Hanging Around II

Adirondacks Day 10 (Sort of)

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Meadowhawk Dragonfly. There are several species – I have no idea which this is.

Almost at the end of my Adirondacks posts now. These photos were actually taken on several different days, but represent the 10th day well, because I didn’t stray from the house and garden that day. In the morning, the others went off somewhere; you’d have to ask them where. In the afternoon we were all back at the house, shooting the bb-gun, gardening, loafing, generally pottering about.

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Teneral – or newly emerged – dragonfly. Maybe another Meadowhawk.
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This was nearby – could it be the larval case?
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Harebells?

I remembered spotting the discarded exoskeletons of Cicada nymphs last time we were in the States. We didn’t hear Cicadas to the same extent here, but I was aware that they were out there and decided to check out the trees near the house to see what I could find. The first three trees I checked each had a shucked-off Cicada skin clinging to its rough bark.

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The shed exoskeleton of a Cicada.
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The nymph will climb a tree to emerge in its winged adult form.
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Here’s another one.
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A shy deer. There’s another one back there somewhere.
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Fishing-spider. I think.

I think this must be the same kind of spider which featured in an earlier post. This one wasn’t as large, although still quite big. It was sheltering on the underside of one of the paddle-boards.

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The small ball is the silken egg-sac which the spider has carried around, until her brood hatched. You can see her tiny offspring here too.
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Hanging Around II

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

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Lambert’s Meadow.

We were at home for a few days before heading off for our big summer trip. I guess we must have been busy, I didn’t get out much, but when the sun shone I did have a wander to Lambert’s Meadow, to see what I could see. Our trip, which I’ll hopefully get to soon, was to the USA. I didn’t take my camera, but I did take a ridiculous number of photos on my phone, so there’s a lengthy selection process ahead.

The photos from this short local wander can be a bit of a dress rehearsal then; I took three hundred, a nice round number, and about par for the course when I spend a bit of time at Lambert’s Meadow.

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Male Migrant Hawker.

Of course, there’s a great deal of repetition; my first eleven shots that day were all of Migrant Hawkers; there were several on and around a thicket of brambles where I entered Burtonwell Wood from Silverdale Green. An easy decision in this case, just to crop the most likely looking pictures and then chose my favourite.

On the other hand, this Common Carder bee, on the same set of unripe blackberries, only posed for a single photo.

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Common Carder Bee.

When I look at the photos which have come up to scratch, although I took quite a lot of photos of bumblebees, of various species, there’s a preponderance of Common Carder bees amongst the ones I’ve chosen. Admittedly, I am a bit biased in favour of Common Carders, for two reasons; firstly their lovely ginger colour, and then the fact that they are relatively easy to distinguish from other common species; but I think that there may be a bit more to it than that; I seem to have more luck getting sharpish images of Common Carders than of other bumblebees; I’m beginning to think that they may linger that little bit longer on flowers than other species.

The single shot I took of the disappearing rump of a Roe Deer in the woods was a bit disappointing, and so is not here, partly because I get much better opportunities to photograph deer in our garden. This tiny spider feasting on a fly, on the other hand, is included because I rarely manage to catch spiders with their prey, even though it was taken in the shade and isn’t especially sharp.

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I’ve decided to keep the photos largely chronological, and not to group them thematically, and, for instance, put all of the hoverflies together, something I have done on occasion with previous similar posts.

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Hoverfly – possibly Helophilus pendulus.

This particular hoverfly might be Helophilus pendulus. Sometimes called ‘the Footballer’ apparently, because of its bold markings. Rather lovely in my opinion. However, there are several very similar species, so I could be wrong. Helophilus means ‘marsh-lover’ which would fit well with this location.

I did put these two snails together, the better to compare and contrast their shells…

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Garden Snail.

This first is definitely a Garden Snail, with its dark bands on its shell.

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Copse Snail?

My best guess is that this is a copse snail; they are usually more mottled than this, although they do seem to be quite variable.

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Small skipper.

There were lots and lots of butterflies about, which was rather wonderful, although at first I thought none of them would alight long enough for me to get any decent photos. However, if you hang around long enough, your chance eventually comes.

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Honey bee on Common Knapweed.

This photo gets in because of the photo-bombing bug. I think the bug might be a Potato Capsid, but my confidence is even lower than usual.

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Common Darter.

There were lots of dragonflies about too, but they were mostly airborne, and surprisingly difficult to spot when they landed.

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Guelder Rose berries.
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Another Common Carder bee.
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Angelica, tall and stately.
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And very busy with a profusion of insects.
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Sicus ferrugineus.

With a bit of lazy internet research, I’ve unearthed two different ‘common’ names for these odd looking flies: Ferrugineus Bee-grabber and Thick-headed Fly. The photo in my Field Guide shows a mating pair and this pair, although they moved around the mint flower a lot, didn’t seem likely to be put-off. In fact when I wandered back around the meadow I spotted a pair, probably the same pair, still mating in much the same spot. The adults feed on nectar, but the larvae are endoparasites, over-wintering and pupating inside Bumblebees.

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Sicus ferrugineus again.

Ferruginous means either: ‘containing iron oxides or rust’, or ‘reddish brown, rust-coloured’; which seems appropriate. I’m guessing that ferrugineus is the latin spelling.

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Female Common Blue and Hoverfly?
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Female Common Blue.

You’ll notice that a lot of the insects are on Mint flowers. Earlier in the year it would have been Marsh Thistles.

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Drone-flies. Probably.

My best guess is that these are Drone-flies. They are excellent Honey bee mimics, but, as far as I know, don’t harm bees in any way, so good for them. More lazy research turned up this titbit:

“Recent research shows that the Drone-fly does not only mimic the Honeybee in look, but also in the way that it moves about, following the same flight patterns.”

Source

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Meadow Brown.

I haven’t counted, but I’d be willing to bet that I took more photos of Meadow Browns than of anything else. There were a lot about. I resolved not to take any more photos of what is, after all, a very common and slightly dull species, at which point the local Meadow Brown community seemed to agree that they would disport themselves in front of my lens at every opportunity, in a ‘you know you want to’ sort of way, and my resolve kept crumbling.

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Silver Y Moth.

Silver Y moths, on the other hand, seem to stay low in the grass and continually flap their wings, which must be very energy inefficient. Although they breed in the UK, they also migrate here (presumably from mainland Europe).

“The Silver Y migrates to the UK in massive numbers each year – sometimes, an estimated 220 million can reach our shores in spring!”

Source

The scientific name is Autographa gamma which I rather like. And gamma, γ, is at least as good an approximation as y to the marking on the moth.

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Female Common Blue Damselfly, green-form (I think).
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Rather tired Ringlet.

For a while I watched the dragonflies darting about overhead, trying to see where they went when they flew into the trees. Eventually, I did notice the perch of another Migrant Hawker, high overhead…

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Migrant Hawker.
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Volucella pellucens.

Volucella pellucens – the Pellucid Fly, or the Pellucid Hoverfly, or the White-banded Drone-fly. Three ‘common’ names; I’ve used apostrophes because for a creature to have a ‘common’ name suggests it’s a regular topic of conversation in households up and down the country, which seems a bit unlikely, unfortunately.

“The fly is very fond of bramble blossoms”, according to my Field Guide.

“Its larvae live in the nests of social wasps and bumblebees, eating waste products and the bee larvae.

Source.

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Common Blue Damselfly?

This damselfly has me a bit confused; it has red eyes, but those beer pump handle markings (my Dragonfly field guide says ‘rockets’ – I think messers Smallshire and Swash need to get out more) suggest the blue-form of the female Common Blue Damselfly, so I’m going for that. This makes me think that I have probably misidentified damselflies in the past. What am I talking about? Of course I’ve misidentified damselflies – I’ve probably misidentified just about everything! All I hope for is that my percentage accuracy is gradually improving – I’ll settle for that.

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Volucella pellucens – bucking the trend by feasting on Mint, instead of Bramble.
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Comma

Like the Silver Y, the Comma is named for a mark on its wings, but it’s on the underside so you can’t see it here.

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Comma.

I took lots of photos of rather distant Commas and then this one landed pretty much at my feet, so close, in fact, that I needed to back up a little to get it in focus.

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Green-veined White.

White butterflies don’t often rest long enough to be photographed. They are also very confusing – this could, to my non-expert-gaze, be a Small White, a female Orange-tip, or a Green-veined White. But the underwings reveal that it is a Green-veined White.

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Green-veined White.
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Meadow Brown.
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Volucella pellucens, on mint again.

Brambles have a very long flowering season – maybe Pellucid Flies like to branch out when other favoured plants are available.

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Hoverfly.

The sheer variety of Hoverflies is amazing, but also frustrating, because they are so hard to identify. This could be a Drone-fly, but it has dark patches on its wings. I’m edging towards Eristalis horticola but with my usual very low degree of confidence.

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Green Bottle.
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Another Meadow Brown.
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Another female Common Blue Damselfly – not so heavily cropped – I liked the grass..
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Sicus ferrugineus – not perturbed by me, my camera or the presence of one of the White-tailed Bumblebees.
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Ichneumon wasp?

This creature led me a merry dance; it was constantly on the move, roving around the leaves and stems of a Guelder Rose bush, then flying off, disappearing from view, only to return seconds later. At first I thought it was a Sawfly, but it was very wasp-waisted so now I’m inclined to think it was an Ichneumon wasp.

Tentatively, it could be a male Ichneumon extensorius which has the bright yellow scutellum, black unbanded antennae and black and yellow legs and body. However, my online source says “hardly any British records exist for this species”, which is a bit off-putting.

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Whatever it is, it kept me well-entertained for a few minutes.

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Eugh! A slug! But even this slug, which was on an Angelica stem, has a rather striking striped rim to its foot.

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Male Common Blue Damselfly.
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When I spotted this creature, on a Figwort leaf, at first I thought I was seeing another of the yellow and black creatures I had seen before. It has a yellow scutellum, and substantially yellow legs. But – the antennae are orange, it lacks the narrow waist, and its abdomen is heavily striped. It was much more obliging than the previous creature, both in terms of posing for photos and in terms of being readily identified. It turns out this is a Figwort Sawfly.

“The larvae feed on Figwort plants and are usually seen in August and September. The adults are carnivores mainly, hunting small flies and other insects.”

Source

Hmmmm – usually seen in August and September – I think I need to go and have a look at some Figworts.

Incidentally, I was hoping I would see some Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonflies, and usually look out for them in an area of tall plants – Great Willow-herb and Figwort – by the path which crosses the meadow. I didn’t see any, but in looking I noticed that the generally tall Figwort plants were much shorter and less numerous than usual. I suspect they were suffering due to our unusually hot and dry summer.

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Male Common Blue Damselfly.
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Soldier Beetles – as usual making love not war.
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My ‘hunting ground’.
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Large Skipper. Not large. Notice the much more mottled wings than the Small Skipper at the start of this lengthy post.
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Large Skipper.
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Gatekeeper.

Blimey – I made it to the end! Well done if you did too. If my holiday posts take this long to put together, I will never catch up!

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

Carn Fadryn and Garn Bach

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Carn Fadryn. (I’m cheating slightly here, this was taken at the end of the walk.)

The last of my Llyn Peninsula posts, for this year at least, and of course it’s about an ascent of Carn Fadryn, or as we know it, Birthday Hill. This year, it actually happened on Little S’s birthday. I know that he would perhaps like to spend his birthday with his school friends, but when we are in Wales, he’s too polite to say so and is happy to humour me and say that a walk up Carn Fadryn and then an afternoon on the beach is his idea of a perfect birthday, knowing that it is my idea of a perfect birthday.

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Agelena labyrinthica.

Long-suffering readers will know that I am always fascinated by the spiders which make labyrinthine webs in the gorse on Carn Fadryn. Looking at a distribution map – I seem to have become a bit obsessed with them of late – I find that these spiders are widespread across the south of England but absent from Scotland and very patchy in Wales and the North of England. However, it looks like on of the few places they are found in the North is close to home, as far as I can tell from a map of the whole country. I’ve never seen them – perhaps the gorse on Farleton Fell would be a place to try?

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Caption competition? Not had one of those for a while!

What’s actually going on here is a conversation about the best route up Garn Bach, Carn Fadryn’s smaller neighbour, which we were planning to include, for a change, in our route.

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Pollen coated bee, wasp, fly?

It’s a very short walk up the hill, leaving plenty of time to munch on bilberries, sit and have a natter, make a brew, and enjoy the expansive views.

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Carn Fadryn panorama – looking East.
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Carn Fadryn panorama – looking West.
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Loafers.
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New trig pillar ‘decoration’.
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The birthday boy.

I was fascinated by the line of rocky little knolls extending roughly southwards towards the coast…

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Garn Bach, Carn Saethon, Carneddol, Foel Fawr, Mynytho Common. St. Tudwal’s Islands on the right.

I’ve never ventured up any of those little hills. One for the future. Like Carn Fadryn, Carn Seathon is shown on the map as the site of a fort, so doubly worth a look.

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AYW is a gardener and, from time to time, will ask me about the wild plants we pass. Here she’s waiting to point out the plant which ‘looks like sage’ and, which, for that reason, is called Wood Sage.

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Garn Bach.
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On Garn Bach. A bit windy.
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Garn Bach panorama.
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Carn Fadryn from Garn Bach.
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Carn Saethon, Carneddol, Foel Fawr, Mynytho Common, St. Tudwal’s Islands from Garn Bach.

And so, home again, to unpack, get everything washed and then packed again ready for the off…

Carn Fadryn and Garn Bach

Whit’s End I

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Sawfly, possibly Tenthredo mesomelas.

One of the advantages of teaching, it can’t be denied, are the very generous holidays. And what would you do with those holidays? Decorate the house of course! Famously, painting the Forth Road Bridge, colloquially at least, is a Sisyphean task, needing to be recommenced as soon as it has been finished. It sometimes feels like our household decorating is on a similar scale. On this occasion, with A imminently leaving home*, she and Little S were swapping rooms. Both rooms needed redecorating, in the case of A’s room, twice, after she decided she didn’t like the pink paint she had initially chosen. All of their belongings had to be shifted, the furniture was moved and in some cases replaced. It was a major undertaking.

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White-lipped Snail

When a lull in proceedings provided an opportunity to sneak out for a bit, I didn’t go far, but went on a Lambert’s Meadow safari, to see what I could see. On this occasion, the first thing I spotted was a gorgeous bluey-green weevil on a nettle. My photographs of the tiny creature didn’t come out well, but I saw another later. After that, my eye seemed to be in, and it turned out, of course, that there was plenty to see, if you looked carefully.

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Brown-lipped snail.
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A nettle leaf nest. Lots of species live on nettles, including many of our common, colourful garden butterflies.
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Another Brown-lipped snail.
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Water Avens.
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Ragged Robin and Guelder Rose.
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Guelder Rose.
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Cucumber Green Orb Spider.

This spider was tiny. The photos (I took loads) don’t really do it justice; to the naked eye it seemed to be luminous yellow. I was very chuffed to have spotted it, since it was absolutely miniscule.

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Guelder Rose flower with a very long-legged fly. Some sort of mosquito?
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Green Shield Bug.
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Scorpion Fly, male. The curled ‘stinger’ is for display only.
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And again – possibly the same fly.
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A leaf beetle – possibly Chrysolina polita.

Leaf beetles have become firm favourites – they are so often bright, shiny, metallic colours. As often seems to be the case, once I’d seen one of them I suddenly seemed to spot lots more.

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Mating Chrysolina polita (perhaps).
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I drew a blank with this one. It had orange elytra (hard front wing which protects the hind wing). I think it is probably some kind of Soldier Beetle.
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A colourful fly.
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Common Blue Damselfly.
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Azure damselfly (I think).
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Yellow dung fly, male.
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Common Carder Bee on Ragged Robin.
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Another Scorpion Fly. This time a female, without the extravagantly curled tail.
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And again.
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7-Spot Ladybird.

I don’t know why this should be the case, but I often seem to spot ladybirds in the hedges along Bottom’s Lane.

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Ladybird, probably a Harlequin.
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Ladybird, probably a Harlequin.
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Wych Elm seeds. I think.

My modus operandi on my entomology wanders is to walk slowly scanning the vegetation for any movement on contrasting colours. I kept getting caught out by Wych Elm seeds which seemed to have settled all over the place – a good sign I hope.

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Dewberry Flowers?

These flowers seemed to be a bit on the big side to be bramble flowers, and based on the fact that I’ve found Dewberries before along Bottom’s Lane before, I assume that they are Dewberry flowers.

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Dewberry Flowers?

As ever, I’m more than ready to be corrected by anybody who actually knows what they are talking about.

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New Sycamore Leaves
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Spangles – made by tiny gall wasps.
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Ants and aphids.

I remember reading that ants ‘farm’ aphids, but I’m not sure that I’ve often seem them together.

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A Soldier Beetle, possibly Cantharis Rustica.
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Weevil, possibly Phyllobius pomaceus.
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Cantharis Rustica again, I think. You can see the ‘robust mouth parts’ well here. (Source)

When I got home, in no hurry to be indoors, I had a wander around our garden, photographing some of the ‘weeds’ growing there.

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Pink Campion.
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Welsh Poppy.
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Bumblebee on Aquilegia.
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Aquilegia Vulgaris.
Whit’s End I

June. Well, Most of it.

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Cotton-grass at Foulshaw Moss

The year is almost up and the blog is stuck in June. So….better get a shift on.

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Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

First off, some shots from an evening to Foulshaw Moss when A was dancing.

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An Orb-weaver Spider, possibly a Larinioides cornutus female.
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The limestone hills of home across Morecambe Bay.

Next door neighbour and all-round good-egg BB was interested in our ebikes; I suggested he borrow one and join me for a trip. We cycled to Morecambe. As you can see, the weather was fantastic, but there was a strong wind blowing, unusually, from the South, so that cycling along the Prom was an uphill struggle. The compensation was that on our way back again we felt like we had wings. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of our memorable refreshment stops, at the Hest Bank for a pint on our outward trip and at The Royal in Bolton-le-Sands for a lovely meal and a couple more ales in their sunny beer garden.

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Bike maintenance BB style.
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Choppy waves from the end of the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. Lake District Fells beyond.
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X-Ray and TBH in Clarke’s Lot.

Old friend X-Ray visited to catch up. It was very grey day, but we dragged him out for our usual wander around Jenny Brown’s Point anyway.

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Warton Crag and Clougha Pike beyond.
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Another Foulshaw Moss view.

Another taxi-Dad trip to Foulshaw Moss. Things have moved on since then – A has passed her driving test and doesn’t need any more lifts to Milnthorpe. I shall need a new excuse to visit Foulshaw Moss.

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Sedge Warbler (I think).
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Foxglove.
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Birch Polyp.
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Azure Damselfly.
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Green Lacewing, possibly Chrysopa perla.
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Crane Fly.
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TBH cycling past the visitor centre at Leighton Moss.

Finally, a shorter bike ride with TBH which took us to Holme and back via some very quiet lanes. It almost went horribly wrong when I made the mistake of leaving TBH a little behind (she having chosen not to use an ebike) and she, inexplicably, took a left turn, even though I’d mentioned the fact that we would go through Yealand Redmayne. It all worked okay in the end, after a few puzzling moments and a bit of cycling back and forth looking for each other.

A couple more June bike rides to follow… eventually.

June. Well, Most of it.

September Colour.

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Evening Primrose.

The day after my Arnside Knott walk was another cracker. I was out three times, twice around home and also for a short stroll in Kirkby Lonsdale whilst B was at rugby training.

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Creeping Thistle.

I was revelling in the abundance and variety of the wildflowers on my home patch after the relative dearth beneath the trees in the Tarn Gorge. I took a huge number of photos, of which just a small selection have been chosen for this post.

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Yarrow and Oxeye Daisy.
Hoverfly.
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Nipplewort.

Nipplewort is a tall straggly weed, without, at first glance, a great deal to offer, but the small flowers are well worth a closer look.

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Grange from the Cove.
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River Lune from Ruskin’s View in Kirkby Lonsdale.
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Market Cross, Kirkby Lonsdale.
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St. Mary’s Church, Kirkby Lonsdale.
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Hoverfly.
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Common Darter.
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Guelder Rose berries.
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Common Darter (on, I think, Marsh Thistle).
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Yet another Common Darter.
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More Guelder Rose berries.
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A shower out over the Bay, taken on a midweek, post-work walk.
September Colour.

To the Bakery and Back

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Each morning I walked into the village to buy the day’s bread, sometimes with Andy, but usually on my own. The bread was delicious, but I enjoyed the walk too. These photos are from those walks and also from other times when we had occasion to walk into Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. That first photo is looking back towards the campsite from a very misty morning, although the mist was rapidly clearing.

This is the same view…

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…on a relatively cloudy day and this…

image

…is a panoramic view from a little further along the road, in more typical weather conditions.

The view in the other direction was very much dominated by the village and the Chateau towering above it, and often, in the mornings, montgolfières rising above that.

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Here’s part of the village…

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…when the mist had just about dissipated.

Not only were the views excellent, but the meadows along the route held lots of interest too.  These blue flowers dominated…

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I think that the flowers are Meadow Clary, a relative of Sage, which has a very limited distribution in Britain, but seems to be abundant in France. The insect is a Hummingbird Hawkmoth which is only seen as a migrant in Britain, although by coincidence I saw one today whilst out for a local wander. I also often saw Hummingbird Hawkmoths flying along a wall which bounded part of the road, seemingly investigating nooks and crevices, although I’m not sure why they would do that.

This…

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…is a Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth, which can, apparently, also be found in Britain, but not in our area and I’ve certainly never seen one before.

One of the things I loved about our visit to France was the profusion of butterflies, although they weren’t always cooperative in posing for photos.

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This Scarce Swallowtail was kind however, and moved a little closer after I took that first photo…

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Wild Carrot flowers were also very common in the meadows and where the flowerheads had curled in on themselves and gone to seed there was a very good chance that you could see Striped Shield Bugs…

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…they were hard to miss!

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Spider’s webs, on the other hand, only became obvious when the mist washed them with silver droplets.

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The wall alongside the road was home, appropriately enough, to Wall Lizards.

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These two are my favourites from the many photos I took.

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The area around the wall also seemed to be the territory of some small orange butterflies which eluded my camera at first, but then turned out to be Gatekeepers which we see at home.

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I think that this first one is on a Hemp Agrimony flower and that this one…

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…is on Horse Mint.

The road crossed a bridge over the Céou which was a good place for spotting fish and also more Beautiful Demoiselles…

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Male.

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Female.

Right at the end of our stay, we came down to the bridge because some of the party wanted to emulate some swimmers we had seen by leaping from a high branch into the water.

In the event, only E managed it, not because of the height of the jump, but because of the difficulty of climbing the tree – there was a crude ladder of planks nailed to the tree-trunk, but one of the rungs was missing. Here’s E just before she jumped…

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The rest of us had to content ourselves with jumping from the bridge itself or from a small wall beside it…

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Which, frankly, was quite high enough for me.

To the Bakery and Back

Foulshaw Moss Again

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Figwort.

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Wasp on Figwort.

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Green-veined White on Tufted Vetch.

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Green-veined White on Bramble.

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Large Skipper on Tufted Vetch.

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Large Skipper on Thistle.

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Large Skipper on Bramble.

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Common Carder Bumblebee (I think) on Thistle.

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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on Ragwort.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Arnside Knott and Meathop Fell on the skyline.

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Foulshaw Moss, with Whitbarrow Scar behind.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, adult, female I think.

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Great Spotted Woodpecker, juvenile.

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Black Darter, female.

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Foulshaw Moss.

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Common Lizard.

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A web-tent. I couldn’t see any caterpillars within.

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Scots Pines.

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Reed Bunting, male.

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Marbled Orb Weaver Spider (perhaps).

These photos were taken just over a month ago on an evening visit to Foulshaw Moss whilst A was at her weekly dancing lessons. Since they were taken, we’ve been away for three weeks, camping in Wales and then France, and this little outing feels like a distant memory.

I have enjoyed looking through them, however, and trying to put names to things I recorded. Not here are the many small birds which tumbled about in the trees, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Linnets and Chaffinches. Also missing are the crickets and/or grasshoppers which I saw, but failed to photograph and the Ospreys, Adders and Large Heath Butterflies which I hope to see when I visit, but which have always eluded me so far.

The Black Darter, Britain’s smallest species of Dragonfly, is new to me, so that should probably be the highlight, but it was the adult Great Spotted Woodpecker, which I heard first and then picked out in flight, flying, unusually, towards me rather than away and landing at the top of a dead Birch relatively nearby, which will stick in my mind. Also, the hordes of Wasps feeding on Figwort flowers, reminding me of my observation last year that the flowers and the Wasps seem to have coevolved so that a Wasp’s head is a perfect fit for a Figwort flower.

 

Foulshaw Moss Again

Middleton Nature Reserve

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Migrant Hawker.

Being the continuing adventures of a taxi-driving Dad.

Last Saturday, B had a rugby match, playing hooker (he’s suitably bonkers) for his school team away at Morecambe High (where, many moons ago, I used to teach). Unlike some of his contemporaries, B doesn’t seem too concerned about whether his team win or lose, just so long as the result seems fair, and at the end of the game declared: “That was fun!”, despite his team having taken a bit of a hammering.

Afterwards, we dashed home, but, in my case, only for a quick turn around, as I took Little S to a nerf gun birthday party in – guess where – Morecambe. I realise that the rational thing to do would have been to take both boys to both events, but it seemed easier at the time to do it this way. With S dropped off, only a few minutes late for his war game, I had the best part of two hours to kill and decided to go hunting for one of the three Wildlife Trust reserves which I knew to be somewhere around Heysham. Idiotically, I hadn’t checked the exact locations in advance, so resorted to driving around, with more hope than confidence, until I spotted a likely looking car park and found that I had stumbled upon Middleton reserve.

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After a bite of lunch, and whilst walking around the reserve, I met a man who told me that he remembered when this was the site of a petrochemical plant. Now it has two large ponds and a mixture of meadows and scrub.

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Hoverfly, possibly Helophilus pendulus, on an Alder leaf.

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Fox and cubs.

This patch of waste ground maybe a tad unprepossessing at first glance, but look a little closer and there is a great deal to enjoy. I was very much put in mind of Richard Mabey’s marvellous book The Unofficial Countryside, which is about how nature, left to its own devices, can reclaim scraps of once industrialised land like this.

The sun was warm and there were no end of dragonflies about, although few of them would pose for a photo.

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Female Common Darter.

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Speckled Wood.

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Blackberries.

There were lots of flowers still in bloom and it was obvious that, had I had been here earlier, in the summer, there would have been even more to see.

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Wild Carrot, the ancestor of all domestic carrots.

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When the flowers turn into spiny seeds, the umbel curls in on itself.

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More hoverflies on what I assume are Michaelmas Daisies.

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A willowherb?

I could hear the contact calls of small birds from all sides and, with lots of teasels and other tall seed-heads about, I wondered whether they might be Goldfinches. Eventually, they flew across the path ahead of me, then settled above me, on teasels growing on a high bank. Here’s some of them…

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The photo didn’t come out brilliantly and only a small part of the charm are here, but the flocks of Goldfinches which gather at this time of year are delightful, so I wanted to include the photo anyway.

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Common Toadflax.

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Mute swans – could they still be nesting in mid-September?

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There were plenty of half-hidden reminders of the areas past – the remnants of tarmac covered surfaces, these huge tyres, odd bits of buildings here and there, but they mostly seem to be slowly disappearing.

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Abundant Haws.

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Crane Fly.

A blade of grass apparently dancing in a way completely contrary to the direction of the wind alerted me to this spider, which was busy constructing a web.

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Male Common Darter.

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As I came to the end of my walk and was running out of time before needing to head off to pick up Little S, I came to a really sheltered spot where, not only were there even more dragonflies, but, in addition, the Common Darters were sunning themselves in obvious spots, as seems to be their wont.

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Male Common Darter.

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Male Common Darter.

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Alder cones.

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Male Common Darter.

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Mating Common Darters. I’ve been confused in the past by the colour of females like this one, expecting the females to be yellow, but this pale blue colour is apparently typical of older females.

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Drone fly, or something similar, on Evening Primrose.

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Guelder Rose berries.

Middleton Nature Reserve

Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn

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Tarn Sike is both a stream and a nature reserve. The nature reserve, owned by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, is open to the public, but you’d have to know that it is there, because it’s about 300 yards from the road, and there’s no indication on the ground until you reach the entrance.

The stream is another tributary of the Lune, rising as Rayseat Sike and flowing through Cow Dub and this little tarn…

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…unnamed on the OS map, before continuing as Tarn Sike. On the map it disappears intermittently, presumably going underground, before joining Rais Beck which flows into the Lune. I assume that the water from Sunbiggin Tarn must also come this way although the map doesn’t seem to show any outflow stream.

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Meadow Pipit.

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The reserve is a (very) wet meadow containing distinctly different habitats. In some places tall, lush vegetation predominates.

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Meadowsweet.

I noticed that a lot of the Meadowsweet was infected with a grey rust, or what I assume is a rust, and when I paused to take a closer look, I saw this tiny insect…

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I think that this is a Common Froghopper, a ‘spectacularly variable species, with many dramatically different colour forms’ (Source). Froghoppers are also the species which produce Cuckoospit, a protective froth which the nymph lives inside. Coincidentally, I found another Froghopper a few days after this walk on the keyboard of a laptop at work and I can attest to their athletic prowess – they can really jump!

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Marsh Cinquefoil seed-heads?

In amongst the tall plants, often almost hidden, there were numerous…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids. Many were slightly browned and looked like they might be ‘going over’, but my Orchid book suggests that they flower from mid-June right through July.

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A yellow daisy – possibly Rough Hawkbit.

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Marsh Lousewort – present in huge numbers where the taller plants weren’t so dominant.

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Bird’s-eye Primrose.

There are also several areas with much less verdant growth, apparently ‘Limestone flushes’. Here there were lots of…

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….Fragrant Orchids. I’ve not seen these before, but have discovered that they can be found much closer to home, so shall be on the look out for them. I’ve read that they smell of carnations, but I can’t say that I noticed that. Hopefully, I’ll have another chance to sample that scent sometime soon.

This…

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…was the first of several similar tiny, delicate structures I saw. I think that you can just about make out a couple of spider legs inside, suggesting that the architect is lurking within. It seems to have woven a stem of Quaking Grass into it’s web. There were also long strands of gossamer acting like guy-ropes, bending the grass stem over and anchoring the structure to the ground below. I would be fascinated to know more precisely what this is, if anyone has any idea?

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As I left the reserve, the sun came out. I was thinking that it was a shame that I hadn’t seen any butterflies yet, when…

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Green-veined White?

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A pair of Small Heath.

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A Chimney Sweeper moth.

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Early Bumblebee.

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Ringlet.

Ringlets, in particular, were suddenly legion, fluttering up from under my feet at almost every step.

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A rush or sedge? I can’t find anything in my guides which looks this much like a blackberry.

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Red Admirals seem to like basking on drystone walls.

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The next meadow which Tarn Sike runs through has clearly been ‘improved’ to some extent, but was packed with wildflowers.

I returned to my car, grabbed my rucksack and set-off again, taking the path which heads across Ravenstonedale Moor and which is parts of the Dales High Way, a long distance walk which, on further investigation, I find very appealing.

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Meadow Pipit.

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Tarn Sike and Ravenstonedale Moor.

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Distant view of Sunbiggin Tarn.

This area is very quiet, even on a sunny, summer Saturday. The only other walker I met all day followed me across the moor here. However, as I was trying to photograph this…

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…Skylark, the peace was shattered by an unexpected racket.

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I’d seen a sign by the road urging ‘Motor Vehicle Users’ to show restraint and wondered what it meant. Now I knew. This is a bridleway and……I’ll let you add your own rant.

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Sunbiggin Tarn.

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Looking back to Great Asby Scar.

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I saw numerous Small Heath butterflies, through most of the day. It was quite breezy and I noticed that, once they had landed, they would almost lie flat on the ground, presumably to get out of that wind.

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The walking is pretty easy-going, over, admittedly quite feature-less moorland, but fortunately, there were lots of small birds about to offer diversion…

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Skylark, crest raised in alarm.

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Skylark, crest down again.

I took lots and lots of photos of LBJs. Over the years, I’ve spent a good deal of time comparing such photos with the illustrations in my Collins Bird Guide and trying to decide whether I’d photographed a Meadow Pipit or a Skylark. After this walk, on which I’m confident I photographed both, I’m inclined to think that all of my previous photos may have been Meadow Pipits. In flight the song and behaviour of the two species is obviously different, but on the ground I’ve always been unsure. My friend, The Proper Birder, tells me that Skylarks are larger and bulkier, but without seeing the two side-by-side that’s hard to differentiation. Of course, the Skylark has a crest, but crests aren’t always raised. I can see here that the Skylark’s chest is paler and much less streaked and that it has a heavier beak. Will this mean that I no longer agonise over identifying moorland LBJs? Probably not.

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Great Ewe Fell.

The path took me past the enclosed field seen in the photo above. Curiously, the air here was full of Swallows, which had been absent until now. Did the relatively high concentration of sheep in the fold attract flies and mean rich-pickings for the hirundines?

I’d been climbing, almost imperceptibly, and now the views were beginning to open out.

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Gracetemoor and the Northern Howgills, where the Lune rises.

A pair of Buzzards were circling above the stand of trees by Gracetemoor (an unusual name for a farm!).

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I picked up the path on the far side of the road and followed it as far as the first gate. By the wall, there was a large, spectacular thistle…

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…I think, Musk Thistle. Easy to overlook plants like thistles, but the flowers on this are really quite stunning…

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Attractive to bumblebees too!

I left the path here and climbed up to Great Ewe Fell. I was surprised to see toadstools fruiting at this time of year, but saw many more from that point on…

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As soon as I started to gain some height, the views were magnificent.

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Northern Howgills again.

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Bents Farm and Wild Boar Fell

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Wild Boar Fell and Northern Howgills panorama – click to see larger version. (Same applies  to all other photos).

Just short of the top of Great Ewe Fell there was a small cairn – as much excuse as I needed to stop and drink in the views again.

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Shortly beyond, another cairn, this one at least in the vicinity of the actual top and a new view towards the Northern Pennines and the Upper Eden Valley.

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Looking along the limestone hills toward Great Asby Scar.

I suppose I might have climbed from here onto the higher Nettle Hill, but I had a more attractive target in mind…

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…the Potts Valley. I’ve often looked at this spot on the map and thought it looked like it would be delectable.

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Even the area of six enclosed fields and its two stands of mature trees was attractive. I was intrigued by the building, which seems too remote to be more than a barn, but which does have a chimney and seems to be in an excellent state of repair.

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Juvenile Wheatear. (I think).

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Potts Beck.

Now, I’ve strayed off my Lune Catchment exploration a little here, over the watershed, since Potts Beck is a feeder of the Eden, transforming into Water Houses Beck and then Helm Beck before it gets there.

Somewhere hereabouts I also crossed some other kind of border. Before Great Ewe Fell, I’d passed numerous sink-holes, enough to suggest that I was in limestone country, but after Ewe Fell I started to encounter exposed scars, crags, clints and grykes. The change seemed to influence the relative prevalence of birds – where pipits and larks had dominated, now there seemed to be Wheatears in every direction I looked, particularly along the dry-stone wall which ran alongside Potts Beck.

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I never really had a firm plan for the day, but when I’d looked at the map I’d thought that I would either climb directly out of the Potts Valley and onto Little Asby Scar, or would continue along the stream and take the field paths into Little Asby before heading onto the scar. The second route was definitely Plan B, held in reserve in case it proved difficult to get across the wall in the valley bottom. In the event, there was a ladder stile, but I hadn’t considered the possibility that the Potts Beck itself might be hard to cross. Fortunately, I found a spot where a couple of small islands in the stream made it possible to hop across dry-shod relatively easily.

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Once across, I took a slender tread which contoured back towards the top fringe of Armaside Wood. I watched a Buzzard, I think a tiercel, swooping back and forth across the valley. As I approached the trees, he swept over the top of the canopy, seemingly to take a closer look at me. A similar thing happened when I was walking in the valley of the Wenning a few weeks ago, although on that occasion the female was also present and both birds were audibly vexed by my presence. Ever since my close encounter with a Buzzard a few years ago, I’ve been a bit wary of them in the summer and so decided to turn more steeply uphill away from the trees and any potential nest.

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Wild Thyme.

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Biting Stonecrop.

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Armaside Wood and the Potts Valley.

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Little Asby Scar.

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Another Wheatear.

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I stopped by this cairn and embarked on a doomed attempt to make a decent cup of tea. The wind had increased considerably and my stove didn’t function well. This is not the cairn marked on the map, but must be close to the high-point marked with a spot-height of 356m.

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Sunbiggin Tarn again and the eastern fringe of the Lake District hills.

Dropping down towards the minor road, I watched a large and fleet-footed Hare race away. I’ve seen Hares several times this year, but am never fast enough to get even close to taking a photo.

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Bell Heather.

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Sunbiggin Tarn from Grange Scar.

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Eden Valley and Northern Pennines from north of Great Kinmond.

I picked up the Dales High Way again to take me down towards Tarn Moor and the car. I needed to get home, but even if I hadn’t the weather wasn’t looking promising for continuing the walk on to Great Asby Scar. In addition to the strengthening wind, high frets of cirrus…

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…and lower, wind-smoothed clouds…

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..not to mention the dark threatening masses advancing from the west, all presaged a downturn in the weather.

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Wheatear.

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Skylark with huge grub.

Things had changed rapidly and the skies were now an ominous grey. Still time, however, for a pair of Curlews to circle me making their distinctive calls. I’m convinced this behaviour must be to deflect attention from a nest – several times now this year, Curlews have flown around me even as I’ve continued to walk along a path.

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The light was far from ideal, so I’m reasonably pleased with my photos.

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Down where the path met the road, and then along the road verges, the ground was very wet and there was another fine display of flowers. Due to the, by now, very strong wind, it was hard to get pictures, but these…

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…Northern Marsh Orchids came out less blurred than the others. I included this second because it seemed much darker then the others I saw that day…

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Sunbiggin Tarn Circuit

This was another area which I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time, although I always thought that when I came I would climb Great Asby Scar – that will have to wait for another trip. Poring over my maps to trace the various sources of the Lune has spurred me on to finally check out this area and the Lune Catchment has come up trumps yet again.

Tarn Sike and a Round of Sunbiggin Tarn