Bonanza

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Lambert’s Meadow

Another walk during which I took more than two hundred photos. This was a longer walk than the last one I posted about, taking in Lambert’s Meadow and parts of Gait Barrows. It was still only around five miles, which, in ‘butterfly mode’ kept me occupied for three hours.

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Yellow composites – can’t identify them, but they look good.
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Another Seven-spot Ladybird on a Spear Thistle.
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Meadow Brown
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White-lipped Snail and a Copse Snail.

I was looking at something else altogether, when I noticed that a patch of nettles on the perimeter of lambert’s Meadow were surprisingly busy with snails.

Whilst most snails in the UK live for only a year or two, apparently Copse Snails can live for up to seventeen, which seems pretty extraordinary.

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Another White-lipped Snail?
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White-lipped Snail.
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Another Copse Snail?
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Common Spotted-orchid.
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Meadow Brown.
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Ringlet.
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Meadow Brown.

There were some Comma butterflies about too, but they were more elusive and my photos didn’t come out too well.

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A St. John’s Wort – possibly Pale St. John’s Wort.
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Busy Marsh Thistle.
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A faded Bumblebee?

I suspect that this Bumblebee was once partly yellow, but has faded with age. A bit like my powers of recall.

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Male Large Skipper.
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Female Brown Hawker.

Lambert’s Meadow was superb this summer. It felt like every visit brought something new to see. I can’t remember ever having seen a Brown Hawker before, so was excited to see this one. In flight it looked surprisingly red.

Later I saw another…

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Brown Hawker.

…this time high on a tree trunk. I’ve read that they usually hunt in the canopy, so I was very lucky to get so close to the first that I saw. The fact that they generally haunt the treetops probably explains why I haven’t spotted one before.

I love the way the light is passing through dragonfly’s wings and casting those strange shadows on the tree trunk.

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Guelder Rose berries.
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Male Small Skipper.
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Great Willowherb

As I made my way slowly around the meadow, I noticed that a group of four walkers had stopped by some tall vegetation, mostly Figwort and Great Willowherb, at the edge of the field and were enthusiastically brandishing their phones to take pictures of something in amongst the plants. I had a fair idea what they might have seen.

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser
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Female Broad-bodied Chaser.
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Male Broad-bodied Chaser.

There were a number of Broad-bodied Chasers there and, after the walkers had moved on, I took my own turn to marvel at their colours and snap lots of pictures. They’re surprisingly sanguine about you getting close to them with a camera.

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Common Knapweed.
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Male Small Skipper
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A Sawfly – I think! On a Yarrow flowerhead.

This Sawfly was another first for me. I’ve spent a while trying to identify which species it belongs to, but have reluctantly admitted defeat. Depending on which source you believe, there are 400 to 500 different species of sawfly in Britain. They belong to the same order as bees, wasps and ants. If you’re wondering about the name, apparently female sawflies have a saw-like ovipositor with which they cut plants to create somewhere to lay their eggs.

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Soldier Beetle on Ragwort.

There were Soldier Beetles everywhere, doing what Soldier Beetles do in the middle of summer. This one was highly unusual, because it was alone.

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Meadow near Challan Hall.
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Creeping Thistle.

Creeping Thistle is easy to distinguish from other thistles because of its mauve flowers. The fields near Challan Hall had several large patches dominated by it.

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Red-tailed Bumblebee on Spear Thistle.
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Ladies Bed-straw.
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Swallow.
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Burdock.
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Three-spined Stickleback.
Three-spined Stickleback.
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Leech.

I was watching a pair of Wrens which had a nest very close to the bridge over the stream which flows from Little Haweswater to Haweswater, and also watching the sticklebacks in the stream itself, when I noticed a strange black twig floating downstream. But then the ‘twig’ began to undulate and apparently alternately stretch and contract and move against the flow of the water. Soon I realised that there were several black, worm-like creatures in the water. Leeches. The UK has several species of leech, although many are very small, which narrows down what these might have been. I suspect that they are not Medicinal Leeches – the kind which might suck your blood, but the truth is I don’t know one way or the other.

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Mushroom.

A wet spell after a long dry spell always seems to provoke a bumper crop of Field Mushrooms. This summer that happened much earlier than in 2018, when the fields were briefly full of mushrooms, and in not quite the same profusion, but for a few days every walk was enlivened by a few fungal snacks.

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More mature mushroom.

I only eat the smaller mushrooms raw, before the cup has opened and whilst the gills are still pink. The bigger examples are very tasty fried and served on toast, but they need to be examined at home for any lurking, unwanted, extra sources of protein.

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Gait Barrows Meadow.
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Buzzard.
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Self-heal.
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Common Centuary

Common Centuary was growing all over the Gait Barrows meadows in a way I’ve never noticed before. I made numerous return visits, hoping to catch the flowers open, but unfortunately never saw them that way

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Another Gait Barrows view.
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A native allium – Wild Onion?

I think that this is Wild Onion, also known as Crow garlic. A lengthy section of the hedge-bottom along Moss Lane was full of it. These odd looking things are bulbils – which is how the plant spreads. Whilst trying to identify this plant, I came across photos of another native allium – Sand Leek – growing on the coast near Arnside. It’s very striking, but I’ve never spotted it. A target for next summer.

Bonanza

Roanoke

Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Hagg Wood

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Early purple orchids.

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Mouse-ear-hawkweed.

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Apple blossom.

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Cherry tree.

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Speckled wood butterfly.

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Another speckled wood butterfly.

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Ramsons flowering in Burtonwell Wood.

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Cuckoo flower.

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Red-tailed bumblebee.

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Red-tailed bumblebee with photo-bombing seven-spot ladybird.

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Oak catkins.

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Welsh poppies.

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A speedwell. Probably germander.

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Lunch on the patio – homemade bread, home-roasted ham in the sandwich, homemade coleslaw.


Roanoke

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

On Stopping, Looking and….Knowing Stuff

There are several reasons why I like to stop and look at flowers. Perhaps the principal one being the stopping.

I was commuting home from Carnforth, over Warton Crag, and it being a Thursday the sun was beating down from glorious blue skies. (That’s the rule around here: Thursday afternoon = sunshine.) I thought that I was walking at a modest pace, but sweat was dripping from my brow and I desperately needed an excuse to pause and rest for a moment. Conveniently, at my feet tiny spots of pink and yellow demanded attention.

Unidentified tiny yellow flowers. Notice the fly which has helpfully posed in the background to give scale.

Looking, or to be more exact, taking photos is important too. My digital camera and its close-up lens have enhanced my walking pleasure no end. Then of course, there’s the flowers themselves in all their variety of form and colour.

Perhaps less obviously and slightly paradoxically (if it’s possible to have a ‘slight paradox’?), there’s the equal and opposite satisfactions of ignorance and knowledge. The tiny pink flowers I thought were dove’s-foot crane’s-bill. I knew this, or suspected it at least, because I’d seen them before in a meadow near the house, had photographed them and had then searched through my field guides until I found what seemed like a good match. The little yellow flowers I’d noticed  before, a while back, growing near the milkwort I photographed at Jack Scout. On that occasion none of the photos I took of them were very successful. None-the-less, I’d rifled through my guides – I’d found several plants with flowers which looked right, but none of them were described as creeping, low-growing plants, which is what these are. So they remain a puzzle.  And now I’m falling back on my standard method when I hit a dead-end and appealing to the clever people who read my blog to see if they have any bright ideas?

My enjoyment of this process – finding new and unfamiliar things: plants, birds, bugs, butterflies, fossils, clouds etc. – identifying and finding-out about them, is part of the reason that I keep obsessively quartering my home turf. And it’s predicated on ignorance: if I knew it already there would be no surprises, no conundrums and no need for the post-walk detective work. Maybe ignorance really is bliss. When I finally know it all, ennui will no doubt soon set in. No danger of that, fortunately.

Yet another advantage of leavening one’s walking with a little gawking, is that when you stop to look at one thing you soon notice other interesting things nearby. Like several 7-spot ladybirds down in the sward. Or, on the limestone edge, a natural rock garden…

The yellow flowers at the back…

…,which were widespread right along the length of the edge in a fetching yellow carpet, I thought I knew to be horseshoe vetch and I see, know that I can consult ‘The Wild Flower Key’, that not just the flowers, but also the leaves with their little indent at the end are very distinctive of that species.

The other oddity…

…didn’t seem to have leaves at all…

…and I was content to assign it to the vast collection of things with which I am not yet familiar. ‘Probably a lichen or some such,’ I thought – and since I can’t identify any lichens and don’t (yet) have a book to help me, effectively giving up on it, at least for now. But then the following night, when I was walking at Gaitbarrows (pictures and post to come), I was thinking about some flowers that TBH and I had seen on Loughrigg terrace. The flowers looked like a stonecrop, and when I looked in the books, like biting stonecrop in particular, but the plant we saw had narrow leaves which didn’t fit the bill at all. I remembered that I had seen, and naturally photographed, biting stonecrop at Gaitbarrows last year and went looking for the same plants to make a comparison. They weren’t flowering yet, but as soon as I found them – sprouting from the same cracks in the limestone pavement as they were last year – I recognised them as the same plant I had seen in abundant mats the preceding afternoon. So biting stonecrop then. The plant we saw on Loughrigg Terrace is still unidentified, for now at least.

Blue skies over Ingleborough.

On the short turf close to the edge tiny flowers were the order of the day. There were, amongst others,…

…rock rose..

…bird’s-foot trefoil…

…and eyebright. The eyebright is a good example of another phenomena I have noticed. I was very excited when I saw it and photographed it a few miles away in Langdale, but afterward realised just how common it is close to home. Since I finally ‘got’ the chiff-chaff’s song last year I now hear chiff-chaff’s for large parts of almost every walk I do, at least at this time of year anyway. When I photographed a scorpion fly in Eaves Wood last year, I saw it – with its huge proboscis – as something out of the ordinary, exotic, a lucky find – but now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ve seen several this summer already…

It seems that once I’m able to put a name to something, I’m more likely to notice it in future.

I broke off writing this post here, and tootled off to bed – it being well past the witching hour. As always, I needed a few pages to settle down with. I’m reading ‘Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It’ by Geoff Dyer. Almost the first words I read were:

Do you see things if you don’t know what they are?

And then:

Without words are you not only mute but partially blind too?

Dyer was thinking about architecture, rather then natural history, but it was startling to be presented with this thought just as I had been considering it myself.

Anyway, as I said, it seems to me that once I’m able to put a name to something, I’m more likely to notice it in future. So to that end, I think the green and slightly sparkly beetle on the bird’s-foot trefoil may be Oedemera Nobilis. If it is, it’s a female because the males have swollen rear legs. I’m not sure that Latin names have quite the same effect however, because I can’t usually remember them.

Eventually I turned away from the edge and the vegetation changed, alternating between open areas of bracken and dense thickets of briar and shrubs. There were still bluebells and early purple orchids. There were also, maintaining the theme of tiny flowers, although the plants are taller…

St. John’s wort.

I was soon at the top, where the views were, as they usually are, excellent. It had clouded over a little though and they weren’t as photogenic as they can be. I concentrated on the close at hand…

Red Admiral

On the verges of the Occupation Road, the bridleway which crosses the crag, I found more tiny flowers…

Thanks again to Fred Fly for posing to give scale.

…not especially pulchritudinous admittedly, but I liked the architectural spikiness of the leaves…

This, I’ve subsequently discovered, is common gromwell.

Down by Barrow Scout Fields I watched a lapwing flying acrobatically and an oystercatcher picking about on the exposed bed of one of the shrinking pools. The previous evening I had been on the Wednesday Walkabout at Leighton Moss. Very fine it was too with red deer, marsh harriers, a great egret and the wonderful rosy colouring of the breeding plumage of godwits. We’d seen and heard sedge warblers in the reed beds and the leader of the group had described how to distinguish the songs of reed warblers and sedge warblers. ‘The reed warbler’s song is a bit monotonous whereas the sedge warbler’s has a lot more up and down.’ Now there seemed to be warblers singing in every direction and I was sure that I could tell them apart. Now that I’ve listened to them both on the RSPB website I’m sure that I was deluding myself, but I was excited at the time. I spotted a couple of the birds in the reeds, and was pleased to get a photo, however imperfect…

Can you see it? It was a flash of white breast which caught my eye.

Here’s a cropped version…

Not great – but you can see a bold eye stripe, it’s under-parts are white and it’s singing from a prominent perch; all of which suggest that it is a sedge warbler. Perhaps I should keep a blog tick list for species of birds which appear in photographs here, rather like my Birkett tick list.

Of course, I’d stopped now and so began to notice things in the hedge in front of me…

…like an orb spider. And more small flowers…

..(with another extra) this time on a tall plant which I thought might be a bittercress of some sort, but I can’t find anything in my books with leaves like these…

So I’m stuck. For now. This plant was very populous. I was puzzled by…

…this striking stripy…what? It took me a while to work out that it might be a spider. Now I suspect that it is Tetragnatha extensa which:

When alarmed, typically aligns itself along plant stem with legs outstretched.

Collins Complete British Wildlife

Nearby an orange fly with a bold black strip and delicately veined wings like intricately leaded windows eluded a focused photo sadly.

As I crossed Quaker’s Stang an elegant copper boomerang winged overhead and then resolved into a hovering kestrel. Climbing towards Heald Brow I passed an area blushed blue with speedwell, and was then compelled to stop again by…

This gives me a first opportunity to use my ‘Collins Guide to the Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe’ by Fitter, Fitter and Farrer. So…I think that this might, I stress might, be quaking grass and now I’ve seen what it might look when fully emerged I know that I need to go back to confirm that opinion. Obviously, you’ll be anticipating that having stopped I would find other things to hold me a while. Well, your right. I did. More tiny flowers…

This is salad burnet. The flowers are packed together in a ball – the red here are the stigmas of the female flowers. Here only one flower has opened…

 

..and you can see that it has two stigma. I thought at first that these might be male flowers…

..but now I think that they might be seeds.

Nearby there were clumps of stems with curled purple heads, the overall effect of which I have totally failed to capture. The individual flowers were worthy of attention too however…

Look closer still…

…and aren’t they a tiny forget-me-not? Early forget-me-not perhaps. I’m not sure.

Also close by..

….tiny white flowers on a plant with leaves making a pleasing star around the stem.

I would say that it’s woodruff, except they were so small and I thought that woodruff was taller.

And finally…

..one that I do know, and which ahs appeared here a few times before – but these photos are better then any I’ve taken before.

Ground Ivy

On Stopping, Looking and….Knowing Stuff

On the Hoof

Three walks to report on. The first, late on Saturday afternoon, with friends small and large, from the Leighton Moss car park to Trowbarrow quarry and back via the golf course. Very much an amble this one with lots of opportunities for scrambling on the rocks and boulders of the Trough for the kids.

One surprise – this orange ladybird, halyzia 16-guttata, on a tree trunk on the edge of the quarry. It seems that this type of ladybird has become more common in the UK as it has begun to live on sycamore and ash. At this time of year ladybirds are usually dormant, so what this one was up to (not much whilst we watched) I’m not sure. Looking for information on ladybirds I found this helpful site.

 Trowbarrow Quarry.

Sunday afternoon’s walk took me past an old friend – the Cloven Ash. I think the gap is getting wider. But I might be wrong. We’d come via Eaves Wood and Haweswater and were now following the trough again (although a little further north). We followed it to this bridge – where R and S examined a geocache. R has placed a new geocache nearby, part of a series on or near the parish boundary which he is organising to celebrate the village bicentenary.

From the new geocache, we took a peek at the remnants of Coldwell Limeworks. Around the ruin there has been lots of tree-felling – R thinks that it’s the RSPB removing sycamores. Bad news for orange ladybirds! I knew that the RSPB had bought Silverdale Moss, but not that they owned this woodland too.

Yesterday after work, I left the railway station in the wrong direction for home, and took a turn instead around Leighton Moss. I was hoping to catch the starling roost. I only saw the starlings briefly. But for about 10 minutes, I watched them wheeling in a huge cloud, about 100 yards away across the reed-beds. They’re fantastic to watch, but also, as I watched, many of the birds seemed to alight on the reeds for a moment – the sound they made as they all lifted into the air again was amazing. Finally the original cloud of birds was joined by a zeppelin of starlings from the north, and moments later by a long worm from the south and the new larger host sped away westward across the moss and were lost to view.

On the Hoof