Lapwings at Leighton Moss

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On the Tuesday evening after our weekend away in Wasdale, A and B had, as they usually do, Explorer Scouts over at Silverhelme Scout Camp on The Row. TBH was on taxi duty and she suggested that she could drop me off so that I could walk home. That seemed like a first rate idea, and so it was that I found myself on Storrs Lane at the point where the path which skirts around the back of Leighton Moss leaves the road. I popped into Lower Hide and ended up staying much longer than I had intended to, which often happens.

Although there were plenty of other birds about, it was some Lapwings right under the hide windows which kept me entertained.

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This adult male had chosen a prominent position in order to keep a watchful eye on the area. It looks like he’s on the remnants of some sort of nest. Not a Lapwing nest, I don’t think. Maybe something like a Coot.

When this first bird moved on, a second came stalking through the reeds…

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To take over the same position. At first, I assumed that the birds must be a pair, but this is another male. You can tell because the black patch extends all the way down his throat and further down his breast than it would on a female. Also, those striking plumes on his head are longer than those sported by a female.

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This, is a female…

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She looks a bit chubby, but that’s because tucked away under her skirts she’s hiding her entire brood…

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I watched as the chicks repeatedly made forays to explore the shallow margins of the mere…

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There were five chicks in all, but two was the most I managed to catch on camera at once…

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Her’s the matriarch without any chicks sheltering beneath her apron…

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You can just about see that she has some slight mottling in the black plumage on her throat, which is absent in males.

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The chicks seemed quite adventurous and would disperse over a fairly large area. This one came right up under the windows of the hide…

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But then the chicks, presumably acting on the some signal from an alert parent, would all turn and head back to the protection of their mother…

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And disappear into her feathery shelter…

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This chick…

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…seemed to be more independent than its siblings and was much less hasty when returning…

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Lapwings at Leighton Moss

Half-Term Happenings I

February half-term was very busy here at our Country Pile. The Surf’n’slide crew dropped by for the first weekend. My brother and his kids also arrived late on the Saturday and my mum and dad had booked a room at the Silverdale Hotel from Sunday night through till Thursday.

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We had regular Roe Deer visitors in the garden too.

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In the woods by Hawes Water.

The remaining photos are all garnered from the first of two walks we managed to squeeze in on the Saturday.

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On the new Hawes Water boardwalk.

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Gloucester Old Spot pigs at Hawes Water Villa.

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Leighton Moss from the ‘Skytower’.

Andy has a fuller account of this and our other walks that weekend over on his blog. He seems to have taken more photos than I did.


In the summer, I shall be attempting to complete the annual 10 in 10 challenge. Briefly, the idea is to walk a route over 10 Wainwrights in 10 hours or less.  You can find out more here.

The event is a fundraiser and I’m hoping to get some sponsorship for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. My Just Giving page is here. All donations, however small, will be most welcome. I should add that the sponsorship is not a condition of my entry and that I’ve already paid a fee to enter which covers all costs, so all sponsor money would go directly to charity.

Half-Term Happenings I

Kaleidoscope Moon

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I decided to take an evening stroll down to Leighton Moss, thinking that on previous summer-evenings I’d seen Red Deer swimming in the meres near to Grizedale Hide and that maybe I would see them again.

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Dryad’s Saddle.

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Distant Great Spotted Woodpecker.

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In the event, whilst I did spot a couple of deer, they were partially hidden in amongst the reeds. Fortunately, there was plenty more to see.

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I particularly enjoyed the antics of this Little Egret. Unlike Herons – patient hunters which don’t generally move very much or very quickly, Little Egrets wander about, stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pond hoping to dislodge likely prey.

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A nearby tree had seven Cormorants perched in it…

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I knew that Herons and Egrets like to congregate to roost in the evenings, but perhaps Cormorants do too.

There were some Proper Birders in the hide, nice chaps, who told me that there were both Marsh Harriers and Bitterns nesting nearby. They were hoping for a sight of the Bitterns, which didn’t materialise, but we did see both adult Harriers, although somewhat distantly…

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I find that I can only sit in a hide for so long before I start to get itchy feet and when the sun disappeared, perhaps for the last time that day I thought, it was time to move on.

Anyway, I wanted to get home before it got too late. On my way back around the reserve, I diverted slightly to take in the view from the Sky Tower…

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From there I watched a pair of Swans and their large family of cygnets swim across the mere in a stately line and then, reaching their nest, enter into a noisy dispute with some Coots, who obviously felt that they had squatters’ rights.

Then I noticed some sort of commotion in the water, between the two islands of reeds in the photograph above. Fish were jumping out of the water, but not the odd fish rising for a fly, this was lots of fish and the fish were seemingly leaping in groups, with the activity moving around the small area as if something were pursuing the fish beneath the water. I’ve seen this sort of thing once before and that was just after I thought I’d seen an Otter dive into the water from the Causeway which crosses the reserve. In the middle of the area where the commotion was taking place the RSPB have built a small wooden platform. There were numerous birds on that platform and they were all obviously aware of what was going on too. The ducks all took to the water and headed swiftly away. The heron peered at the fish momentarily before unfurling its wings and also departing. Only the small white birds, which looked to be terns of some sort, didn’t seem to be bothered. Meanwhile a second area, along the edge of the mere, had also started to liven up with fish jumping this way and that. Perhaps there were a pair of Otters down there, doing a spot of fishing.

The area where this was all happening was right in front of Lillian’s Hide, so I thought I would head down there to see what I could see. When I got there, the fish were no longer leaping, but a disturbance in the reeds alerted me and there was my Otter, swimming along the channel in front of the hide. I lost sight of it, but there was another chap in the hide and, when I told him there was an otter nearby, he came up trumps by spotting it swimming away.

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Not as good as my photos from this winter, but it’s not often that I get to see an Otter after work, so I was very happy.

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The heron returned and I could see now why the terns were so unperturbed – they weren’t real – I suppose that this is an attempt to attract actual terns to nest on this faux island?

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Buzzard.

By the time I was walking back across the fields towards home, I’d missed the sunset, but there was still lots of colour in the sky.

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The moon was half hidden by this great swathe of pink clouds. Using the zoom on my camera I watched the moon as it was repeatedly veiled and unveiled by the clouds.

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Searching for a title for the post, and reverting, as I often do, to songs titles half-remembered from my youth, I thought I could recall a song called Kaleidoscope Moon.

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A bit of googling however, reminded me that the song I was thinking of was actually ‘Kaleidoscope World’ from the album of the same name by Kiwi band The Chills.

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Other songs on the album were called ‘Rolling Moon’ and my own favourite ‘Pink Frost’, so maybe I had dimly muddled these three and somehow got ‘pink’, ‘moon’ and ‘kaleidoscope’ from the three songs. I’m surprised that I seem to have managed to almost completely forget this band, although some fragment of a memory was clearly lurking in the recesses of my mind, and I’m very happy to have been serendipitously jolted into recollection.

 

Kaleidoscope Moon

An ¡Ándale! Walk

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Look at that sky!

When we got back from Underley, I was keen to get out for another walk whilst the daylight and the good weather lasted. I fancied one of my favourite local routes from last year, which takes in Eaves Wood, Hawes Water, Yealand Allotment and Leighton Moss. I usually walk it clockwise, in that order, but it occurred to me that the path ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss might still be flooded, so went widdershins so that I could ask at the visitor centre. Which I did. I was assured that all of the paths around the reserve were open, by a volunteer, well-intentioned I’m sure, who may have been distracted by the fact that he was just about to go on his break.

Pheasants…

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…are daft creatures, apt to stay hidden until you’re almost standing on them and then burst out in a flurry of wings and calls, leaving you every bit as flustered as they clearly are. But this hen pheasant was one of several I saw last Sunday which were apparently completely sanguine about my presence.

The meres (and paths) were partially frozen over still…

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I wondered what had caused these strange undulations and gouges in the ice in front of the public hide…

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There were lots of ducks in evidence. Mainly Shovelers, Teal and Pintails. Judging by the reactions of the proper birders who were about, the Pintails are the most exciting of these.

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I walked around to Lower Hide. The path was pretty wet and the last bit was iced over and decidedly treacherous.

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Teal on the ice.

The onward path from there was barred with a notice saying it was closed because it was flooded. I went past it anyway, as I am wont to do. But not very far. It was flooded. Oh….blast!

Time’s winged chariot was hurtling on, as it is wont to do, the sun was low in the sky…

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…and my plan was thwarted. What to do?

I contemplated the possibilities as I wandered back to the visitor centre.

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Stopping briefly again at the public hide for another gander. There were cygnets…

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And…a willow?…catching the lovely light.

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And Black-headed gulls briefly launching into the air before making shallow dives into the water. I wonder what they were after?

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I’d heard several people discussing the Starling murmuration, and since, slightly ridiculously, its several years since I’ve been at the Moss to witness that, one possibility was to wait to watch that. It seemed to me that the other sensible option would be to head down towards Quaker’s Stang and Quicksand Pool to catch the sunset. I chose the latter. But that meant a stretch of road-walking and a need for speed to find a good vantage point before it was too late.

So, I was in the unusual position of being in a hurry on one of my walks. Which is what made me think of Speedy Gonzales and “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! ¡Epa! Yeehaw!”. (Well that and the fact that ‘An ¡Ándale! Walk’ follows on quite satisfyingly from ‘An Underley Walk’.)

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Quicksand Pool.

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Little Egret.

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Sunset from Quaker’s Stang.

Recent high tides had left a series of pools across the saltmarsh, making a nice foreground as the sun dropped into the Bay.

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By the time I’d crossed the Stang and was back by Quicksand Pool, the sun had gone.

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But again…

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…it was great to be out in the gloaming, enjoying a subtle light-show…

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The land reclamation wall at Jenny Brown’s Point.

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 From near Gibraltar Farm and The Wolfhouse.

An ¡Ándale! Walk

He’s Behind You!

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Coniston Fells from Arnside Knott.

Three walks, from a weekend most memorable because the children were all appearing in the pantomime with the Silverdale Village Players. Oh no they weren’t! Oh yes they….etc etc ad infinitum.

Early on the Saturday morning I wended my way down to Leighton Moss. Wishful thinking on my part – I thought I might repeat the marvellous experience of a few days before.

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But although it started bright, it soon clouded over and became very dull.

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Not only did I not see any Otters, even the small birds and ducks which had been so abundant seemed absent. Or perhaps they were all just circling behind me and gurning at the audience in fine panto style?

On the Saturday might, as we left the Gaskell Hall after watching the performance, it was snowing quite heavily. By the following morning however, most of the snow had gone.

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Kent Estuary and Eastern Fells from Arnside Knott.

After four successive nights of performances, all of which finished quite late, the kids were exhausted and I couldn’t prevail on any of them to join me for a short stroll on Arnside Knott.

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Panorama looking towards the Lakes from Arnside Knott.

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Later, I was out again – to The Cove naturally.

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I’m nothing if not predictable. Oh no you’re not! Oh yes I ….etc etc. Until next Christmas.

He’s Behind You!

Water-Gifted.

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Every once in a while a day comes along which stands out not just from the normal run of things, but even amongst the good days. A real jewel. It seems to me that I’ve been very fortunate lately, in that the year just gone was unusually rich in days of that kind, and this day was one of the best.

It was a Monday early in December, a scheduled day off. In September, seeing this date on the calendar is likely to make my hackles rise and have me moaning about the pointless use of a precious holiday in the darkest days of the year, when I would much prefer an extra day in the Spring. But as the date actually approaches, I do begin to look forward to an opportunity to get out. Last year I went to the Lakes and climbed some fells, but this year, full of cold, I decided to restrict myself to a local stroll.

It was a cold morning, with a hard frost and a blanket of mist, although both had substantially cleared by the time I had dropped A and B off at the station and sent Little S off to school.

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Burtonwell Wood and Hagg Wood.

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Eaves Wood.

Black-headed gulls were lined up along the spine of the roof of Row Hulls, a field barn, probably discussing the blue skies, low sun and the fine morning to come.

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But then a Black-backed gull landed amongst them and many of the gossipers fled.

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The Golf Course.

We’d had several successive sharp, frosty days and I was heading down to Leighton Moss thinking that the meres might be frozen over. When I arrived at the visitor centre I was greeted by a very helpful volunteer who filled me in on all of the more exciting birds I might see, but also warned me that most of the paths were flooded.

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Leighton Moss.

The meres were frozen, aside for a few odd open stretches.

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Nuthatch.

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Great Tit.

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I waded down to Grizedale and Jackson hides. Apparently there was a Green-winged Teal on show in one of the meres at that end of the reserve, not that I spotted it.

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Robin.

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There were lots of common-or-garden Teal and Pintail, Wigeon,  and Shoveler to see. Also geese flying overhead and this solitary Cormorant preening itself…

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…and then drying-off in the sunshine.

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Robin.

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Blue tit. 

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Wren.

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Dunnock.

I was heading now for the causeway and the Public Hide and spotted this Heron…

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….in a field very close to both the path and the road. My standard procedure with nervous birds like herons is to take a photograph, then move forward a step or two, then take another picture and so on. But this time I didn’t need to. To my astonishment, the Heron slowly and deliberately paced towards and then past me.

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The causeway looks dry here, but it wasn’t further down. My shoes proved to be quite waterproof, although not always high enough on my ankle to prevent a little icy dampness creeping into my socks.

When I reached the Public Hide a chap told me that he had been watching two Otters running on the ice, one quite nearby and the other across the far side of the mere. I settled down for a cup of tea from my flask and didn’t have to wait too long before…

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…an Otter briefly popped up, trying, it seemed, to jump through a small hole in the ice on to the surface. It tried a few times, but then disappeared again.

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I had originally planned to walk right around to Lower Hide, but had been warned that the path was badly flooded and therefore closed. I went a little way in that direction anyway.

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Heron.

Before turning back to the Public Hide. For some reason I decided to have one more look, not from the hide itself but from a small viewing platform alongside it. Rustling in some reeds nearby had me scanning the area just in front of me when…

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…an Otter popped up very close by. I had time to take three photos, but then it was gone, only to reappear by a post right in front of the hide. This was by far and away the best sighting of an Otter I’ve had at Leighton Moss and also the best anywhere in many, many years.

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I set-off back along the causeway with an added spring in my step.

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Long-tailed tit.

I continued my wander through Trowbarrow Quarry and along Moss Lane.

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Grey wagtail.

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Natural England’s plans for the area around Haweswater have upset some people in the village. A boardwalk will be removed and some Beech trees clear-felled. I think that these trees are the ones ear-marked for removal…

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I understand why people don’t like it when trees are felled, but personally I’ve always assumed that this is a plantation in which the trees are too close together and have grown tall and scrawny as a result. Not at all like some of the splendid, huge Beeches which the National Trust chopped down in Eaves Wood a few years ago.

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I paused on the apparently condemned boardwalks for another tea stop and watched a couple more Cormorants fishing in the lake.

Incidentally, the post’s title is more Ted Hughes, from his poem ‘The Otter’. You can find it in it’s entirety here.

Water-Gifted.

Trowbarrow Views

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The forecast promised that the weather was going to improve. I set out on trust, although there were still a few spots of rain in the fairly strong wind.

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The hay has since been cut – they were collecting it in today – but then the grasses were long and swaying in the breeze. The dominant, red-tinged grass here is, I think, Yorkshire Fog, but I’m really not sure about the patch of pale grass standing out amongst the red. Cocksfoot?

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Yorkshire Fog.

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Bittersweet.

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Leighton Moss.

Fortunately, by the time I reached Leighton Moss, the view to the west was finally looking promising…

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The reeds along the boardwalk were looking tatty and half-eaten. It didn’t take much sleuthing to discover the reason why.

Alongside the reeds, there were lots of these large Dock leaves. (We have several Docks – I have no idea which these are).

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Many of them were infected with a fungus causing red blotches on the upper sides of the leaves…

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And crusty white rings on the undersides…

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I’ve done my lazy research, and I think that it’s a rust fungus called Puccinia Phragmitis.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass.

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Red Wall.

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Bee Orchid.

I was looking for the Fly Orchid which apparently flowers here. I didn’t find it, but more of the Bee Orchids had come into flower. Also, while I was poking about, I found a narrow path which I assume is the climbers’ descent route from the top of the main crag. I’ve never been up to the top before, but the views were excellent…

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Humphrey Head.

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Leighton Moss from Trowbarrow.

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Common Spotted-orchid and Quaking Grass again.

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And another (but quite different) Common Spotted-orchid.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The clouds were back.

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Six for gold.

Towards the end of the walk I came across a couple of bumblebees once again apparently asleep on flowers. It was very windy and when I grabbed one of the flowers to try to hold it still for a photo the bee waved one leg in a half-hearted fashion, like a person might if you tried to rouse them from deep sleep.

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Trowbarrow Views