Pond Life

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Most of the time the sea in the Bay is pretty placid. But once in a while we do get some waves. Here’s some evidence from one of our local walks with our American cousins.

On another local walk we visited Burtonwell Wood rift cave…

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The passage runs parallel to the cliff-face, and part way along there’s a spot where it’s possible to climb up to a ‘window’…

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From the cave we walked to Woodwell. We often visit, but this time we came prepared with nets and plastic tubs…

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The kids caught quite a variety of pond life. I think that this…

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…is probably a Three-Spined Stickleback. (But, as always, I stand ready to be corrected.)

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Pond Skaters.

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I’d call that upside down insect a Water Boatman, my field guide tells me that it is a Common Backswimmer (also know as a Water Boatman). The rather splendidly red snail is a Great Ramshorn (I think).

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This must be a Water Beetle, but I’m really not sure which kind.

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Here, the Water Boatman has a silvery sheen due to a trapped air bubble which it uses to enable it to breath.

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We were all fascinated by the contents of our tubs.

Well…almost all…

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Later that day we wandered into Eaves Wood for a bit of tree-climbing. Professor A can never resist joining the kids…

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Once again, B’s busted arm proved to be a great hindrance…

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Here we all are by the Pepper Pot…

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Pond Life

Cornucopia

The day after my Langden Castle walk (so over a week ago now) and my third post-work walk in as many days. Once again, I found myself drawn back to Gaitbarrow. I had an idea that I might enjoy a brisk circuit for a change, but as usual I was easily distracted. It was just one week after my previous visit, but in the interval so much had changed. One of the principal changes was that in every sunny spot, there were hosts of damselflies…

Damselfly

There are several species of blue damselflies, and I can’t usually identify them, but I’m reasonably confident that this is a common blue damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum, because in a full-size version of this cropped photo… 

Damselfly II 

…its just about possible to make out the black shape on the second segment of the abdomen which identifies it as such.

Blue-tailed Damselfly 

Blue-tailed damselfly.

Once I’d paused to photograph the damselflies, I soon noticed grasshoppers jumping and spiders scurrying about…

Wolf spider 

Wolf spider, Pardosa lugubris, carrying egg-sac.

I made a brief foray into the boggy meadow where I recently saw a roe deer. Even after some drier weather the middle section of the path has become welly territory. Some creatures appreciate some damp conditions of course…

Frog 

After the ‘banded snail killing ground’ of my last visit, it was nice to find a banded snail which was clearly flourishing…

Banded snail 

In the meadow on the shore at the end of Haweswater, something drew me into a small scrubby tree in amongst the reeds. I can’t remember now what it was that first attracted my attention, but when I had thoroughly tangled myself in its branches, I discovered that it was flowering, in a very undemonstrative way….

Unidentified tree flower 

Naturally there was a resident damselfly, its silvery wings catching the light beautifully…

Damselfly 

And now that I had started to look, I realised that the tree was also home to a troop of banded snails….

Banded snail 

More banded snails 

Yet another banded snail 

B is always excited by cuckoo spit, I think for the same sort of reasons that makes Horrible Histories in all of its many guises so appealing. I stooped to photograph a gobbet for him…

Cuckoo spit 

..and as I did so, I caught a flicker of movement amongst some grass stems beside a charred log. I didn’t see what moved the grass, but I was hopeful: I rolled away the log, and hey presto!….

Common lizard 

…a common lizard.

Another contrast with a week before: in the meadows….

The flower meadow 

..the yellow rattle is now flowering in abundance…

Yellow rattle 

From the meadows, I took a different route across the limestone pavements than I usually follow. There were still plenty of damselflies to see…

Damselfly on bleached tree root 

…on a weather bleached root stump….

Damselfly on oak leaf 

…on some oak leaves.

Equally abundant, and a delight which will bring me back this way at this time of year, was lily-of-the-valley….

Lily-of-the-valley 

Lily-of-the-valley II 

This one….

Lily-of-the-valley with spider 

…had a tiny spider clinging to it…

Spider on lily-of-the-valley

Sadly, I don’t know what species this one is.

Avocets and bugs galore by Allen Hide; ring ouzels, stonechats and reed buntings in Bowland; and a variety of delights at Gaitbarrow: my cup runneth over.

Cornucopia

Woodwell and Jack Scout

Ramsons

The day after my idle afternoon stroll. The weather was still holding fair, although much colder than it had been. I nipped out for another short wander, calling in on a couple of local spots I haven’t visited in a while. In Bottom’s Wood the ramsons are tall and verdant and almost in flower…

Almost flowering 

Ash buds are bursting open…

Ash flowers, bursting out. 

At Woodwell the pond is silting up, and the water level was very low after the long fry spell of weather. There were very few tadpoles to be seen this year, but even more small fish than ever. I’ve never photographed the fish here. The camera’s autofocus seemed intent on keeping it that way…

Confused autofocus 

But I eventually got some clear(ish) shots…

Fish 

My best guess is that these are minnows, but I’m not confident about that and as ever stand ready to be corrected.

Another fish 

This pond skater seems to have made a catch…

Pond skater 

I think that there are at least three types of snail in the pond. Here’s one of the ‘rounded, green shell variety’ (I’ve got a book with these in somewhere – now what have I done with it?)

Pond snail 

One edge of the pond is greeny yellow with flowering golden saxifrage.

Golden saxifrage 

And some trees are coming into leaf at last…

New sycamore leaves 

From Woodwell I went down to Jack Scout to find some thing of a surprise. The banks and channels have changed. The wall which extends into the bay from Jenny Brown’s Point has all but disappeared, with only a small section close to the shore visible. The rest has disappeared under a new sandbank.

Where's the wall? 

Looking across Morecambe Bay. Heysham power station on the horizon right of centre.

Clougha Pike

Cliffs at Jack Scout. The dark line right of the cliffs is the Bowland Fells, Clougha Pike on the extreme right-hand end.

Shells 

Seashells.

Cow's mouth

A sloppy and muddy surface here has been replaced with a fairly sandy surface, pleasant to walk on. This small cove is Cow’s Mouth which was one of the embarkation points when lots of traffic crossed the sands of the bay bound for Furness.

Sun and clouds

I was able to follow the shore back around to the village, mostly walking on the sand, although a channel under the cliffs necessitated retreating onto the shingle at the top of the beach…

Shingle 

…and then onto the cliff path.

Coastal lichen 

Sea-cliff lichen.

A sizable flock of birds whizzed overhead with an impressive whoosh, then flew low over the water. Very impressive to watch. I was pretty sure that they weren’t oystercatchers. My blurred photos of them in flight showed white edges to the wings and a large white shape on their backs, but the most telling photo was the one I took after they had landed…

Redshank

…redshanks!

Woodwell and Jack Scout

So good to be back home again

Playing pooh sticks

Pooh sticks.

It’s nice to be away obviously. I adore the Llyn Peninsula. The Vosges and the Pas de Calais had much to recommend them and are both areas I would like to revisit. Jersey made quite an impression, as you may have noticed if you’ve been following recent posts. But it is nice to be back.

Because of my extended raving about Jersey, I’m a little behind (no change there then) and have several local strolls to catch up on. The first began at Leighton Moss, where on summer Sunday mornings one can share with the expert enthusiasts in the opening of moth traps which have been out on the reserve the night before. On this particular Sunday there were more caddis flies than moths, but there were some interesting specimens, and it being later in the year, different ones than those we see on our annual ‘mothing’ day, also here at Leighton Moss.

Feathered Gothic 

Feathered gothic.

Sallow 

Sallow.

Centre-barred sallow 

Centre-barred sallow.

We walked from there to Trowbarrow, a quarry jointly owned by the RSPB and the BMC. The ankle-biters were very excited there by the small puddle by the shelter stone (where the quarrymen used to hide during blasting and practice their close-harmonies and Chuck Berry riffs). I was busy trying to catch up with dragonflies and grasshoppers to photograph, without much success, when I noticed this tiny caterpillar snacking on a leaf on a sapling.

Caterpillar munching on leaf 

On a leaf above the caterpillar I then spotted this forest bug.

Forest bug 

I assumed that it was a coincidence that they were on the same plant, but I now find that forest bugs feed on caterpillars, amongst other things, so perhaps something more purposeful and sinister was afoot.

On yet another leaf on the same plant was this…

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..what? A gall? An egg?

This tiny spider…

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..seemed to be eating, or perhaps removing, a seed from its web. Perhaps like this hapless fellow.

Red admiral 

Red admiral.

One reason I had wanted to come this way was to catch these flowers whilst they were still in bloom, having seen them in seed last year…

Helleborine 

…too late! I think that these are helleborines. Johnny-on-the-spot was in the right place at the right time and posted photographs back in early August.

Not too late however, for ragwort…

Ragwort

…which was plentiful in the rough on the return leg of our journey across the golf course. Ragwort is the food plant of…

Cinnabar caterpillar 

…cinnabar moth caterpillars, which were also plentiful.

Another cinnabar caterpillar 

Ragwort can be poisonous to cattle or horses when dried in feed. The caterpillars absorb alkaloids from the ragwort and can therefore feed brazenly in the open, and are brightly coloured to warn potential predators of their unpalatable status.

Banded snail

Banded snail.

So good to be back home again

Spiders, Snails and a Puzzle

I didn’t manage six miles yesterday, but I did take a circuitous route home from the train station, taking me round Haweswater and through Eaves Wood. It took a while to get work out of my head and to start to fully appreciate my surroundings, but when I reached the open meadow alongside Haweswater I suddenly felt at home and began to relax. There were several large dragonflies quartering the area. I wandered across to the edge of the reed beds, hoping to perhaps find one at rest. I didn’t, but I did come across this magnificent spider…

Now I realise that some people don’t like spiders, but that’s a point of view which I have never understood. This is obviously an orb web spider, probably a female. Araneus diadematus have a white cross on their backs, the pattern here is not quite a cross – more a lizard splayed on a table for dissection, or perhaps a stylized aboriginal art lizard. So what kind of spider is this? – an amazing one.

This banded snail was right by the boardwalked path, and very fetching it is too.

The grass of Parnassus have mostly now finished flowering, but the devil’s-bit scabious is still going strong and the bumblebees were busy taking advantage.

The wet meadow at the end of Haweswater, at the moment partly flooded, is also a great place to find spiders and snails.

I think that this is a dark-lipped banded snail. The shell is a bit the worse for wear; I wonder why?

Having stopped to try to photograph this spider and the snail behind, I noticed this tiny caterpillar on a leaf above…

And this small, thin snail…

And another (different?) orb spider…

I was briefly in the woods…

Which gives me an excuse to post these extracts from Fresh Woods which I’ve been intending to quote for a while.

If we leave the little planting now, it will only be to go to another wood, and there are woods all round us in this rolling country, woods that have names, woods that thrust their pine spears into the sky and stand in solid ranks, woods that crowd the grey roads, woods that are silent and brooding, and others that are alive with the sounds of streams that pass through them. We are going to them all, for I want to take you stalking a hare in a wood, to glimpse the deer in the forest moor, the badger in the Welsh wood just a mile away, and the fox too. If you know how to make crab-apple jelly, or wine from the fruit of the bullace tree, come with me. Come with me to see the woodcock, the tree creeper, and nuthatch. If you are not afraid of a dish of mushrooms that were picked in the wood, or if you are in need of a faggot of kindling, we shall be in such a spot tomorrow, gathering a bag of hazel-nuts or a basket of giant blackberries.

There are other woods, fresh woods, woods in which I will stand tomorrow and the day after. There are always fresh woods, little corners of the countryside where the bird and animal kingdom hold sway, places where we can hear the dawn chorus, or the last little twitter before the birds sleep and the badger ventures on his round. Brush the moss from your jacket and throw away your whittled stick. What company you have been in! What an idle time-waster you have been these past few days! Haste you away across the field, back home with your bag of hazel nuts, your elderberries, your excuses for being where you have been.

In the meadow beyond the woods some tiny frayed edged toadstools were quite striking from above, the pale frills forming a corona around the grey cap.

Down in the grass there were a number of hard to identify plants. Is this a seed head?

This rose tinted leaf had me fooled at first – I thought it was a petal.

I thought that this was groundsel when I saw it, but now I’m not so sure.

I have no idea what this unusual plant is. Nor the tiny yellow spots under the leaves.

Spiders, Snails and a Puzzle

More Close Encounters

Meadow Brown

The ‘buzzard attack’ incident happened on a walk from the village of Nether Kellet back home to Silverdale. The walk was packed with incident, but otherwise of a low key nature and not offering any threat to life and limb, apart from the frequent nettle stings.

Nether Kellet was selected as a start point from convenience – the kids were there for a birthday party so a lift was on offer. (TBH was driving, even on the quieter country lanes it’s considered bad form to let children under seven drive). The journey home began inauspiciously in a shower – it was that sort of day: lot’s of cloud, some sunny spells, some showers – of which the first was the worst. As soon as it stopped and I pulled down my hood there were plenty of things to see. Whilst I was trying to find the best position to capture this obliging meadow brown, a day-flying micro-moth decided to muscle in on the action, landing on an adjacent grass-stem.

I have no idea what it is – my ‘Complete British Insects’ has only two pages to cover micro moths. I need a moth guide.

Can’t find these little critters in my book either. I saw no end of them, mostly on umbellifers and mostly multiplying with gusto. Do they like damp days or is it just a coincidence that that’s when I seem to notice them?

Slugs and snails certainly like damp days and both were out in force on paths and plants.

Between Nether Kellet and Over Kellet my map (an old green pathfinder 1:25000) showed the path toeing a delicate line between two large quarries. The path doesn’t actually do that anymore, but sadly I didn’t realise that at first and spent a good deal of time wandering backwards and forwards wondering where I was. Probably I was distracted by a fine collection of fungi by the car-park of the quarry companies offices (that’s my excuse anyway).

Eventually, when I realised what had happened I decided to follow the road into Over Kellet.

It was on the rather fine path heading from Over Kellet towards Capenwray (which I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked before) that I had my one-sided altercation with an aggressive buzzard.

This is the view from the top of the rise just beyond the copse where I assume the buzzards were nesting. The woodland on the right is a mixture of native species and seemingly several types of conifers – it looked almost like an arboretum, it would be interesting to know it’s history. The valley behind that wood is presumably where the Keer rises, behind that the western edge of the Pennines lurk. On the left the noticeable edge is the steep western face of Farleton Fell.

I passed Capenwray Old Hall Farm, crossed a bridge over the Lancaster Canal, then under a viaduct which I don’t remember from my previous trip this way….

….and then turned left to follow the Keer. The Keer is a very small river – really just a stream with an over grown sense of it’s own importance. At first I was in the fields alongside the river – there are stiles over the fence giving access to the riverbank but there was no real evidence of a path. Where the river flowed under a road bridge the right-of-way crossed from one bank to the other and now I was right on the bank. Which was very overgrown. There was a path but nobody had told the nettles and grasses and brambles etc and they were doing their best to obliterate it. My calves and shins are beginning to itch just with the memory of the nettle rash inflicted on them.

There were compensations however. The air around me seemed to be constantly full of electric blue damselflies.

They wouldn’t sit still for long and the autofocus on my camera doesn’t cope well with a complex background, but I’m reasonably happy with this photo at least.

Having moaned about the nettles, I’m actually thinking that I’d like to go back to this stretch of the Keer in sunnier weather and in stout trousers rather than shorts, because there was a wealth of plant and insect life.

I think that this is a Red-tailed Bumble-bee, Bombus Lapidarius, a male because they have the ‘dirty white collar’. (Which makes him a white collar worker?)

And I think that this…

…is common hemp-nettle. Having stopped to photograph the flower, as is so often the case I then noticed something else of interest.

It seems to me that this tiny chap must be a froghopper – he does have a coiled and ready to spring look don’t you think?

The same plant was also host to…

….this tiny but stunning bug. Chrysolina Menthastri I believe – “found mainly in waterside habitats”, “feeding on mint and other labiates”.

Labiates?

Labiate:

1. Having lips or liplike parts.

2. Botany

a. Having or characterizing flowers with the corolla divided into two liplike parts, as in the snapdragon.

b. Of or belonging to the mint family Labiatae.

Aren’t search engines wonderful? I think that Common Hemp Nettle is a labiate plant, so if I’m right about that and if I’m right about the plant being Common Hemp Nettle then I may have correctly identified the bug.

Whatever, there was another of the plants along the riverbank and once again closer inspection revealed…

They’re amazing whether they are Chrysolina Menthastri or not. It’s surprising that such striking insects don’t have a common name, or maybe that’s just my book – a quick search gives ‘Mint Leaf Beetle’ on several websites.

Sadly the ‘path’ beside the Keer got slowly worse. To add insult to injury I didn’t see any kingfishers where I’ve seen them before – where the river flows under the motorway.

By now I was well behind schedule and should have been at home roasting a chicken for the family tea. The walk became a bit of a route march in an attempt to get home reasonably quickly. From the A6 a track took me to Borwick Lane, I was quickly through Warton on the Coach Road and then over the shoulder of Warton Crag on the bridleway.

At the start of Quaker’s Stang I was surprised by the farmer and his collie who had somehow managed to sneak up behind me on a quad-bike. I opened the gate for them and received a cheery “Same time t’mora” by way of thanks before they whizzed off across the Stang.

Another Buzzard was perched in the last of the hawthorns on the Stang, although I didn’t see it until it took off. I watched it land in an ash by a tall dead tree, knowing that my path would take me right under that tree. When I got there, the bird was still there. It released an impressive volley of droppings and then, calling stridently, flew off back over the salt-marsh. It landed on some trees below. I had to climb a little higher to get a vantage point from which I could see it, but I could hear it calling all the time. Alternating with the kew of the buzzard was a slightly higher, harsher sound which I assumed was the farmer whistling to his collie.

She was a long way away (I decided that it was a female bird but without any justification for that assumption) so I tried using the digital zoom.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the photo is even recognisable – with the maximum zoom I was finding it difficult to keep the bird in the viewfinder. She continued calling for quite some time – long after I had moved on I could still hear her, and was obviously agitated, but didn’t try to steal my hat for which I am very grateful – twice in one day and I might not have wanted to venture out again.

More Close Encounters

Piel Island

 

Waiting on the jetty, the Roa Island Lifeboat station to the left and Piel castle just visible on the right of the picture.

We continued our exploration of the north side of the bay with a first ever trip to Piel Island. An interesting drive along the coast from Ulverston brought us to Roa Island – a tidal island connected to the mainland by a short causeway. From there we had the excitement of a brief boat trip across the channel on the Piel Ferry. After becoming frightened on a dinghy on Coniston Water earlier in the summer,A became quite hysterical about this trip, but the ferryman was very sympathetic and although she didn’t enjoy the journey, she was much more confident when it came time for our return trip.

The island has a ruined castle, a pub and a row of cottages.

The castle was clearly once very extensive. Built by the monks of Furness Abbey it protected their harbour here and their lucrative trade particularly with Ireland. It’s big moment in history came during the reign of Henry VII when Lambert Simnel, a pretender to the thrown supported by the Yorkist party, landed here from Ireland. The uprising was soundly defeated, but unusually the story has a happy ending for the puppet figurehead of the coup who was pardoned by Henry and given a job as spit turner in the royal kitchens.

The castle has both outer and inner walls, the latter quite well preserved except on the seaward side where the action of tide and waves has undermined and destroyed them. The keep is quite large and it looks as though it should be possible to explore the battlements, but sadly at present the access to those are barred by a locked grille.

 

The keep.

The wall corners and the edges of windows and doorways are all in the same red sandstone as Furness Abbey, but otherwise the walls are built of a more rough and ready rubble and mortar construction.

The sandstone was everywhere pocked and creased by erosion into fabulous miniature landscapes. The walls on close inspection turned out to be a haven for a wide variety of mini beasts. One wall of the keep was festooned with snails, at least until the boys pulled them all off.

More mobile and therefore not so easy to photograph were a tiny black and white wasp hauling the carcass of a pale spider up a wall, and the odd earwig like creature which B coaxed out of a narrow fissure and onto his coat. There were inevitably plenty of spiders taking advantage of the rich pickings.

With the white cross on its abdomen I think that this is our Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus. A little surfing leads me to believe the diadematus means crowned or wearing a diadem, perhaps a reference to that rather spectacular pattern. A more successful resident of the castle than old Lambert Simnel then (and isn’t that a name to conjure with?).

The island has a wild and stark beauty of its own. The beaches are shingle…

With stones of many hues, textures and types.

This was a feature of the beaches on the Baltic too, indeed the holiday home which we stopped in (a house swap – thoroughly recommended if you haven’t tried it) had copies of two colourful guide books – Strandsteine and Noch Mehr Strandsteine with identifying pictures of the geological treasures to be found.

I found a fossil here on the beach…

It’s the one on the right, on a desk at home. The circular striated pattern runs through to the other side of the stone. The fossil on the left I found in Germany. I think that it’s something like a Sea Urchin, it’s not really seen to best advantage here, but has a five neat lines of dots like a thin starfish on the bottom.

The top edge of the shingle was colonised by specialists like this Horned Poppy

All parts of which are apparently poisonous.

Or this Sea Campion with its gorgeous veined pattern…

Scarlet Pimpernel is rather less specialised and much more widespread, but as some common names imply – ‘change-of-the-weather’, ‘poor-man’s-weatherglass’, ‘shepherd’s-sundial’ – it closes in dull weather and so I offer this photo as evidence that despite the cloudy views on show we did have some sunshine!

At present camping on the island is free and a number of groups were taking advantage of that opportunity. There is a toilet block by the pub with a couple of showers. The pub is being refurbished but drinks and food can still be had. The publican is traditionally ‘King of Piel Island’ and I suspect that the pub will be well worth visiting when the new incumbents have restored the seat of their fiefdom.

We rounded of our day with a visit to the Lifeboat station on Roa Island…

…and an ice-cream in the cafe.

These handsome Starlings were feeding in the road by our car. I presume that the beige heads are because they are juveniles?

Piel Island