Cirque des Baumes Again

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Last time we came this way, we drove up to the view point at Point Sublime, left the cars up at the rim of the gorge, and walked back down to the campsite. It proved to be one of the most memorable mornings of the trip, so, naturally, we were keen to repeat that outing this time.

The views from the top of the gorge defy superlatives. I think I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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The campsite is down there somewhere, in the trees.
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The top of Cirque des Baumes – looks steep. It is.

Last time we visited, I was absolutely fascinated by the vultures we regularly saw overhead, and spent quite a bit of time both watching them and photographing them, mostly producing fairly useless photos. This time, perhaps the novelty had worn off a bit and I wasn’t as engaged as I had been. Never-the-less, they are amazing to watch and from the top of the gorge we had great views.

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Griffon Vulture (I think)
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Of course, having not been so intent on getting a photo of the vultures, I actually got my best yet. Inevitable perhaps. There’s probably a moral there somewhere, for a clever person to tease out.

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Griffon Vulture. Big.
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Wall Brown.
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B nonchalantly standing much too close to the edge.
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A vulture on an even more airy perch.
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The head of Cirque des Baumes again.
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Grasshopper.
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Grasshopper.
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I suspect that this is a Common Lizard – I think the most widespread reptile species, but I’m not sure.
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Likewise.
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Descending into the cirque.
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It’s quite a sketchy path through really impressive scenery. Some of us were taking our time to save our aged knees (and take photos) and the kids raced ahead of us, only to reappear above and behind us somehow.

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As we dropped past one of the large towers, a vulture wheeled just overhead, the closest encounter I’ve had by far. Sadly, my hasty photos, with the light behind the huge scavenger, didn’t come out too well, but it was a very exciting few moments.

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This looks like a Meadow Brown, except they usually have some orange on the underwing. So, I’m hoping that it’s actually a Tree Grayling which would make it another new species to me, in what was a bumper year for butterflies.
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Common Blue, I presume. There were a lot of them about.
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Actually, this might well be a Tree Grayling.
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Silver-washed Fritillary. Possibly.
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Unidentified, but colourful grasshopper.
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Unidentified, but rather lovely moth.

Last time we visited, the Best Butterfly Moment of the holiday – surely everybody has ‘Best Butterfly Moments’ in their holidays? – was the Small Purple Emperor I spotted by the Tarn. This time it was a number of Southern White Admirals which were flitting about near to the end of our descent, where the trees started to get bigger, but there was still plenty of sunshine filtering through.

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Southern White Admiral.
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Southern White Admiral.
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Southern White Admiral.

Stunning creatures. It was a species I didn’t know existed until this summer. Marvellous.

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Looking back up the Cirque.
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A member of the Dead-Nettle family, I suspect.

Most plants seemed to have finished flowering, perhaps as a result of the tree-cover and also the heat, so it was nice to find this small but attractive flowers.

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Wall Brown.

As I approached the bottom of the ravine I met a group who asked if they were going the right way for Point Sublime. They weren’t, having taken the the turn which leads up to La Chapelle Saint-Hillaire, a tiny church nestling under cliffs. My attempts to produce “Go back and turn left” in my rusty school French met with blank looks, but fortunately one of the group spoke very good English. I didn’t envy them the steep ascent in the midday heat, but they were at least young and they all looked very fit.

Sadly, a locked gate blocked the last part of the path to the church, so no photographs this time, although there are a few on my post from our last visit.

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Almost down: looking into the steep-sided ravine at the bottom of the gorge.
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Crag Martin

My own short climb up to the chapel wasn’t wasted energy, partly because the views from near the church are superb, but also because I actually managed to catch a hirundine in flight. Not the sharpest photo, but better than I expected. Crag Martins are apparently quite similar to our own Sand Martins, but with broader wings, lacking a darker band on their chests and with ‘diagnostic’ twin white patches on their tails. I’d been enjoying watching the martins deftly skimming across the surface of the huge cliff which looms over the latter part of the descent, so was very happy to have a closer encounter and a chance to take some photos. You can see in the picture how closely they hug the cliffs in their long sweeps, a bit like watching swallows in their low sallies across a pond or field, but with the different challenge of a vertical surface to follow.

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Looking back at Cirque des Baumes from the road.
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The Tarn from the ‘Mushroom Rock’. The campsite is in the trees by the big shingle bank on the left.

Of course, one consequence of walking down and leaving the cars is that somebody has to go back later to collect them. What a hardship!

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The same view later in the day.
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Another Vulture

More Point Sublime photos to come.

Cirque des Baumes Again

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

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Shield Bug, Pale Clouded Yellow, Meadow Brown, Knapweed Fritillary, and wasp, sawfly or ….a?

Conspicuous by their absence from my last post – I know, my last epistle was quite some time ago, suffice to say that online teaching is, despite what the gutter press seem to think, pretty all-consuming and involves spending most of the day stuck in front of a screen, so blogging has dropped out of favour as a spare-time activity – anyway, as I was saying, notably missing – notable, that is, to long-suffering followers at least – notably missing from my account of our trip to the Dordogne last summer were the plethora of wildlife photos which usually occupy around nine tenths of most of my posts. Fear not, that’s because I’ve saved them all up for one gargantuan holiday-snap snore-fest, with no people or views at all! (You can’t say you weren’t warned.)

This first photo neatly epitomises one of my favourite things about our trips to France – the sheer abundance and variety of the flora and fauna, well – particularly the insects.

Although there’s a lot of photos here – some might say too many – it’s a tiny sample of the many I took. Whilst my family and friends were floating down the river on rubber rings, or reading their books, or swinging through the trees doing their best Tarzan impressions, I wandered around the local woods and fields, camera in hand. Sorting through the vast assortment of resulting shots, choosing some favourites, and then trying, with varying degrees of success, to identify some of the more exotic species has been a highly enjoyable but fairly lengthy process. Not that I’ve restricted myself to the more exotic species here, I’m almost as happy to be photographing things which are very common at home…

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Meadow Brown on Horse Mint

I generally consider my memory to be atrocious, but weirdly, I’m confident that I can remember where each of these photos were taken. This Horse Mint, for example, grows behind the wall which runs alongside the road into the village. Whereas this thistle..

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Another Meadow Brown.

…was growing in a field next to the river, upstream of the campsite, a particularly happy hunting ground.

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Pale Clouded Yellow

Every trip seems to bring something new. I didn’t know, for example, that there was such a thing as a Pale Clouded Yellow.

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Pale Clouded Yellow
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Clouded Yellow

Ordinary, bog-standard Clouded Yellows sometimes appear in Britain as migrants. I saw one near Arnside once, a couple of miles from home, which really confused me at the time, because I knew what it was, but really didn’t expect to see it flying in a field in Cumbria, having only previously spotted them in France.

I don’t think that Cleopatra’s occur in the UK, I’ve certainly never seen them before.

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Cleopatra

They proved to be quite elusive, so I was quite chuffed to catch this one on my phone, although, with its wings closed, it looks very like a common-or-garden Brimstone. When they open their wings however….

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Cleopatra

…they’re quite different.

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Knapweed Fritillary

We were a few days later into the summer this trip. It’s amazing what a difference those few days made. Some butterflies have a brief lifespan in their adult phase. On our last trip we saw quite a few Swallowtails and Scarce Swallowtails, as well as numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries. Not this time.

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Knapweed Fritillary

But I did see lots of fritillaries. At the time, I was convinced that there were two different species, but looking at the photos now, it seems to me that they are probably all Knapweed Fritillaries.

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A pair of Knapweed Fritillary

I usually saw them in pairs, and often with one of the pair raising the back of its abdomen in what I took to be part of some sort of wooing process.

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A mating display?
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Wood White?
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Wall Brown
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Rock Grayling.
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Grizzled Skipper?

This little chap was compensation for a long and fruitless chase of a much larger butterfly, which may or may not have been my first, and so far only, sighting of a Camberwell Beauty.

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Common Blue.
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Common Blue
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Common Blues.
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Common Blue.

I’d already had an uncommonly good summer for spotting and photographing Common Blues around home, and they were abundant again both in the Dordogne and then, after we moved on, in the Tarn Gorge. Somehow their blue seemed even more vivid in the French sunshine.

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Holly Blue. I think.
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If anything, grasshoppers were even more abundant, more elusive, more variable and more difficult to identify than the butterflies.

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Some of the larger ones have very striking red or blue wings, sadly only visible in flight.

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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot.
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Striped Shield Bugs – mating?
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Striped Shield Bug on Wild Carrot with a passenger.
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Hairy (or Sloe) Shieldbug.
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Assassin Bug?

There are thousands of species of Assassin Bug apparently, of which this may be one.

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My first thought was that this was a Carder Bee, but it has no pollen baskets, so now I’m wondering if it’s even a bumblebee at all. I’ve concluded that, not very confident at identifying bees on my home patch, I shan’t even attempt to do so with these French bees.

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I will say that this isn’t a bee, but something imitating a bee’s markings. I’m not sure whether it’s a bee-fly or a hoverfly, although I’m inclined to the latter.

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I saw a few of these large and strikingly ugly black and orange flies.

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As with the bees, I saw a number of wasps, or wasp like creatures, which don’t seem to be in my ‘Complete Mediterranean Wildlife’ guide. There were some very thin waisted black and orange bugs which I think were ichneumon wasps of some kind. But I’m not sure whether the black and white creature below, sharing a flower with a burnet moth, is a wasp or a sawfly…

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Here’s another…

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…with a fritillary. And something similar, but yellow and black…

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Last time I took lots of photos of damselflies, dragonflies and demoiselles. Not so much this time, although the demoiselles were still present in large numbers by the river. Here’s a solitary damselfly…

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And what I thought was an unusually hairy, stunted and unglamorous dragonfly…

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Robber Fly

…but which I’m now pretty sure is a species of Robber Fly. Having said all those uncharitable things, I should say I’m actually quite chuffed to have spotted this, if only because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. That short, stout proboscis is for piercing prey and injecting venom. And the stiff hairs on its face, visible here, are called the mystax, from the Greek mystakos, also the origin of our ‘moustache’, via Latin, Italian and French. Which is the kind of trivia I find very satisfying.

All of which brings me to the last section of my insect photos, the moths.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth
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A colourful micro moth.

One of the wildlife highlights of our last trip had been the almost daily sightings of Hummingbird Hawkmoths, This time, the Meadow Clary which they seemed to favour had mostly finished flowering and to begin with I saw far fewer. Then, after my pursuit of the suspected Camberwell Beauty, I wandered into a part of the campsite I hadn’t previously ventured into. Having said there would be no views, here it is…

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It was unmown, full of wildflowers and a haven for butterflies. And in one corner, there was lots of Meadow Clary still in bloom, and loads of Hummingbird Hawkmoths too..

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I have to confess that I was fascinated by them.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

An example, I believe, of convergent evolution, Hummingbird Hawkmoths have evolved in a similar way to hummingbirds in order to occupy a similar ecological niche. Like hummingbirds, they use very rapid wingbeats to hover close to species of tubular flowers and use their long tongues to reach the otherwise inaccessible nectar.

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Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Meadow Clary
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth
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Hummingbird Hawkmoth

I guess they must land and rest sometimes? But those legs don’t look particularly practical.

Whilst the insects sometimes left me bewildered, the flora is even more diverse and confusing. I think I would have to move to France, massively improve by rusty schoolboy French, buy a comprehensive local field guide, live in the Dordogne for a decade or two, and then I might muster the same semi-confident familiarity that I’ve grasped with the plants around home.

A couple of very distinctive species did stand out however…

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Thornapple

This one, it turns out, is no more at home in the region than me, being native to North America.

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Thornapple

I was struck by the way the seedpods form in the nodes, where the stems branched, which seems unusual.

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Thornapple leaves.

Don’t be fooled by the presence of the word ‘apple’ in its name, because apparently the whole plant is poisonous.

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Thornapple seeds – highly poisonous.
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Thornapple seeds.
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Thornapple flowers.

They were growing in amongst the sunflowers and where the height of the sunflowers had forced them, they had grown to around two metres high.

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Field Eryngo?

Although I think this is Field Eryngo, I actually saw it, not in the fields, but growing in clearings in the woods. It looks like a thistle but is actually related to our own Sea Holly.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this plant is, with its striking red stems, tiny white flowers and colourful berries.

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It was growing by the cycle path at the edge of the village, and I suppose might have been introduced.

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Seedheads of a mallow? I liked the shapes.
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Robin’s pincushion galls.
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A Common Lizard I think.
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These four photos are all, I think, of the same lizard, which was basking on the wall one morning when I walked past on the way to the bakery and still in the same spot when I came back.

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This last is on the wall of the Chateau we visited, so definitely a different lizard!

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And finally, this toad had apparently been our lodger and was revealed as such only when we took the tent down in preparation to move on the Tarn Gorge.

Wildlife Pics from the Dordogne

Heysham Moss

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St. Peter’s Church, Heysham.

Back in the summer, when the sun was shining, and the rules changed (how many times have they changed since then?), so that we were allowed to meet five friends outdoors, all B seemed to want to do was meet his school friends in Heysham and swim with them in the Bay. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to swim in the Bay, and particularly not right next to a Nuclear Power Plant, but B is old enough and daft enough to make his own choices these days, and my own squeamishness is probably not well-founded.

Since public transport was still frowned upon, I found myself with time to kill between dropping him off and meeting him for the return journey.

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The graveyard at St. Peter’s has a stunning view across the Bay to the hills of the Lakes.

I first visited St. Peter’s church in Heysham village, the picturesque part of Heysham, hoping to look inside and see the Viking hog’s-back graves there, but that will have to wait, since the church was locked up.

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The remains of St. Patrick’s Chapel.
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11th Century rock-cut graves and the Lake District hills again.

From Heysham headland, I drove a short hop to visit Heysham Moss. It’s a Wildlife Trust reserve which has been on my radar for a while. Last time I came looking for it, I took a wrong turn, but, fortuitously, stumbled upon Middleton Nature Reserve. This time I had satnav and a postcode. Sadly, whilst these got me to the right neck of the woods, I couldn’t see the entrance – it’s just away from the road on a right-of-way – although I was parked really close to it. I spent a frustrating half-an-hour venturing along narrow, slippery, nettle-fringed paths, which I presume are the preserve of local kids and/or dog-walkers, but none of which got me into the reserve. Having returned to the car and decided to ‘have one more go’, I quickly found the entrance. I’m glad I tried again.

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Common Hemp-Nettle. Possibly.
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The reserve is very wet in places, as the name Moss implies, but it also has a large area of raised peat, quite rare I think in lowland areas.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies about, not all of them very cooperative when I wanted to take photos. Also, a few Silvery Y Moths, a day-flying summer immigrant.

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Marsh Woundwort.
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Marsh Woundwort.
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Very square stems.
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Wild Angelica.
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 Ichneumon extensorius. Male. Possibly.

I had great fun taking numerous photos of what I now think is a male  Ichneumon extensorius. Apparently, this is a dimorphic species, in that the male and the female are very different.  Ichneumon wasps are parasites, laying their eggs in the bodies of moth and butterfly caterpillars. But the adults eat nectar, which fits with the behaviour of this male, which was feasting on the angelica and seemed quite oblivious of my attention.

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Common Fleabane – I think – an attractive daisy when the flowers are properly open!
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Skullcap – I think.
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Redshank. Perhaps.
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Busy Soldier Beetles.
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Purple Loosestrife.
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Meadow Vetchling?
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A pale bee – some sort of Carder? – with very full, very yellow pollen baskets.
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Bog Myrtle.
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Small Copper.
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Common Darter.
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I think this is Wild Angelica again – a very purple example.
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Great Willowherb.
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Heysham Moss

I just about had time for a circuit of the reserve – I shall definitely be back for another look.

Heysham Moss

Harlequins, Angelica and Ragwort Honey.

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Mid-July brought clouds and rain.

In an effort to start catching-up, I’ve shoved photos from at least three different walks into this post.

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A mature Roe Deer buck in the fields close to home.
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Wildflowers in Clarke’s Lot.
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Lady’s Bedstraw.

If you click on the photo and zoom in to enlarge on flickr, you will see that, unbeknown to me when I took the photo, two of the flower heads are home to ladybird larvae, of which more later in this post.

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Fox and Cubs.
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Tutsan berries.
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Mullein.
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Feverfew.
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Hoverfly on Marsh Thistles.
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Guelder Rose Berries.
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A Carpet Moth – possibly Wood Carpet.
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Hogweed busy with Soldier Beetles.
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Meadow Sweet.
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Broad-leaved Helleborine?

I was very chuffed to spot this rather small, straggly Helleborine – at least, that’s what I think it is – by the path into Eaves Wood from the Jubilee Wood car-park, because although I know of a spot where Broad-leaved Helleborines grow every year, by the track into Trowbarrow Quarry, I’ve never seen one growing in Eaves Wood before.

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Common Blue-sowthistle.
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Common Blue-sowthistle leaf.
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Dewberry.

Dewberries are fantastic, smaller, juicier and generally earlier than blackberries, every walk at this time offered an opportunity at some point to sample a few.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine.

These are some of the afore-mentioned Helleborines, not quite in flower at this point, in fact I missed them this summer altogether.

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Lady’s-slipper Orchid leaves.

I missed the Lady’s-slipper Orchids too. Some leaves appeared belatedly, after the rains returned, long after they would usually have flowered. I don’t know whether they did eventually flower or not.

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Dark-red Helleborine?

And I kept checking on the few suspected Dark Red Helleborines I’d found at Gait Barrows, but they seemed reluctant to flower too.

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The pink gills of a fresh Field Mushroom.

As well as the Dewberries, I continued to enjoy the odd savoury mushroom snack.

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Broad-leaved Helleborine by Hawes Water.
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Wild Angelica with ladybirds.
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Wild Angelica.
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Wild Angelica.
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Yellow Brain Fungus.
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Dryad’s Saddle.
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A slime mould?

I thought that this might be Yellow Slime Mold, otherwise know as Scrambled Egg Slime or, rather unpleasantly, Dog Vomit Slime, but I’m not really sure.

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White-lipped Snail.
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Comma butterfly.
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Red Campion.
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False Goat’s Beard? A garden escapee.
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Inkcaps.
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Harebells.
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A profusion of Ragwort at Myer’s Allotment.
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Honey-bee on Ragwort.

Spying this Honey-bee on Ragwort flowers, I was wondering whether honey containing pollen from a highly poisonous plant might, in turn, be toxic. Then I began to wonder about the many insects, especially bees, which were feeding on the Ragwort: are they, like the Cinnabar Caterpillars, impervious to the alkaloids in the Ragwort.

It seemed perhaps not; although there were many apparently healthy insects on the flowers, now that I started to look, I could also many more which had sunk down between the blooms. Some were evidently dead…

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A Ragwort victim?

Whilst others were still moving, but only slowly and in an apparently drugged, drowsy way.

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A drowsy hoverfly.

If the Ragwort is dangerous to insects it seems surprising that they haven’t evolved an instinct to stay away from it.

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Mullein.
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Yellow Rattle.
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Leighton Moss from Myer’s Allotment.
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Gatekeeper.
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Mixed wildflowers at Myer’s Allotment.
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Bindweed.
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A Harlequin ladybird emerging from its pupae.

The leaves of single sapling by the roadside were home to several Harlequin Ladybirds in various stages of their lifecycle. Unfortunately, the leaves were swaying in a fairly heavy breeze, so I struggled to get sharp images.

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Discarded pupae?
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Another emerging Harlequin.
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Harlequin larvae.

Fascinating to see, but the Harlequin is an invasive species from Asia, so worrying for the health of our native ladybirds.

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Rosebay Willowherb.
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Greater Plantain.
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Burdock.
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Hogweed.
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Small Skipper.
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Red Admiral.
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Melilot.
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Bee on Melilot.
Harlequins, Angelica and Ragwort Honey.

A Weekend with Friends

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Eyebright

Our friends from Herefordshire needed to drop their son back at Lancaster Uni and suggested meeting up for a walk, but the weekend they were travelling coincided with the government relaxing their rules on having guests in your house, so we invited them to stay instead.

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Wild Thyme.

It was so great to see them and enjoy something approaching normality after the strange experience of lockdown.

The weather on the Saturday was atrocious, but we made do with copious cups of tea, catching up and played some board games.

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Cinnabar caterpillars on Ragwort.

The Sunday was much nicer, even sunny for a while, so we compensated for the Saturday by going out twice, before and after lunch.

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A spring at Gait Barrows – the water rises but then disappears again..
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Creeping Cinquefoil.
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First up was a wander around Gait Barrows, specifically to see the extensive lowland limestone pavements there.

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Exploring the limestone pavements at Gait Barrows.

They really are amazing and visiting them with friends who hadn’t seen them before was liking seeing them afresh.

THB and B decided that it was appropriate to lie down and ‘sunbathe’ although they were both still wearing coats.

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Cinnabar Moth.

By the afternoon, it had clouded up quite a bit. I remember that it was very windy too.

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TBF at Jenny Brown’s Point.

But it was still nice enough for us to enjoy a stroll to Jenny Brown’s Point, Jack Scout and Woodwell, where the newts didn’t disappoint and put in an appearance for our guests.

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Jack Scout.

As often seems to be the case now, I was too busy nattering to take many photos, which is perhaps how it should be, but is a bit frustrating in retrospect.

Still, a brilliant weekend, but not one we shall be repeating any time soon, in light of today’s retightening of the rules. Of course, if we registered as a B’n’B, they could probably pay to visit – the virus doesn’t infect paying customers as we all know.

A Weekend with Friends

Thistles and Caterpillars

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Hoverfly – Episyrphus Balteatus.

A short walk from home on a dull, overcast day, but somehow I still managed to take over two hundred photographs. I was in what my family and friends have started to refer to as ‘Butterfly Mode’ although, on this occasion, there weren’t many butterflies amongst that legion of pictures.

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Cinnabar Moth caterpillar.

The first pit-stop, where walking turned to gawking, was occasioned by a long stand of Ragwort on the verge of Elmslack.

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As is so often the case, many of the plants were occupied by numerous Cinnabar caterpillars.

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Given how striking they are, it’s surprisingly easy to breeze past and miss them.

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Why is the ant piggybacking the caterpillar?
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Ragwort on Elmslack.

A few days later, somebody removed all of this Ragwort which ignited a heated debate online, part of an ongoing argument between those who favour neatly trimmed roadside verges and the wildflower enthusiasts who would prefer wild plants to be fostered to aid our pollinators and other wildlife.

Unwisely, I plunged into said debate, but soon wished I hadn’t. The crux here is that Ragwort is poisonous to Horses and Cattle and the field next to Elmslack has horses on it. Having said that, the British Horse Society doesn’t recommend ‘the blanket removal of Ragwort’, due to its contribution to biodiversity so….I’ll leave that one to wiser heads.

From Elmslack I took the path along the bottom edge of Eaves Wood, then along The Row. A path loops off The Row and visits Dogslack Well, where there’s still an old hand-pump in situ. There was more Ragwort there, and because I was looking to find more Cinnabar caterpillars, I spotted this…

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Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar – possibly.
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Orange stripe and hair in tufts – I’m fairly sure this is a Ruby Tiger.
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Common Sorel seeds – I think.
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Spear Thistle.

In my quest to identify the local flora, I’ve largely ignored thistles, because, well…thistles are thistles: prickly and uninteresting and frankly a bit of a nuisance where they grow across paths..

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A hairy flowerhead with yellow-tipped spines.

I’ve been revising my opinion of late. This spring, the Marsh Thistles on Lambert’s Meadow and their popularity with insects, have prompted a defrosting in relations. The UK has numerous species of thistles. And when you start to look properly, they’re quite endearing…

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Each lobe on the leaves very sharp and also yellow-tipped.
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Well, I think so at least.

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Tutsan

The path deposited me back on The Row, by Bank Well, from where another path drops steeply down to Lambert’s Meadow.

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Self-heal.
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Episyrphus Balteatus again, on Marsh Thistle – very different from the spear thistle flowers.
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Lambert’s Meadow.
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Common Spotted-orchid
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Another Common Spotted-orchid.
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Tree Bumblebee on Marsh Thistle.
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More Self-heal.
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Common Spotted-orchid with unidentified green insect.

There always seems to be something to see at Lambert’s Meadow. On this occasion it was a tiny drama I spotted when I was looking at orchids…

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Comb-footed Spider (?) and Scorpion Fly.
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It was hard to see exactly what was going on and, as you can see, my camera struggled to focus where I wanted it to, but I think the spider had bitten off more than it could chew.

Certainly, the fly eventually emerged alone…

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The escaped fly, on Fen Bedstraw, I think.

From Lambert’s Meadow I took a circuit around Burtonwell Wood, then along Bottom’s Lane to Hagg Wood and across the fields home.

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Seven-spot Ladybird.
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There seemed to be lots of ladybirds about.

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Glowering skies
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The dog walker in the field is a neighbour who I often say hello to on my walks. She was with her grandson and they’d been looking at the ladybirds on the thistle in the foreground of this shot. She spotted me photographing the same ladybirds and since then our conversations have been enlivened by a shared interest in entomology. She tells me that she and her grandson keep caterpillars and watch them go through their various metamorphoses. Marvellous.

Incidentally, the thistle had done well to survive – mostly where they’d emerged in the fields around home they had been very aggressively treated with weedkiller, so that in some cases the grass around the thistle was also killed off over quite a large radius.

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White Stonecrop.
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I’ve spotted White Stonecrop in a few places around the village this summer, growing on walls. Apparently, it’s native to the Southwest, but introduced elsewhere.

Speaking of introduced plants: a host of plants have appeared on a patch of disturbed ground by the track which runs past our house. I wondered whether somebody had scattered a packet of wildflower seeds there?

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Pineapple Weed

Pineapple Weed is not a native plant, but is throughly naturalised. Walk through it, where it has colonised a muddy gateway, and the distinctive aroma of pineapples it emits will reveal the reason for the seemingly incongruous name.

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Sun Spurge.
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Poppy
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Unidentified but rather lovely moth.

Putting together this post has taken longer than the walk it records, but since I’m stuck at home and it’s raining, that’s a good thing!

Thistles and Caterpillars

Home from Carnforth

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Warton and Warton Crag behind.

Long-suffering readers of this blog may remember that there was a time when I worked one afternoon a week in Carnforth and a walk home from there was a weekly part of my commute. These days it’s not something I do very often, which is a shame because it’s a great walk, with numerous route options, all of them enjoyable.

On this occasion, one of the boys bikes need dropping off at the cycle shop for repairs; I can’t remember if this was when B had so completely buckled one of his wheels that it was beyond repair, or when the derailleur on S’s bike broke and his chain fell off.

“I put my chain by the path and somebody stole it!”

Later, when the whole family went to Trowbarrow to look for the ‘stolen’ chain, I asked, “Where exactly did you leave it?”

He pointed. Directly at a broken, black bike chain, which he apparently couldn’t see.

“Did you leave it beside this chain? Or could this be yours?”

“It wasn’t there earlier!”, he was adamant.

Anyway, I saw the opportunity to accompany TBH to the bike shop, and then to walk home afterwards.

After TBH dropped me off, I’d walked across the fields from Millhead to Warton and then climbed up to the Crag Road, where a stile gives access to the top of a lime kiln. The slight elevation of this spot gives some nice views…

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Warton and a distant Ingleborough on the left.

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Warton again and the Bowland Hills on the horizon.

A set of steps lead down beside the lime kiln…

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So I had a wander down…

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…to peer inside.

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Another distant view of Ingleborough.

I followed the limestone edge up to the back of the large quarry car park and then headed on up to the top.

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The Bay from near the top of Warton Crag.

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It was a hot day and I dropped down from the top to my new favourite view point, where tree-clearance has exposed a small crag and some expansive views.

I sat for some time, drinking in the views as well as the contents of my water bottle. A buzzard coasted past. I’d already watched another hovering above the fields near Millhead.

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Foxgloves.

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Male Scorpion Fly. Is it holding a morsel of food?

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Red Admiral.

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A hoverfly – Platycheirus fulviventris – possibly?

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Greenbottles.

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I think that this striking fungi is a very dark specimen of Many-zoned Polypore or Turkeytail fungus. 

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This fungus varies enormously in colour. It generally grows on dead wood and is here devouring a tree stump.

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Dog Rose.

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Honeysuckle.

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Hoverfly – Episyrphus Balteatus.

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I was happily photographing roses and honeysuckle when an orange butterfly flew across the path, almost brushing my face as it passed. I tried to follow its flight, but soon lost it. I assumed it was a fritillary of some kind; I’m always disappointed if they pass without giving me a chance to identify them. Fortunately, a little further down the path, I came across another fritillary feeding on a red clover flower…

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It’s a Dark Green Fritillary, exciting for me because I’ve only seen this species once before.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Cinnabar Moth.

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A white-tailed bumblebee species on a Bramble flower.

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Reflexed Stonecrop.

At Barrow Scout Fields, the gulls were making a fuss; it’s often worth a few moments scrutiny to see what’s upsetting them. I’m glad I stopped this time…

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At first I assumed that I’d spotted a Marsh Harrier with a gull chick, but only one gull gave chase, and that half-heartedly, and the gulls are usually extremely energetic when mobbing the resident harriers. Anyway, I could soon make out that the raptor was carrying quite a large fish. It seemed likely that it was an Osprey, which the photo confirms. It made a beeline northwards, presumably heading back to the nest at Foulshaw Moss, on the far side of the River Kent. The nest has webcams stationed above it and I’ve been following the progress of the nesting pair and their two chicks online, so was doubly pleased to see one of the parent birds with what looks to me like a good sized family take-away.

I’m, intrigued by the fish too. Barrow Scout Fields were three agricultural fields until they were bought by the RSPB in 2000 and restored as wetlands. Have the RSPB stocked the meres they created with fish I wonder, or have fish eggs arrived naturally, on the feet of wading birds for example? Whichever is the case, the fishing Osprey and its large prey are surely testament to the charity’s successful creation and management of this habitat.

I hadn’t moved on from watching the disappearing Osprey, before another drama began to unfold in the skies overhead…

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Two raptors this time, with one repeatedly nose-diving the other. The slightly smaller bird, the aggressor, is a Marsh Harrier, a female I think, which is probably defending a nest in the trees at the edge of Leighton Moss.

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The agility of the other bird, a Buzzard, which repeatedly flipped upside-down so that it could face its attacker, was astonishing.

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I have no sympathy with the Buzzard, since I’ve been subjected to similar dive-bombing attacks by Buzzards on several occasions. This went on for quite some time and I took numerous photos; I was royally entertained.

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Looking across towards Leighton Moss.

I peeked over the bridge here to peer into the dike running alongside the Causeway Road and saw a Water Forget-Me-Not flowering in the middle of the dike. Sadly, it was in deep shade and my photo has not come out too well. I shall have to revisit.

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Yellow Flag Iris.

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Unnamed tributary of Quicksand Pool.

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Spear-leaved Orache.

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Sea Beet, with flowers…

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Both sea beet and orache (in its many guises, there are several British species) are prized as spinach substitutes by foragers. I really must get around to trying them both.

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Quicksand Pool.

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A roof finial (I think that’s the right term) at Jenny Brown’s cottages. I’m surprised I haven’t photographed it before. 

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Speckled Wood butterfly.

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This seemed to be the day which just kept on giving: after the dark green fritillary, the osprey, the aerial battle between the harrier and the buzzard, one last gift – a group of Eider Ducks resting on the sands at the edge of Carnforth Salt Marsh. I’ve seen Eiders here before, but not often. It was a shame they were so far away, but when I tried to get closer they swam away.

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Oystercatchers.

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Quicksand Pool and Warton Crag.

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Looking along the coast to the Coniston Fells.

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Another Dog Rose at Jack Scout.

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Large Skipper female.

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Curled Dock (I think).

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Named for its curly leaves.

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If I’m right, then these flowers will turn red then eventually brown.

Curled Dock is yet another spinach substitute apparently, crammed with vitamins.

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Hedge Woundwort.

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The mystery vigorous plant in Woodwell pond is revealed to be Arum Lily or Calla Lily. 

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A non-native relative of our own Cuckoo Pint – the showy white part is a spathe not petals.

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Close to home and a distant view of the Howgills on the horizon.

A lovely walk of a little under eight miles – who’d believe so much interest could be crammed into one short stroll?


Now, if your patience isn’t completely exhausted, some fishing songs. First up, a tune I’ve always liked:

This one, is actually ‘Sufficient Clothes’ but was released as ‘Fishing Clothes’ after a Lightnin’ Hopkins was misheard.

Listening to it again, it turns out there’s not too much fishing in this one either:

But it is by the late, great Tony Joe White. Seems I don’t actually know many songs about fishing after all.

Home from Carnforth

Hare Today

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During my post-work summer evening walks, especially in the Lune valley and the Bowland hills, I often see hares. Usually, however, they are so well hidden in their forms that I only spot them as they shoot off and am way too slow to get any photographs, my walk from Hornby last summer being the one exception. On my walks around home, though, a sight of a hare is much more of a rarity. I know that they are present, because I once spotted a pair, briefly, in Eaves Wood and also a lone hare in a field by The Row, when we lived over there, but both of those sightings were a long while ago.

Which perhaps explains why, when I saw this pair in a field by Hollins Farm, calmly stooping under a gate, I tried to convince myself that they were some sort of large, escaped domestic rabbits. I should have known better: their size, their long black-tipped ears, their long legs, their colour, their movement and speed, their black and white tails – all mark them out as hares and not rabbits.

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During the mating season a female hare will apparently lead a male on a very lengthy chase before she deems him a fit partner. Here, she ducked back under the gate and then walked along the edge of the field with the gullible male following on the wrong side of the field. Halfway across the field, she, rather gleefully I thought, cut across the field, leaving the duped male sitting forlornly by the fence watching.

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Shortly, a second male appeared and began to race after the female. Hares can apparently manage 45mph and their velocity around the field was certainly something to behold.

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Meanwhile, the first male had worked out that he needed to retrace his steps and was crossing the field in pursuit of the other two.

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Of course, my interpretation of the events may be wide of the mark, but this little local drama certainly enlivened a fairly dull, overcast day.

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I was wandering around Heathwaite on my way up Arnside Knott. There were lots of butterflies about, mostly, but not exclusively, Meadow Browns. Lots of other insects too.

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Although the light wasn’t great, I was very happy taking photos, both of the insects and of  the flowers which I’ve learned from Peter Marren are collectively called ‘yellow composites’ – dandelion like flowers in seemingly endless subtle varieties: hawkweeds, hawkbits, hawk’s-beards and  cat’s-ears. I was noticing how, on closer inspection, there were actually obvious differences between the flowers, although I’m still not sure that I could link those differences to pictures in a flower-key and actually manage to identify any of the awkward so-and-sos.

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I was quite taken with this view along the coast, which I usually photograph from much higher up the hillside. It may have been the presence of an elder in flower in the foreground which inspired my appreciation.

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I’d hoped to find Northern Marsh Orchid and Fragrant Orchid in flower, I’ve certainly seen them here before, but no sign. The profusion of Oxeye daisies was some compensation.

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A hoverfly doing a passable impersonation of a honeybee, possibly a Drone Fly.

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This little pink flower has me stumped. It looks a little like Betony or Self-heal, but isn’t either of those two.

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The tiny flower of Salad Burnet.

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Common Green Grasshopper, possibly.

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A Snout Moth, possibly?

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The view along the coast from ‘higher up the hillside’.

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A St. John’s Wort?

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Wood Ants.

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Heath Spotted-orchid.

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Dropwort.

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That view again, but from higher still.

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I dropped down onto the northern side of the Knott and the telephoto on my camera confirmed my suspicion that, in an inversion of the normal run of things, the Cumbrian Fells were experiencing better weather than we were on the margins of the bay.

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Longhorn beetles – Strangalia melanura.

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Dog Rose.

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Thyme-leaved Speedwell. Possibly.

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Lesser Butterfly Orchid. 

The butterfly orchids were tiny – much smaller than than when I’d seen them in this same spot in Redhill Pasture last year, surely a consequence of the prolonged dry weather.

Sod’s law was in operation, and I arrived home just as the weather improved considerably. This large vigorous daisy…

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…had appeared in the flowerbed by our garage. It’s Feverfew, a non-native herbal plant which has become a naturalised weed.

Take of Feverfew one handful, warm it in a Frying-pan, apply it twice or thrice hot; this cures an Hemicrania: And the crude Herb applied to the Top of the Head cures the Head-ach.

This is from ‘The Compleat Herbal of Physical Plants’ written by John Pechey in 1694. The curious thing is that clinical trials have shown that Feverfew is effective in the treatment of ‘Hemicrania’ – halfhead, or migraine as we know it today.

TBH didn’t much like it in our border though and I have subsequently hoicked it out. I have spotted it growing in several other places around the village I’m pleased to report.


Had to be Peggy Lee ‘Fever’ and The Cramps cover of same…

There seem to be hundreds of versions of this song, but this is the original, by Little Willie John…

Hare Today

Nuthatches and Butterflies

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One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

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Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

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This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

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Common Blue Damselfly

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The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

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…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

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A crow by Hawes Water.

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In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

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Hawes Water.

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I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

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There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

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I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

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With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

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…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

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There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

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One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

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The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

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…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

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…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

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Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

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Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

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Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

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Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

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A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Songs of Solomon

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Gait Barrows Meadow.

My obsession with the Bay was at least partially superseded by a similar compulsion to keep paying return trips to Gait Barrows; partly in an attempt to spot the rare butterflies which can be seen there, but in the summer Gait Barrows has plenty of other attractions.

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Yellow rattle.

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Limestone pavement.

Although there are some large open areas of limestone pavement, much of it is wooded and then there are other areas which are partially wooded. It’s quite easy to get a bit lost wandering around in this terrain, and also quite scratched as you forge a route through the generally thorny scrub between adjacent islands of open pavement. Great fun to explore though.

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Azure damselfly.

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Dingy skipper.

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More limestone pavement.

I was looking for some particular plants known to grow in the grykes here, but I was also amazed by the sheer variety of plants which obviously thrive in this rather unpromising looking habitat. A wide selection of native trees and shrubs grow in the grykes and all sorts of flowers and ferns.

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Hart’s tongue fern.

Although I was hoping for butterflies, what I was actually looking for was this…

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Angular Solomon’s-seal.

Related to, but distinctly different from, Solomon’s-seal and rarer too. I hadn’t seen it before, but had seen photos the day before on Faceache, drawing attention to the fact that it was currently flowering in the grykes at Gait Barrows.

It’s an odd-name Solomon’s-seal isn’t it? I got to wondering what the connection might be between an Old Testament King (and poet) and this plant. My trusty ‘Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain’, has this…

No one knows for certain why Solomon’s-seal is so called. One explanation is that the circular scars on the underground rooting stem, left by the withered flowering shoots of previous years, resemble document seals. Another theory is that the name arose because of the medicinal value of the plant in ‘sealing’ wounds and broken bones. A poultice made from its powdered roots has also been used to cure black eyes and other bruises. The biblical King Solomon himself was traditionally said to have approved this use.

Meanwhile the marvellous ‘Wildflower Finder’ website adds:

Quinine has been discovered only recently to be a secondary metabolite of several Solomons Seals.

So there’s another potential medicinal use, but I should warn you, if you’re worried about malaria, that metabolising Solomon’s-seals is not advised since the plant is toxic.

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Elderflower.

A fortnight later, I remembered seeing elders in flower on the pavement at Gait barrows, but misremembered the details, so that when TBH wanted flowers to make cordial I was boasting that I knew where I could lay my hands on ‘loads’, a claim which transpired to be very wide of the mark. But more on that in a future post no doubt.

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Yet more limestone pavement.

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Dark red helleborine?

I’ve been fanatically returning, again and again, to three tiny plants which I think are dark red helleborine, trying to ensure that this year I actually see them when they are flowering, and not just after, which usually seems to be the case. Frustratingly, on each visit they don’t seem to have progressed at all, with no extra growth and no sign of flowers beyond a feathery stalk…

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…which, to add insult to injury, something has eaten since I took these pictures.

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Cinnabar moth.

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This path, away from the way-marked nature trail around the nature reserve, is one I’ve wanted to explore for years, I don’t know what it was that made me feel emboldened to go and explore on this occasion. I found that the areas around the path were cordoned off with signs explaining that this was to protect the Duke of Burgundy butterflies during the breeding season. These were exactly the butterflies that I’d come looking for, but I didn’t see any on this or any subsequent visit.

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A hoverfly – rhingia campestris. It’s not often I can identify a hoverfly with any degree of confidence, but this one has a prominent snout, just about visible in the photo.

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Unfurling bracken.

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Another dark red helleborine?

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Rodent – field mouse?

Most unusual to see rodents wandering about in broad daylight, but this was the second I’d seen that day and in both cases they didn’t just disappear, but scampered about, dipping into holes, but then reappearing again shortly.

During recent visits to Gait Barrows, I’ve seen tawny owls flying in broad daylight on four occasions, including twice today. I’ve also heard the owls calling, all of which seems unusual. I was never fast enough to get even a sniff of a photo, but it was wonderful to see them anyway. I guess there’s a nest there’s somewhere.


Following on from my last post, and perhaps appropriately for a post which, even obliquely, references the raunchy ‘Song of Solomon’, some versions of ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

First, the original:

Readers of a certain age will remember the Top of the Pops theme, recorded by Collective Consciousness Society, I know I do.

Whisper it, but I’m not especially fond of Tina Turner’s slow-burn cover, but I do like The Dynamics’ reggae version:

The version I’ve listened to most, over the years, is this one…

…by King Curtis and the Kingpins. Marvellous, especially the last 45 seconds or so.

The vocal delivery and lyrics on this song…

‘You Need Loving’ by the Small Faces, ‘influenced’ Robert Plant and because it was a cover of Muddy Waters ‘You Need Love’…

…written by the inestimable Willie Dixon, Dixon eventually got a writing credit on “Whole Lotta Love’. If you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Now…Willie Dixon songs…..

Songs of Solomon