The Lazy Trumpeter

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Early light on the new leaves at the circle of beeches.

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Squirrel.

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Pano from Castlebarrow. (Click on this, or any other, picture to see a larger image on flickr)

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Orchids on the Lots.

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Early purple orchid.

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Welsh poppies.

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Bottoms Farm.

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Post sunset at The Cove.

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The entire beach has acquired a silver-grey crust. Not the best light to show it, I know.

So, back to my wish list of lockdown activities. Have I ‘practiced my trumpet playing’?. Have I heck. It sits in its case under my desk, just as it has for years. Perhaps I should explain – in my teens I was in a brass band. It was great fun, but I was a lousy musician: I didn’t practice enough. I didn’t play the trumpet. I started at second baritone horn and slowly progressed to first euphonium, not because of any progress on my part, but because it was a junior band and the other players grew up and left for pastures new. Mostly the senior band which practised in the same hall. I don’t remember anybody playing the trumpet, the closest we had was a solitary flugelhorn and a host of cornets. In good time, I moved away myself, and for many years didn’t play an instrument.

Anyway, some years ago, when all our kids were learning to play various instruments,  I decided that it was a shame that I’d ditched mine and decided to buy a trumpet – that being smaller and cheaper than what I’d played before. I did practice for a while, but my enthusiasm didn’t last all that long. I thought while we were off that I would have loads of time on my hands and would get started again, but it hasn’t really played out that way. Tomorrow though….I’m bound to pick it up again. There’s always tomorrow!


This…

…as well as providing the title for the post, is the piece which I remember most affectionately from my brass band days.

This is obviously very different. I saw Kid Koala live down in London many years ago with my brother. I think he was the support act, but I can’t remember who it was he was supporting. I do remember being spellbound when he performed this.

And from ‘Drunk Trumpet to ‘The Piano Has Been Drinking’:

The Lazy Trumpeter

The Sands and The Knott

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The Cove.

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Looking back to the Cove.

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Heathwaite and Arnside Knott.

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Aiming for Humphrey Head.

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Following an old tide-line.

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Cockle shell.

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Common otter shells.

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Tellin.

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In a variety of hues.

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There was plenty of evidence of shelduck. Not only footprints!

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I followed the edge of the channel in again, but this time, hitting land, I took the steep path up to Heathwaite.

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Spring cinquefoil – I assumed I was seeing good old ubiquitous tormentil, but when I looked at the photo I realised that the flower has five petals not four. And then I discovered that tormentil doesn’t flower till June. So – not a rare flower, but new to me, so I’m chuffed.

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New oak leaves.

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought, since a comment from Conrad, about where the best viewpoints in the area are located, which is a very pleasant thing to ponder whilst out aimlessly wandering. The spot this photo was taken from, at the top of the shilla slope on Arnside Knott, would rank high on my list.

It was very hazy on this day, but there’s a good view of the Bay, of the Forest of Bowland, and over Silverdale Moss…

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…to Ingleborough, which you’ll be able to pick out if you are using a large screen. (You can click on the photo to see a zoomable version on flickr)

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Wood sorrel.

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Chaffinch.

I took lots of bird photos on this walk, but they were almost all of them blurred, or photos of where a bird had just been perched. A couple of nuthatches were particular offenders in that regard.

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A very hazy view towards the Lakes.

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Song thrush.

This thrush, unlike most of the birds I’d seen, was very comfortable with my presence and happily hopped about catching small wriggling mouthfuls in the grass.  Absolutely charming to watch.


Now, why would you cover an Otis Redding song? Seems to me you are on a hiding to nothing. But, it happens. A lot. So what do I know?

And having said that, I think Toots and the Maytals do a pretty fair job…

..I am a big fan of the Maytals though. Their version of ‘Country Roads’ is superb. And their own ‘Funky Kingston’ is one of my favourite tunes. There are lots of other covers, by the Grateful Dead, the Black Crowes, Tom Jones for example.

This is not a cover…

…apparently? It has different words and a new title, but I can’t help feeling that it sounds a little familiar?

The Sands and The Knott

The Other Kingdoms

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Cheery cherry blossom on Cove Road.

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Grange-Over-Sands from the Cove.

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The Bay and Humphrey Head from the Cove.

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Eaves Wood – the path to the beech circle.

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms.  The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals.  Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze.  Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be.  Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

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Squirrel.

Another item from my list was ‘read more poetry’ a goal which I have singularly failed to meet.

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New beech leaves.

It’s usually at this time of year that I become most enthusiastic about poetry, habitually scanning through my e.e.cummings collection, looking for something new about spring to furnish a post full of photographs of the usual collection of my favourite springtime images. Newly emerged beech leaves, for example.

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This year cummings should have had a run for his money because I’ve acquired large collections by Frost, MacCaig and Oliver all of which I was very keen to dip in to.

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Caledonian pines.

However, I have been reading ‘War and Peace’, another item from my list, which has turned out to be pretty all-consuming. Fortunately, I’d already read quite a chunk of the Mary Oliver collection before I completely submerged in Tolstoy.

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My first speckled wood butterfly of the year.

I’ve finished now. Well, I say I’ve finished; in fact I have a handful of pages of the epilogue left still to read. Which probably seems a bit odd, but in the last 50 or so pages Tolstoy abandons his characters (again) and turns back to tub-thumping. Historians have all got it wrong and he is just the man to set them straight.

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Speckled wood butterfly – my first of the year, looking newly minted.

Don’t get me wrong: although it took a while, I was completely hooked by the book and really enjoyed the various intertwined stories of the characters. But there are many lengthy historical sections about the stupidity, vanity and in-fighting of generals which are not so interesting. In particular, Tolstoy is at pains to dismiss any notion that Napoleon was is any way a military genius and spends many pages making his point. There are also several philosophical digressions about history and what drives the actions of nations and peoples. Whenever I was reading these sections I was reminded of the Gang of Four song ‘It’s Not Made by Great Men’, which makes the same point but way more succinctly.

Whilst these digression are often interesting in themselves, I did find they were often a frustrating distraction from the story. Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ has sections of polemic laced through the story which, it seemed to me, are entirely redundant. And I’ve heard it said of Moby Dick that it’s best to skip the chapters which are solely Melville’s detailed descriptions of Atlantic whaling. Having said that, Tolstoy’s character assassination of Napoleon is hilarious, and I’ve just found a guide to the book which says, ‘Anyone who tells you that you can skip the “War” parts and only read the “Peace” parts is an idiot.’ It also says that the book will take 10 days at most to read and I’ve been reading it for more than a month. So, doubly an idiot, obviously.

The journey of the central characters is totally absorbing though, so I would definitely recommend it.

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Untidy nest.

Anyway, back to the walk: when I first spotted this nest, it had two crows in it and I got inordinately excited, as I always do when I find an occupied nest. However, they soon left the nest and on subsequent visits the nest has always looked empty. Now the leaves on the surrounding trees are so dense that I can’t even see the nest.

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Crow.

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On our walks together TBH and I have frequently found ourselves passing comment on the fact that livestock seem to be being regularly moved about. I don’t know whether that’s standard husbandry or perhaps because of the prolonged dry spell we’ve had.

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There’s a herd of young calves, for instance, on the fields between Holgates and Far Arnside which seem to have been moved into just about every available field at some point.

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I was examining these trees, trying to work out which was coming into leaf first, and only then noticed all the splendid dandelions.

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Dandelions.

Of course, once you stop to look at the flowers, then you notice other things of interest too…

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Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius))

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Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).

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Daisies (of the Galaxy)

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Ash flowers.

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Silver birches line a path on the Knott.

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And have come into leave.

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Beech buds.

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Partially opened.

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Opened.

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Hazy views from the Knott.

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Herb Paris…

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…flowering this time.

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Bramble leaf.

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Linnets. (?)

I got very excited about this pair, purely because I didn’t know what they were. I’ve subsequently decided that they are linnets, but I have a poor record when it comes to identifying this species, having previously incorrectly identified red poll as linnets on more than one occasion. If they are linnets, then they’re missing the striking red breast and throat of a male linnet in its breeding plumage.

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There were several small groups of birds flitting overhead, including, I think, more linnets and, without any doubt, a small charm of goldfinches.

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Goldfinches.

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I also caught a fleeting glimpse of what I think was a redstart – I’ve only seen them in the hills before and was doubting my own eyes to a certain extent, but they do arrive in the UK in April and the RSPB distribution map does show them as present in this area, and mentions that they favour coastal scrub when in passage, so maybe I was right after all.


One of my favourite Clash songs…

“You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of The Harder They Come”

Ivan is the character played by Jimmy Cliff in the film ‘Harder They Come’, so it’s entirely appropriate that Jimmy Cliff eventually covered the song…

I always enjoy Nouvelle Vague’s unique take on punk and post-punk songs, it’s well worth a trawl through their repertoire..

And of course, the Paul Simenon’s, bass line was sampled by Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, for Beats International’s ‘Dub Be Good to Me’…

It’s been covered by German band Die Toten Hosen and live by the Red Hit Chilli Peppers, and Arcade Fire, and probably lots of others. There’s a nice dub version out there and Cypress Hill didn’t so much sample it as rewrite the lyrics for their ‘What’s Your Number?’.

The Other Kingdoms

I Heard The News

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Since we have been tidying the garden (Lockdown Aspiration number 1), and yes, like many gardens I suspect, ours probably doesn’t know what has hit it: the lawn has been scarified; the path has been cleared; the patio has been pressure-washed; old tree roots, nettles, bracken, and saplings have been dug out; pot-holes in the drive have been (sort-of) repaired, the shed has been painted – I shan’t claim that it’s now tidy, but it is tidier. Anyway, since we’ve been in the garden a lot, I’ve noticed that we have sparrows in our beech hedge much more often than I have previously imagined.

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Sparrows are gregarious birds and seem to like hedgerows and be very faithful to particular spots – I can think of a couple of places in the village where I can pretty much guarantee I will see sparrows when I walk past. TBH and I walked along the Townsfield path back in early April (when these photos were taken) and saw at least half a dozen sparrows having a dust bath on the path – I didn’t have my camera with me sadly.

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We only seem to have a couple of pairs at most, but the thought that they might have moved in and even that the colony might grow is exceedingly cheery. For the garden to be filled, in future years, with the constant chatter and activity of a crew of sparrows would be fantastic.

Crew is, according to some lazy internet research, one of the collective nouns for sparrows, the others being flutter, host, meinie, quarrel, tribe, and ubiquity, all of which seem to fit rather well apart from meinie, what’s a meinie?

We have other birds in the garden, but they aren’t so bold and therefore are a bit harder to photograph. I think that this…

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…is a coal tit, it doesn’t seem yellow enough to be a female great tit which was my other thought. Coal tits seem to like the silver birch in our garden.

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Blue tit.

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White Bloomer.

Ah – another item from the list – to whit, ‘bake bread more often’. I don’t normally manage to fit bread-making around commuting, so, whilst working from home, I have been able to bake more often, although at times, especially early on when bread flour and yeast were akin to gold dust, not as often as I would like. I’ve been branching out and trying various types of flour, by necessity really, since I’ve had to take what I could get, and also different types of loaf, as you’ll see in forthcoming posts!

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Limestone Pavement in Eaves Wood.

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There was a fortnight in April when I decided that a walk which criss-crossed Eaves Wood and Middlebarrow, zig-zagging furiously was an ideal lockdown workout.

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A Middlebarrow path.

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Blackthorn blossoms.

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I can’t say if really made much progress with ‘getting to grips with birdsong’, but I have been able to listen to more of it! I think I’ve mentioned it before, but getting out every day this spring has really alerted me to the ubiquity of nuthatches locally. A collective noun for nuthatches is a bit superfluous, since they seem to be mostly solitary birds, but it’s a jar of nuthatches apparently.

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They are everywhere, but I hear them much more often than I see them, so photographs have been a bit of a rarity. Less than a jarful.

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Arnside Tower.

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Looking towards Silverdale Moss from beside Arnside Tower.

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Peacock butterfly.

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More willow catkins.

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Coltsfoot.

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Peacock butterfly.

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Pepper Pot.

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Cuckoo pint leaves in the shade of mature beech tree, where not much else will grow.

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The ruined cottage in Eaves Wood

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A late finish.

I love Elvis’ early recordings from his days at Sun Records.

When I heard this…

…song by Sister Wynona Carr, I thought that maybe Elvis had borrowed from an old gospel tune. I’ve been smugly self-congratulating myself for years for spotting the connection. Sadly, for my puffed up self-esteem, it turns out that they are both covers of this original…

… by Roy Brown. All sorts of people have covered this song, but I really like this version…

…which is unmistakably by Elvis’ Sun Records stablemate Jerry Lee Lewis.

 

I Heard The News

Third Stone From The Sun

Hagg Wood – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – Myer’s Allotment – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood – Elmslack.

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I watched this blue tit going in and out of a narrow crevice in an oak tree close to home. I took several photos, all blurred, except for the ones where the bird was too quick, or I was too slow and all the pictures show is a tree trunk. These two are the least bad. I assumed that there must be a nest here, but on subsequent visits I haven’t noticed any further activity.

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Marsh Marigolds at Lambert’s Meadow.

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Female Chaffinch with nesting material.

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New sycamore leaves.

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Dog Mercury – virtually ubiquitous in our woods, with nondescript flower so easily overlooked.

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Buzzard.

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Myer’s Allotment.

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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.

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Silverdale Station with train – any passengers?

I’ve been intrigued by our local bus and train services. Both the buses and the trains seem to be travelling without passengers, at least most of the time. There’s something very poignant about the apparently futile, but quietly heroic effort to keep these services running in the present circumstances.

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Trowbarrow Quarry.

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Dandelions?

Yellow dandelion-like flowers are often still a bit of a mystery to me. With tiny leaves and very-short stems, these didn’t look like very typical dandelions, but I think that may just be down to the impoverished soil of the quarry floor.

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Comma on willow catkins.

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Peacock.

This was an excellent walk for butterflies. There were brimstones about too, but they wouldn’t pose for photos.

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Bee fly.

Three years ago I didn’t know what a bee fly was; now I realise that, in early April, they are everywhere. Another indication of the value of putting a name to the things that you notice whilst out and about.

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Coltsfoot.

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Forget-me-nots.

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Violets and celandines.

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Primroses.

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Grey squirrel.

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Wren.

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Woodrush.

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Elmslack.

This roadside verge is one of the most cheering sights when the sun is shining and the celandines are flowering.

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Celandines.

The flowers close when the sun isn’t shining, but the way they strain towards the sun when it is on show is almost comical: like a class full of primary school kids with their hands up, all earnestly entreating their teacher, “Pick me, pick me”.

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Quince.

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Definitely dandelions.

The tune was supposed to be ‘Third Stone from The Sun’ by Jimi Hendrix, but I can’t find an original version. Nor can I find either BBC session version of his ‘Driving South’ one of which was on the original ‘Jock Hols’ tape.

(“But who is Jock Hols?”, asked TBF)

So, here’s a highly enjoyable alternative, ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ by Ringo Starr:

Third Stone From The Sun

Two for Joy

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Arnside Tower.

What a tonic blue sky is, and the light that comes with it…

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Beech leaves.

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Green Hellebore.

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Middlebarrow Quarry.

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Shelduck

This was the first of several occasions when I’ve watched Shelduck in groups of half a dozen or so, flying around and around Middlebarrow Quarry, honking loudly. Occasionally they will settle on a ledge, but then off they go again. I can’t imagine what the purpose of this display is.

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Common Carder Bee (perhaps) on Toothwort.

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Hawes Water.

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Sunset.

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Magpies.

Magpies are another surprisingly elusive bird. They’re so common and yet all the photographs I have of them are taken from huge distances, so I was chuffed when this pair sat and posed for several portraits. Their cousins, Jays, are even more flighty and although I’ve spotted them quite a few times over the last few weeks, I don’t have a single photo to show for it.

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Goldfinches.

Around this time it was evident that many birds were building nests. I watched a Crow struggling to break a twig from a tree, then, apparently dissatisfied, throw the twig to the ground and laboriously snap off another. The second twig must have been deemed much better building material, because it flew off with that one in its beak. I also spotted these Goldfinches which were ripping Dandelion petals from unopened flowers, presumably to line a nest?

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Dunnock – I think.

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Grange from the Cove.

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The ‘salt desert’ of the Bay.

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Song Thrush.

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Curious lambs. Despite the sunshine, frost was hanging on in the shade of a drystone wall well into the afternoon.

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A new gateway at an entrance to Clark’s and Sharp’s Lots.

One of the joys of being out almost every day has been the opportunity to observe changes unfold. Not just a neat new bit of wall on a National Trust property, but new flowers appearing, leaves shooting up from the woodland floor and the changing chorus of birds in the woods too.

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Nuthatch.

As soon as the lockdown started, I realised that the Chiff-chaffs were already back with us. In the woods, I was surprised how much the birdsong was dominated by Chiff-chaffs, Robins and Nuthatches. Then the Song Thrushes swelled the ranks a little, with Blackbirds coming in a little later. Now there are too many voices for an amateur like me and I’m much more easily confused.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

Butterflies too were abundant from fairly early on. Brimstones first – although they don’t seem to like to stop to be photographed. Then Commas, Small Tortoiseshells, and Peacocks, with Orange Tips hard on their heels. I think those must all be species which overwinter in their adult forms. Certainly many of the butterflies I saw looked quite tatty.

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A near Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

It’s a shame really that I was behind with the blog – it would have given me great pleasure, as well as being a lot easier, to record the changes as they happened. Imagine that – a daily walk with my camera and no work to get in the way. How can I engineer that, do you think?

Can’t really think how to shoehorn this track in, apart from it’s fantastic. Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama on backing vocals. Brilliant.

Two for Joy

I Like Birds

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Daffodils at Far Arnside.

These photos are all from the weekend in March after schools in England all closed for an indefinite period. So, strictly speaking, a couple of days before the lockdown arrangements came into force. The week before had been pretty frantic at work, trying to get everything organised for the new arrangements before we were all sent home, so it was great just to get out and relax and enjoy the obvious signs of spring.

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And Green Hellebore.

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TBH on the coast path.

From Far Arnside, TBH and I climbed up to Heathwaite and then returned home.

On the Sunday I had a wander down to Heald Brow in the morning and then walked round Jenny Brown’s Point with TBH in the afternoon – a fairly similar walk.

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Crows.

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Heald Brow.

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I’m pretty sure this Bumble-bee was a queen: only queens survive the winter and then can be seen in early spring searching for a site for a new nest. They nest is cavities, apparently abandoned mouse holes being a favourite. I watched this one wandering around in the moss for quite some time. I’m not very adept at identifying bees but I think this might be a White-tailed  Bumble-bee, Bombus Lucorum.

The very hairy leaves around the bee are Mouse-ear-hawkweed. The fauna surveys which I’ve helped with in recent years are definitely having an impact on my recall of trivia like that. The bizarre thing is how chuffed I was to recognise the leaves and know that the flowers would be appearing soon (coming to a blog near you!)

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Last year Heald Brow was my go to spot for Primroses, but on this occasion I couldn’t find many flowering and wandered around rather aimlessly trying to work out where they’d all gone.

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For the most part, the Blackthorn flowers were just clusters tight little buds, but in places…

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…they were open and looking magnificent.

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Lichen.

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I have an endless supply of blurred photographs of Long-tailed Tits. Even more than other species of tits, they seem to be constantly on the move, bobbing about with a frustrating knack of moving just as the camera shutter opens (or whatever equivalent activity takes place inside a digital camera).

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So I was happy when this one decided to pose for a couple of photos.

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I heard something on the radio recently, and I can’t remember the source, sorry, but apparently, because their vision extends into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum, the blue on the head of a male Blue Tit is an iridescent spectacle for other Blue Tits.

This episode of Radiolab, about how animals see colours, and in particular the visual acuity of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, is absolutely fascinating.

At Woodwell…

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This very vigorous plant, which I don’t recognise…

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…caught my eye. It remains a mystery – I shall have to keep an eye out to see if it flowers at some point. I’d been checking on Woodwell periodically anyway, waiting for the reappearance of minnows after they were wiped out here by the hot summer of 2018, which dried the pool out completely. The good news is that they’re back; the bad news that the photos I took of them are all a bit useless.

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Ramsons or Wild garlic in Bottoms Wood. Around this time, it may even have been on that weekend, I saw a group of four people squatting in the woods here, stuffing black bin bags full of Ramson leaves. I presumed they were intending to supply a restaurant somewhere. Either that, or they really love Wild Garlic Pesto, who knows?

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I love the colour and form of emerging Sycamore leaves, and who can resist the cheeriness of…

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…Celandines.

Unlike Long-tailed Tits, Robins are often happy to sit still and pose for a portrait. I usually crop my bird photos, but was close enough to this Robin that I didn’t feel the need in this case…

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I probably took a dozen photos of this Robin. There always comes a point, when I’m photographing Robins, when the Robin turns its head on one side and stares straight at me, as if to check whether I might be a threat or not…

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And, as often as not, then continues to ignore me and sing…

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Warton Crag from Heald Brow.

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A newish footpath sign at Jenny Brown’s cottages. Rather handsome I thought.

In a comment, Andy has, I think unwittingly, challenged me to make a Lockdown playlist, which is exactly the kind of game I like to play. Challenge accepted. If you know Eels marvellous album ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’, then the post title will have been a dead give away:

I’m more than a bit surprised that I haven’t used this song before.

I Like Birds