Do-Re-Mi

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 

Blackbird

Blackbird

Do-Re-Mi

Slime Mould

Big skies

We’ve been having big sky weather – the forecast has been showing a black cloud with blue tears dropping from it and a spiky yellow sun poking out from behind – this has translated as large rolling clouds, white from a distance but black beneath, heavy showers, sometimes of hail, but also bright sunny spells. Proper April weather in fact.

This afternoon I proffered a late afternoon invitation for a walk and A accepted. She suggested the Pepper Pot and I asked if she minded if we dropped down on the Arnside Knott side afterwards…

Arnside Knott 

…which gave us another chance to take a look at the…

Green hellebore 

…green hellebore.

Green hellebore flower 

We also found a wonderful patch starred with wood anemones…

Windflower 

But the real star of the show was the blob I spotted on a birch log on my last visit.

This is what it looked like then…

Fungus? 

…pure white, smooth, shiny and slightly uncanny.

Slime mould 

I wondered whether it might be fungi, but couldn’t find anything like it in any of my mushroom field guides. Phil suggested that it might be a slime mould, Enteridium lycoperdon, and naturally he’s quite right.

Here’s how it looked today.

Slime mould

A gentle touch sent small puffs of brown spores floating in the breeze.

Slime mould’s were once considered to be fungi, but they are far more weird and wonderful than that. They move. Like amoeba. Then they enter a sporangial phase, as above.

Further reading: (yes, yes, I pilfered this idea from Alen. Steal from the best, that’s my motto)

Here’s a link to four fascinating posts of Phil’s about various slime moulds. Well worth a read.

http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Slime%20mould

This is the wikipedia entry on this particular type:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enteridium_lycoperdon

And here is an excellent article from the Grauniad online, about experiments involving slime moulds and their apparent ability to solve problems without the aid of a nervous system.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/sep/08/slime-mould-physarum

Slime Mould