New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

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Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the  corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

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…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

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…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

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The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

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In Eaves Wood.

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In Burtonwell Wood.

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I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

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Heald Brow.

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Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

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Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

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Ragwort.

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Dandelion.

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Gorse.

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Daisy.

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Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

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Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

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Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

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The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

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…exquisitely ochre fungi.

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Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

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This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

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Jack Scout.

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I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

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More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

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Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

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Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

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Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

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New Year Floral Survey

Whirlybird

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It was an overcast Sunday afternoon almost at the end of November, it had been a busy weekend but now I was moping about the house, not tackling any of the work or chores which needed doing and not getting out for a walk either.

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Fortunately, Little S and TBH were walking to the Wolfhouse to indulge in tea and cake and dragged me out too. We didn’t have to go too far before we were in the woods, ankle deep in fallen leaves and Little S initiated a leaf fight. It’s hard to be glum when you’re kicking piles of leaves into the air and I was soon perking up.

Leaving the other two to their culinary delights, I continued over Heald Brow and then dropped down to the salt-marsh, and hence to Jenny Brown’s Point as the sun disappeared across the Bay.

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Four of these helicopters went past, flying very low. Is this an Apache? They seemed very incongruous in the quiet of a winter sunset.

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I generally tack some music onto my short sunset posts and I wondered, given the helicopters and the rather apocalyptic sky, whether to use ‘The Ride of the Valkyrie’ or The Doors’ ‘This is the End’. Instead, I’ve gone for…

‘Helicopter’ by the massively underrated XTC, from their brilliant ‘Drums and Wires’ album. I’m fond of The Doors too and ‘The End’ might have been more in keeping with my sombre, November Blues mood, prior to the walk, but ‘Helicopters’ is more upbeat and will remind me of Little S’s ‘laughing giggly whirlybird’ leaf fight.

Whirlybird

Brighter Later

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The first Saturday in October began overcast and rather autumnal, but brightened up whilst I was out for the first of my strolls that day, a circuit via Clark’s Lot, Hollins Lane, Heald Brow, Jenny Brown’s Point, Jack Scout and Woodwell.

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Rosehips and blue tits.

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The Forest of Bowland hills and Carnforth Salt-marsh from Heald Brow.

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Quicksand Pool and the chimney at Jenny Brown’s.

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Traveller’s Joy.

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Grange-over-Sands, blue skies and the Coniston Fells from Jack Scout.

The remaining photos could be from that same trip, but may well be from my second walk of the day, a familiar turn around the Cove and the Lots, because both routes finished along the same bit of track close to home. The fence around the vicarage grounds is liberally festooned with ivy and, on that day, the ivy was absolutely overrun with insects, particularly wasps, but also various flies, hoverflies and ladybirds.

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Flesh-fly.

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Greenbottle.

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A hoverfly – Scaeva Pyrastri. Very handsome with it’s curving white markings, not really shown to best advantage here, sadly.

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Some flower-heads were very busy!

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Bluebottle.

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Wasps.

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Drone fly.

I should probably celebrate the fact that I’m so easily engrossed by flies which are generally considered to be pests gathered on a plant which many would regard as a persist weed. Sometimes, however, the habit of gawping can have it’s downsides: a couple of weeks later, whilst I was similarly occupied, a wasp got trapped between my glasses and my face and stung me just below the eye for its troubles. On this occasion though, prolonged staring helped me to spot this…

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I think that this might be the pupal stage of a ladybird, although I’m not at all confident about that, and if I am right, I still don’t know which of the many varieties of ladybird this might be.


 

Brighter Later

New Year’s Eve

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A day of many changes. Firstly, the weather, which was changeable, but pretty consistently cold and windy. I was out early, up at the Pepper Pot to catch the sunrise, which was a bit of a non-event because of the massed cloud. The photo above was taken at the Ring O’Beeches when it had begun to brighten a little. I walked a circuit around Eaves Wood and then up Bottom’s Lane, into Burtonwell Wood, to The Green, and down Stankelt Road…

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The Old Post Office.

By the time I was crossing the Lots, the weather had brightened up considerably.

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Grange seen across the Lots and Morecambe Bay.

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The tide was unusually high and, with a very stiff breeze blowing, there were waves and whitecaps which is very rarely the case.

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Another change for us was that we had to say goodbye to our guests…

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…but we did drag them out for one final local stroll, a shorter affair down through the village to the Shore…

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Where the car-park seems to be eroding away now that the foreshore has gone.

TBH and I were out again later, through Clarke’s Lot and down the very muddy path through Fleagarth Wood, around Jenny Brown’s Point in the last of the light. It was cold and dingy and I didn’t take many photos, but I couldn’t resist these very early daffs, flowering on the verge opposite the Wolfhouse even before the year had ended.

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We had hoped to go to the Silverdale Hotel again for the New Year celebrations, but were too late buying tickets, so had a mammoth games session at home instead, which was great fun, and watched the fireworks from London on the telly.

Happy New Year (belatedly).

New Year’s Eve

Bright Skies and Big Clouds

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Bright skies and big clouds tempted my out into bracing winds on a Friday night after work.

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Horse Chestnut by Pointer Wood.

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Traveller’s Joy, Sharp’s Lot.

The path down through Fleagarth Wood to the end of Quaker’s Stang was extremely muddy even then, heaven knows what it will be like now, given all of the rain we have endured since. When I reached the saltmarsh, I was exposed to the full force of the wind for the first time, and was surprised by how brisk it was.

The tide was coming up Quicksand Pool…

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But the muddy banks were unusually firm, so I continued along them, rather than seeking the road nearby, because that way I kept my view of the retreating sun.

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From Jenny Brown’s Point.

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Sunset from Jack Scout.

 

Bright Skies and Big Clouds

Moon Over Quicksand Pool

Woodwell – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell

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Little Egret in Quicksand Pool.

A very late start, so I parked the car at Woodwell and walked from there.

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Warton Crag, the moon and the Bowland Fells over Quicksand Pool.

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Inevitable sunset. The sun setting much further north now.

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I think that one of the reasons that I particularly like to watch the sun go down from Jack Scout is the way the Coniston Fells’ distinctive outline looms over Grange, behind the darker bulk of Hampsfell.

Moon Over Quicksand Pool

Eiders at Jenny Brown’s

Sharp’s Lot – Hollins Lane – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – The Lots – The Cove.

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Warton Crag, Quicksand Pool and a huge washed-up, rust-stained timber.

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Early Purple Orchid.

Another evening stroll, very pleasant in itself, but made lustrous by an unexpected encounter. As I approached Jenny Brown’s Point I spotted a duck on the far side of Quicksand Pool. Even when seen out of the corner of my eye, something struck me about it and so I used the camera’s telephoto to find out whether or not I was really looking at a male Eider or merely another Shelduck…

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A male Eider!

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In amongst the trees at the southern end of Jack Scout I spent a while trying to photograph songsters – a Blackbird, a Robin and an elusive Chiff-chaff.

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Because the tide was well in, I decided to follow the coast rather than the path which runs along the wall where butterflies are more often to be seen. I’m pleased that I did.

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Another male Eider!

Of course, we’ve usually seen Eiders when we’ve been to Piel Island and I also spotted one last time we were at Roa Island, but I’ve never seen their courtship display before.

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A group of seven ducks were drifting on the tide and the males were throwing their heads back along their backs and cooing. It’s a very odd sound. (Better pictures, and a  fuller description here.)

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There was a male Merganser in with the Eiders for a while, not sure what he was up to.

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Black-backed Gull flying across the sun’s glitter path.

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More ‘Long Purples’.

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Sunset from the Lots.

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Eiders at Jenny Brown’s