A Different World.

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Peacock Butterfly on Hemp Agrimony.

When I finished my last post by musing about the origins of the name of the Scotch Argus butterfly and a possible link to the mythical giant Argus, I didn’t anticipate that the first photo in the subsequent post would be of a Peacock, whose Latin name recalls the same story. The Peacock was known at one time as the Peacock’s Tail. It’s Latin name is Inachus Io, recalling the Greek nymph Io and her father (variously a King, a Giant or a River God depending on which version you read). I’ve referred to this myth before, but here’s a slightly different version taken from Robert Graves ‘The Greek Myths, Volume One’:

“Io, daughter of the River-god Inachus, was a priestess of Argive Hera. Zeus, over whom Iynx, daughter of Pan and Echo, had cast a spell, fell in love with Io, and when Hera charged him with infidelity and turned Iynx into a wryneck as punishment, lied: ‘I have never touched Io.’ He then turned her into a white cow, which Hera claimed as hers and handed over for safe keeping to Argus Panoptes, ordering him: ‘Tether this beast secretly to an olive-tree at Nemea.’ But Zeus sent Hermes to fetch her back, and himself led the way to Nemea – or, some say, to Mycenae – dressed in woodpecker disguise. Hermes, though the cleverest of thieves, knew he could not steal Io without being detected by one of Argus’s hundred eyes; he therefore charmed him asleep by playing the flute, crushed him with a boulder, cut off his head and released Io. Hera, having placed Argus’s eyes in the tail of a peacock, as a constant reminder of his foul murder, set a gadfly to sting Io and chase her all over the world.”

Trickery, lust, infidelity, duplicity, jealousy, deceit, murder, revenge – the Greek Gods seem all too human in this tale, as in many others.

Here’s Hermes slaying Argus, from an Athenian vase now held in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Argus seems quite awake in this pictorial version of the story. In some tellings, Io is irresistible even after her metamorphosis into bovine form, which is hard to imagine; her portrayal on this ancient pot doesn’t really help in that regard.

Panoptes, incidentally, means ‘all-seeing’, an attribute to which I can definitely not lay claim…

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Skullcap.

Skullcap is apparently a very common plant, but this is the first time I can recall spying it in flower. I found it in the increasingly wet meadow at the end of Hawes Water.

“Skullcap, Scutelleria galericulata, is a delicate species of fens and banks of ponds, canals and slow rivers, locally common throughout much of Britain. The plant’s English and Latin names both derive from the shape of the blue flowers, which reminded early botanists of the leather helmet or galerum worn by Roman soldiers.”

from Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

“Sufferers from nervous disorders might be advised to take skullcap in tablet form, for the plant produces a volatile oil, called scutellarin, which is one of the best treatments for such afflictions ever discovered. The plant is dried, powdered and infused in boiling water to make a strong tonic, which calms spasms and hysteria, and relieves epilepsy and St Vitus’s dance. However, care must be taken: it is a powerful drug, and an overdose might induce the very symptoms which, at correct dosages, it alleviates.”

from Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain.

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I wondered whether the colours of Hemp Agrimony, often somewhat washed out and insipid in my photos, might show to better effect in shade: I think it worked?

I’ve certainly had a bumper year for spotting Common Lizards. The two I met basking in their usual spot, on the edging along the boardwalk by Hawes Water, were, once again, quite different from each other in their markings and colour…

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I particularly admired the go faster stripes on this specimen…

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I wondered whether the variation in colouring might reflect the gender of the lizards and have since discovered that you can sex lizards this way, but need to see their undersides in order to do so. I suspect that I’m never going to be quick enough to get my mitts on them to find out. Never mind, I’m happy just to see them.

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Hawes Water.

I presume that these alien monstrosities…

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…are the early stages, or small examples, of Robin’s Pincushion Gall, or are something similar. They’re nothing like as hairy as Pincushion Galls usually are though, and those generally develop on the stems. You can perhaps tell from the picture that each outlandish, starfish-like protuberance is mirrored on the reverse of the leaf. Quite astonishing, even before you know about the asexual lifestyle of the wasps which develop within.

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A male Small White, I think.

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Another Bull in a field with a footpath, in fact he was walking along the path, but I was turning off in another direction and, anyway, he didn’t seem remotely interested in me.

This walk was memorable for quite an abundance and variety of butterflies. Later on, I met a number of Lepidopterists, one of whom asked me if I’d seen any Brown Hairstreaks, which is what they were on the look-out for. I hadn’t. Not that I would have recognised one if I had. I did see lots of Brimstones though…

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Brimstone on Betony.

They seemed to be patronising the purple flowers by preference, which shows off their yellow to good effect. Is it vanity, do you think?

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Bumblebee on Knapweed.

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Painted Lady.

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Red Admiral.

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Another Peacock’s-tail.

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Eyebright.

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Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel is tiny, but not really elusive at all, unlike the character named after the flower, scourge of the French Revolutionaries. Local names for the flower included ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglass’ and ‘shepherd’s sundial’, due to its habit of closing whenever the skies are dull and for large parts of the day, a property, it must be said, which it shares with many other flowers.

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The mystery plant – looking increasingly like some sort of Scabious, as Simon suggested.

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Grasshopper.

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I think this might be Orpine, or Sedum telephium, the same Sedum, or Ice Plant which we grow in our gardens.

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Speckled Wood.

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A Harvestman. Definitely not a spider or a daddy-longlegs.

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I was a bit surprised to see the orange berries on the Lily-of-the-valley; I’ve never seen them before. Apparently, they rarely develop, with the plant usually spreading by sending up new shoots.

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Female Common Darter.

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Another Brimstone.

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Male Common Darter.

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A Different World.

Summertime Blues

And oranges, greens, browns, purples, yellows….

Almost a proper post-work walk this one, since it was the evening of the last day of the summer term. I was out a little earlier than I often am, which meant sunshine for a change and lots of colour. I chose to go back to the Hawes Water and Gait Barrows area.

In the woods I followed a large wasp or hoverfly hoping to see it land. I lost it, but then spotted this apparently besieged beetle…

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I think that this is a Common Sextant Beetle – Nicrophorus vespilloides. I thought that maybe the small brown mites covering the beetle – which I’m pretty sure was dead – were eating it, or had possibly even killed it, but it turns out that the truth is far more interesting and surprising…

“These [Sextant] beetles perform an important service in getting rid of carrion – dead small animals and birds. Males and females cooperate to bury this matter, by digging beneath the bodies to provide a food supply for their larvae.

Adults show an incredible maternal care for the larvae, something very unusual in the insect world. They fly in search of new sources of food at night and readily come to outside lights. They are often seen to be host to very tiny pinkish brown mites which are not parasites but feeders on moulds which would otherwise spoil carrion as a food source for the larvae. These mites use the beetles as a way of getting about. This beetle is commonly seen at light in gardens, often in company with a related, all black species, the black sexton.”

Source

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I’ve had a bumper year for Common Lizards, which is great. With the sun shining I wasn’t at all surprised to find a few more on the boardwalk by Hawes Water.

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Unlike the ones I’ve seen at Foulshaw Moss, these all had their tails. They were very varied in colour.

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Blue-tailed Damselfly.

The lizards weren’t the only ones basking in the sun.

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This one, it seems to me, is more blue than green, somewhat to my surprise.

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Three lizards this time, not a bad haul.

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Hawes Water.

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Meadow Brown.

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“The Robin’s Pincushion (also known as the ‘Bedeguar Gall’) is a gall caused by the larvae of a tiny gall wasp, Dipoloepis rosae. It is widespread and common, and can be found developing on the stems of wild roses during late summer, acquiring its reddish colour as it matures in autumn. The grubs inside the gall feed on the host plant throughout the winter and emerge in spring as adults. The adults reproduce asexually and only a tiny number are male.”

Source

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Male White-tailed Bumblebee?

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Wild Basil again (the same plant).

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Froghopper – very different from the last one I saw.

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Meadow Brown.

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Mating Gatekeepers.

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Betony.

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Rather tired Common Spotted-orchid.

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Small Skipper on Betony.

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Look at that tongue!

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I had a bit of a wander around an area of limestone pavement which I don’t think I’ve explored before. A surprisingly diverse range of plants seem to thrive in the grykes.

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Hart’s-tongue Fern.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort.

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Eyebright.

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Great Mullein.

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There were lots of these plants, growing in clumps, with strappy leaves, very dark stems and flowers which don’t seem quite open yet. I’ve had several ideas about their identity, but have eventually discounted them all.

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With it’s succulent leaves, this looks like some sort of stonecrop, but also remains a puzzle. Maybe when it’s flowering fully I’ll be able to identify it?

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Ploughman’s-spikenard.

I was intrigued by the name of this daisy, so had a peek in ‘Flora Britannica’:

“True spikenard or ‘nard’, was an expensive, spicy perfume made from roots of a Himalayan plant…”

I’m not sure why Mabey says ‘was’, since a google search elicits many offers of expensive cure-all Spikenard essential oils.

There are, apparently, several references to Spikenard in the Bible, both Old and New Testament*.

Ploughman’s Spikenard is the poor-man’s English alternative. The “roots have a strong aromatic smell. They are sometimes dried and hung up in cottages as room-fresheners.”

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Dark Red Helleborine.

I’ve been wanting to find some of these since I moved to the area, without really being sure when or where to look. It’s part of the reason I was wandering around on the limestone pavement. I found several plants when I’d given up and was back on the path at the edge of the pavement. Sadly, they’d finished flowering and the flowers were dried brown husks. With one or two exceptions…

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Now I know where to start my search next summer. Roll on.

*  For example: “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”

From the King James version of the Song of Solomon. As ever, reliably weird. On which note – it’s probably only me that read this and heard: ‘Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon. Going up…’ If you get the reference and can hear the theme tune now then that probably means that you’re a child of the seventies and your life too was blighted by useless sit-coms. (‘Wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food. Going up…’)

 

Summertime Blues

Burns Beck Moss

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A post work outing which neatly divides into two parts, so I’ve decided to split it over two posts. The first of which covers a trip to Burns Beck Moss Nature Reserve. It’s a wetland reserve with Burns Beck, a tributary of the Lune naturally, running through it. It’s access land, but the information board near the entrance asks that you stick to the path, and given how wet it is, it seems both reasonable and sensible to use the mostly-duckboarded route.

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I was struck by how many Ringlets I saw, in fact by how many I’ve seen generally so far this summer. Since then, today in fact, I’ve chatted with somebody much better informed than I am, who tells me that species like Ringlets, and also Meadow Browns and Gate-keepers, which can feed on a variety of grasses, have been very successful in recent years and have been extending their range northwards, perhaps because of our milder winters and wetter summers which benefit grasses.

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This small bridge over the beck was home to a pair of Common Lizards, happily sunning themselves until I came along and disturbed them.

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Wind Farm on unnamed (on OS map) hill south of Burns Beck Moss.

There was a lot of Valerian flowering on the moss; it seemed to be very attractive to a variety of hover-flies.

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Small Skipper.

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A Crane Fly, couldn’t say which one.

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Possibly Snipe Fly.

The flies which are missing from my photographs are the many Horse Flies, or Clegs, which were making a meal of my calves. This has happened on many of my other evening walks this summer, but I haven’t usually reacted – this time I ended up with numerous angry red weals which itched like crazy and took the best part of a week to disappear completely.

Opposite the reserve an old quarry gives plenty of off-road parking. The road-side verges and the edges of the quarry provided more flowers to photograph…

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A Willow-Herb?

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Meadow Crane’s-bill: more often seen on verges than meadows these days.

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Pencilled Crane’s-bill (I think), an introduced species.

There was lots of Hogweed on the verges, all of it very busy with Soldier Beetles and numerous small flies, but I also spotted this small, but rather handsome moth…

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I’ve tried, in vain, to identify it from my Field Guide.

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Likewise, this flower, which seems very distinctive, with it’s pea-type flowers and very narrow leaves. I thought it would be very easy to identify, but…wrong again! It was growing, very successfully, from spoil heaps of gravel at the edge of the quarry and shall remain a mystery, at least for now.

Burns Beck Moss

Foulshaw: Lizards, Osprey, Skippers

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A’s dance lessons are almost over for the summer, so I’m conscious of making the most of my last few evening visits to Foulshaw in between taxi-duties. This Monday (now nearly a fortnight ago), having seen a Common Lizard on my previous visit, and it being warmer and sunnier than it was then, I hoped to see more. And I did. Around a dozen.

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Common Lizards are aptly named, in is much as, I suspect that they are very common, but like a lot of wildlife, they often go unnoticed. I tend to see one every now and again, but occasionally, when conditions are right, I’ve seen them in abundance. The last time this happened was quite a while ago, but the post I wrote then featuring lots of pictures of lizards has been one of those posts which has attracted a steady dribble of traffic ever since, so there must be some interest out there.

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Common Lizards can survive losing their tail, in fact will shed their tail in order to escape from a predator.

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Then the tail will grow back.

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Whilst I concentrated on spotting the lizards basking on the boardwalks, I did spot one or two other things.

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This very dark damselfly is presumably a female, but further than that I can not go.

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I heard this juvenile Woodpecker before I saw it. Is it the same one I’ve seen a couple of times before?

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This damselfly is much easier, it’s a male Blue-tailed Damselfly.

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Meadowsweet.

A family who had driven over from Kirkby Lonsdale, hoping to see the Ospreys, asked me which way to look to find the nest. I hadn’t seen it myself, but had an idea of the general direction from a map posted at the carpark. After a bit of vague pointing on my part they had soon spotted the large untidy nest. I took a few photos and it was only after I got home that I realised that to the left and slightly below the nest, on the next tree, there is an Osprey perched.

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(Click on the photo, or any of the others, to see a larger version on Flickr.)

I know that I should be wary about claiming to have photographed an Osprey here, after previously getting over-excited and jubilantly posting photos of the cameras next to the former nest site, in the mistaken belief that they were Ospreys, but I am confident about this one – I took photos using the camera’s digital zoom, and whilst they are rubbish, they are also pretty conclusive. This is only the second time I’ve taken a photo of an Osprey, and the second time that I’ve done so unwittingly. One day, I shall actually see an Osprey properly in this area. But don’t hold your breath.

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Bog Asphodel.

There had been a bit of a dearth of butterflies and moths on this visit, until I came across several Large Skippers in pretty much the same spot where I’ve seen them before.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Creeping Cinquefoil.

If that does prove to be my last visit to Foulshaw this summer, then it was a memorable one to finish on.

Foulshaw: Lizards, Osprey, Skippers

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

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A juvenile Great Tit and a Blue Tit share a moment.

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Male Scorpion Fly – rubbish picture, but you can see the appendage which earns its name.

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Lots of these at Foulshaw at the moment, under the trees at the edge of the reserve.

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Meadow Vetchling, perhaps?

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Reading John Wright has made me think about the ways in which insects and fungi are often adapted to exploit particular plants. I saw wasps feeding on Figwort a few times on this visit. A Figwort flower and the head of a wasp seem to be a perfect fit.

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The dark wings here make me think that this could be a Cuckoo Bumblebee, on a thistle obviously, Marsh Thistle probably.

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Male Reed Bunting – seems almost obligatory now.

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After the diverse, but elusive, moths and butterflies of my last visit, this time these small pale moths were to be seen all around the boardwalks in the more open, heathland areas. It’s a ‘wave’. But there are lots of those to choose from: Common Wave, White Wave, Small White Wave, Cream Wave, Small Cream Wave, Silky Wave, Grass Wave – and that’s just the ones which are pale with brownish stripes. Some of these species live in woodland, some have marginal black dots on their wings, or more prominent dark spots in the centre of their hind-wings, or on both wings, none seemed to fit the bill perfectly, but I’m going to tentatively plump for Common Wave, as it’s the best fit as far as I can tell.

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An Alderfly. Perhaps.

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Another Cuckoo Bumblebee? On Cross-leaved Heath.

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I spoke to somebody, who told me they had spoken to somebody else earlier, who had photographed six Adders that day at the reserve, one of them basking on a boardwalk. I didn’t see any snakes at all, but I did spot this Common Lizard.

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The ‘cotton’ from the Bog Cotton has completely coated some areas.

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Bog Asphodel.

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Bog Myrtle catkins.

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Green Lacewing. There are 18 British species and this is one of those, I’m fairly sure.

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Foxglove seed-heads. Handsome aren’t they.

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It’s been interesting to visit three weeks running and see how things have progressed. The Meadowsweet is flowering now. Here’s some with Tufted Vetch…

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I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that blue and white flowers in a garden together traditionally signify The Virgin Mary, but I can’t remember where I read that, so I may be wrong. It is, however, the kind of useless detail which I tend to remember, unlike, for instance, important things like people’s names.

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Soft Rush.

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See: wasp, Figwort – made for each other. Britain has nine species of Social Wasp, but I’m going to tentatively identify this as a Tree Wasp – Dolichovespula sylvestris.

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I’m quite chuffed with this photo, even though it’s clearly rubbish. I’ve been seeing these birds at Foulshaw and listening to their chatter, and thinking that they were Linnets, but not being sure. I’ve taken lots of photos, but only ever getting silhouettes, which looked right, but hardly proved conclusive. This one is only a slight improvement, but does show a bit of red and confirms that they are Linnets after all.

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A Saint John’s-wort. There are several different Saint John’s-worts. If I’d taken clear photos of the leaves and the stem, then maybe, just maybe, I would know which this was. But I didn’t; so I don’t.

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Blue Tit.

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Common Valerian.

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Meadowsweet. A powerful analgesic apparently.

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Figwort and Bindweed.

Figwort grows at Lambert’s Meadow and also in Middlebarrow Wood and probably in lots of other places locally, but it’s not a very inspiring plant where I’ve seen it. At Foulshaw, however, it really seems to thrive – it’s always tall, but here it has huge thick stems and masses of flowers and is generally more impressive and imposing than it is elsewhere that I’ve seen it.

Having been impressed, I decided to look Figwort up in ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’. Apparently Figwort, like Meadowsweet, had a widespread reputation as a painkiller. Mothers used it to quiet teething children. It was renowned as a treatment for piles, once known as ‘figs’ and hence the name. And it was also known as a treatment for Scrofula, now called Glandular Tuberculosis, but once called The King’s Evil, because the touch of a monarch was supposed to cure the disease. Figwort was apparently regarded as the next best thing.

Now this put me in mind of John Graunt and his ground-breaking 1663 book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, which I like to use when I’m teaching Statistics. Graunt carried out an analysis of the causes of death recorded in London Parishes over several years.

I don’t particularly enjoy teaching Statistics, but lists like the one above never fail to get students engaged. Both the figures and the causes of death are eye-opening. Simply being a child (a Chrisome is a child less than one month old) is the most common cause of death. ‘Kild by feveral accidents’, “Bit with a mad dogge’ and ‘Suddenly’ usually illicit comment, as does the fact that 454 people have died by ‘Teeth’, 28 by “Wormes’, 114 by ‘Surfet’ (which, yes, is eating too much) and 6 by ‘Murtherd’. Another similar page has ‘Wolfe’ as a cause of death. What are we to make of ‘Rising of the Lights’ or ‘Plannet’ or indeed ‘King’s Evil’? You can find suggestions on this fascinating website. Timpany, disappointingly, is not death by Kettle Drum.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

The Caldbeck Fells

Carrock Pike

The approach to the foot of the mountain resembled the approaches to the feet of most other mountains. The cultivation gradually ceased, the trees grew gradually rare, the road became gradually rougher, and the sides of the mountain looked gradually more and more lofty, and more and more difficult to get up.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

That’s from 1857, but it’s still a pretty fair description of my drive to the foot of Carrock Fell. When I climbed out of the car I was surprised by the cold slap of the wind. My ascent would take a rising line under the right-hand corner of those broken crags and then into and up a grassy gulley to the skyline, where the gradient eases. But first, I paused a while to watch a buzzard’s slow trawl along the top edge of the crag and then a a kestrel poised above a lone tree silhouetted against the sky.

One way and another, my scramble to bag the Birketts has stumbled this year. First my damaged ankle kept me off the hills and since then I’ve climbed hills on the edge of the Pennines, in the Forest of Bowland and in North Wales, but the only times I’ve been out in the Lakes I either haven’t climbed any hills or I’ve re-ascended tops which I’ve already ticked off. So for this away-day I’d chosen something to give the whole thing a bit of a kick-start: unfamiliar territory with nine relatively easy ‘summits’ to be bagged.

Of course, nothing’s ever easy: although my parking spot near Stone Ends Farm gave me a pleasingly high start, the first part of the climb was fairly steep. In the event, despite the need for windscreen-wipers on my eyes as perspiration gushed down my forehead, I found a nice steady rhythm and enjoyed the challenge.

At the top edge of the crags, I paused again as three ravens repeatedly sailed past, gurgling their lovely catarrhal croaks. I didn’t get much further up the path before my progress was halted again: a grouse stood proud on the hillside just ahead. I expected that it would whirr noisily away, but instead it just ducked down behind some heather so that only it’s head was showing…

Solitary grouse 

I waited with my camera, hoping that it would show itself more fully. A kestrel swooped by; maybe it was the kestrel I had seen from below. If it was a kestrel: it was surprisingly pale, but the right sort of size and shape.

Eventually, my patience paid off: the grouse trundled across the heather onto a prominent perch on a rock and then a second popped-up from a hiding place…

Two grouse 

…and then a third…

Three grouse 

…and a fourth. The three ravens made a reappearance and all five grouse launched themselves onto the wind. Even when they took off, they were eerily quiet, none loosed that abrupt rattling ‘here I am, shoot me’ call. I wondered whether they were a family group. None had the red wattle which distinguishes the male.

Up and up and up again, till a ridge is reached and the outer edge of the mist on the summit of Carrock is darkly and drizzingly near. Is this the top? No, nothing like the top. It is an aggravating peculiarity of all mountains, that, although they have only one top when they are seen (as they ought always to be seen) from below, they turn out to have a perfect eruption of false tops whenever the traveller is sufficiently ill-advised to go out of his way for the purpose of ascending them. Carrock is but a trumpery little mountain of fifteen hundred feet, and it presumes to have false tops, and even precipices, as if it were Mont Blanc. No matter; Goodchild enjoys it, and will go on: and Idle, who is afraid of being left behind by himself, must follow.

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

In fact, Carrock Fell is not a serious offender in this regard, at least not from the direction from which I climbed it, and I was soon on the top. What’s more, unlike the maniacally energetic Goodchild and the indolent Thomas Idle, I had a view, even if it was “like a feeble water-colour drawing half sponged out”. Goodchild and Idle are the alter-egos of the close friends Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. They took a tour of Cumberland together and then satirised themselves in Dickens’ Household Words.

I must confess that I’d never heard of their tour, or their report of it, until I bought this book…

A real find

…from the Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster this week. It’s from 1954 and looks like marvellous stuff, starting with early travellers like William Camden, Daniel Defoe and Celia Fiennes, taking in the writers of Tour Guides like Pennant and West, the Romantic Poets (Wordsworth fits both of the last two categories), and finishing with more recent Lakeland luminaries like Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Cannon Rawnsley, W.G.Collingwood, Walpole and W. Heaton Cooper, who also provides illustrations and the jacket painting.

Only now, as I flick through it again, have I discovered a neat, typed name and address label, dated “Aug ‘75”,  which shows that a previous owner of the book lived in a house just across the road from home.

Anyway, back to my walk: Dickens makes no mention of the remains of an iron-age hill-fort on the summit of Carrock Fell. After the grandeur of Tre’r Ceiri earlier this summer, I found it distinctly underwhelming by comparison.

Carrock Fell hill-fort 

My next target would be High Pike, seen here on the right…

Carrock Fell cairn and onward route 

…although there were a couple of minor bumps on the soggy ridge inbetween which I would slalom to incorporate, because of their Birkett status.

At first I mistook this huge fly, mesembrina meridiana, for a substantial bumble bee, purely because of its size.

Huge mesembrina meridiana 

Diverting to Round Knott at least took me wide of the most egregious bog.

Carrock Fell 

Looking back to Carrock Fell.

Round Knott cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind. 

Round Knott Cairn. Blencathra and Skiddaw behind.

High Pike 

High Pike

So far I’d had the hills to myself. On the boggy ridge I saw a walker with a collie heading the other way, but we didn’t meet since I’d left the main path to take in Round Knott. Now as I approached the final climb to High Pike I met another single walker, with two collies. Neither were on leads. Both were very friendly. One much too friendly. After it had put its paws on my chest, sniffed my privates and nestled it’s snout in my bum, I pushed it away with a trekking pole, on which I then skewered it’s owner, explaining, as he breathed his last, that not everyone likes dogs and that if he’d been a little more considerate he could have avoided being  kebabed.

No I didn’t. I smiled weakly and said something innocuous like, “Nice day for it.”

“I thought I’d got the hills all to myself,” with a grin.

A fellow misanthrope; I warmed to him. Maybe I won’t garrotte him on this occasion.

He strode away, unaware of his narrow escape.

Looking back to Carrock Fell 

Carrock Fell again.

The next walker I met also had a collie, or perhaps I should say that the next collie I met also had a walker in tow? I began to worry that I’d stumbled into some strange convention for lone walkers with collies, like something from Sherlock Holmes, but the next walkers I met were a couple with a boxer and something like a lurcher.

High Pike summit 

High pike has a fair accumulation of summit furniture: a trig pillar, an untidy, sprawling cairn and a stone bench. Squadrons of wasps flying in formation low to the turf were everywhere. They didn’t bother me whilst I ate some lunch, and I wondered what they were doing in such an apparently unpromising spot if they weren’t there to mug walkers and steal their sandwiches.

High Pike, and the Caldbeck Fells in general, are renowned for their mineral wealth and geological interest. I didn’t spot much, but I did pass a bright, white rock with an intricate crystalline structure embedded in the path…

High Pike geology 

Three more minor bumps to negotiate on route to Knott: Hare Stones, Great Lingy Hill and Little Lingy Hill. All three have cairns optimistically plonked close to where it’s almost possible to imagine that there might be a highest point. They give pleasant, rough, almost pathless walking.

Knott from Great Lingy Hill 

Wainwright says of Great Lingy Hill: “Acres of dense fragrant heather make this the most delectable top in Lakeland for a summer day’s siesta.” I thought it seemed a bit wet for that, but when the sun almost shone on Little Lingy Hill, I did spread my cag on the sward, stretch out and shut my eyes for a while.

Knott from Little Lingy Hill 

The crossing from Little Lingy Hill was wetter and rougher then anything I had yet encountered. That didn’t seem to perturb this….

Wary common lizard 

common lizard, which squirmed through the grass and disappeared before I could get a better picture.

Despite the fact that when I’d last seen them they’d been heading in the opposite direction, the misanthrope and his dogs had some how made it to the top of Knott before me. Maybe they’d made the unfortunate decision not to have a wee snooze. They strode away when they saw me coming to mar their splendid isolation.

The air had cleared a little and the hills across the Solway Firth had become more than the vague hint of landscape which they’d been up to that point. From my grandstand seat I watched showers tracking across the plains which flank the estuary.

A heavy shower 

Skiddaw seen over Great and Little Calva 

Skiddaw seen above Great and Little Calva.

Threatening clouds 

Threatening clouds.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott 

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott.

Another boggy ridge took me Coomb Height, the final Birkett of the day. I descended by Grainsgill Beck and then followed the unfenced road by the River Caldew to Mosedale, where I was surprised to find a cafe operating in the local Friends Meeting House.

Mosedale Friends Meeting House 

The cakes looked nice and the tea was hot and wet and reasonably priced.

1702 

Next door, in the barn attached to the Meeting House, was an Aladdin’s cave come charity shop.

An unusual charity shop 

In the meeting house was a display of rubbings of dates and initials taken from local houses and associated with the Quaker community. This area is one of the birthplaces of Quakerism; George Fox is another of the early writers anthologised in Prose of Lakeland. Walking through Mosedale I noticed a couple of houses with initials and eighteenth century dates. This one…

A Quaker home 

…a large double fronted house with an air of shabby gentility and an unkempt garden looked particularly romantic and worthy of exploration.

Date and initials

The Caldbeck Fells

Gait Barrows Puzzles

On the Sunday after our picnic, there was a sheep-dog trial on in the field behind our house. (Photos of a previous trial are here if that floats your boat.) Our house is separated from the field by a sort of ha-ha wall topped with both a hedge and a fence. Somehow however, our friend E, whose Dad organises the trials, came through a ‘gap’ to play with B. I’d planned to take B to Haweswater, hoping that he might have a chance to see some lizards – E was happy to join us, so we all went.

When we arrived on the boardwalks, we were a little too early: the sun had yet to climb high enough over the trees to warm the boards and there were no lizards to be seen. B expressed a desire to go to the ‘limestone place’ so we agreed to have a wander around Gait Barrows and then return, hopefully to find our quarry.

We followed a high hedgerow, vying with each other to be the first to spot the many dragonflies that were hunting around the hedge. Unlike the darters I had photographed earlier in the week, which settle on a perch for much of the time, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on passing insect prey, these were hawkers which stay on the wing for much longer and so are much harder to photograph. Fortunately, E spotted this one apparently taking a rest…

Dragonfly - migrant hawker?

I suspect that this is a male migrant hawker, the small yellow triangle at the front of the abdomen is distinctive apparently. My field guide has  a map which shows the distribution of this species extending from the South West below a line which runs roughly from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, which would mean that I wouldn’t see them in Lancashire, but a quick search reveals that they are now regularly found further north in Cumbria, especially close to the coast.

The boys were great company. I like to walk and gawp, but they were even slower than me – they not only wanted to stop to look, they were also keen to have hands on experience. Here…

What do you reckon that is then? 

…I think that they were investigating a puddle, possibly releasing a toad they had caught into the puddle in the (possibly mistaken) believe that it would be happier there than elsewhere in the field.

Exploring the limestone pavements, Gait Barrows 

The limestone pavements were a huge hit and in fact after we had explored for a while, they were reluctant to leave. I resigned myself to admiring the views, near and far, for a little longer.

View from the top 

Eaves Wood and Arnside Knott.

Guelder Rose berries 

Guelder-rose berries.

Isn't water great? 

Meanwhile they had found some little rock-pools and were enjoying playing with the water.

We found a few curiosities which had us stumped, at least for a while. These tiny delicate stars…

Old biting stonecrop flowers

…had me thinking that I had found a species of flower which was new to me. It was only when I looked at the photos at home that I realised that I was being fooled again by biting stonecrop – these white husks being the remnants of the yellow flowers. (This is the where and when and why of how they puzzled me earlier this year)

One of the puddles…

What? 

…was full of these rather unpleasant looking balls.

Any ideas? 

It occurs to me now that maybe they were rabbit-droppings washed here by rain, but if anyone knows better….?

When I thought that I had persuaded the boys to head back towards Haweswater and ultimately home and lunch, they discovered, on the path by the limestone pavement, lots of dark stones (“Gemstones Dad – we’re rich!”) with which they proceeded to fill their pockets, and would have filled mine had I let them.

Another puzzle 

Some were greeny-black…

Greeny black stone 

Some were rough and pitted…

Pitted stone 

And some were shiny, smooth and black…

Shiney black stone 

What they are, and why they can be found here amongst the limestone I don’t know.

Halved hazelnut shells.

We also saw many heaps of empty hazelnut shells, some of them quite sizeable. According to ‘The Collins Guide to Animal Tracks and Signs’ shells which have been spilt in half like this, rather then gnawed through, are the work of squirrels.

Eventually I managed to coax the boys back to the boardwalk, by which time the sun was lighting the boardwalk and there were a few common lizards about again. Marvellous.

Gait Barrows Puzzles