Summer’s Lease

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“Summer starts on June 21st, three months after the start of Spring on March 21st.”

“Hang on, that can’t be right; the 24th is midsummer day, at that rate the summer only lasts six days. Oh…… Well, you might be right.”

“Look at that out there: that’s winter.”

This last being Little S’s contribution to a recent debate in our house about Summer and it’s absence.

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After the end of Whit week we had a couple of days of really ferocious weather; heavy rain and fierce winds. Of course, some people say that there’s no such thing as bad weather: only weather. By the end of the second day, when the rain had eased considerably, I really wanted to get out, at least for a short walk.

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“I’d go to Eaves Wood,” TBH advised.

She had a point, the contrast there between the relative shelter and calm of the woodland floor and the roar of the wind in the treetops is staggering; and it’s quite comforting to listen to the gales from the comfort of a cosseted spot in the woods. But I wanted to really immerse myself in the storm, so I staggered across the Lots, which were strewn with leaves and small branches.

I don’t know whether the photos convey it, but although the gales had already subsided somewhat since the previous day, it was still wild and gusty.

Just in case you were thinking that it’s all sunshine and butterflies!

Summer’s Lease

Whitsun Weekend at Home

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Last weekend the surfnslide crew came to stop for the weekend. We’ve had a few Whitsun get togethers before, both down in Herefordshire at their house and here in Silverdale. This one was all too brief, just the long weekend, but got our week off to a great start, and, to me at least, has made it feel like I’ve had a much longer break than a week. (Not a bad trick!)

As usually seems to be the case, the weather was a bit mixed, but we definitely made the most of it, filling in the time between decent spells of weather with various board games and the usual menu of chit-chat and cups of tea.

On the Saturday morning, before the storms came, we had a short stroll down to the Cove and then across the Lots, where we played frisbee for a while as you can see above.

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At the Cove some of the children wanted to explore the smelly cave and another fetid little hole they have discovered on the other side of the Cove at the base of the cliff.

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The back of the Cove is once again resplendent with a mass of small yellow flowers, I think it’s Sea Radish, although, having just read the relevant entry in ‘The Wildflower Key’, I now know how to distinguish Sea from Wild Radish, so I shall check on my next trip. Anyway, the radishes, of whatever variety, were thronged with various small insects.

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This striking red weevil like creature (I can’t find what it actually is) was the smallest I photographed.

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I think that this rather dapper chap may be some kind of Saw Fly, but there over 400 British species and my ‘Complete British Insects’ only has photographs of a handful of them.

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There were many Bumblebees, but they are constantly on the move and always hard to photograph.

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This is a Red-tailed Bumblebee, a worker. Sometimes I am slow on the uptake: it’s finally sunk in that the huge bumblebees I see, mainly in the spring, and the much smaller ones I see in the summer, are of the same species, the size difference being because queens are so much larger than workers.

On the other hand, random titbits of information seem to nestle in obscure corners of my brain. I knew, when I saw it, that this…

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…was a ladybird larva. With a bit of lazy internet research I now think it to be a 7-Spot Ladybird larva. Odd looking creature.

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There were a fair few hoverflies about too. I was pleased to capture an image of this specimen in flight, and doubly chuffed to find that it is easily identifiable, because of the pattern on the abdomen, as Episyrphus Balteatus, a very common species which apparently sometimes migrates in swarms from continental Europe. Quite a competent flier then!

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Alongside the radishes there is a substantial patch of Crosswort. My collection of herbals and plant books have little to say about this unassuming plant with it’s whirls of tiny yellow flowers, but I am always cheered to find it.

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The plant surreptitiously creeping into the righthand-side of the photo is Goosegrass or Cleavers or Stickyweed, a close relative of Crosswort. Both are Galiums, apparently from the Greek Gala meaning milk, as Goosegrass at least was sometimes used as a rennet in the production of cheese.

On the Lots, the Early Purple Orchids have finished, and the Green-winged Orchids…

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…are not far behind. According to ‘A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Great Britain and Ireland’, Green-winged Orchids were once widespread, but ‘must now be considered a threatened species’. A sobering thought.

After our short outing, the afternoon brought a terrific display of dark skies, lightning and thunder and then very heavy rain. We watched from our patio as impressive bursts of forked lightning cleaved the skies and listened to the rumbles of thunder, apparently coming from all sides. When the long threatened deluge finally arrived, we retreated inside. Quite a show while it lasted though.

Whitsun Weekend at Home

Between Coats

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So, with the electricity out in Lancaster I found myself off work with some unexpected free time. When it became apparent that this would happen, my first thought was, “I’ll paint the kitchen.”

Well, that may have been my second thought, after “I can have a lie in.” Or third perhaps, after “I could get out for a good walk”. And if not third, it was definitely my fourth or maybe fifth, well, not more than my eleventh thought. It occurred to me just after TBH said: “You could paint the kitchen,” as she lugged paint tins, brushes, etc in from the garage, wearing an expression which brooked no argument.

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I did get out for some short strolls, between showers.

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Down at the Cove I could see various large bits of flotsam, presumably washed into the channel by the storm. I could also see the next shower advancing across the Bay…

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Time to get back to the painting!

The kitchen does look spick and span though. It’s white now. Much better than before.

What’s that? Before?

Oh,…

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…it was white.

Between Coats

After Desmond

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The storm came, the rains fell and the field behind our house developed a huge puddle. Or a small lake? It has flooded before, although not often, but this is the largest expanse of wet which we’ve seen there. It has never, to our knowledge, burst through the wall and flooded Bottom’s Lane for instance…

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…and I’ve never seen the graveyard flooded before. When you look at the depth of the water compared to the headstones you should bear in mind the fact that the ground in the cemetery is considerably higher than the land around it – soil was brought in to give a sufficient depth to make burials feasible; generally, the bedrock is not far beneath the surface in this area.

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Little S was very taken by the transformed landscape. Waterscape.

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This is Lambert’s meadow, or Lambert’s Lake as it seems to have become.

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Naturally TBH had to wade through the water to get to the submerged bridge.

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Sadly, I didn’t capture the expression on her face when the inevitable happened and the water over-topped her boots.

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Burtonwell.

Later, as the light was fading, I had another short walk on Warton Crag.

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There’s often flooding around Warton, but I’ve never seen it like this. With Kendal and Lancaster both flooded, in Silverdale we had a very lucky escape with no adverse effects at all. The extent of our fortune was brought home to me as the sun sank and the familiar view was eerily unfamiliar because of the absence of streetlights or lighted windows – Warton, Carnforth, Lancaster and many other places south of us were without electricity and would continue to be so intermittently for much of the following week.

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After Desmond

Over the Knott

A Friday commute. I stayed on the train an extra stop to Arnside. A wet day seeming to be improving. On the banks of the Kent a cormorant was hanging out to dry – I wanted to get a photo but wasn’t quick enough. I did get his neighbour though…

…a heron having a bad hair day. Bit disappointed with this one since I was relatively close to the heron when I took it. Next time!

I climbed Arnside Knott, from where the views weren’t as spectacular as they can be, all the distance hills being lost in a cloudy miasma.

Descending towards Hollins Farm, I exchanged salutations with a lady walking in the opposite direction. We agreed that the weather had brightened considerably since earlier in the day.

Moments later I was anxiously tracking a fierce looking rainstorm as it tracked towards me across the bay, and moments after that I was hastily clambering into waterproofs as the deluge struck. Fortunately, it was very short-lived and I was soon enjoying the way the low sun in the western sky was dying the clouds with pink whilst the clouds to the east were still a forbidding rain-soaked purple.

Over the Knott

Strange Bore

Friday night. Another afternoon commute walk. From the station I followed the main road as far as Hollins Lane and then took the path down through Fleagarth Wood to the salt-marsh. The weather was quite odd again: it was overcast, but looking east across Leighton Moss the sky was clear and blue. The limestone hull of Farleton Fell was shining white in bright sunshine, thrown into relief by the starkly contrasting black clouds behind.

I hope it has come through in my posts, but September seems to have been something of a bumper month – I’ve managed to get out for many walks and each seems to have brought something fascinating or surprising to see or experience. In fact, I’ve been thinking back over the year so far and realising that much the same can be said for the whole year. Am I on an astonishing run of good fortune, or am I in some way more attuned to and observant of what’s going on around me? It would be nice to think that persistence pays off and that sustained attention promotes a connection which brings greater rewards over time.

On Friday, however there seemed at first to be nothing particularly diverting to see and I was preparing myself for a walk which would be – not mundane exactly – pleasurable, but perhaps run-of-the-mill. But then the skies started to clear overhead and the simple alchemy of sky reflected in water, which I have been very conscious of during my recent visits to Leighton Moss, worked its magic…

Warton Crag seen across Quicksand Pool.

…and everything was once again on the up and up.

There’s usually a heron in or around Quicksand Pool. Today was no exception. What was unusual was that when the heron was spooked by my presence and laboriously heaved its way into the air, it didn’t do so silently but loosed a series of harsh protesting calls. It came to rest out on the bay:

Grey Heron with Morecambe dragged closer than it really is by the wonders of telephoto.

Self-portrait with Warton Crag.

Morecambe Bay. Clougha Pike on the horizon right of centre.

Just past Jenny Brown’s cottages the road is screened by a row of trees, giving a good unseen vantage point out over the bay. A small flotilla of diving ducks (well six) were swimming down the channel towards me.

They dived continually, but the water is very shallow here and each dive was short-lived. Since they often went straight back into the water after surfacing, they looked a little like they were swimming butterfly. At any one time, two or three of the birds might be underwater. Occasionally they all were, but they still came relentlessly upstream and could be seen as a strange bore…

 

An egret joined the party. My colleague M, who is a proper birder, tells me that the comical movements of the egret are because the bird stirs up the bottom with its feet, hoping to disturb flatfish and other bottom feeders which it can then grab in its beak. This opportunistic egret followed along the channel clearly using the disturbance of the diving ducks to serve the same purpose.

I think that these are goosanders rather than the smaller but very similar mergansers, but as ever I stand ready to be corrected. I assumed that they were all female, since the males are whiter and have green heads, but at this time of year goosanders are moulting, are flightless for a month, and the males more closely resemble the females.

Eventually the goosanders stopped and settled to preening themselves.

I had been very much enjoying the show but was suddenly disturbed by a hullaballoo off to my left. At this point the screen of trees became a disadvantage and I struggled at first to see the source of the commotion, but then saw two birds , apparently locked together, plummeting toward the mud of the bay. The smaller, white and squawking volubly, was a gull of some sort. At first I thought that perhaps the larger, darker bird was a bird of prey – which had perhaps taken the gull in flight, but then it occurred to me that the other voice in the dispute sounded like the same raucous cries that I had heard from the heron earlier. Herons will eat young gulls, but also gulls will harry herons, I assume in an attempt to make them drop food. I lost sight of both birds. When I moved again, I could see a heron roughly below where the two had been falling. It looked unruffled and calm and not at all like a recent participant in a air-borne brawl. It was in almost exactly the same spot as the heron which I had watched earlier, so perhaps it wasn’t the culprit and perhaps I am simply mistaken in my assumptions. When I turned back to them, the goosanders were swimming rapidly downstream away from the fracas, and perhaps away from me now that I had blown my cover. The egret was less perturbed…

…and in fact  a second egret was now also near to the first by the stream.

I walked a little further along the road, my attention still held by the birds in the sunshine on the bay…

It was only when I reached by the small old quarry near to Jenny Brown’s Point that I realised that once again I was on the dividing line between two very different weathers – to the south sunshine and clear skies, the the north:

…the sky was ominously black.

Rainbow weather! But as it transpires, the rainbow never happened, not in a conventional sense anyway, although I did notice that this sign, which is white when seen end-on…

  …produces a rainbow from an oblique angle…

…and what’s more, that by moving to my left to a less oblique angle I could get more of the red end of the spectrum and equally by moving to the right get more of the violet end.

Another pair of egrets kept me amused for a while…

…they seemed to be racing each other back and forth in the stream. Occasionally, one of the birds would propel itself to the front with a quick flurry of wings…

…only to be thwarted in its ambitions by a similar tactic from the other bird.

I rounded Jenny Brown’s point and entered Jack Scout to find that I wasn’t the only one gazing out at the dramatic sky…

The strange garb is a costume – this is a performer in an outdoor dance piece which was being performed at Jack Scout all last week.

Jack Scout views.

Apparently there was a stunning sunset later, which I missed, having reengaged with quotidian necessities.

Strange Bore

A Sharp Shower

A late evening walk – I had to be in Arnside so walked over via Eaves Wood and Arnside Knott. As I entered Eaves Wood I was greeted by the disappearing behind of a roe deer, bobbing away in that graceful fluid way that they do, which has as much of flight in it as running. That aside the drama was all in the sky.

I arrived on the top of the Knott with the last of the light. Across the estuary the Lyth valley was obscured by a shower…

…which was all well and good until I realised that the wind was blowing from the North and the shower was heading my way.

The views from here are always great, but in near darkness and a stiff wind this little hill takes on a surprisingly wild and elemental character.

I didn’t get too wet and my camera seems to have survived the damp (I was ill-prepared for bad weather).

The lights of Grange across the Kent.

A Sharp Shower