ISO 3200

A walk to Myer’s Allotment with a defective camera brain.

Summer is in full swing, although you wouldn’t know that now, looking out of our windows at soft, low skies and heavy rain. But anyway, summer, of a sort, is here, which means Hogweed flowering on the verges of Bottom’s Lane and Soldier Beetles doing what comes naturally…

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Apparently Soldier Beetles hunt small insects, but I’ve only ever seen them doing one thing, they seem to be very single-minded.

The dreadful grainy nature of the photos is due to the fact that I had the ISO set to 3200. Which is very frustrating, but at least I know now that I haven’t broken it, which was my original diagnosis. I have no recollection of changing the setting, but then I only discovered the mistake when I inadvertently pressed the wrong button on the camera, or I suppose, in the circumstances, the right button.

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I’ve seen striking back and yellow bugs like this one, with their stark geometrical markings, on Hogweed before, and even tentatively guessed at what they are, but I’m now doubting my previous opinion, so I shan’t compound the error by restating it here.

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In Burtonwell Wood, and under the bracken at Myer’s Allotment, a number of fungi seem to be flourishing, probably a consequence of the abundant rainfall we’ve had of late.

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Lambert’s Meadow Common Spotted-orchid. (Probably)

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This grass seed-head was catching the sun and looked so pink that at first glance I mistook it for a flower.

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Agrimony.

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There’s a reason I haven’t given up on this walk and it’s poor quality pictures, and the reason is the treasure I found at Myer’s Allotment. There’s a fair bit of Ragwort growing in the open glades there and Ragwort is an important food plant for…

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…Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. In their burglar’s stripy jerseys they look like they will be easy pickings for predators. In actual fact I managed to walk past several plants before I noticed any of the residents, although once I’d seen one plant festooned with caterpillars I quickly realised that many other Ragwort plants were similarly busy. In any case, the vivid yellow and black get-up is intended to draw attention: it’s a warning. Ragwort contains strong concentrations of alkaloids and is highly poisonous, and since they feed on it, the caterpillars are also highly toxic and can brazenly feast with no fear of interference.

Cinnabar, rather appropriately, is a toxic ore of Mercury. It is often bright scarlet which is presumably the link to these moths, because the adults are black and scarlet. I photographed adults here earlier in the year; you can see photos in this post. At that time the females were presumably laying eggs; I would hazard a guess that the caterpillars on any one plant are all part of the same brood. They were certainly all of very similar sizes on each plant, whereas across different plants their growth varied enormously: in some cases they were tiny…

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Others were relatively huge…

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The caterpillars were pretty ubiquitous, even sneaking into this photo I took of Lady’s Bedstraw..

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The Soldier Beetles were almost as pervasive…

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And completely predictable…

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This grasshopper…

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…- I shall stick my neck to and say that it is a Common Green Grasshopper – was much less of an exhibitionist, I only noticed it because I was examining the labyrinth of insect-bored canals on the large flake of bark which it was sitting beside.

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I shall have to get myself back to Myer’s Allotment now that I’ve (accidentally) sorted out the problem with my camera. Sadly, there’s no option to similarly reset my defective grey matter.

ISO 3200

Myer’s Allotment Again

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The sun was shining again, my Mum and Dad were visiting, I couldn’t resist dragging everyone out for a quick turn around Myer’s Allotment to see my new favourite local view. (Almost everyone, A had hurt her knee the day before and is temporarily out of action).

Once again I saw a Chiff-chaff singing from a low branch, just overhead in fact, as if to make a mockery of my idea that they confine themselves to the treetops and are hard to see.

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This eggshell was quite large, and suspiciously like one of the ones from the nest by the pond-dipping boardwalk at Leighton Moss. Is it possible that it was stolen and then brought this far by the thief to be consumed?

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Here is the aforementioned view…

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And a pano version (click on any of the pictures to go to flickr where larger versions are available)

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Everything is moving on, seemingly day by day, at the moment. Here the Cowslips were flowering…

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It was a short little tour…

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…but a very good one…

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…enjoyed by one and all…

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Myer’s Allotment Again

Simply in the Springing

Clark’s Lot – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – Myer’s Allotment – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

A gloomy start. At my new favourite place, Myer’s Allotment, I decided to follow the path way-marked with small blue-paint splashed posts. It took me around the reserve and then up and along a tree-lined edge. A gap in the trees revealed…

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…a rough-hewn bench with a great view over Leighton Moss…

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It needs some blue sky and sunshine to make the most of it. And maybe a stove to brew a cuppa.

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Down at Leighton Moss I was told that there were two Marsh Harrier nests by the causeway, and an Osprey passing through, and Red-poll and Siskins on the bird-feeders.

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I saw none of them. But there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a Coal Tit just sneaking into this photo.

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And by the pond-dipping area a nest neatly woven from reeds…

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It was much too close to the path however, and I wondered whether it had been abandoned. I passed it again a couple of days later and it was empty, not even any remains of shells.

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Willow catkins – a bit of a departure from my obsession with Hazel catkins.

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The new boardwalk which cuts the corner to the causeway path is open, and close to the end of it a Wren singing full-throttle from a prominent perch had attracted a small audience.

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By the time I reached Eaves Wood, the sky was brightening, and along the fringes of the path Bluebell flowers were opening…

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And Sycamore…

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…and Hawthorn leaves were unfurling in the sun.

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Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

from A Prayer in Spring by Robert Louis Stevenson

Later, through the kitchen window, another slightly-blurred, pastel Long-Tailed Tit…

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Simply in the Springing

Good Friday: Myers Allotment

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The first day of our Easter break and the sun was shining. I walked up to Clarke’s Lot to check on the grike which is filled every year with primroses. Only a few flowers so far this year.

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By Slackwood Lane bark peeling from the trunk of a gean, or wild cherry, was catching the sunlight.

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I generally try to avoid walking on the roads, but Slackwood Lane does have the advantage of perhaps the best view of Leighton Moss…

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It also brought me to the bottom end of The Row…

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..and hence to…

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I’ve been intending to have a wander around this reserve for years, but somehow seem to have never got around to it, despite it’s proximity to home.

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I really enjoyed this visit and I suspect I will be back sooner rather than later.

Because it’s a Butterfly Conservation reserve, I was expecting to see butterflies. I know that’s illogical, and I realised that at the time too, but never-the-less, every slight movement had me spinning around expectantly. I didn’t see any butterflies.

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But there quite a few bumblebees about. Most were bobbing from spot to spot, efficiently evading my camera, but I spotted this one amongst the leaf-litter, keeping almost perfectly still. It wasn’t dead, as I thought at one point,  but I’m not sure what it was up to.

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This could be Bombus Hortorum a common and widespread bee, or, more intriguingly, it might be Psithyrus Barbutellus, a cuckoo bee which preys on Bombus Hortorum in much the same way that Cuckoos prey on other birds.

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I thought these striking yellow legs might help with identification, but it seems not! Maybe they are just dusted with pollen?

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Coltsfoot.

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At a coffee morning I acquired Roger Phillips’ ‘Grasses, Ferns, Mosses and Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland’, and consulting that I’m inclined to say that this…

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…which was growing on an oak tree, is Common Polypody.

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A number of paths criss-cross the allotment and I shall have to make several visits to attempt to make a good mental map of the place.

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Hazel catkins.

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I returned home via the Row, Lambert’s Meadow and Burton Well Wood.

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Marsh Marigold in Lambert’s Meadow.

In Burtonwell wood I finally saw a butterfly, but wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of it. I did catch some emerging leaves..

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Sycamore.

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Honeysuckle.

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Ivy. (OK – not emerging these).

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Celandines.

Good Friday: Myers Allotment