Lady's slipper orchid

Don’t worry, I shan’t be bursting into any Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers.

Last Friday, (I’m only a week behind – Callooh! Callay!) whilst TBH took the kids swimming, I headed back to Gaitbarrow. On my previous visit, I’d read signs asking visitors to keep-off certain sensitive areas important for breeding pearl bordered fritillaries and duke of burgundy butterflies. So, I thought – since I’ve never knowingly seen either species, this is my chance. But, like the otters, bitterns, bearded tits and ospreys at Leighton Moss, which never seem to appear when I visit, the butterflies once again eluded me. Not to worry: there’s always plenty to see at Gaitbarrow.

Lady's slipper orchid II 

The lady’s-slipper orchids, for instance, are now blooming.

Well, not all of them….

Unopened lady's slipper 

…but plenty to keep me and my camera occupied for a while.

Lady's slipper orchid III 

Where ever I came across an open glade, I paused hopefully, waiting for masses of butterflies to appear. Nothing. But I did spot this moth…

Brown silver-line? 

I think that it’s a brown silver-line, but I’m not completely confident.

Nearby, I spotted an incongruous burst of colour amongst a patch of moss…

A slime mould? 

…I suspect that this is another slime mould, although, once again, I may be wrong.

Like the carnage of broken garden snail shells the boys and I found a while ago by Haweswater, this seems to be another anvil where numerous snail shells have been smashed, but this time the smaller banded snail…

Banded snail shell 

…bits of shell were scattered over quite a wide area.

Banded snail II 

When I emerged from the wooded area into open fields, I did begin to see butterflies: peacocks, brimstones and whites, possibly female orange-tips.

Down by Haweswater the bird’s-eye primroses were flowering..

Bird's-eye primrose 

…and I finally managed to catch-up with one of those butterflies…

Peacock butterfly 

In the field at the end of the lake, I spotted a roe deer doe…

Roe Deer Doe 

It was here that last year I saw a doe with a fawn. This doe may have a fawn secreted about the field somewhere – B tells me that he saw two roe deer fawns this week curled up together in a garden in the village. I often see roe deer on my evening wanders: like me they are crepuscular creatures.

Dueling song-thrush 

As I got close to being back at the car, it seemed that almost every prominent tree had a song thrush busking from its topmost branches.

Several times on the walk I’d thought I’d heard the high-pitched begging of nestlings, but couldn’t find any nests. This time however, after some patient searching, I spotted a marsh tit poised on a branch with a sizeable insect in it’s beak. I backed off and waited and, sure enough, the bird dropped to a hollow in the trunk of a low tree,.

Marsh Tit and nest II

It was quite dingy under the tree here, and sadly none of my photographs were very sharp.

Marsh tit and nest III

But in this last one, you can make out two yawning beaks facing the exhausted parent.

Marsh tit with nest and young 

When I approached the tree for a closer look, the chicks greeted me at first as if I were bringing them food, but then hunkered down low into the hollow making themselves as inconspicuous as possible.

Whilst I watched the adult bird(s) going to and from the nest, this creature flew into my face and then fell to the floor. It’s a longhorn beetle, Rhagium bisfasciatum. Apparently longhorn beetles often fly at around dusk – another crepuscular creature.

Rhagium Bifasciatum 




Flash Mob* Walk

We received the call by email:

10am start at Holgates on Sat 26th Feb.
Bring family, dogs, cats whoever you like.
The plan is to walk over the field to Hollins farm, up the hill and over Arnside Knott, then to drop down to the beach and along to Arnside. Either chips or a cafe followed by the train home, or for the more enthusiastic a walk back if you like.
Dress for the weather and the terrain (there will be some mud I am sure, and the kids will find it)

We walked to Holgates, past the first primroses on the bank on Cove Road, and found that many others had heeded the call too. I never did a head-count, because…well I don’t always have to be Teacher, but there were over 20 present. Despite a less than promising forecast the weather did us proud. We did climb the Knott via Hollins Farm. We had fish and chips on the prom, and yes the kids found the mud and swam in it, or at least it looked like some of them had.

Whilst the kids (well mostly the boys) ran around like loons, the adults enjoyed the opportunity for a good chinwag.

Near to the trig pillar on the Knott, this tree must have fallen over quite some time ago, but some of its roots must have survived the fall and all of the branches have grown upwards from the recumbent trunk.

The views from Arnside Knott are almost always good value. The hills picked out by the sunshine are Gummer How in the centre and the Langdale Pikes to the left and behind that.

This nest was very poorly concealed, under a heather in a garden on Arnside Prom. Had it been abandoned?

Rainbow over the Kent.

The train times didn’t work out too well, but a knight in shining armour organised some lifts. Did anybody find the enthusiasm to walk home again? Suffice to say that in A’s worldview a walk to Arnside is followed by a walk back from Arnside as surely as night follows day: a much smaller party returned by shank’s pony – of which more…..

*I realise that I have certainly misunderstood what a Flash Mob actually is, but I liked the idea.

Flash Mob* Walk

Another Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

Or Radius of Activity II

A number of short trips to report on. On Good Friday the boys and I sped down to Woodwell. We hoped to see frogs in the pond but found only frogspawn. Later S was on his bike again, this time joined by his sister A and I…

It was her idea to go out – she wanted to join the vicar and a few parishioners on a walk across the Lots which included several stops to read the passion from the Gospel of Saint Mark. A bit of a departure for me!

On Saturday we were in Eaves Wood. Climbing up Elmslack Lane towards the wood we saw several brimstone butterflies, our first of the year. As we entered the wood we bumped into friends and the children (of all ages) climbed trees, carved names on tree trunks, collected sticks and ended up building a den together…

We played hide and seek, as we often do. I took some photos from one of my hiding places…

Balancing on tree trunks is another great woodland activity

On Easter Sunday, whilst the girls were at church, the boys and I had an outing to Hyning Scout Wood. It’s just a couple of miles away, on the outskirts of the village of Warton. (Or should I say that the village of Warton is on the outskirts of Hyning Scout Wood?). But despite its proximity, I don’t know it well and the boys have never been there before. It’s definitely somewhere that is worth further investigation. There are a number of sizeable sweet chestnut trees in the wood…

…and although the nuts are reputed not to ripen this far north I have occasionally found palatable ones locally in the past. There is also an abundance of wild gooseberry bushes. And large areas of bluebell leaves, which bodes well for a few weeks time…

The boys had a whale of a time. We found a small hollow which proved to be the source of endless fun. They decided that it was their rabbit hole…

They climbed up the steep banks at the side…

…and then leapt back in again…

They grubbed around in the leaf-litter looking for mini-beasts…

Or a millipede curled up in the prickly remnants of a sweet chestnut shell…

The sun shone briefly and a nearby tree-stump was very comfortable to sit on, if I’d had the foresight to put a book in a pocket I would have been as content as the boys were to go no further. But I eventually persuaded them to go a little further. They were OK, they found more tree-trunks to balance on…

This one was host to the fungi King Alfred’s Cakes…

Another was huge, and very rotten (it made disturbing cracking sounds when I balanced on it).

It had also been host to some sort of fungi…

…I think that these ‘bootlaces’ may be honey fungus which kills trees, and also can make the wood fluorescent,  but I am probably wrong!

As we were leaving the wood we found a plant which is new to me…

…although curiously I recognised it as moschatel even before I got home and looked it up – clearly too much time spent pouring over field guides. The scientific name is Adoxa moschatellina. Apparently adoxa means ‘not worth mentioning’ and the flower is tiny and not immediately striking, but what the photograph doesn’t show is that five flowers form a cube – the uppermost one has four petals (that’s the one seen in the centre of the photo) and the other four each have five petals. It’s unusual nature lends it a little charisma.

Also by the edge of the wood we found the Hyning lime kiln…

That afternoon we (all of us but A who had been invited to join some friends for a walk by the Lancaster canal) were back at Leighton Moss for a very brief visit. At the pond dipping area we hoped to see frogs, but once again found only frogspawn….

…the trees reflected here are these alders…

…beyond which I briefly spotted one of the marsh harriers flying. Next to the nest which we have noticed before (see previous posts) a second has appeared…

This is a neater and more compact affair and the eggs are more difficult to see, although still evident. A moorhen was nearby and I assumed that this was its nest.

Water and sticks both exert a powerful influence on the boys, the conjunction of the two is irresistible.

We usually play pooh sticks here but they needed on this occasion to get a little closer. Fortunately they never got any closer than this.

Easter Monday was a bit of a wash out. Well…it was a bank holiday. But on Tuesday we were all back at Leighton Moss to join an organised Wildsquare walk…

Our guide, seen in the foreground here, was informative and witty and pitched it perfectly for the kids whilst still managing to point out many things which I wouldn’t have seen or heard or recognised without his help.

After Lunch at the visitor centre A and B walked home with me via Trowbarrow quarry and Eaves Wood. We passed the pond dipping area on our way and were able to confirm that the second nest is a moorhen nest…

On the path between Trowbarrow quarry and Moss Lane I spotted this skull…

I knew that B would be determined to bring it home, and he has.

He was keen to add this to the ‘rabbit skull’ which he was given last week. He was also very keen to identify this skull and helped me to search through my natural history library looking for help. We found none and so naturally fell back on Google, which led me to this blog which in turn brought me to this handy identification guide. Apparently the large gap between the incisors and the other teeth is typical of rodents and rabbits. Our skull has a second set of incisors behind the first making it either a rabbit or a hare. Which means that the ‘rabbit skull’ he was given isn’t a rabbit skull at all. Now that I’ve looked at it properly, I don’t think that it is a skull of any sort.

Anyway…bugs, dens, pooh-sticks, hide and seek, leaping, climbing, nests, skulls….it’s a wonder we ever find any time for our wii.

Another Series of Sorties to Assorted Spaces

On Finding More Things

Saturday’s second stroll was a family affair with three generations of bound beaters. We began in the trough, a slight fault where the bedding plains have turned through ninety degrees so that they run vertically and a softer layer of mudstones has eroded faster then the two layers of limestone which sandwich it. S was on his bike, but the other two kids had great fun exploring the areas above the path, clambering in and out of the trees.

The trough led us to Trowbarrow Quarry….

…where S was fascinated by the climbers and their portable crash mats.

The hazel catkins have changed again and are now more obviously opening. The colour has changed also and where a tree is well covered they make quite a fetching display.

The track which winds its way out of the quarry has a long gradual descent and S went shooting down it on his bike, rapidly disappearing from view. We crossed the golf course and returned to Leighton Moss where we had parked.

It seems that I have become an internet authority on the essay ‘On Finding Things’ by E. V. Lucas after mentioning that I’d read it in a post a while ago. Now a search on google gives my post as the first link and the stats here have swelled to a trickle as a result. Well almost a trickle. In that essay Lucas mentions finding a plover’s nest after a couple of hours of searching. I’m not sure what sort of nest we found – there were no adult birds in attendance, but it didn’t take much seeking out…

Can you spy the eggs in the middle of the clump of reeds?

On Finding More Things