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.

Free Lunch

Across the fields and the golf course to Leighton Moss – Free Lunch – Home via Myer’s Allotment

Silverdale has an annual food fair, a recent innovation, and this year TBH won a voucher there in the raffle, exchangeable for lunch for two in the cafe at the Leighton Moss visitors’ centre. The boys were, indeed are, still at school, but TBH and A had now finished so the three of us wandered over for a bite. When we got there, it was to find that their electricity was off due to some work being done by the suppliers, but the centre has photo-valtaic panels and they seemed to be coping remarkably well. A enjoyed her humus and falafel wrap, despite it being ‘too leafy’ and TBH and I both loved our prawn salad.

TBH couldn’t be induced to venture onto the reserve (and to be fair, we did need to get home for the boys return from school) but the promise of striking Cinnabar Moth caterpillar lured TBH and A to join me in visiting Myer’s Allotment on our return journey. Here they are…

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…enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

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There was plenty to see within the reserve too.

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Rock Rose.

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Harebells.

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Self-heal.

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A lone Common Red Soldier Beetle – must be hunting!

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Normal service is resumed! Caption competition anyone? I think that those contrasting antennae are very expressive.

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Hoverfly on Ragwort.

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Bumblebee on Ragwort.

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Meadow Brown.

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I suppose the Meadow Brown is one of or drabbest butterflies. But I have to confess that I’m still captivated none-the-less.

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Damselfly.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee.

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Gatekeeper  Butterfly and Common Red Soldier Beetle.

Ardent followers of Beating the Bounds, if such a beast exists, will have seen photographs of Gatekeepers many times before; most, if not all, taken in North Wales, where we camp each summer and where Gatekeepers are extremely common. In fact I associate them with that area, because I’ve always assumed that we don’t get them here. Oops. Wrong again. Mea culpa.

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I almost missed this Gatekeeper too. It was resting low on Ragwort, very still, with its wings folded and very close to the ground. The dark patches are apparently scent scales and are only found on males.

I was studying that particular Ragwort because of its other residents…

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

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There weren’t as many caterpillars evident as there had been on my previous visit, but there were enough to make good on my promise. Not that it mattered particularly; A was very happy photographing butterflies with her iPod. Nice to see that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree!

Free Lunch

Surprise, Compost-heap, Potato Plant Update

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More images from the garden. I know that there will be legions of you wondering what became of the potato plants which unexpectedly sprouted in our compost heap. (Get away – you were waiting with bated breath I’ll warrant). My Dad’s theory is that they grew from peelings, and I can’t think of a better explanation. They did produce a few tatties, not all that many, although every time I dig out some compost I find one or two more. There, I’m glad that’s cleared up!

Surprise, Compost-heap, Potato Plant Update

Castle Acre Priory

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Having had a gander at Castle Acre and a wander around the village and the church, we still had one more treat in store: Castle Acre Priory.

First however, we had to say goodbye to my brother and his kids, who were heading back to Zurich via some old friends in London, and to my mum and dad, who were ready to head back to Snettisham.

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The priory is pretty stunning…

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And, like the castle, had surprisingly few other visitors.

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As ever at English Heritage properties, our visit was hugely enhanced by the audio guides, which brought the history of the priory and the monks who once lived here vividly to life.

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The Abbots House.

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I was struck, as I was when I visited Furness Abbey, by the ingenious way in which water had been diverted through the Priory for use by the monks and then into fish ponds.

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Here the local flint has been cleverly used to decorate the outer walls of the Abbot’s house.

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More scenes from the village – I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a pub called ‘The Ostrich’ before. I wondered whether it might once have been ‘The Ostler’?

Meanwhile the boys had never encountered a red telephone box before…

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The Bailgate again.

And that would be all I have to say about our visit to Castle Acre, except for the fact that it was a warm sunny day, and as at the castle, I was often distracted by the resident insect life.

This stunning dragonfly…

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…was feasting on some sort of fly atop a wall by the entrance to the Priory.

In the little recreation of a walled physic garden by the visitor centre, there were Gatekeepers…

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And these marvellous flowers (I’d really like to know what they are, as they were a magnet for insects – very tall, six feet or more, with large spherical white blooms) were host to many bumblebees and hoverflies…

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Castle Acre Priory

A Sunny Day in the Garden

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The title pretty much says it all.

I’m a lazy and intermittent gardener. Benign neglect is my modus operandi. It’s not much of a surprise then that we have a lot of weeds. But when those ‘weeds’ are aquilegia vulgaris, or Columbine, well frankly, the more the merrier.

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Spotted this LBJ calmly preening itself beneath the beech hedge. A juvenile Linnet?

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This was back in early June. In between occasional bouts of pretending to be purposefully engaged with some or other garden task, I spent many happy moments pursuing insects with my camera. The Green Alkanet (another weed) was flowering profusely and seemed to be particularly popular with Honey Bees.

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There were bumblebees about too, but they were popping in and out of less open flowers – foxgloves for instance – and so were proving to be much more elusive to photograph.

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I think that this is a 16-spot ladybird. Feeds on mildew apparently.

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Warm days in the garden have been far and few between this summer and we haven’t seen either the same number or variety of butterflies as we would usually expect to encounter.

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Over by the compost bins this dapper fly…

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..was sunning itself on a broad leaf. I suspect that it’s a hoverfly, maybe menalostoma scalare.

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Or not. Opinions, as ever, always welcome.

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Meanwhile, in the compost heap itself something was sprouting…

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(And, you can perhaps tell, something had dug a substantial burrow through from one side to the other.)

All of our vegetable peelings and trimmings go into the compost; it seems a few bits of potato peel were sufficient to produce a number of new plants. So I took the lid off the compost and left it open, to see what would happen. More of which anon, no doubt.

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All of the family were pottering in the garden. A had put my Mum to work weeding in her designated section of the beds. My Dad chose to enjoy the sunshine. (That’s the alkanet behind him. Some of it anyway) But eventually I enlisted him to help with the barbecue with which we rounded off the day:

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A Sunny Day in the Garden

The Commercialisation of Blogging

Following  the recent wide-spread debate and discussion on several outdoor blogs, I thought it best to state…Nah! Only kidding!

The day after my afternoon stroll with A (so only a week and a half ago – I’m catching up!), I set-off, reasonably early, to have another go at spotting the ospreys, bearded tits and otters at Leighton Moss. This time none of the kids opted to join me. Maybe they were wise: it was bright enough, but the ground was super-saturated and my progress was accompanied by a rhythmic squelch, squelch, splot, splosh, squelch, squelch, squelch…

When I reached the Moss, and the point on the causeway where a grit tray is positioned to attract bearded tits, I paused dutifully. But no tits. After that I stopped at each of the places where a gap in the tall reeds gave a view onto open water or broken reeds. And there…a small lithe bouncing thing, surprisingly pale, almost beige, with a distinctive dark tip to its tail: a stoat.

I stopped for a while in the public hide. A great crested grebe was diving right in front of the hide, I trained my camera on it as it disappeared under the water, and waited…and waited…It apparently didn’t resurface, at least not where I could see it.

Back on the track, another mustelid, I think a stoat again, bounced along the track ahead of me. I was able to watch this one for quite a while as it stayed on the path. I even got a photo, but it was so far ahead that the photo is pretty useless.

Where the track comes downhill from Grisedale Farm and enters the reserve, it had become a stream. I noticed lots of tiny black shapes swirling in the flow. What were they…seeds, or….

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…creatures! I’m guessing that they are some sort of insect larvae, but I don’t know. The camera, always more observant than me, noticed a red worm in the water snaking towards the larvae (or molluscs or whatever).

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On my way round to Lower Hide I enjoyed watching many small birds bobbing about amongst the trees and shrubs. I was intrigued by several birds with black wings and lower back, a white wing bar and a striking white rump. I took lots of photos of one particular bird which had settled down for a meal…

Juvenile bullfinch?

It was only after I had taken all the photos and had moved on that it occurred to me this could be a juvenile bullfinch – I’d been fooled by the drabness and the lack of bold cap, but young birds don’t have the cap.

From lower hide I didn’t see any ospreys, or any otters. The grebes were there, but too far away for a decent photo. Also some swans, a few goldeneye, a lone cormorant. A heron sailed over and landed on the edge of the reeds very close to the hide.

Heron

Regular readers will know that I feel a great affection toward herons. I took numerous photos. I hoped to see the heron catch a fish, or better yet an eel – if you’ve ever seen a heron with an eel you’ll know that it’s a titanic struggle that they fight. I didn’t.

Striking heron

But I did get this photo of the heron trying to catch something (you’ll have to imagine the lightening fast strike at the water).

And just as I was thinking of leaving, the heron began to stalk towards the hide…

Heron

Any masochist who has stuck with me through the nearly five hundred posts of wittering and wandering and misidentification and muddle will have seen countless attempts to photograph herons, none of them a patch on this, and would perhaps appreciate why even an otter or an osprey would have been hard-pressed to provide the satisfaction that this did.

When I finally left the hide, I continued round on the path which would take me to Storrs Lane. It was underwater. Bizarrely, my boots, which are normally about as waterproof as your average teabag, kept my feet dry. Explain that.

On a small wooden bridge I encountered this large beetle…

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…with striped brown wing-casings and a black head, which was very fast moving and hard to photograph. With it being both large and quite distinctive, I thought I might be able to identify it using my insect field guide, but I can’t.

Horsechestnut leaves

At the end of the path I passed under a huge, gnarly horse chestnut tree and onto Storrs Lane. Where, in the hedgerow I found…

Crab apples

..crab apples…

Damson

…and damsons. The latter were juicy and very tasty.

Speckled wood

Speckled wood butterfly.

I walked back via the golf course and Park Lane. I passed numerous clumps of ivy. Some were relatively quiet and others were thronging. Wonder why that is.

Bluebottle 

Bluebottle.

Honey bee

Honey bee. (Or is it – where’s the nectar basket?)

 The future's so bright I gotta wear shades...

And imitator.

Wasp

Wasp

Shiny blue fly

Another shiny blue fly.

Hoverfly

Slender, pale hoverfly.

Scaeva pyrastri

Could be sceava pyrastri?

As to the other thing (reviews and all that) – I have a pair of boots, supposedly sporting cutting-edge waterproofing technology, which aren’t remotely waterproof and which after a year’s not particularly heavy use are falling apart, a coat which was waterproof but which now leak’s like the proverbial sieve and a rucksack (very expensive) in which the flimsy zips are all now useless. Why would anyone take gear advice from me? For my hard won experience as an imbecile?

“I don’t have any advice,” I said. “I travel. I look. I record what I see. Then I describe it. I am not a preacher.”

Yes. I liked that. I had nothing to say. I knew nothing.

Lost Cosmonaut Daniel Kalder

The Commercialisation of Blogging

Every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth

Hoverfly on ivy flower

After one particularly punishing, protracted period of profuse precipitation I proposed, to my precocious progeny, a peregrination, a perambulation, a postdiluvial promenade to the Pepper Pot.

Only A took me up on the offer. We went to Eaves Wood, did all the usual things: climbed trees (her), photographed drips as they dangled from twigs and leaves (me) and watched a soaring raven from a vantage point on Castlebarrow (both of us). But what will stay in my mind are the creepy-crawlies we saw in the hedgerows before we’d left the village, particularly a thrumming patch of ivy where the ugly bug ball* seemed to be in full swing.

Not, of course, that any of the assembled minibeasts were actually ugly. Certain species seemed to predominate. There were lots of these handsome hoverflies…

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…of I don’t know which species, but I am pretty sure that they are imitating honey-bees.

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There were a few bees too but they never rested for long and were consequently much harder to satisfactorily photograph.

These black and orange flies were also plentiful…

Mesembrina meridiana 

They’re easier to identify too, with those distinctive bases to their wings. These are the fly mesembrina meridiana.

This fastidious chap was cleaning his visog…

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…before giving his hands a good wash….

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Or maybe he was jiving?

Greenbottle 

Greenbottle

Look Dad 

A little further on A spotted something more conventionally beautiful…

Small tortoiseshell on buddleia

Small tortoiseshell.

But nearby was this Cyrano of the insect world…

Rhingia campestris

rhingia campestris.

Not all of the bugs were enjoying the party however…

Come into my parlour...

* Click on the link – it’s Burl Ives!

Every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth