Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Adirondacks Day 4

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The steep initial start to the trail.

The rest of the party were heading for a tree-top swinging, zip-line soaring adventure, not really my scene, so, having listened to a few recommendations, I opted for this shortish route. TBH and I had driven through the pass where I needed to park on our way back from Massachusetts the night before, so I was well aware of the many set of roadworks on the route, but parking was at a premium and, having failed to find a spot, I still managed to get into those roadworks and then had to drive through three sets of lights before I found a lay-by where I could pull-off and turn around and come back through all three sets again. When I did eventually manage to pull-off the road and park I was very close to the trailhead. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that and walked a long way back along the road, in the wrong direction, looking for the path. Still, I eventually got started, into the deep shade of the woods.

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False Solomon’s-seal.

My friend the EWO, once told me, decades ago, that he didn’t like walking in woods because of the absence of views. He may well have revised his opinion by now. Anyway, I suppose the lack of views made me focus even more than I usually would on the plants and fungi growing under the canopy. I was struck, for instance, by how much this plant resembled our own Solomon’s-seal. Obviously, I’m not the first to have noticed.

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False Solomon’s-seal.
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Fungi.
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Fungus-mungous.
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Chipmunk.

I think I saw about five Chipmunks during this walk. It was a bit of a fool’s errand attempting to photograph them with my phone, but that didn’t stop me trying.

Obviously vistas of any kind were a bit of a rarity, but at one point the path was close to a steep drop and the views opened up.

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Cascade Mountain.

Perhaps because views were far and few between, when they did come I relished them all the more. I took a lot of photographs of Cascade Mountain that day. It’s apparently regarded as the easiest of The 46 – the mountains in the Adirondacks of over 4000′. Of which there are, you’ve guessed it, twenty-seven. Just joshing – there are forty-six of course. Ticking-off the 46 is just as much an Adirondack preoccupation as Munro-bagging is in Scotland.

Something about this ‘wasp’ made me suspect that what I was seeing was actually a moth, a wasp mimic.

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Raspberry Crown Borer Moth.

I now believe that it’s a Raspberry Crown Borer Moth, a clearwing moth whose larvae bore into the stems of brambles and raspberry plants, causing a lot of damage to fruit-crops apparently.

Parts of the climb were very steep, with one short section bordering on scrambling, on very loose ground where the best hand and footholds were exposed tree-roots. Eventually however, I reached the broad ridge and turned right – which took me downhill and onto an open rocky area with sudden expansive views.

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Cascade Mountain.
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Cascade Mountain pano.

Continuing down the rocky ridge a little way brought me to Balanced Rocks…

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Balanced Rocks.

I’m not sure if they look it here, but these were pretty big boulders. The views were superb and, initially at least, there was nobody else about. I briefly chased a Monarch butterfly again, and some large grasshoppers, and a pair of chipmunks, in each case without any photos to show for it, before settling down to eat some lunch and enjoy the views.

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Round Lake and the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run.

Somewhere over that way is the small town of Lake Placid where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games were held.

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Balanced Rocks pano. Cascade Mountain on the right and…lots of other mountains!
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Another pano.
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And another – Cascade on the left Pitchoff on the right.
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Pitchoff Mountain. You can see the steep drop at the edge of the rocks here.

I followed a large dragonfly along this edge, trying to get a photo whilst, at the same time, trying not to lose sight of the drop and fall off.

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Balanced Rocks.
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Round Lake – the open areas are the summer camp which our nephews attend.

Eventually I had company, an all male group (my guess, two brothers and their sons) whom I had passed on the steep approach to the ridge. Here they are on the boulders…

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Balanced Rocks with figures for scale.

It was nice to talk briefly to them. They were blown away by the views, whooping and hollering in a very American way, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I took some group photos for them and then dragged myself away and turned back up the ridge.

I still hadn’t decided whether I would return directly to the car, or continue up the ridge to the top, but when I reached the path junction, I didn’t have to deliberate for long – I wanted to continue up the ridge to the top.

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Toadstool and slug.

Immediately, the path was narrower and evidently less well-used.

The other very obvious difference was the presence of lots of clumps of…

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Indian Pipe.

It was very common along the ridge. Like Toothwort, which pops up in the woods at home in the spring, this is a parasitic plant which has no chlorophyl, hence the completely white stems, flowers etc.

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Liverworts?
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Another toadstool.

The summit of Pitchoff Mountain has no views at all, being crowded by trees. But a very faint path continues along the ridge to another, lower top, so I followed that to try my luck.

This top had a rocky edge, giving clear views in one direction only – you guessed it, toward Cascade Mountain again…

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Cascade Mountain from the Pitchoff Ridge – Pitchoff summit on the right.

Now, it was just a case of retracing my steps back to the road. I was surprised by how tired I felt. When I reached the place on the descent where views opened out to Cascade, I seem to have found a better spot to take a photo. I think I was a bit less circumspect about the exposed drop.

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Cascade Mountain and Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes.

It had been a really superb day, but it didn’t end there. I’d arranged to meet up with the others in the town of Saranac Lake which, of course, sits on the shore of….Flower Lake! (Which, to be fair, is connected by waterway to the complex of Lakes which include Upper, Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes – of which more to follow.)

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Flower Lake, Lake Saranac.

We were there to get pizza. Do a bit of fishing…

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B fishing.

Have a wander around the town (well TBH and I did anyway).

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Dragonfly sculpture.
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Monarch butterfly sculpture.

And enjoy a free concert. I think the band said they were Puerto Rican, so I guess the music was Puerto Rican too. Wherever it originated, it was very good.

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Free music.

The concert was the last in a series of free summer concerts in the town. It was one facet of the very favourable impression of Lake Saranac I came away with.

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Lake Saranac sunset.

The town even has its own bagging challenge, to climb six local mountains: Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, Scarface and St. Regis. For hardy souls there’s a winter version of the challenge too, which I presume would have to be done in snow-shoes. Apparently, the winters are hard here; the lakes and ponds all freeze over and the ski-doo becomes the practical mode of transport.

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Flower Lake moonrise.

Anyway, the Lake Saranac Six sounds like a more manageable target than The 46 and I’d love to come back and climb them all. (Spoiler alert, we did climb one of them – more to follow!)

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Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Hardknott and Tongue Pot.

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Eskdale.

I enticed B out for a walk using the lure of Tongue Pot; he’s been campaigning for a return ever since his first visit, which was five summers ago. How time flies! My side of the deal was that he had to climb a hill with me first. We parked on the big section of grass verge just west of Brotherikeld Farm (you can make out the parked cars in the photo above) and then set off toward the Hardknott Pass, soon leaving the road for the path which cuts across to the remains of the Roman Fort.

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Arriving at Hardknott Roman Fort.

B has visited the fort once before, when we climbed Harter Fell with old friend X-Ray and came down via Horsehow Crags and Demming Crag (Birketts which needed ticking off, of course), which, astonishingly, was twelve summers ago. How time flies!

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Beyond the wall: Horsehow Crags and Demming Crag.
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Inside the fort. Border End beyond.
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The Roman Fort.
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The Roman Fort.

We left the fort on a path heading towards the pass – I guess the old Roman road.

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The pass, the fort and Eskdale.

By the time we hit the road, it was very hot. Fortunately, from the top of the pass it was only a very short climb to the Birkett of Border End, which turned out to be one of those Birketts which is well worth a visit, with superb views and nobody else about.

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On Border End, looking to the Scafells.
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On Border End: Esk Pike, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Hard Knott.
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Border End panorama.
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Border End summit.

As we dropped away from the top of Border End I noticed this moth on the ground.

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Garden Tiger Moth?

I think it’s a Garden Tiger, although it’s quite a way from any gardens. The wings usually seem to look more cream than yellow and the spots can vary in shape, but the general pattern looks right.

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Garden Tiger Moth?

Since the moth was dead, I could and should have looked at the underwings which should have been a spectacular red, but unfortunately that didn’t occur to me at the time.

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A view down on to Eskdale Needle.

I’d read that Border End has a good view of Eskdale Needle, and it does, although you may have to open a flickr copy of the photo above and zoom it to see it. One day I’ll have to come this way and drop down to have a proper look.

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Yew Bank Crag panorama.

The tarn on Hard Knott was choked with reeds and looked extremely shallow, I soon dismissed any idea I’d had of an early dip there.

We diverted off the path to take in the rocky knoll of Yew Bank, another Birkett (and a Tump and a Synge apparently). Dropping slightly below the summit gave absolutely superb views of the hills and crags around Upper Eskdale and of the Esk and Lingcove Beck.

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Slightside, Scafell, Mickledore, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End. The river Esk and Lingcove Beck below.
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Descending from Hard Knott.
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Panorama.
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Another view of England’s highest – hard to resist!
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Lingcove Beck and Bowfell.
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Lingcove Beck and Crinkle Crags.

When we reached Lingcove Beck we immediately came upon an inviting looking pool.

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An inviting pool.

Me made our way down the beck, moving from pool to pool, B looking for places to jump in, whilst I settled for a swim. I think we found around five good spots. I thought Andy and I had made a pretty thorough exploration of the swimming possibilities of both the Esk and Lingcove Beck, but I don’t remember these delightful pools.

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Taking another plunge.

Tongue Pot was busy, busier than it looks here. I jumped in from the wimps side, by the tree on the right, but B had only one thing in mind: the mega-leap having not done it five years ago.

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Tongue Pot. Busy.
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The ‘mega-leap’. This is a video. If it won’t play, click on it to visit the flickr page and view B’s feat of daring.

No qualms this time.

Once he’d done it a few times, all that remained was the pleasant walk down the valley back to the car.

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Eskdale Needle from below.
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Heron Stones.
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The Esk and Bowfell.
Hardknott and Tongue Pot.

Whit’s End III

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Hawes Water.

Into June. A slightly longer local walk this time, to Hawes Water and the limestone pavements of Gait Barrows.

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Peacock Butterfly on Bird’s-eye Primrose.
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Peacock Butterfly on Bird’s-eye Primrose.
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Bird’s-eye Primroses.
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Female Damselfly. I think one of the forms of Blue-tailed Damselfly, which come in several colours.
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And my best guess is that this is another form of the same, with its green thorax and lilac ninth segment of its abdomen. Even my field guide admits that female Blue-tailed Damselflies are ‘confusing’.
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Bird’s-eye Primroses and a bug, possibly Oedemera lurida. But equally, probably not.
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Common Blue Damselfly, male.
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Blue-tailed Damselfly, male.
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A gaggle of geese.
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A holey leaf. Guelder Rose I think.

I took a lot of photos of partially devoured leaves this spring; I was amazed by the extent to which they could be eaten and not collapse, whilst still remaining recognisably leaves. I never saw any creatures which were evidently munching on the foliage. Maybe it happens at night.

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Scorpion Fly, male.
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Bird’s-eye Primrose again. With possibly Oedemera lurida again?
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Northern Marsh Orchid.
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Yellow Rattle.
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Germander Speedwell.
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Micro Moth on Yellow Rattle.

In the grassland at Gait Barrows these tiny moths hop about, making short flights around your feet, landing in the grass and apparently disappearing when they land. Close examination sometimes reveals that they have aligned their bodies with a blade of grass or a plant stem and are thus well-hidden. I was lucky, on this occasion, to get a better view.

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I think that this might be a sawfly, but I’m not even confident of that, let alone what kind of sawfly.
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Angular Solomon’s Seal.
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Angular Solomon’s Seal.
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Bloody Crane’s-bill growing in a gryke.
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Lily-of-the-valley.

I met a couple who were holidaying in the area, mainly to see butterflies, but they were looking for the Lady’s-slipper Orchids. I took them to the spot where, for a while, they grew abundantly, but there was nothing there to show them. Such a shame. At least I know that they are growing more successfully elsewhere in the region, but I don’t know where. I think the consensus is that the spot where they were planted on the limestone was too dry.

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Brown Silver-line Moth.
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Dark Red Helleborine, I think. Not yet flowering.
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Maidenhair Spleenwort.
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Lilies-of-the-valley.

The lack of Lady’s-slipper Orchids was in some way compensated by an abundance of Lily-of-the-valley. In my experience, although there are always lots of the spear-like leaves, flowers tend to be in short supply. This year there were lots. I must have timed my visit well.

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Tired Painted Lady.
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Painted Ladies: they have Union Jacks on their faces.

This is from a couple of days later from a neighbour’s garden. We had an afternoon buffet and an evening barbecue to celebrate the jubilee. Being a fervent monarchist, obviously, I was full of enthusiasm for a party. Especially since the weather was so warm and summery. Well…I’m all for extra Bank Holidays. And get togethers with the neighbours, particularly if I’m excused from decorating as a result!

Whit’s End III

The Bug Hotel

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Copper Underwing.

The day after my Hawes Water wander. Another attempt to replicate the fun I had in the meadows of the Dordogne. It started, in rather gloomy conditions, in our garden.

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Long-tailed Tit. Not all that blurred!
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Possibly the same Long-tailed Tit. But they’re usually in groups, so it could just as easily be another.
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Mating flies in the beech hedge.
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Speckled Wood butterfly.
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Hoverfly on Montbretia.
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Common Carder Bee on Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’.

When the weather brightened up, I set-off for a short wander, taking in Lambert’s Meadow, my go to spot when I’m hoping to see dragonflies in particular, and a wide selection of insect life in general, and a trip to the Dordogne is not on the cards.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

In my post about the meadows around the campsite we stayed on in France, I began with a photo in which I’d caught five different species all in the one shot, which I was delighted by, because it seemed to represent to me the sheer abundance and variety of the wildlife to be seen there.

I’ll confess, I was bit shocked that Lambert’s Meadow could match that tally…

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So…what have we got here? I think that the two black and white hoverflies may be Leucozona glaucia. I think the bug closest to the middle could be the sawfly, Rhogogaster Picta. I wondered whether the tiny insect at the bottom might be a sawfly too, but the long antennae and what looks like an even longer ovipositor have persuaded me that it is probably some kind of Ichneumon wasp. But that’s as far as I’ve got (there are apparently approximately 2500 UK species). I think the social wasp at the top is probably Vespula Vulgaris – the Common Wasp. And about the insect on the top left I have no opinions at all – there isn’t much to go on.

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I always assume that very pale bees like this are very faded Common Carder bees, but I’m not at all sure that’s correct.

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Large Rose Sawfly?

I think this might be a Large Rose Sawfly, although surprisingly it seems like there might be several UK species of insects which have a striking orange abdomen like this. I’m also intrigued by what the funky seedheads are. I suspect that if I’ve written this post back in August, I probably would have had a pretty fair idea because of where they were growing in the meadow.

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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Male?
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Crane Fly – Tipula Paludosa Female?

There’s around 300 species of cranefly in the UK. Me putting names to these is essentially a huge bluff – I have even less idea than usual. I’m reasonably confident that they are at least craneflies and that the first is a male and the second female, but after that I’m pretty much guessing, based on a little bit of internet research.

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Volucella Pellucens on Mint.

This is a hoverfly which I often see and which is sufficiently distinctive that I can actually be confident about my identification. Especially since I found this very helpful guide. The common name is apparently Pellucid Fly, which is odd; pellucid means translucent or clear, as in a pellucid stream, or easy to understand, as in pellucid prose. I’m not sure in which sense this fly is pellucid. The females lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps like the Vespula Vulgaris above. The larvae grow up in the nest, from what I can gather, essentially scavenging – so a bit like wasps round a picnic table. Even wasps get harassed!

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I am going to have to bite the bullet and shell out for a proper field guide to hoverflies I think. They are so fascinating. Well, to me at least! These two, at first glance both black and yellow, but then so differently shaped and patterned, but I don’t have a clue what species either might belong to.

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This, on the other hand, also black and yellow……

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Tachina Fera

…is clearly not a hoverfly. Don’t ask me how I know. Well, go on then: it’s extremely bristly, and it has a chequered abdomen. At least it’s quite distinctive. My ‘Complete British Insects’ describes it as ‘handsome’ which even I can’t quite see. It’s a parasitoid, which is to say that its larvae will grow up inside a caterpillar.

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Possibly Eristalis arbustorum.

Apparently Eristalis arbustorum “can have quite variable markings on its body and some can be almost totally black”. (Source) Which makes my heart sink a bit – what hope do I have if members of an individual species can vary so much? At least this genuinely is handsome.

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A couple more unidentified bees to throw in.

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The Guelder Rose hedge.

Up to this point I’d been slowly pacing around the meadow, snapping away. I hadn’t walked far at all. As I approached the large area of Guelder Rose in the hedge, my pulse quickened a little, whilst my pace slowed even more. This is an area in which I frequently spot dragonflies. And the area just beyond, of tall figworts and willowherbs, is possibly even more reliable.

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Guelder Rose berries.

There were a few dragonflies patrolling the margin of the field. And a some Common Darters resting on leaves quite high in hedge, making them difficult to photograph from below. But then…result!

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Migrant Hawker.

Sometimes hawkers visit our garden, but it’s rare that I spot them when they aren’t in motion, hunting.

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And again.

An absolutely stunning creature.

A little further along…

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Migrant Hawker on Figwort.
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And again.
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Honey bee, I think.

Our friend P has hives in Hagg Wood, not too far away. Minty honey anyone?

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A very tatty Skipper.
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Small White.
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Common Darter on Figwort.

Views from the walk home…

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Looking a bit black over The Howgills.
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But the sun catching Farleton Fell.
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Rosehips.

Well, I’ve enjoyed choosing this selection of photos from the hundreds I took that day. I hope you did too. I don’t know why I didn’t spend more time mooching around al Lambert’s Meadow last summer. I’m looking forward to some brighter weather already.

The Bug Hotel

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