Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Adirondacks Day 11

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Whiteface Mountain and the ski station at the top of the gondola.

Our last day in the Adirondacks, for the foreseeable future.

We cheated and took a gondola up Little Whiteface. Under normal circumstances, that would have given us a launch-pad to ascend Whiteface itself, but the trail was closed due to drainage work being carried out in preparation for this winter’s ski season (which, I’m reliably informed, has now begun).

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Lake Placid with Moose Island and Buck Island. Moose Mountain on the right.
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Posing on the top of Little Whiteface Mountain.
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Which is imported.
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A novel use of a viewing scope.

Later, we drove to Prof S’s cousin’s place outside Keene for a family get together and picnic.

Later still, we had a bit of a swim in the Ausable River…

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The Ausable River near Keene.
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The Ausable River.

Prof A was doing a great job of organising various competitions and challenges for the two sets of DBs, involving leaping into and swimming under the water. I tried swimming upriver, but the the large boulders in the water made progress quite difficult, so eventually I abandoned that plan and had a wander up the riverbank instead, to see what I might find.

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Could be Hemp Agrimony.

And what I found, I think, was a number of wildflowers from Europe which have naturalised in the US.

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Orange Balsam?
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An Aster? This one might be native.
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Tansy?
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Purple Loosestrife – or something very like it.

I hope you’ve gathered, over the last few posts, that I really fell in love with the Adirondacks. I don’t know when I’ll be back there, but I really would like to visit again.

Fortunately, we still had a few more days of our trip to go, we’d yet to see our hosts new home in Buffalo. More to follow…

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Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Ampersand Mountain

Adirondacks Day 9

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TBH on Ampersand Mountain.

Time for another family hike.

We parked in the same place as we had for our first swim from Ampersand Beach. The route was very straightforward – up and back on a well-marked trail.

Initially, the going was fairly level, and the path crossed several small streams.

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One of three rickety bridges on the path.

The bridges seemed a bit superfluous, but I suspect that, at other times of the year, the streams have a great deal more water in them.

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Toadstool.

Eventually, the gradient rapidly increases and in some places the going was very steep…

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Steep and rocky.
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TBH on tree-root steps.
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Tantalising glimpses.

As we approached the top, there were glimpses through the trees of the views to come.

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Large fungi.

Also, close to the top, there is a jumble of huge boulders, which were too much to resist for the DBs (it’s fair to say that the DBs ranks had swollen to five)

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Clambering on huge boulders.
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The path skirts beneath one of the boulders.

At one point, there was a very small rock step, maybe 10′ at most, which had to be climbed. TBH and I used tree roots again. It can’t have been that difficult – Prof A had challenged the DBs to get to the top without using their hands and they managed it some how.

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The last part of the ascent.

The final part of the climb was steep and rocky again, but still just a walk.

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The view over the Saranac Lakes.

The views were amazing. I think that this was the day when Prof A pointed out the Green Mountains in Vermont. In honesty, I’m not sure how far away they are, but it felt like we could see forest, lakes and mountains stretching on for ever.

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More views.
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Pano.

It was really pretty warm in the sunshine. Too much so for Coco, who doesn’t generally seem to be very fond of water, but clearly needed to cool down on this occasion…

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Coco cooling off.

Ampersand has a second top and Prof A was keen to head that way for a quiet lunch spot. We could see that there was nobody on the other top, but to get there we had to drop down another small rock step. I was confident I could get down safely, but not at all sure I would drag myself back up again, so, unfortunately, had to veto that plan.

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Lunch stop.

Still, our lunch stop had great views.

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Another Pano.
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Ampersand Lake. Seymour Mountain, Seward Mountain and Donaldson Mountain beyond.

Ampersand Lake supposedly resembles an ampersand sign. I can’t see it myself.

South of the lake lie four of the 46. They look very remote, but apparently they can all be knocked off in one day by keen baggers.

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Ampersand Lake pano.
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Retracing our route.
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Another rickety bridge.
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More interesting fungi.

Once again, I took far more fungi shots than have made it in to this post. Most were blurred as usual. I also took some blurred photos, under the trees, of a Scorpion Fly and a Broad-leaved Helleborine, or at least, in each case, something very, very like the species I see close to home. I’m not sure why I was repeatedly so excited when I encountered something which seemed familiar, or which I could partially identify due to its similarity to something I see at home. Perhaps its because I didn’t really expect the things I’ve learned over the years, plodding around my home patch, to be applicable in any way elsewhere.

It was no surprise, on the way down, to find that TBH and I were left even further in the wake of the rest of the party than we had been going up. The others were all keen to cool off with a swim and/or a couple of cold beers at Ampersand Beach….

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Another swim at Ampersand Beach.

The boys had found a plastic box full, I think, with floats and were having great fun ‘fighting’ over it and tipping each other into the water. You can see it on the right of the photo above. I chose to avoid the horse-play and swam out far enough to get out of my depth, which turned out to be quite a long way.

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Dead Man’s Fingers. (I think).
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More fungi.

We didn’t climb any of the 46 whilst we were in the Adirondacks, but Ampersand Mountain is one of the Saranac Six. I think we’re duty bound now to go back at some point and hike the remaining five? That must be a rule, surely?

Ampersand Mountain

Rock Pond

Adirondacks Day 8 Part 1

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Rock Pond

Just south of Stony Creek Pond there are two smaller ponds – Pickerel Pond and Rock Pond. On this particular morning Prof A and his lads were busy (I’m afraid I can’t remember what they were busy with) and Prof S had work to do, so we had a little family trip out together.

It was (or should have been) a simple affair: drive along a dirt road to a small parking area…

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The dirt road.

Walk about a half a mile along a path through the woods…

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Fungus.

Each day seemed to bring an even greater variety of shapes, sizes and colours of fungi. This day in particular seemed to yield some very bright specimens in reds and yellows, but once again many of my photos are blurred.

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Weird looking fungus.
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Big fungus.

When we reached the lake a very faint path turned along the shore to the left.

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Rickety ladder.

Although we didn’t see any other people whilst we were out, we did see this ladder as evidence that other people do come here. We were a bit puzzled by it as the water around the boulder seemed a bit shallow to jump in to.

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The Rock Pond rocks challenge.

Prof A had challenged the DBs to get out to the farthest boulder without getting wet, which proved to be impossible since some of the stepping stones in between were submerged.

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Rock Pond.

The pond is well named since it is surrounded by large boulders, with a lot more boulders in the water too. It was an idyllic spot, which, as I say, we had completely to ourselves. Amazing. B and I had a swim to the prominent boulders which you can perhaps make out in the photos above on the left-hand side. TBH and S chose to sunbathe instead.

And that should be where the story ends, except….

As we walked back, B and I waited just after we had turned away from the water, to see if TBH and S would attempt to take the non-existent path straight ahead along the lakeside. They did. I should have taken that as a warning.

For some reason, TBH lingered as we walked back and the DBs and I arrived back at the car without her. We waited. We waited some more. And then I went into full-on panic mode and ran back along the path shouting every few yards. When I say ran, I mean jogged obviously. As fast as I could manage, which is to say just a bit quicker than the boys who followed me at a walk. Nothing. Neither sight nor sound of TBH. Somehow she had managed to wander off the path. Fortunately, as we made our way back she heard us and disaster was averted. Phew!

Anyway, Rock Pond is a stunning spot for a swim and I hope I shall go back there some day. Next time however, I shall make a trail of breadcrumbs.

Rock Pond

Big Crow and Little Crow Mountains

Adirondacks Day 5 Part 2

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B enjoying the views.

Time for an afternoon stroll.

“While steep in spots, this short hike to the summit of Big Crow offers one of the Adirondacks‘ best views for the least effort.”

This from the Lake Placid tourist website. I’m always keen for a Small Hill with Disproportionately Good Views. Having said that, at 857 metres, Big Crow probably wouldn’t count as small in the UK, but the point is that the car park, Crow Clearing, is at 670m so the ascent is not huge. On the drive up to Crow Clearing I started to lose faith in our phone navigation app when the surfaced road gave way to a dirt track, but I needn’t have worried, we were in the right spot.

The woods here seemed to be particularly well stocked with fungi of a wide variety of shapes and colours, but once again my photos were not very successful.

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Odd looking fungi – seemed to be a Big Crow speciality.
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Leaf miner patterns?

Leaf miners are the larval stage of various insects which live inside, and eat, leaves. The patterns are very common, but I don’t recall seeing any as aesthetically pleasing as these before.

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Steep in spots.
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A flowering shrub.
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Hurricane Mountain (dead centre). Giant to the right (I think) and…?

The views will have to speak for themselves. They really were superb, with ranks of high hills all around. Cascade and Pitchoff are relatively nearby so I ought to be able to pick those out, you’d think, but I can’t.

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Hills, hills…
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…and more hills.
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Pano.

Not only were there hills in every direction, but woods too stretching as far as the eye could see.

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The hill in the foreground here is Little Crow Mountain.
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Having a rest.
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Hurricane and Giant.

Hurricane Mountain was the closest hill, with a route also starting from Crow Clearing (a much longer route admittedly). Back at the house, Prof A had a book of walks in the Adirondacks which I had a very thorough peruse of. The author listed her top ten walks in the area, and the ascent of Hurricane Mountain was one of those. So one for next time.

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Hurricane Mountain pano.
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‘Little’ S and TBH.

TBH and Prof S took Coco the dog and turned back for the cars, whilst the rest of us took a different route down, over Little Crow Mountain.

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Descending towards Little Crow Mountain.

It was steep. Very steep in places.

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Little Crow pano.
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Looking back to Big Crow Mountain.
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Leaving Little Crow.

If I remember correctly, there was no view at all from the summit of Little Crow Mountain, but on the way down we had more views again, due to the rocky ledges we crossed.

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Gathering clouds.

Many of my photos from our stay in the Adirondacks show quite cloudy skies. I suppose we did have some mixed weather, but generally the weather didn’t really impinge on our activities. But this time it was evident that rain was imminent.

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‘Little’ S photographing the clouds. They were much more dramatic than my photos suggest.

We did eventually get caught by the rain, but under the trees it wasn’t as bad as it might have been, and the heavens didn’t really open until just as we emerged on to the road, where TBH and Prof S were waiting for us in the cars.

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Clouds clearing.

They took us to the home of Prof A’s aunt, who lives nearby on a hillside above the village of Keene. This is the view from the balcony as the rain clouds cleared and the sun was setting.

Big Crow and Little Crow Mountains

Hanging Around I

Adirondacks Day 5 Part 1

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The House.

Every holiday needs a bit of down time, a chance to relax and do nothing much. It’s a forte of mine. One morning, the rest of the party upped-sticks and headed out to do…..something energetic no doubt. I opted to stay at the ranch and read my book. I’d been reading ‘Freedom’ by Jonathon Franzen, but I think by now I had switched to ‘Anathem’ by Neal Stephenson, which was equally brilliant and enjoyable but in a completely different way. Like the other books of his I’ve read, it was very thought provoking, but at the same time a ripping-yarn. Anyway, I was intending to read my book, but I was distracted by a flock of Bluejays which were flitting about in the trees surrounding the property and occasionally venturing onto the lawns. I have several very odd photographs of patches of lawn, a wheelbarrow, trees etc which if you stare hard enough reveal a small, distant patch of blue which, with imagination, might just about be a bird.

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Japanese Beetles.

There was always something to see around the house. The Japanese beetles were always about. Likewise damselflies and dragonflies. There were a large variety of toadstools…

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Fungi.

…both on the lawns and beneath the trees. Squirrels could be heard chattering in the trees most of the time, and we occasionally saw them; diminutive, red squirrels which seemed to be permanently angry about something or other. There were deer about too, although they were quite elusive in the trees. One memorable, moonlit night we heard a cacophony of coyotes howling. It’s probably a cliche to say that the sound was eerie, but…well, it was eerie.

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Harvestman.

Harvestmen were ubiquitous, particularly on the garage doors for some reason. Butterflies would occasionally flutter by, but I very rarely managed to catch up with them. This was a rare exception…

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A Fritillary.

It’s obviously a fritillary, but which kind? I thought a quick bit of internet research would help, although given how difficult I’ve generally found fritillaries to identify in the past, I’m not sure why I thought that. It turns out that in the Adirondacks there are three fritillaries – the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Great Spangled Fritillary and the Atlantis Fritillary which are very difficult to distinguish between. I think this was one of those.

When the others got back from whatever they’d been up to, TBH was keen to take the dog for a short walk along the track.

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Stony Creek Pond.

Prof A had already warned us that the track over the bridge was private, and in case we weren’t sure roughly every two yards, on both sides of the track, there were lengthy notices pinned to trees warning of the dire consequences of trespassing. However, TBH wanted to see the view from the bridge and once she has an idea in her head there’s not much which will deflect her. She assured me that injunctions on the signs were, improbably, against leaving the track and entering the trees. So we went to look at the view from the bridge. The top photos shows the channel linking the different parts of the pond. On satellite images it looks like a narrower stretch of the pond, but when we paddled through it, perhaps because of the vegetation growing in the water and the obvious flow, it felt more like a river or stream joining two separate ponds.

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Stony Creek Pond. Looking North.

At the back of the pond here you can see the island we had paddled beyond, and which B and I had swum to.

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Another butterfly patient enough to be photographed from very close range. Eyed Brown?
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B and M taking the canoe for a spin.
Hanging Around I

Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Adirondacks Day 4

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The steep initial start to the trail.

The rest of the party were heading for a tree-top swinging, zip-line soaring adventure, not really my scene, so, having listened to a few recommendations, I opted for this shortish route. TBH and I had driven through the pass where I needed to park on our way back from Massachusetts the night before, so I was well aware of the many set of roadworks on the route, but parking was at a premium and, having failed to find a spot, I still managed to get into those roadworks and then had to drive through three sets of lights before I found a lay-by where I could pull-off and turn around and come back through all three sets again. When I did eventually manage to pull-off the road and park I was very close to the trailhead. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that and walked a long way back along the road, in the wrong direction, looking for the path. Still, I eventually got started, into the deep shade of the woods.

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False Solomon’s-seal.

My friend the EWO, once told me, decades ago, that he didn’t like walking in woods because of the absence of views. He may well have revised his opinion by now. Anyway, I suppose the lack of views made me focus even more than I usually would on the plants and fungi growing under the canopy. I was struck, for instance, by how much this plant resembled our own Solomon’s-seal. Obviously, I’m not the first to have noticed.

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False Solomon’s-seal.
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Fungi.
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Fungus-mungous.
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Chipmunk.

I think I saw about five Chipmunks during this walk. It was a bit of a fool’s errand attempting to photograph them with my phone, but that didn’t stop me trying.

Obviously vistas of any kind were a bit of a rarity, but at one point the path was close to a steep drop and the views opened up.

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Cascade Mountain.

Perhaps because views were far and few between, when they did come I relished them all the more. I took a lot of photographs of Cascade Mountain that day. It’s apparently regarded as the easiest of The 46 – the mountains in the Adirondacks of over 4000′. Of which there are, you’ve guessed it, twenty-seven. Just joshing – there are forty-six of course. Ticking-off the 46 is just as much an Adirondack preoccupation as Munro-bagging is in Scotland.

Something about this ‘wasp’ made me suspect that what I was seeing was actually a moth, a wasp mimic.

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Raspberry Crown Borer Moth.

I now believe that it’s a Raspberry Crown Borer Moth, a clearwing moth whose larvae bore into the stems of brambles and raspberry plants, causing a lot of damage to fruit-crops apparently.

Parts of the climb were very steep, with one short section bordering on scrambling, on very loose ground where the best hand and footholds were exposed tree-roots. Eventually however, I reached the broad ridge and turned right – which took me downhill and onto an open rocky area with sudden expansive views.

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Cascade Mountain.
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Cascade Mountain pano.

Continuing down the rocky ridge a little way brought me to Balanced Rocks…

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Balanced Rocks.

I’m not sure if they look it here, but these were pretty big boulders. The views were superb and, initially at least, there was nobody else about. I briefly chased a Monarch butterfly again, and some large grasshoppers, and a pair of chipmunks, in each case without any photos to show for it, before settling down to eat some lunch and enjoy the views.

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Round Lake and the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run.

Somewhere over that way is the small town of Lake Placid where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games were held.

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Balanced Rocks pano. Cascade Mountain on the right and…lots of other mountains!
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Another pano.
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And another – Cascade on the left Pitchoff on the right.
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Pitchoff Mountain. You can see the steep drop at the edge of the rocks here.

I followed a large dragonfly along this edge, trying to get a photo whilst, at the same time, trying not to lose sight of the drop and fall off.

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Balanced Rocks.
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Round Lake – the open areas are the summer camp which our nephews attend.

Eventually I had company, an all male group (my guess, two brothers and their sons) whom I had passed on the steep approach to the ridge. Here they are on the boulders…

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Balanced Rocks with figures for scale.

It was nice to talk briefly to them. They were blown away by the views, whooping and hollering in a very American way, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I took some group photos for them and then dragged myself away and turned back up the ridge.

I still hadn’t decided whether I would return directly to the car, or continue up the ridge to the top, but when I reached the path junction, I didn’t have to deliberate for long – I wanted to continue up the ridge to the top.

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Toadstool and slug.

Immediately, the path was narrower and evidently less well-used.

The other very obvious difference was the presence of lots of clumps of…

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Indian Pipe.

It was very common along the ridge. Like Toothwort, which pops up in the woods at home in the spring, this is a parasitic plant which has no chlorophyl, hence the completely white stems, flowers etc.

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Liverworts?
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Another toadstool.

The summit of Pitchoff Mountain has no views at all, being crowded by trees. But a very faint path continues along the ridge to another, lower top, so I followed that to try my luck.

This top had a rocky edge, giving clear views in one direction only – you guessed it, toward Cascade Mountain again…

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Cascade Mountain from the Pitchoff Ridge – Pitchoff summit on the right.

Now, it was just a case of retracing my steps back to the road. I was surprised by how tired I felt. When I reached the place on the descent where views opened out to Cascade, I seem to have found a better spot to take a photo. I think I was a bit less circumspect about the exposed drop.

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Cascade Mountain and Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes.

It had been a really superb day, but it didn’t end there. I’d arranged to meet up with the others in the town of Saranac Lake which, of course, sits on the shore of….Flower Lake! (Which, to be fair, is connected by waterway to the complex of Lakes which include Upper, Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes – of which more to follow.)

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Flower Lake, Lake Saranac.

We were there to get pizza. Do a bit of fishing…

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B fishing.

Have a wander around the town (well TBH and I did anyway).

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Dragonfly sculpture.
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Monarch butterfly sculpture.

And enjoy a free concert. I think the band said they were Puerto Rican, so I guess the music was Puerto Rican too. Wherever it originated, it was very good.

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Free music.

The concert was the last in a series of free summer concerts in the town. It was one facet of the very favourable impression of Lake Saranac I came away with.

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Lake Saranac sunset.

The town even has its own bagging challenge, to climb six local mountains: Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, Scarface and St. Regis. For hardy souls there’s a winter version of the challenge too, which I presume would have to be done in snow-shoes. Apparently, the winters are hard here; the lakes and ponds all freeze over and the ski-doo becomes the practical mode of transport.

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Flower Lake moonrise.

Anyway, the Lake Saranac Six sounds like a more manageable target than The 46 and I’d love to come back and climb them all. (Spoiler alert, we did climb one of them – more to follow!)

Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Panther Mountain

Adirondacks Day 3

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Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes.

Here’s B taking his turn with Prof A’s latest toy – a BB gun. Many coke cans were injured in the making of this post. I avoided joining in until pressed, and then, inevitably, was absolutely rubbish. Still, I’ve never felt threatened by coke cans, so I’m not too worried by my repeated failure to shoot one from very short range.

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Harvestman – an arachnid, but not a spider. They shed legs to escape predators which is presumably why this one is missing one of its very long limbs.

We fancied a short outing; Prof A suggested Panther Mountain, which was both nearby and a suitably easy stroll.

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Setting out.
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Just 0.6 miles!
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Chicory?

The roadside verges were resplendent with flowers. I think that these might be Chicory, which came to America with European settlers. Apparently, each flower is actually an inflorescence – a grouping of flowers, and each ostensible petal is in fact five fused petals and a flower in its own right.

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Woodland fungi.

The woods, wherever we went, were full of toadstools of various sizes and hues and I took no end of photos. Sadly, most of them came out rather blurred, I’m not sure why, perhaps due to the deep shade under the trees?

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The summit of Panther Mountain.

It didn’t take long to get to the top, from where there were partial views. Looking at the map now, I can see that Panther Mountain sits by Upper Lake Saranac, but we couldn’t see that at all.

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Partial views.

As you can see it was quite cloudy. We were below the cloud because Panther Mountain is of modest height, about 2200 feet, which makes the climb roughly equivalent to climbing Arnside Knott, given the height of the surrounding countryside. Perfect for a short morning walk.

There was a Monarch butterfly flapping about, I think the first I’ve ever seen. I chased after it with my phone, with no success. Not to worry, I did come across…

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Fox and Cubs.

…these Fox and Cubs, which have made the opposite journey from the Chicory and pop up in our garden. I was perhaps disproportionately pleased to find them in in their home environment.

Some things don’t change: whilst I was pursuing a butterfly, the DBs and their cousins found a boulder to take it in turns to scale…

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King of the Castle.

The boys were persuaded to play hide and seek with their cousins. Meanwhile, my butterfly hunting had brought me down hill to a rocky edge from where I could just about see Panther Pond below…

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Panther Pond.

And an expanse of misty woods and hills…

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Adirondack woods.

Prof A was very good at naming the hills we could see from the hilltops we visited, but without written notes I have no hope of remembering what he told me.

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More fungi.

Another thing which doesn’t change is B’s observational skills.

“Have you seen the weird dragonfly on this bush?” he asked me.

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American Pelecinid Wasp.

I felt reasonably confident that this was more likely to be a wasp than a dragonfly; I was put in mind of the Sabre Wasp I once spotted near Leighton Moss. And so it turns out: this is a female American Pelecinid Wasp. She uses that long abdomen to deposit eggs on grubs living underground. A single egg on each larvae. Her offspring, when they hatch, burrow into the unfortunate grubs and eat them from within.

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Descending.
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Scrambled egg slime?

I suspect that this is Dog Vomit Slime Mold, or Scrambled Egg Slime. I’ve seen this near home too. Apparently it has an almost worldwide distribution. Like other slime molds it can move in search of nutrients.

After our walk, and a bit of lunch, we had a little time before we had to take A back to West Stockbridge. Down to the pond obviously.

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B and M sharing a board again.

M doesn’t stand for mischievous, but it easily could; he was always keen to deposit the others boys in the water at every opportunity.

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A swimming away from the chaos.

TBH and I kept our distance from the high jinx in a canoe.

During our stay the boys came up with various challenges to try. Here S is attempting to back somersault into the water. Or back flip? I’m not sure which.

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S somersaulting. It’s a video: if you click on it, you can find out how successful he was on flickr. (You’ll also hear me lying through my teeth, most unusual.)
Panther Mountain

Walking Down Madison

New York Day 4 part 3

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 5th Avenue.

Our final afternoon in Manhattan, and the boys were desperate to go shopping. I felt like we’d already spent plenty of time shopping, i.e. more than none. We’d traipsed around Macy’s for what felt like about a week. It had some ancient looking wooden escalators, which briefly stirred my interest marginally above absolute zero, but apart from that was exactly the tedious, soulless experience I had expected (I can’t remember which day we did that, for some reason I didn’t take any photos). I’d sat impatiently waiting outside numerous shops full of over-priced sweat-shop-stitched branded sporting goods, now, inexplicably, apparently considered the height of fashion. I wasn’t keen for more of that, and, understandably, the boys weren’t keen on being shackled by my dolorous dead-weight company, or suffering the broad-sides of my rebarbative comments about their potential purchases.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral interior.

So we parted company. They set-off to worship in the temples of consumer culture, whilst TBH and I wandered up 5th Avenue – past exactly the sort of stores the boys were seeking – to have a gander at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was just around the corner from our hotel, and I’d been hoping to visit since we’d arrived. For some reason, TBH had convinced herself that it wasn’t a church, perhaps because a church looked so out of place, surrounded by much taller buildings, on the busy, commercial cradle of 5th.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral interior.
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral interior.

Whatever, it was well worth a look and I’m glad we’d found time. There were lots of other places we didn’t manage to fit in. The city’s art galleries would have been top of my list. TBH was particularly keen to go to the Guggenheim, and had wanted to go to the memorial at Ground Zero. I’m sure there’s a massive list of other things we ought to have done. But we’d packed a lot in, and we decided that, now that time was running out, what we really wanted to do was just have a wander around.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral interior.

From St. Patrick’s we strolled to St. Bart’s on Park Avenue.

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St. Bartholomew’s church – across Park Avenue.

Unfortunately, it’s only open to the public at certain times of day, and we’d missed the window. It’s a shame because the building had lots of interesting detail…

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St. Bartholomew’s church intricate carving.

Talking, of which, not for the first time, or the last time, I missed my camera, which I hadn’t brought because of the space it would have taken up in my luggage. Probably a poor decision. Lots of New York buildings seem to have some fabulous architectural features on their roofs – cupolas, domes, spires, gargoyles etc – which were often reasonably visible with the naked eye, but horribly distant from the wide-angle view of my phone’s camera.

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Park Avenue – The Helmsley Building, The Met Life Building and One Vanderbilt.
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The Helmsley Building.

We were heading for Grand Central Station – the striking Helmsley building, which straddles Park Avenue, was an unexpected bonus.

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Detail – entrance to Grand Central Station.

Grand Central Station features in so many films that it seems familiar even to a first time visitor.

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Grand Central Station pano.

The huge domed ceiling is painted with images of stars and the constellations (my photo didn’t come out very well) which, to me at least, served to emphasis the station’s resemblance to a vast secular temple.

We exited the station onto Lexington Avenue, right opposite…

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Lexington Avenue – the Chrysler Building.

…the Chrysler Building. The only problem with the view from directly beneath it is that you can’t see the iconic roof, if roof is the right term.

TBH wasn’t content with the view from outside and decided that we should have a look inside. The concierges/security guys were polite but firm, telling us that we should leave, but TBH managed to prolong her visit by finding questions to ask them and engaging them in conversation.

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TBH outside the Chrysler Building.

We jumped onto the Metro, heading downtown as far as Union Square, with the intention of walking up Broadway back towards out hotel.

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Union Square.
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Union Square.
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Another tall building from Union Square.
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The Flatiron Building.
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Madison Square Park.
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Madison Square Park.
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Broadway – the Empire State Building.

Having met up with the boys again, we went back to the Tick-Tock Diner, since we’d all enjoyed it on our first visit. I was very unadventurous and had the Cobb Salad again.

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One last view of the ESB.

And that draws to a close the Manhattan chapter of our New York State trip. I’d enjoyed Manhattan, but our next destination was very much more my kind of place.

Walking Down Madison

No Sleep Till Brooklyn.

New York Day 4, part 2

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Brooklyn bridge looking towards Brooklyn.

Next on our itinerary: get the subway downtown and have a wander across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was something we’d identified before our trip as a free thing to do which looked worth a punt.

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Downtown Manhattan.

It was very, very hot by now. And lots of other people had the same idea as us.

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The East River and Governors Island.

Still, I loved the views, and the bridge itself.

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One Manhattan Square and Manhattan Bridge.
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The bridge was busy.
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Brooklyn Bridge pano 1.
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Brooklyn Bridge pano 2.
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Brooklyn Bridge.
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Brooklyn Bridge – the pedestrian walkway is above the traffic.
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East River, Governors Island, Statue of Liberty.
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Brooklyn Bridge pano 3.
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Brooklyn Bridge – looking back to Manhattan.

We read that this is a great place from which to view the sunset and I can see that would be pretty special, but it will have to wait for our next visit. Maybe.

When we reached Brooklyn, we spotted a large ice-cream parlour, and were tempted, but ended up settling for fruit smoothies (very refreshing) and diving back into the underground to head back to Manhattan for our final afternoon in the Big Apple.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn.

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