Nuthatches and Butterflies

P1280823

One route into Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve leaves Red Bridge Lane, crosses a small field and then the railway line and then you are into another field, but this one s part of the reserve. Cross that field and you come to a gate in a hedge beside which stands this big old Ash tree.

As I approached the tree, I could see, on the trunk, an adult Nuthatch passing food to a fledgling. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo, but then watched the pair for quite a while, taking lots of, mostly unsatisfactory, pictures.

P1280826

Both birds were on the move, but more so the adult which moved both faster and more widely around the tree. The youngster seemed to be foraging for itself, whilst also emitting high-pitched squeals to encourage the parent to keep it supplied with tasty grubs. Their meetings were so brief that this is the only one I captured, and even then the exchange of food had already happened here.

P1280851

This is the juvenile. I’m sure of that fact, but can’t really put my finger on why I’m so confident. I suppose, like a lot of juveniles, it’s a little smaller and dumpier, its colours slightly duller. I think the eye-stripe is shorter and not quite so bold. Looking for some confirmation in my bird books, I came across a distribution map, from a book published in 1988, which shows Nuthatches as absent from this area and only resident further south. I’m quite surprised by that, because when I moved to this area, just a few years after that publication date, one of the first things that struck me was how often I spotted Nuthatches, a bird which, until then, I had only seen relatively infrequently. I see that the RSPB website has a map which shows that they have subsequently extended their range into southern Scotland.

There was a Starling flitting in and out of the tree too and a Kestrel hovering above the field beyond.

Once I was into the woods near Hawes Water I watched several more Nuthatches. All adult birds I think, but all equally busy and perhaps seeking food for nestlings or fledglings too. I took lots more photos, but in the woods there was even more shade than there had been under the Ash and they’re all slightly blurred.

P1280877

Common Blue Damselfly

P1280881

P1280882

The flowers of Common Gromwell are hardly showy, but they have succeeded in attracting this very dark bee…

P1280883

…at least it’s a bee, but it’s colouring doesn’t quite seem to match any Bumblebee, so I’m a bit puzzled. Any ideas?

P1280890

A crow by Hawes Water.

P1280891

In the meadow beyond Hawes Water I was very pleased to spot a single Northern Marsh-orchid.

P1280893

Hawes Water.

P1280895

I assume that this is a day-flying moth. There were loads of them in the meadow, obvious in flight, but then apparently disappearing. I realised that they were folding their wings and hugging grass stems and were then very difficult to spot. I have two photos of this specimen and both seem to show that its head is a tiny hairy outside broadcast microphone, which seems a bit unlikely.

P1280897

There are huge warrens and large numbers of rabbits at Gait Barrows. Every now and again, you see a black rabbit in amongst the crowds; a genetic remnant of an escaped domestic pet?

P1280911

I think that this is a female Northern Damselfly, and am now wondering if the ‘Red-eyed’ damselflies I posted pictures of recently were the same. Maybe.

P1280931

With more certainty, this is a Northern Brown Argus. I’ve pored over this guide, and for once, the ocelli seem to exactly match, making me feel more confident than usual.

Anyway, what ever species it is it looked pretty cool with its wings closed and even better…

P1280919

…with them open. In most guides these are brown and orange butterflies; I suspect that the rich variety of colours on display here is due to the deterioration of the scales on the wings, but, truth be told, I don’t really know.

P1280951

There were several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries around. Two in particular kept me entertained for quite some time.

P1280956

One soon decided to settle down and tried out a few likely looking perches, without moving very far.

P1280969

The other was flitting about far more, now close by…

P1280976

…then ranging a bit further, then back again. I thought the first had chosen a final spot, although, looking again, you can see that it’s feeding here…

P1280982

…not that I can see a flower. Maybe drinking?

The second SPBF was still haring about…

P1280990

Every now and again it would ‘bounce’ the settled butterfly, which at first would provoke a brief flight, then progressively less energetic wing-flapping until almost no response followed; just a short of dismissive shrug.

P1280992

Eventually, the second butterfly found a perch and stopped moving too. I’ve watched a SPBF do this in the late afternoon once before. I didn’t realise that was so long ago!

P1290021

Late afternoon light on Gait Barrows limestone pavement.

P1290022

Distant Lakeland peaks on the horizon.

20200601_203733

A late finish.

Nuthatches and Butterflies

Cotoneaster, Galls, Quiz

P1270786

Another portmanteau with photos from various days and walks.

P1270784

I spent ages photographing a wide assortment of bees on a cotoneaster in our garden. I’ve noticed whilst walking through the village that bees seem to go mad for cotoneasters; every one I’ve passed has been thronged. The light wasn’t ideal and bees will dodge about, so this is the only sharpish picture. And it’s of….a white-tailed bumblebee, or a northern white-tailed bumblebee, or a cryptic bumblebee or a buff-tailed bumblebee. Apparently, the workers of all four species are virtually indistinguishable, and it may require a DNA test to separate them. I haven’t quite got the lab set up yet, so it will have to remain a mystery.

P1270769

I keep seeing a coal tit, or possibly different coal tits, dipping in and out of the drystone wall across the track from home, but it isn’t the same hole each time, so maybe there’s something tasty in there, rather than a nest? I am pretty sure that there are both great tits and coal tits nesting either in, or near, our garden because there seems to be a constant chattering of young and I’ve frequently seen both kinds of tits carrying food into shrubs by our neighbour’s fence.

P1270775

Aquilegias again.

P1270792

This is my flagrant attempt to plagiarise a photo I saw of the orchids on the Lots by a local photographer. His picture was absolutely stunning. I shall have to try again another time. I think I probably shouldn’t have had the setting sun actually in the picture.

P1270804

The Bay from the Cove.

P1270805

Horseshoe vetch.

P1270801

Black-headed gulls.

P1270810

Green-winged orchid.

P1270812

This is the tree, in the corner of a field close to home, in which I watched a tree-creeper earlier in the spring. It’s a lime, I don’t know which kind, but I have found how how to tell – it’s all down to the hairs on the underside of the leaves apparently. I shall probably check tomorrow.

P1270815

P1270814

P1280088

All three of our native species have their own mite which infests the leaves and induces them to produce these lime nail galls. (In the process of finding this out I’ve discovered a book “Britain’s Plant Galls: a Photographic Guide” – so tempting!)

P1270821

I took lots more, mostly blurred, photos of roe deer in mid-May. Most often, I saw them in pairs, like these two. I wish I could remember where I saw them.

P1270825

P1270832

Post sunset from Castlebarrow.

P1270836

And from the Lots.

Around this time, when we should have been camping in Wasdale, we had out first zoom quiz with our camping cronies. I think we’ve had four now. It’s no substitute for sitting around a camp fire after a day in the hills and a barbecue, but it’s a lot better than not seeing each other at all. Better yet, we have volunteers to write the next two quizzes. The Silverdale posse are surely due a win.

IMG-20200510-WA0000

I can’t claim responsibility for this screen shot and I hope nobody objects to me using it. It occurs to me, looking at it again, that we may be falling down, as a quiz team, due to a significant lack of headgear.


Tunes. Three crackers:

Cotoneaster, Galls, Quiz

Perfect?

P1270465

Swallow.

P1270467

A speedwell. I don’t think it’s germander,  the leaves were wrong. But I’m not sure what it is. It was tiny.

P1270468

This footpath sign is looking decidedly worse for wear.

P1270472

A magnificent copper beech near Hollins Lane.

P1270476

Hart’s-tongue fern.

P1270477

I thought these looked a bit exuberant for cowslips. I now realise but they are false oxlips, a hybrid of primrose’s and cowslips. There is a separate plant, the oxlip, but that isn’t found in the northwest.

P1270478

The plants are tall like cowslips, but the flowers look more like primroses and radiate around the top of the stem rather than drooping all on one side as cowslips usually do.

For comparison…

P1270489

…here are some shy and retiring cowslips.

These cowslips…

P1270540

…which I saw a little further into the walk, are a bit more vivacious but still not as boisterous as the false oxlips.

P1270481

Early Purple Orchid.

P1270482

Carnforth saltmarsh and the Forest of Bowland from Heald Brown.

I was heading for Jenny Browns Point, with the aim of crossing the sands of the miniature bay between Know Point and Park Point.

On Heald Brow many of the grassland flowers had appeared.

P1270486

Although the wildflower key tells me that tormentil flowers from June to September, I’m pretty sure that  this is tormentil flowering in early May.

P1270487

Bird’s-foot trefoil.

P1270490

A buttercup, I don’t know which kind.

P1270491

Pignut.

P1270493

Speckled wood butterfly.

P1270501

Warton Crag and Quicksand Pool.

A small group of greylag geese were sunning themselves on the far bank of quicksand pool. Most moved as I approached, but this one…

P1270497

…gave me a steady stare…

P1270498

…then had a leisurely stretch as if to say, “Don’t flatter yourself that I’m moving on your account. ”

P1270499

Before strolling away nonchalantly.

P1270505

P1270509

P1270511

P1270512

You can see where I was heading almost dead centre in the photo above. I weaved a bit to investigate any foreign looking objects. Lord knows what this was or where it had come from.

P1270515

Cirrostratus?

P1270516

Herring gulls.

P1270520

On Heathwaite, I tried a slender path which I haven’t followed before. It gave tantalising views of the sands I had recently crossed.

P1270523

Eventually I reached the more familiar viewpoint by the bench. That’s Know Point right of centre, so you can see part of my route across the sands.

Nothing – and I mean, really, absolutely nothing – is more extraordinary in Britain than the beauty of the countryside. Nowhere in the world is there a landscape that has been more intensively utilised – more mined, farmed, quarried, covered with cities and clanging factories, threaded with motorways and railway lines – and yet remains so comprehensively and reliably lovely over most of its extent. It is the happiest accident in history. In terms of natural wonders, you know, Britain is a pretty unspectacular place. It has no alpine peaks or broad rift valleys, no mighty gorges or thundering cataracts. It is built to really quite a modest scale. And yet with a few unassuming natural endowments, a great deal of time and an unfailing instinct for improvement, the makers of Britain created the most superlatively park-like landscapes, the most orderly cities, the handsomest provincial towns , the jauntiest seaside resorts, the stateliest homes, the most dreamily spired, cathedral-rich, castle-strewn, abbey-bedecked, folly-scattered, green-wooded, winding-laned, sheep-dotted, plumply-hedgerowed, well-tended, sublimely decorated 50,318 square miles the world has ever known – almost none of it undertaken with aesthetics in mind, but all of it adding up to something that is, quite often, perfect. What an achievement that is.

P1270526

Bugle.

I have three books on the go at the moment: I’m still reading ‘The Age of Absurdity’ by Michael Foley, I’m well into ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ by Bill Bryson and I’ve recently started ‘Damned’ by Chuck Palahniuk, of ‘Fight Club’ fame. No prizes for guessing which of the three the quote comes from. I’m a big fan of Mr Bryson – Little Dribbling has a mixture of curious facts, lyrical description and curmudgeonly comedy which I’m finding very absorbing. He does repeat himself a little – he often expresses a fondness for our path network for example, but I’m ready to forgive him that.

P1270530

Kent Estuary from The Knott.

I’m enjoying ‘Damned’, but probably shouldn’t have read another humorous book so hard on the heels of ‘A Pelican at Blandings’ and ‘Service with a Smile’. Palahniuk is witty, but he’s not Wodehouse.

P1270531

Lakeland Fells from the Knott.

P1270536

Whitbarrow Scar. The tree on the right is a Lancashire Whitebeam…

P1270535

…with silvery leaves.

Later, I defied the lockdown to go out a second time and walk  to the end of the lane, about 260 yards perhaps…

P1270541

….the evening light was lighting the church and the stratus (?)…

P1270563

I think my eyes were functioning okay.

P1270548


Two unlikely covers today. First up, Baby Charles’ cover of The Arctic Monkey’s ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.

And then World Domination Enterprises’ decidedly lo-fi, noise-fest cover of Lipps Inc’s ‘Funkytown’

It was either this or their classic ‘Asbestos Lead Asbestos’. Terrific live band. (In the 80s: I have no idea what they are up to now!)

Perfect?

Little Fluffy Clouds

P1270374

Another day, another loaf. Or two.

P1270375

20200426_170229

Aquilegia or columbine. It’s in our garden here – but it is a British wildflower.

P1270378

Song thrush.

20200427_072320

The beech circle.

P1270381

Middlebarrow Quarry – or The Lost World. ‘Every time I see it, I expect to see dinosaurs’, B tells me. I know what he means.

20200427_074551

P1270383

Middlebarrow aerial shelduck display team.

P1270386

“Keep the formation tight as we come in to land.”

P1270387

“Quick breather, squadron, and we’re off again.”

Of course, having seen a peregrine once, I now keep going back to peer over the lip into the vast quarry at Middlebarrow expecting lightening to strike twice. It hasn’t. I do keep seeing the close formation aerial skills of the shelducks though. Lord knows why they feel compelled to circuit the quarry so obsessively.

P1270397

This small plaque is on a house near home. I’m sure I’ve posted a picture of it before. But now I’ve learned that it’s a fire insurance sign – showing which insurance company the house was registered with. It seems more like something you might expect to see in a more urban location, but maybe this is an antique which has been added since the signs were rendered obsolete by the inception of a national fire service? The house is very close to our small fire station, which is manned by retained fire fighters, so they should be okay if the worst happens.

20200427_161528

The Bay from The Cove.

20200427_161700

Ransoms flowering in the small copse above the Cove. 

P1270398

Orchids on the Lots.

P1270399

Green-winged orchid.

P1270401

Early purple orchid.

P1270405

Water avens.

P1270406

Bugle.

P1270410

Orange-tip butterfly on cuckoo-flower.

P1270415

A bedraggled peacock butterfly.

P1270418

Gooseberry flowers. I think.

P1270422

Lambert’s meadow.

P1270427

The skies above Eaves Wood.

It annoys me, more than it should, that I can never remember the names given to the various types of clouds. All sorts of stupid trivia is securely lodged in my brain, but even though I’ve read a couple of books on the subject, clouds just don’t seem to want to stick. I thought that if I tried to label the clouds in my photos, maybe I would start to remember a few at least. The fluffy white ones above Eaves Wood here are cumulus, right? Although, maybe some stratocumulus behind.

P1270426

And I assume these wispy ones are cirrus.

P1270430

And this is maybe cirrocumulus.

P1270425

But then….? Altocumulus and cirrus?

Hmmm. More effort required, I think.

P1270429

Oak tree in full summer garb.

P1270431

Full-throated robin.


Bit obvious I know. But good.

And, completely unrelated, as far as I know…

…the opening track from one of my favourite albums, which I was introduced to by THO, who often comments here, and which I shall always associate with a superb holiday which was split, quixotically, between the French Alps and the Brittany coast.

Little Fluffy Clouds

The Other Kingdoms

20200413_125316

Cheery cherry blossom on Cove Road.

20200413_125720

Grange-Over-Sands from the Cove.

20200413_125835

The Bay and Humphrey Head from the Cove.

P1260790

Eaves Wood – the path to the beech circle.

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms.  The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals.  Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze.  Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be.  Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

P1260797

Squirrel.

Another item from my list was ‘read more poetry’ a goal which I have singularly failed to meet.

P1260798

New beech leaves.

It’s usually at this time of year that I become most enthusiastic about poetry, habitually scanning through my e.e.cummings collection, looking for something new about spring to furnish a post full of photographs of the usual collection of my favourite springtime images. Newly emerged beech leaves, for example.

P1260799

This year cummings should have had a run for his money because I’ve acquired large collections by Frost, MacCaig and Oliver all of which I was very keen to dip in to.

P1260801

Caledonian pines.

However, I have been reading ‘War and Peace’, another item from my list, which has turned out to be pretty all-consuming. Fortunately, I’d already read quite a chunk of the Mary Oliver collection before I completely submerged in Tolstoy.

P1260806

My first speckled wood butterfly of the year.

I’ve finished now. Well, I say I’ve finished; in fact I have a handful of pages of the epilogue left still to read. Which probably seems a bit odd, but in the last 50 or so pages Tolstoy abandons his characters (again) and turns back to tub-thumping. Historians have all got it wrong and he is just the man to set them straight.

P1260814

Speckled wood butterfly – my first of the year, looking newly minted.

Don’t get me wrong: although it took a while, I was completely hooked by the book and really enjoyed the various intertwined stories of the characters. But there are many lengthy historical sections about the stupidity, vanity and in-fighting of generals which are not so interesting. In particular, Tolstoy is at pains to dismiss any notion that Napoleon was is any way a military genius and spends many pages making his point. There are also several philosophical digressions about history and what drives the actions of nations and peoples. Whenever I was reading these sections I was reminded of the Gang of Four song ‘It’s Not Made by Great Men’, which makes the same point but way more succinctly.

Whilst these digression are often interesting in themselves, I did find they were often a frustrating distraction from the story. Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ has sections of polemic laced through the story which, it seemed to me, are entirely redundant. And I’ve heard it said of Moby Dick that it’s best to skip the chapters which are solely Melville’s detailed descriptions of Atlantic whaling. Having said that, Tolstoy’s character assassination of Napoleon is hilarious, and I’ve just found a guide to the book which says, ‘Anyone who tells you that you can skip the “War” parts and only read the “Peace” parts is an idiot.’ It also says that the book will take 10 days at most to read and I’ve been reading it for more than a month. So, doubly an idiot, obviously.

The journey of the central characters is totally absorbing though, so I would definitely recommend it.

P1260818

Untidy nest.

Anyway, back to the walk: when I first spotted this nest, it had two crows in it and I got inordinately excited, as I always do when I find an occupied nest. However, they soon left the nest and on subsequent visits the nest has always looked empty. Now the leaves on the surrounding trees are so dense that I can’t even see the nest.

P1260817

Crow.

P1260820

On our walks together TBH and I have frequently found ourselves passing comment on the fact that livestock seem to be being regularly moved about. I don’t know whether that’s standard husbandry or perhaps because of the prolonged dry spell we’ve had.

P1260821

There’s a herd of young calves, for instance, on the fields between Holgates and Far Arnside which seem to have been moved into just about every available field at some point.

P1260822

I was examining these trees, trying to work out which was coming into leaf first, and only then noticed all the splendid dandelions.

P1260834

Dandelions.

Of course, once you stop to look at the flowers, then you notice other things of interest too…

P1260829

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius))

P1260831

Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum).

P1260836

Daisies (of the Galaxy)

P1260838

Ash flowers.

20200413_154949

Silver birches line a path on the Knott.

P1260840

And have come into leave.

P1260846

Beech buds.

P1260847

Partially opened.

P1260844

Opened.

P1260858

Hazy views from the Knott.

P1260859

P1260849

Herb Paris…

P1260851

…flowering this time.

P1260860

Bramble leaf.

P1260863

Linnets. (?)

I got very excited about this pair, purely because I didn’t know what they were. I’ve subsequently decided that they are linnets, but I have a poor record when it comes to identifying this species, having previously incorrectly identified red poll as linnets on more than one occasion. If they are linnets, then they’re missing the striking red breast and throat of a male linnet in its breeding plumage.

P1260872

There were several small groups of birds flitting overhead, including, I think, more linnets and, without any doubt, a small charm of goldfinches.

P1260887

Goldfinches.

P1260888

I also caught a fleeting glimpse of what I think was a redstart – I’ve only seen them in the hills before and was doubting my own eyes to a certain extent, but they do arrive in the UK in April and the RSPB distribution map does show them as present in this area, and mentions that they favour coastal scrub when in passage, so maybe I was right after all.


One of my favourite Clash songs…

“You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of The Harder They Come”

Ivan is the character played by Jimmy Cliff in the film ‘Harder They Come’, so it’s entirely appropriate that Jimmy Cliff eventually covered the song…

I always enjoy Nouvelle Vague’s unique take on punk and post-punk songs, it’s well worth a trawl through their repertoire..

And of course, the Paul Simenon’s, bass line was sampled by Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, for Beats International’s ‘Dub Be Good to Me’…

It’s been covered by German band Die Toten Hosen and live by the Red Hit Chilli Peppers, and Arcade Fire, and probably lots of others. There’s a nice dub version out there and Cypress Hill didn’t so much sample it as rewrite the lyrics for their ‘What’s Your Number?’.

The Other Kingdoms

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

20200328_082932

Early light on St. John’s Silverdale.

One consequence, apparently, of the current situation, has been the reduction of seismic noise; that is seismic readings caused by human activity. The journal Nature reports a drop by one third in Belgium, and I read somewhere, sorry, I can’t remember where, that in London it’s down by about a half.

20200328_120949

Heading towards Hawes Water. A fence on the left has been partially removed. Similar fences, between woodland and pasture, have been removed across the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve. Will they be replaced or is this part of a new management plan?

It’s difficult to gauge whether paths around Silverdale are quieter now than they usually are, because I’m not normally out myself mid-week in the daytime. I think that they have got busier, though, since the extra clarification which has made it clear that it’s okay to drive a short distance for your daily exercise.

I didn’t drive for this walk, in fact I haven’t driven anywhere for weeks, but I did walk a little further than usual, as I have done from time to time.

P1260179

The cairn at Gait Barrows.

P1260180

Ash flower buds.

20200328_124154

Beech mast.

TBH and I have both been noticing on our walks (and runs in TBH’s case) that, when we are beneath Beech trees this spring, every step brings a satisfying crunch. The local Beeches seem to have produced a bumper crop of mast last year. That’s not unusual: every three to five years Oaks and Beeches produce a huge crop and those years when that happens are know as mast years.

It seems that the reasons why this occurs are not completely understood. A Guardian piece on mast years hypothesises that it’s the spring weather which dictates: Oaks and Beeches are wind pollinated, so a warm and windy spring produces a lot of flowers which are successfully pollinated. If that theory is correct then this year ought to be a mast year.

On the other hand, this article, on the Woodland Trust website, posits that the lean years control the population of frugivores*, like Jays and Squirrels and then, in the bumper years, the remaining populations of these creatures can’t possibly eat all of the seeds so that some are bound to get a chance to germinate and grow.

This second theory would seem to require some element of coordination between trees, which in turn would imply that trees must communicate in some way. That might seem unlikely, but that’s exactly the thesis advanced by Peter Wohlleben in his book ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, which I read last summer while we were in Germany and found absolutely fascinating.

2020-05-05_02-52-12

Anyway, back to my walk: I’d left Gait Barrows via the small hill Thrang Brow which is enough of a rise to give partial views of the Lake District hills, but that view never seems to translate well in photographs. From Thrang Brow a slender path heads of through the woods of Yealand Allotment. I don’t often come this way, but always enjoy it when I do.

A bright yellow sign on the far side of a wall attracted my attention…

20200328_133336

And I’m glad that it did, because just over the wall was a small group of Fallow Deer…

P1260185

Fallow Deer.

Sadly, most of the group were almost hidden by trees so I only got a chance of a clear photo of this one individual.

20200328_133924

Limekiln in Yealand Allotments.

20200328_143520

Peter Lane Limekiln.

I’d been thinking of incorporating Warton Crag into my walk, but I was thirsty and the weather was deteriorating, so took the path which cuts across the lower slopes to the north of the crag. Just as I took this photo…

20200328_150208

View of Leighton Moss.

…it began to rain. TBH, bless her, rang me and asked if I wanted her drive over to pick me up, but the rain wasn’t heavy so I decided to carry on.

20200328_152649

Tide line on Quaker’s Stang.

On Quaker’s Stang, an old sea defence, previous high tides had left a line of driftwood and dried vegetation right on the top of the wall, and, further along, well beyond the wall on the landward side. I’ve often wondered about the name – apparently ‘stang’ is a measurement of land equivalent to a pole, rod or perch. That sounds like it might offer an explanation, except a pole, or a rod, or a perch, is five and a half yards and Quaker’s Stang is a lot longer than that.

P1260195

This tree is very close to home. I spent the last part of my ‘walk’ watching and photographing the antics of another Treecreeper in its branches.

P1260212

Treecreeper.

P1260210

P1260221

I suppose a treecreeper qualifies as an LBJ, a Little Brown Job, except that sounds derogatory and, in my opinion, Treecreeper’s are stunning, in their own muted way.

*Frugivore was a new word to me, and I’m always happy to meet one of those. Apparently, it’s an animal which lives wholly or mostly on fruit.

The idea of compiling a kind of day-y-day playlist originated when Andy and I were discussing a mixtape I made, many moons ago, for our long drives up to Scotland for walking holidays. One of the songs on the tape was The Band’s ‘The Weight’. It’s still a song I adore. As well as the original, there’s a great version by Aretha Franklin, but here (subject to it not getting blocked) is Mavis Staples singing it with Jools Holland’s orchestra from one of his hootenannies:

I’ve seen Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra a couple of times live and can definitely recommend them. Last time I saw them, at Cartmel Racetrack, we went with friends and took the kids with us. There was a fair there too, and several support acts, including the Uptown Monotones who have become a firm favourite. Anyway, the kids were mortified when the adults all had the temerity to dance. In public! One of my sandals fell apart whilst I was dancing, I’m not sure whether that was a consequence of my vigorous enthusiasm or my inept clumsiness. Or both.

Seismic Noise and Mast Years

Back to Rügen

P1250593

We returned to Rügen the following day because we were keen to climb this enormous tower in the beech woods.

P1250605

I’ve read that it’s 17m tall, which doesn’t sound all that high, but it certainly feels huge when you are on it.

P1250621

The views from the top were superb, although I don’t think any of my photos really do them justice. Rügen has several large lakes and also there are numerous other islands just nearby – from the tower you can look down on all of that.

P1250602

It was most enjoyable. There were various entertainments on the way up and down the tower, like this xylophone type instrument…

20190806_132740

And this…

P1250581

…sand sculpture by the car park.

Later, we drove to a long stretch of beach on a peninsula in the south-eastern corner of the island.

20190806_161615

The DBs were desperate for a swim. TBH and A were equally adamant that they wouldn’t join us. They read their books on the beach instead.

20190806_161642

They had their reasons: the sea here was teeming with jellyfish. It seems to always be the way with Baltic beaches. The DBs found it highly amusing. B said he could feel the jellyfish stinging him, but he must be more sensitive than me because I just felt them brushing against me. Eventually, we swam out a little further and there it began to feel like swimming not so much with jellyfish as in a jellyfish. Like a slimier version of one of those kids ball pools that ‘fun pubs’ have. I have to confess that I found that a little unnerving and even the DBs seemed to be a bit put off.

From there we drove to Thiessow at the tip of the peninsula for a wander along the beach. It was a quiet and very tranquil spot.

P1250624

The beach extended into a sandbar continuing out into the sea…

P1250626

We had a wander into the dunes behind the beach.

P1250634

P1250637

There were signs warning walkers not to disturb the snakes whose habitat this was. Sadly, we didn’t spot any, but we did see loads of the these very large snails…

P1250640

I think that this might be Helix Pomatia, the Roman snail, perhaps better know as escargot. We don’t see them in the North of England, though they are found further south. Fortunately, I think that they are protected in Germany.

Back to Rügen

King of the Hill

P1250189

Cowslips.

P1250190

Looking south along the shore from Heathwaite.

P1250194

Mayflower (hawthorn).

P1250198

Lancashire Whitebeam.

Whitebeam is a southern species in the UK, except the Morecambe Bay area has its own sub-species.

image

Arnside Knott panorama.

P1250200

Early Purple Orchids.

P1250201

New Ash leaves.

Sunshine and blue skies have been at a bit of a premium for some time now – summer seems to have been postponed somewhat. Nice to look back then at these images from a Sunday in May when we did have some warmth and brightness. Naturally, I climbed Arnside Knott, my current obsession. The post title is a shameless excuse to squeeze in a song by my all time favourite band:

King of the Hill

Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

P1240872

On the Saturday of our Easter weekend I stayed at home with TBH, who, unfortunately, was suffering from her worst bout yet of labyrinthitis. Most of the rest of the party went for a swim in the Kent at Levens. It really was that warm, which is hard to believe now that it’s late May and the wind is howling outside beneath grey skies.

Easter Sunday was B’s birthday. How to entertain a teenager on their birthday? Fortunately, B was happy to fall in with our plans for a shortish walk up Harter Fell, followed by a swim in the River Duddon. TBH was feeling much better, but not well enough to want to join us.

This…

P1240865

…is Birks Bridge, where we planned to have a dip after our walk.

P1240866

You can see that the water is crystal clear. Deceptively deep too, it was possible, we later found, to jump from these rocks into the water without hitting the bottom.

P1240867

P1240871

River Duddon.

First of all though, we had a hill to climb. The initial ascent was very steep and it was unseasonably hot. Here we are…

P1240873

…resting after the first steep pull.

This rocky tor…

P1240876

…is Maiden Castle. It’s very imposing and we’d picked it out from the car park as somewhere worth visiting. Actually, around the far side it can be easily scaled via a grassy ramp. That’s be sat on the top.

From this point on, not only did the angle ease, but there were lots more rocky knolls, so that a variety of different entertaining options for scrambling to the top were available. Andy and the DBs were in their element. I followed on more slowly, picking my route and avoiding some of the steeper sections they sort-out.

P1240879

At the top itself, there were plenty of sheltered spots for some lunch and a sunbathe…

P1240882

But also lots more rocky knolls to enjoy…

P1240883

B tells me that this photo…

P1240889

…gives a misleading impression about the route he is climbing, which, apparently, was “much steeper than that!”

P1240896

A and B have been up here once before, although I’m not sure how well they remember that visit , it was a long time ago after all.

P1240901

Hazy view of the hills around Upper Eskdale.

P1240902

Bird’s-eye view of Hardknott Roman Fort.

P1240905

We chose the simple option of retracing our steps down to the valley. By this time, the haze had begun to clear and the views were improving.

The others were setting a cracking pace, no doubt eager for the swim to come, but I was distracted by the great number of Peacock and Orange-tip butterflies which were flying.

P1240907

Orange-tips are one of those species of butterfly which rarely seem to land, at least when I have my camera handy. Fortunately, there were other distractions…

P1240914

…I love the way the almost lime green new Beech leaves complement the layer of old orange leaves which always blanket the ground beneath Beeches.

P1240912

They look pretty good against a blue sky too.

Eventually, a couple of Orange-tips decided to oblige and pose for photos…

P1240920

P1240917

All that and a swim still to come!

Andy has photos of us swimming (as well as lots more pictures of the DBs scrambling). The water was refreshing of course, but not as cold, frankly, as I thought it might be. My theory is that the rivers are a good bet after prolonged dry spells, which is exactly what we’d just had. Once you were immersed, it wasn’t bad at all, and even Little S, who has no padding whatsoever and often suffers with the cold, managed a good long swim.

P1240926

Little S and I both like to climb a hill on our Birthdays if possible. I think this might be a first for B, but the combination of sunshine, old friends, some scrambling, and a swim is surely a hard act to follow.

Screenshot 2019-05-26 at 20.27.46.png

Screenshot 2019-05-26 at 20.58.10.png

Harter Fell and Birks Bridge.

New Year Floral Survey

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – The Row – Burtonwell Wood – The Clifftop – Heald Brow – Quaker’s Stang – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Gibraltar Farm – Woodwell – Emesgate Lane.

P1230826

Quince Flowers.

After a string of grey, overcast, foggy, damp days, New Year’s Day was a corker: bright, sunny and, out of the wind, even quite warm at times. TBH was wiped out by a rotten cold, but the rest of us had been out on New Year’s Eve and the children, lightweights to a man, weren’t up very early. Eventually, Little S emerged into the light and I told him I was heading out to take advantage of the sunshine and asked him to ring me when the others got up, chiefly because the day before we’d got halfway through a game of Pandemic, a board game my brother sent us for Christmas, and I’d promised to finish it with the kids when they were ready.

The first surprise, apart from the glorious sunshine, was the thicket of Quince on the  corner of Elmslack Lane which was studded with bright red baubles. I suppose it must have been flowering when I walked past it earlier that week, but it took some brighter conditions to draw my attention to that fact. When I spotted a Marigold (I think?), which must have self-seeded where it sat at the end of a gravel drive….

P1230830

…I was reminded again, as I often am, of Richards Adams marvellous ‘A Nature Diary’ in which the author, most famous for Watership Down, explores the lanes, hills and coasts around his home on the Isle of Man. His winter entries often gleefully list the flowers he has found unexpectedly in bloom. I wondered how I might fare with a similar scheme on New Year’s Day. Almost immediately, I spotted Snowdrops and a single Celandine. Also…

P1230832

…quite a bit of Winter Jasmine in gardens. All of those might reasonably be expected, but I was a bit more surprised by the extent to which the brambles were flowering wherever I saw them in the woods…

P1230835

P1230838

The Jubilee Monument on Castlebarrow.

P1230847

In Eaves Wood.

P1230848

P1230852

In Burtonwell Wood.

P1230854

I think that this might be Yellow Jelly Fungus, also known as Witches Butter, but I’m not sufficiently confident about that, or hungry enough, to try adding this allegedly edible fungi to my diet.

P1230862

Heald Brow.

P1230864

Meadow Ant Mounds on Heald Brow.

P1230871

Evidence of Badger predation of Meadow Ants? Apparently Badgers are partial to ants.

It was a good morning for birds, if not for bird photographs: I heard and saw Nuthatches, a Buzzard, various tits, several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Green Woodpecker.

P1230870

Ragwort.

P1230875

P1230880

Dandelion.

P1230881

Gorse.

P1230882

P1230884

Daisy.

P1230889

Quaker’s Stang and Warton Crag.

P1230894

Sea Beet.

It wasn’t just the flowers which caught my attention; Sea Beet is the wild ancestor of Beetroot, Sugar Beet and Perennial Spinach, grows all year by the coast, is packed full of vitamins and is reputedly delicious. Spring is apparently the best time to eat it, so, seeing it growing on the edge of the salt-marsh, I made a mental note to come back this way, later in the year, with some sort of receptacle in which to carry away some forage.

There were quite a few people enjoying a New Year’s Day constitutional down by the salt-marsh, but I felt like I might be the only one who spotted the completely unexpected flight of a Speckled Wood butterfly and, moments later, a Painted Lady…

P1230903

Butterflies can only fly when the temperature is high enough, so the fact that they were here at all was testament to the genuine warmth by this sheltered, south-facing bank. It’s still a bit of a puzzle however, since Speckled Wood butterflies are unique in that they can overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, but I don’t think they generally hibernate, as some other species do. And Painted Ladies famously migrate northwards from North Africa over several generations during a summer and then return in the autumn. Perhaps this one was a straggler.

P1230904

The large tree behind the old chimney had a couple of clumps of…

P1230907

…exquisitely ochre fungi.

P1230909

Jenny Brown’s Cottages.

P1230910

This looks like a Hawk’s-beard, although I’m not remotely confident about that. Maybe Rough Hawk’s-beard, but that’s supposed to flower in June and July, so if it is, it’s a confused specimen.

P1230911

P1230915

Jack Scout.

P1230919

P1230924

I’ve previously reported that the berries on Flowering Nutmeg, here growing close to Woodwell, reputedly taste chocolaty. In the interest of accuracy, I tried a berry and can now correct my error – it didn’t taste at all like chocolate. It was bitter and not at all pleasant. Oh well – you live and learn.

P1230927

P1230928

More flowers. These were staked, clearly a garden plant, but Stinking Hellebore is actually native to the British Isles. This plant is very early to flower and would be one of the few you might expect to see at this time of year.

P1230929

P1230931

P1230932

Emerging Cuckoo Pint leaves: spring is on the way!

P1230934

Hydrangea. In retrospect these are not actually flowers at all I don’t think, but the remains of the large bracts which once surrounded the actual flowers.

We never did finish that game of Pandemic. I eventually rang Little S, when it seemed too late in the day for the rest of the family to still be in bed. It transpired that they were watching a film instead, so I was free to continue my New Year’s Day ramble without feeling guilty about having abandoned them all. We have played several times since.

The following day our old friend X-Ray visited and he and I and B played another new game, sent by my brother, Queen Domino. It’s a companion to, and can be combined with, King Domino, which we’ve enjoyed enormously since we got it last Christmas. Although I won, I didn’t really feel that I’d grasped the strategy for Queen Domino; I think that might take numerous games.

After our game, X-Ray and I went for a rather late wander down to Jack Scout and managed to miss what was, apparently, quite a spectacular sunset.

P1230942

Next time will have to do.

A pretty good start to 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed the same.

New Year Floral Survey