary, so that most vegetables taste sweet to me, and that I really love aniseed. I’m attracted by the idea of adding some of these to steep in White Rum for a homemade pastis. (Wright is also the author of the River Cottage Handbook on Booze.)

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The Wenning.

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Chimney Sweeper.

One of the things I like about ‘A Natural History of Hedgerows’ is the way it has got across to me the web of symbiotic relationships between plants, fungi and insects. I now know that the huge fungi we saw near Sizergh Castle are Britain’s largest fungi and that they only grow on Beech trees and that the Toothwort which I so obsessively seek out each year will only attack Hazel or Elm. Likewise, this tiny moth, which I remember seeing in great numbers last summer in Kentmere, feeds exclusively on Pignut (another forager’s favourite).

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River Wenning.

I’ve been meaning to take a visit to the Great Stone ever since I was first given ‘Curious Lancashire Walks’, which was a while ago: it seems the ‘Lune Catchment’ project has given me new impetus and encouraged me to try pastures new rather then sticking exclusively to tried and tested favourites.

 

The Great Stone and the River Wenning

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

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I had set my alarm for an early start, or to put it another way, I left the curtains open, which never fails. A quick cuppa and then I was out, the early sun lighting the clouds in the eastern sky from below, but not yet visible above the horizon. (At this latitude, and this time of year, that does require a bit of a sacrifice of potential sleeping hours.)

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Everything was freighted with pearls of dew and down towards Hawes Water a cloud of mist hung over the trees. I climbed up into Eaves Wood, hoping that the extra height would give me a good view over the low cloud.

With the trees in the wood now fully clad with leaves, the views weren’t as clear as they were after my last early start, but the mist was glowing pink with the early light, so churlish really to complain.

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The mist from Eaves Wood – Ingleborough on the right.

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Cobweb, Sixteen Buoys field.

The mist was more dense than last time. A pale white disc appeared though the murk and then gradually brightened, suffusing the fog with colour as it simultaneously burned it off.

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In the wildflower meadow beyond the lake, the grass was strung with gossamer, which was in turn bedecked with dewdrops.

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I suppose this mass of spider’s webs must always be here, at least at this time of year, but usually goes unnoticed without the coat of sunlit drops to illuminate it.

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It looked likely that anyone who had opted to watch the sunrise from Arnside Knott would also have been treated to a temperature inversion. I don’t suppose that Brocken spectres are a common sight from the Knott.

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In the trees on Yealand Allotment, I had more cheering, but slightly frustrating encounters with families of Marsh Tits and Great Tits; I have lots of photographs showing birds partially obscured by leaves. I did eventually locate a tree-top Chiff-chaff, which was singing it’s name as ever. I also saw a couple of Fallow Deer again, although they too were too veiled by leaves for me to get a very clear photo.

This big, old Horse Chestnut by a gate into Leighton Moss is a favourite of mine.

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We drive past it every weekday morning and I was alarmed to notice, last week, that its large limbs have all been lopped off. I hope that isn’t a precursor to chopping the whole tree down.

This tiny Sedge Warbler, probably weighing about 10g…

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…was singing with great gusto and astonishing volume.

“…exuberant song, full of mimicry, seldom repeating itself, suddenly halting, then tearing off again, always sounding vaguely irritated.”

from The Complete Book of British Birds

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Yellow Iris.

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On this occasion, I had Lower Hide all to myself. Aside from the Greylag Geese and a lone Moorhen, there didn’t seem to be much to see. But with a couple of windows open I could hear warblers on every side. I kept getting brief, occasional views in amongst the reeds, but it didn’t seem likely that I would get a better view than that, until, just as I was thinking of moving on, a pair of birds landed in the reeds right in front of the hide…

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They were Reed Warblers. Like other warblers, migrants from warmer climes. Paler than their close cousin the Sedge Warbler and less yellow than a Chiff-Chaff.

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They shuffled between the reed tops, the nearby bush…

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…and down deeper among the reeds…

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They would fly off for a while, or disappear into the reeds, but eventually they would reappear. Maybe they were building a nest?

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As I reached the Causeway path and looked out into the fields towards Grisedale Farm, I was lucky enough to spot these deer.

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My immediate thought was that they must be Red Deer, because they seemed relatively large, but then I began to doubt myself; if they were Red Deer, why weren’t they in a large group, which is how I’ve usually encountered them locally? Maybe they were Roe Deer and I was mistaken about their size? After the fact, I’ve realised that I should have had the courage of my convictions. Roe Deer bucks have mature antlers at present, whereas Red Deer stags have new antlers, covered in velvet.

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Dog Rose

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Another warbler

Where the causeway crosses a small bridge I always pause to take a look around.

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And to peer into the water…

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Common Backswimmer (I think)

I was astonished by these tiny red mites…

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…so small that I wondered at first if they were inanimate particles undergoing some sort of Brownian motion. But they have little legs, so clearly not.

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From the Public Hide, I took no end of photos of this Heron…

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…which was feeling very chilled, in no hurry at all, and quite happy to pose. Perhaps predictably, it’s the very first photo I took which I prefer from the entire selection.

Although it was probably still what most people would consider to be indecently early to even be up on a Saturday morning, there were quite a few people about now. Birdwatchers are an ascetic bunch; up with the lark and all that. A chap and his daughter (I assumed) had spotted this warbler…

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…which was singing from the reeds. He asked me if I knew what it was. At first I demurred from offering an opinion. Then said that it was a warbler, probably a Reed or Sedge Warbler. I don’t know why I’m so reticent in these sort of circumstances; I’m usually not short of an opinion, or shy about sharing my views. It’s a Reed Warbler. (And even now I’m fighting the temptation to hedge my bets with a ‘probably’ or ‘I think’). Not only does it look like a Reed Warbler, but it sang like a Reed Warbler. Reed and Sedge Warbler’s have similar songs, and it comes as something of a surprise to me to realise that I could tell the difference, at least on that Saturday morning, having already heard both species singing when I could see them clearly as they sang.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a huge variety of wildlife as I have this spring, but then I know I’ve never before made such an effort to get outside to have the opportunity to have encounters. Reed Buntings are a good case in point: I’ve seen far more this year then I’ve previously seen in total.

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Male Red Bunting.

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Yellow Iris with Tree Bumblebee (?)

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Marsh Harrier.

There’s more water to peer in to at the pond-dipping area.

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Pond-Skaters

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View from the Skytower.

This bumblebee…

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…was stock-still, apparently frozen in position.

Whilst I was taking the photo, several of her sister Early Bumblebees arrived to forage…

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But she stayed completely motionless.

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My theory is that, on cold nights, like many we’ve had of late, bumble-bees get benighted, too cold to continue, so they have no option but to stay where they are, effectively asleep until at least the following day, when the sun warms them sufficiently to get them mobile again..

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Ragged Robin in Lambert’s Meadow

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Early Bumblebees again (I think).

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser

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Episyrphus alteatus (?).

All that and still back in time for a latish breakfast. It had been slowish progress however: roughly four hours for a route which I know I can complete in two and a half. Sometimes, taking your own sweet time really pays off.

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

Whitsun Weekend at Home

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Last weekend the surfnslide crew came to stop for the weekend. We’ve had a few Whitsun get togethers before, both down in Herefordshire at their house and here in Silverdale. This one was all too brief, just the long weekend, but got our week off to a great start, and, to me at least, has made it feel like I’ve had a much longer break than a week. (Not a bad trick!)

As usually seems to be the case, the weather was a bit mixed, but we definitely made the most of it, filling in the time between decent spells of weather with various board games and the usual menu of chit-chat and cups of tea.

On the Saturday morning, before the storms came, we had a short stroll down to the Cove and then across the Lots, where we played frisbee for a while as you can see above.

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At the Cove some of the children wanted to explore the smelly cave and another fetid little hole they have discovered on the other side of the Cove at the base of the cliff.

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The back of the Cove is once again resplendent with a mass of small yellow flowers, I think it’s Sea Radish, although, having just read the relevant entry in ‘The Wildflower Key’, I now know how to distinguish Sea from Wild Radish, so I shall check on my next trip. Anyway, the radishes, of whatever variety, were thronged with various small insects.

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This striking red weevil like creature (I can’t find what it actually is) was the smallest I photographed.

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I think that this rather dapper chap may be some kind of Saw Fly, but there over 400 British species and my ‘Complete British Insects’ only has photographs of a handful of them.

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There were many Bumblebees, but they are constantly on the move and always hard to photograph.

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This is a Red-tailed Bumblebee, a worker. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake: it’s finally sunk in that the huge bumblebees I see, mainly in the spring, and the much smaller ones I see in the summer, are of the same species, the size difference being because queens are so much larger than workers.

On the other hand, random titbits of information seem to nestle in obscure corners of my brain. I knew, when I saw it, that this…

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…was a ladybird larva. With a bit of lazy internet research I now think it to be a 7-Spot Ladybird larva. Odd looking creature.

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There were a fair few hoverflies about too. I was pleased to capture an image of this specimen in flight, and doubly chuffed to find that it is easily identifiable, because of the pattern on the abdomen, as Episyrphus Balteatus, a very common species which apparently sometimes migrates in swarms from continental Europe. Quite a competent flier then!

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Alongside the radishes there is a substantial patch of Crosswort. My collection of herbals and plant books have little to say about this unassuming plant with it’s whirls of tiny yellow flowers, but I am always cheered to find it.

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The plant surreptitiously creeping into the righthand-side of the photo is Goosegrass or Cleavers or Stickyweed, a close relative of Crosswort. Both are Galiums, apparently from the Greek Gala meaning milk, as Goosegrass at least was sometimes used as a rennet in the production of cheese.

On the Lots, the Early Purple Orchids have finished, and the Green-winged Orchids…

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…are not far behind. According to ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’, Green-winged Orchids were once widespread, but ‘must now be considered a threatened species’. A sobering thought.

After our short outing, the afternoon brought a terrific display of dark skies, lightning and thunder and then very heavy rain. We watched from our patio as impressive bursts of forked lightning cleaved the skies and listened to the rumbles of thunder, apparently coming from all sides. When the long threatened deluge finally arrived, we retreated inside. Quite a show while it lasted though.

Whitsun Weekend at Home

Still Trying – a very uninformative post.

The Cove – The Lots

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Small Tortoiseshell.

Sometimes just a short walk, to familiar places, can yield a great deal of diversion and interest. (This was back in October btw)

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There are nine species of social wasps resident in Britain; this is one of them, but I can’t identify which.

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Drone Fly?

If it isn’t a Drone Fly, it’s a similar hover-fly, hoping to be mistaken for a Honey Bee.

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There are four species of brown Bumblebees in Britain; I think that this is one of those.

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Apparently, it’s hard to tell them apart without a microscope, but the most common, and so perhaps the most likely, is Bombus Pascuorum, the Common Carder Bee.

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Another hover-fly imitating something with a sting.

Most of these (poorly identified) insects were photographed on a patch of tall daisies with Dandelion like flowers, growing on the rough stony ground at the back of The Cove.

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…I’ve always struggled with identifying the myriad different yellow daisies…

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…but I thought that with a few photos…

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…of flowers, seed-heads and leaves I would be able to track this one down. However, I’ve consulted four different books and numerous websites and whilst I’ve found several plants which almost seem to fit the bill, all of them have some disqualifying feature, or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself anyway.

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“The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.”

Albert  Einstein

Although, in my case, it’s more a case of: the more I try to learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.

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Still, I enjoy the trying.

Still Trying – a very uninformative post.