Am I really going to start yet another post with a photo of Winter Aconites? Well yes. Lots of photos actually. But this is the last one, I promise. At least until next year.
Now that our visitors had left, the sun came out, of course. Sod’s law. I walked around the coast and then climbed the Knott, of course.
As you can see, I dropped down to the ‘sands’, but they were still covered by a shallow layer of water. I’ve seem to have waited for months this year for dry and firm sand and an opportunity to have a proper wander in the bay.
Although the weather had started fine, it was rapidly clouding-up from the south.
By the time TBH and I drove to Morecambe, for the inaugural Baylight Festival, it was drizzling.
Neither my phone or my camera coped well with the combination of darkness and bright lights.
I think there were seventeen installations. Some were superb, some a bit underwhelming. I really enjoyed myself. It was great to see so many families out enjoying themselves on a cold, damp February night.
And to top it all off, we finished the evening with chips on the prom from our favourite chippie in the West End of Morecambe.
This was by far and away my favourite. It changed colours and obviously had a very long and complex sequence of movements and light changes. The video has the added bonus of a child’s lightsaber toy bobbing in and out of view!
I’m really hoping that the festival, which is apparently ‘reinventing illuminations’, will be back bigger and even brighter next year.
Our trip to America was amazing. The Adirondacks is definitely my new ‘happy place’. But coming home to my old ‘happy place’ was great too. Reunited with my camera, where would I go?
Well, initially, no further than the garden. And then not much further – a meander to Lambert’s Meadow, along The Row, past Bank Well to Myer’s Allotment and then back the same way. A very short walk which took quite a while because it was packed with interest. Well, packed with insects at least.
The tractor (and its driver) spent hours, long into the night, circling this field. Doing what? Not ploughing. The grass was removed, but, if anything, the ground seemed to have been compacted. Whatever, the gulls were very taken with the activity and followed the tractor slavishly.
At first I thought this was a Forest Bug, which is superficially quite similar, but I think the stripy antennae are the clincher.
There were lots of grasshoppers about, but they have a habit of springing away just as I get my camera focused.
This garden plant, growing on the verge of The Row, was absolutely mobbed with bees and hoverflies.
I also took photos of the leaves of this plant, and based on those I think it might be Hogweed. Which, I find, is reputedly very good to eat – apparently the seeds are widely used in Iranian cuisine and taste a little like Cardamon. Who knew?
Ever since I read that Willowherb is the food-plant of the Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, I’ve kept an eye open, hoping to spot another. (Here’s the first.) It’s been many years, but my efforts eventually paid off…
A very large and striking caterpillar. The adult moth is even more imposing. (There’s one at the top of this very old post).
We were at home for a few days before heading off for our big summer trip. I guess we must have been busy, I didn’t get out much, but when the sun shone I did have a wander to Lambert’s Meadow, to see what I could see. Our trip, which I’ll hopefully get to soon, was to the USA. I didn’t take my camera, but I did take a ridiculous number of photos on my phone, so there’s a lengthy selection process ahead.
The photos from this short local wander can be a bit of a dress rehearsal then; I took three hundred, a nice round number, and about par for the course when I spend a bit of time at Lambert’s Meadow.
Of course, there’s a great deal of repetition; my first eleven shots that day were all of Migrant Hawkers; there were several on and around a thicket of brambles where I entered Burtonwell Wood from Silverdale Green. An easy decision in this case, just to crop the most likely looking pictures and then chose my favourite.
On the other hand, this Common Carder bee, on the same set of unripe blackberries, only posed for a single photo.
When I look at the photos which have come up to scratch, although I took quite a lot of photos of bumblebees, of various species, there’s a preponderance of Common Carder bees amongst the ones I’ve chosen. Admittedly, I am a bit biased in favour of Common Carders, for two reasons; firstly their lovely ginger colour, and then the fact that they are relatively easy to distinguish from other common species; but I think that there may be a bit more to it than that; I seem to have more luck getting sharpish images of Common Carders than of other bumblebees; I’m beginning to think that they may linger that little bit longer on flowers than other species.
The single shot I took of the disappearing rump of a Roe Deer in the woods was a bit disappointing, and so is not here, partly because I get much better opportunities to photograph deer in our garden. This tiny spider feasting on a fly, on the other hand, is included because I rarely manage to catch spiders with their prey, even though it was taken in the shade and isn’t especially sharp.
I’ve decided to keep the photos largely chronological, and not to group them thematically, and, for instance, put all of the hoverflies together, something I have done on occasion with previous similar posts.
This particular hoverfly might be Helophilus pendulus. Sometimes called ‘the Footballer’ apparently, because of its bold markings. Rather lovely in my opinion. However, there are several very similar species, so I could be wrong. Helophilus means ‘marsh-lover’ which would fit well with this location.
I did put these two snails together, the better to compare and contrast their shells…
This first is definitely a Garden Snail, with its dark bands on its shell.
My best guess is that this is a copse snail; they are usually more mottled than this, although they do seem to be quite variable.
There were lots and lots of butterflies about, which was rather wonderful, although at first I thought none of them would alight long enough for me to get any decent photos. However, if you hang around long enough, your chance eventually comes.
This photo gets in because of the photo-bombing bug. I think the bug might be a Potato Capsid, but my confidence is even lower than usual.
There were lots of dragonflies about too, but they were mostly airborne, and surprisingly difficult to spot when they landed.
With a bit of lazy internet research, I’ve unearthed two different ‘common’ names for these odd looking flies: Ferrugineus Bee-grabber and Thick-headed Fly. The photo in my Field Guide shows a mating pair and this pair, although they moved around the mint flower a lot, didn’t seem likely to be put-off. In fact when I wandered back around the meadow I spotted a pair, probably the same pair, still mating in much the same spot. The adults feed on nectar, but the larvae are endoparasites, over-wintering and pupating inside Bumblebees.
Ferruginous means either: ‘containing iron oxides or rust’, or ‘reddish brown, rust-coloured’; which seems appropriate. I’m guessing that ferrugineus is the latin spelling.
You’ll notice that a lot of the insects are on Mint flowers. Earlier in the year it would have been Marsh Thistles.
My best guess is that these are Drone-flies. They are excellent Honey bee mimics, but, as far as I know, don’t harm bees in any way, so good for them. More lazy research turned up this titbit:
“Recent research shows that the Drone-fly does not only mimic the Honeybee in look, but also in the way that it moves about, following the same flight patterns.”
I haven’t counted, but I’d be willing to bet that I took more photos of Meadow Browns than of anything else. There were a lot about. I resolved not to take any more photos of what is, after all, a very common and slightly dull species, at which point the local Meadow Brown community seemed to agree that they would disport themselves in front of my lens at every opportunity, in a ‘you know you want to’ sort of way, and my resolve kept crumbling.
Silver Y moths, on the other hand, seem to stay low in the grass and continually flap their wings, which must be very energy inefficient. Although they breed in the UK, they also migrate here (presumably from mainland Europe).
“The Silver Y migrates to the UK in massive numbers each year – sometimes, an estimated 220 million can reach our shores in spring!”
This damselfly has me a bit confused; it has red eyes, but those beer pump handle markings (my Dragonfly field guide says ‘rockets’ – I think messers Smallshire and Swash need to get out more) suggest the blue-form of the female Common Blue Damselfly, so I’m going for that. This makes me think that I have probably misidentified damselflies in the past. What am I talking about? Of course I’ve misidentified damselflies – I’ve probably misidentified just about everything! All I hope for is that my percentage accuracy is gradually improving – I’ll settle for that.
Like the Silver Y, the Comma is named for a mark on its wings, but it’s on the underside so you can’t see it here.
I took lots of photos of rather distant Commas and then this one landed pretty much at my feet, so close, in fact, that I needed to back up a little to get it in focus.
White butterflies don’t often rest long enough to be photographed. They are also very confusing – this could, to my non-expert-gaze, be a Small White, a female Orange-tip, or a Green-veined White. But the underwings reveal that it is a Green-veined White.
Brambles have a very long flowering season – maybe Pellucid Flies like to branch out when other favoured plants are available.
The sheer variety of Hoverflies is amazing, but also frustrating, because they are so hard to identify. This could be a Drone-fly, but it has dark patches on its wings. I’m edging towards Eristalis horticola but with my usual very low degree of confidence.
This creature led me a merry dance; it was constantly on the move, roving around the leaves and stems of a Guelder Rose bush, then flying off, disappearing from view, only to return seconds later. At first I thought it was a Sawfly, but it was very wasp-waisted so now I’m inclined to think it was an Ichneumon wasp.
Tentatively, it could be a male Ichneumon extensorius which has the bright yellow scutellum, black unbanded antennae and black and yellow legs and body. However, my online source says “hardly any British records exist for this species”, which is a bit off-putting.
Whatever it is, it kept me well-entertained for a few minutes.
Eugh! A slug! But even this slug, which was on an Angelica stem, has a rather striking striped rim to its foot.
When I spotted this creature, on a Figwort leaf, at first I thought I was seeing another of the yellow and black creatures I had seen before. It has a yellow scutellum, and substantially yellow legs. But – the antennae are orange, it lacks the narrow waist, and its abdomen is heavily striped. It was much more obliging than the previous creature, both in terms of posing for photos and in terms of being readily identified. It turns out this is a Figwort Sawfly.
“The larvae feed on Figwort plants and are usually seen in August and September. The adults are carnivores mainly, hunting small flies and other insects.”
Hmmmm – usually seen in August and September – I think I need to go and have a look at some Figworts.
Incidentally, I was hoping I would see some Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonflies, and usually look out for them in an area of tall plants – Great Willow-herb and Figwort – by the path which crosses the meadow. I didn’t see any, but in looking I noticed that the generally tall Figwort plants were much shorter and less numerous than usual. I suspect they were suffering due to our unusually hot and dry summer.
Blimey – I made it to the end! Well done if you did too. If my holiday posts take this long to put together, I will never catch up!
The next time I escaped from the woes joys of decorating, I managed a slightly longer walk. I think I wanted to visit this little scrap of verge where Elmslack Lane becomes Castle Bank and I knew I would find Dame’s Violet flowering.
From there I walked along Inman’s Lane along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along the Row. Inevitably, I was heading for…
It’s quite easy to ignore Crane Flies, Daddy-Long-Legs; they’re common and plentiful, their larvae – leatherjackets – are a garden pest and I think some people are freaked out by their ridiculously long legs. But I thought the silvery-grey hue of this amorous pair, and the golden iridescence caught in the wings of the lower partner where very fetching.
I think this is an Ichneumonid wasp. It could be a sawfly, a digger wasp or a spider-hunting wasp, but on balance I’m going for an Ichneumon. After that I’m struggling. Apparently, there are around 2500 British species. Identifying them requires a microscope and an expert. Most species are parasitoids, meaning that they lay their eggs in other species of insects, caterpillars and grubs, and the larvae will eat and eventually kill the host. From my limited reading, I get the impression that each species of wasp will specialise in preying on the caterpillar or larvae of one particular species.
Some of the photos which follow are bound to look familiar, if you read my last post. Hardly surprising that if you walk in the same place just a couple of days apart, the bugs and beasties which are about and active are likely to be the same each time.
I’m reasonably confident that this Shield Bug is Troilus luridus. I’ve seen this given the common name ‘Bronze Shield Bug’ online, but my Field Guide gives another species that title, so I’ll stick with the latin name.
I took lots of photos of this Green Shield Bug and as a result was lucky enough to catch it in the act of taking wing…
You can see how the outer wings have adapted as a cover for the hind wings, so that when they’re on a leaf or a stem it’s hard to imagine that they even have wings.
Variable Damselflies are not listed in the handy booklet ‘An Atlas and Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Arnside and Silverdale AONB’, a publication whose long title completely belies its actual brevity. So, if this is a Variable Damselfly, which I think it is, the species must have fairly recently arrived in the area.
Not sure what happened during the first half of February. Rain probably; by the bucketload. The most significant thing to happen over half-term is that my parents came to visit, which was terrific – it had been a long while since we had seen them.
I think we had some mixed weather that week, but I managed to get out for several local walks and even saw some blue skies and sunshine.
I wondered whether all the tree-felling by Hawes Water would affect the Snowdrops there, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to have had any impact.
I know this second photo looks much the same as the first, but there’s an insect on one of the flowers in the centre of the photo. Perhaps a drone fly. I thought it was pretty unusual to see a fly outside in the middle of February.
This is Jelly Ear Fungus or Wood Fungus. It’s allegedly edible – I have eaten it, in a restaurant years ago and I can’t say I was impressed.
These black cords, called rhizomorphs, are how Honey, or Bootlace, fungus spreads. They grow beneath the bark of an infected tree, but can also spread beneath the soil to reach new trees. Honey fungus will kill its host tree. I think it’s quite common in this area.
Honey Fungus mushrooms are bioluminescent (the gills glow in the dark), although their ghostly greenish light emissions are usually far too weak to be visible to the human eye in a normal woodland environment, even on a moonless night. To see this effect it is necessary to sit close to some of the mushrooms in total darkness (in a windowless room) until your eyes have become accustomed to the dark and your pupils are fully dilated.
A rash of fungus appears along Inman’s Road, the path along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, every autumn. I think it’s Honey Fungus. It’s never occurred to me before to bring some home to test the bioluminescence, but I think this year I will.
I think that this might be Lumpy Bracket fungus, partly because in the same way that Jelly Ear fungus usually grows on Elder, this fungus typically grows on Beech, especially stumps, which is exactly what was happening here. Where a large number of Beeches have been (controversially) felled by Hawes Water, many of the stumps now host this fungus.
I thought, obviously mistakenly, that Hawes Villa had stopped keeping pigs. Happily, I’m wrong.
Walking along Bottoms Lane I was struck by the abundance and diversity of the mosses and lichens living in the hedge.
Because there were cold winds blowing all week, my Dad, who really suffers with the cold, was understandably reluctant to venture out. TBH had the bright idea that the gardens at Sizergh Castle might be relatively sheltered. She was right.
A is in a wheelchair – lent to us by the National Trust for our visit – because she had broken a bone in her ankle whilst dancing. Little S (you can see here how diminutive he is!) delighted in pushing her around at great speed and alarming her with his ‘driving’ skills.
Four fields between Holgates and Far Arnside had been seeded with what looks to me like Ribwort Plantain. A bit of lazy internet research reveals that it can be used as fodder. Certainly, when we’ve been back to the fields, after stock have been introduced, the leaves have been pretty thoroughly stripped off. I read that growing plantain can improve soil structure. And also, more surprisingly, that its seeds are used as a thickening agent in ice-cream and cosmetics.
The weather le me down a bit here. I walked around the coast in glorious sunshine, but by the time I’d climbed the Knott from White Creek, not the longest of ascents, it had completely clouded over.
And finally, on a very damp final day of the break, the flocks of Starlings which roost at Leighton Moss briefly gathered above the field behind our house, so that we had a grandstand view from our garden.
The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.
When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.
In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.
I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…
So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp.And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.
I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.
I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.
There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.
This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!
I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.
This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……
…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.
Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.
A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.
Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.
There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!
Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.
An absolutely stunning creature.
A little further along…
Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?
Views from the walk home…
Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.
I was missing the flower rich meadows of the Dordogne and the multitude of butterflies and moths and other insects which the abundant flowers attract. So I set out for a short meander around Hawes Water, with my camera with me for once, with the express intent of finding something interesting to photograph.
Some patches of knapweed growing between Challan Hall and Hawes Water gave me just what I was after.
Mainly bees, which by late summer have faded quite a bit and so are even harder to identify than they are earlier in the summer.
Not to worry – I very happily took no end of photos.
I think this is a Green Dock Beetle. Pretty colourful isn’t it? I took lots of photos of this charismatic (or should I say prismatic?) little fella. With hindsight, I think the patterns on the knapweed flowerhead are pretty special too. Apparently, the larvae of these beetles can strip the leaves of a dock plant in no time flat. Likewise the massive leaves of a rhubarb plant. I don’t recall seeing them before, but shall be checking out docks more carefully this summer.
And finally, the hedgerow close to home which was cut down has new fences along each side and there’s plenty growing in that space – whether or not that’s the hawthorns and blackthorns of which the hedge was originally composed remains to be seen.
Some plants in the garden are fantastic value, not just in themselves, but for the wildlife they attract.
I think these tall yellow daisies are Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. Related to sunflowers, they’ve spread like mad in our garden, giving a long-lasting bright splash of colour in mid to late summer.
This is what the BBC Gardener’s World website has to say about them…
Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies/moths and other pollinators. It nectar-pollen-rich-flowers and has seeds for birds.
The long stems seem to be good places for dragonflies to rest. And they are certainly attractive to pollinators.
Marjoram also seeds itself quite freely around the garden and seems to be particularly attractive to bees. I hope this is a Garden Bumblebee, seems appropriate, but the white-tailed bumblebees are difficult to distinguish between.
And, completely unrelated, TBH booked us all in for a family session of Foot Golf at Casterton golf course. As you can see, the views there aren’t bad at all.
We were all a bit rubbish at the golf, but we had a good giggle.
Early April, when the branches are mostly bare and the birds are busy mating and nesting is a great time to spot and take photos of birds. This Bullfinch photo is a bit of a cheat, since it wasn’t taken on a walk, but through our window, by where I was sitting on a Thursday evening.
On the Friday, when I got home from work, having finished for the Easter break, I headed out for a wander round Heald Brow, to the south of the village.
I think someone had been doing some major pruning, because a better view of Hazelwood Hall had opened up from the adjoining Hollins Lane. My interest in the hall is due to the gardens, which I believed to be designed by Lancaster architect Thomas Mawson, although the current Wikipedia entry is slightly confusing on that score and seems to imply, in one section, that in fact Mawson’s son Prentice was responsible, only, later on, to state that it was Mawson himself who designed the garden working with another son Edward.
Certainly the tiered terraces, the loggia and the use of stone pergolas are very similar to other Mawson gardens I’ve visited.
On Heald Brow, I noticed a Great-spotted Woodpecker in a very distant tree. I’ve included the photo, rubbish though it is, just to remind myself that I saw it, because, quite frankly, I was chuffed that I could pick it out in the tree-tops.
Likewise this Bullfinch. I know that it’s the second of this post, but I don’t seem to have seen many this year.
The Saturday was a glorious day, a great start to our holidays, so I set-off for Gait Barrows in search of birds and butterflies.
I did take no end of photos of butterflies and other insects and even more of birds, but above all else I took pictures of Primroses which seem to have proliferated all around the reserve.
There were Drone flies everywhere and I took lots of, I suppose, quite pointless photographs of them, but then occasionally what I took to be another Drone Fly would instead transpire to be something more interesting, like this Bee-fly…
I was quite surprised to see this machinery in the woods by Hawes Water, but the path from Challan Hall around to Moss Lane, which is supposed to be wheelchair friendly, had been getting increasingly muddy and Natural England were having it widened and resurfaced, so bully for them.
I can’t really identify lichens and, I think because I can’t, I don’t always pay them the attention they merit. I think this is Ramalina farinacea, but I wouldn’t take my word for it, and, looking again, I think there are probably at least three different lichens in the photo above.
Although it was months ago, I remember my encounter with this Comma butterfly very vividly. It was sunning itself on some limestone, as you can see, and I slowly edged toward it, taking a new photo after each stride. Eventually, I upset it and it moved, finally settling on a nearby tree-trunk, at which point I started edging forward again.
What struck me was that, if I hadn’t seen the Comma land, I don’t think I would have picked it out. Whilst the underside of its wings are drab in comparison to the patterned orange of the upper wings, the underwings are beautifully adapted to conceal the butterfly in a superb imitation of a tatty dead leaf.
…is a warbler. I don’t think it’s a Chiff-chaff, they have a very distinctive song which I can actually recognise, so I can recall getting excited because this had a different song. Sadly, I can’t remember the song at all, and can’t identify which warbler this is without that additional clue.
No such confusion here…
…this is a make Kestrel. I wish I’d managed to capture it in flight when it’s colours looked stunning.
And I suspect that this is a Chiff-chaff…
Though I couldn’t swear to it.
Another mystery here…
…with a bone suspended in a Blackthorn bush. I know that Shrikes impale their prey on the thorns of this tree, but Shrikes are quite small and I think that this bone is probably a bit too big for that. Also, Shrikes are very rare in the UK these days and are not generally seen this far West (although I know that they have occasionally been spotted at Leighton Moss).
I was back at Gait Barrows the following day, but the skies were dull and I didn’t take many photos. On the Monday, I had another local wander, including a visit to The Cove…
The Tuesday was a bit special, so I shall save that for my next post…