Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Adirondacks Day 11

20220816_121649
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).

20220816_121016
Lake Placid with Moose Island and Buck Island. Moose Mountain on the right.
20220816_121653
Posing on the top of Little Whiteface Mountain.
20220816_121541
Which is imported.
20220816_123213
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…

20220816_155506
The Ausable River near Keene.
20220816_165103
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.

20220816_165200
Could be Hemp Agrimony.

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

20220816_165412
Orange Balsam?
20220816_165732
An Aster? This one might be native.
20220816_165829
Tansy?
20220816_165843
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…

Advertisement
Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Hanging Around II

Adirondacks Day 10 (Sort of)

20220813_144258
Meadowhawk Dragonfly. There are several species – I have no idea which this is.

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

20220813_144806
Teneral – or newly emerged – dragonfly. Maybe another Meadowhawk.
20220813_144752
This was nearby – could it be the larval case?
20220815_100327
Harebells?

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

20220815_101152
The shed exoskeleton of a Cicada.
20220815_101211
The nymph will climb a tree to emerge in its winged adult form.
20220815_101322
Here’s another one.
20220815_113525
A shy deer. There’s another one back there somewhere.
20220815_172623
Fishing-spider. I think.

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

20220815_172630
The small ball is the silken egg-sac which the spider has carried around, until her brood hatched. You can see her tiny offspring here too.
Hanging Around II

Ampersand Mountain

Adirondacks Day 9

20220814_131438
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.

20220814_112047
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.

20220814_120043
Toadstool.

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

20220814_124716
Steep and rocky.
20220814_124720
TBH on tree-root steps.
20220814_125316
Tantalising glimpses.

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

20220814_125327
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)

20220814_130138
Clambering on huge boulders.
20220814_130342
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.

20220814_131302
The last part of the ascent.

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

20220814_131811
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.

20220814_131814
More views.
20220814_131834
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…

20220814_132812
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.

20220814_133103
Lunch stop.

Still, our lunch stop had great views.

20220814_134328
Another Pano.
20220814_134456
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.

20220814_134526
Ampersand Lake pano.
20220814_151401
Retracing our route.
20220814_155745
Another rickety bridge.
20220814_162124
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….

20220814_171445
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.

20220814_172802
Dead Man’s Fingers. (I think).
20220814_172859
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

Ampersand Brook and the Raquette River

Adirondacks Day 8 Part 2

20220813_154604
The Raquette River

If Rock Pond was my favourite venue for a dip, and it was, then this was my favourite paddling trip. We took the usual motley flotilla of canoes, paddle boards and a kayak across Stoney Creek Pond, and then down Ampersand Brook to its confluence with the Raquette River.

20220813_154700
Paddling down the Raquette.

I didn’t take any photos until we reached the Raquette, despite the fact that I thought the Ampersand Brook and its surrounds were absolutely stunning. I think perhaps I was concentrating on following the bewildering meanders of the Ampersand and not getting lost down one of the many side channels.

20220813_155444
Ampersand Brook approaching the Raquette.

Once we’d landed, I had a wander around the banks and took lots of photos. We stopped for quite some time, had a swim, drank a few cool beers and did a bit of fishing, I think a few tiddlers were even successfully landed (but not by me – I was very good at catching weed).

20220813_155931
The confluence.
20220813_155936
The brook flowing into the river – note the signpost giving directions.
20220813_155646
Narrow-leaved Gentian (I think) on the banks of the Raquette River.
20220813_155851
Cardinal Flowers on the banks of the Raquette.
20220813_155024
Camp ground.

There seemed to be a couple of camp grounds by the river here, with the usual small ‘outhouse’ toilets, but in this case with this covered platform in addition.

20220813_160426
A spot of fishing. (And a cold beer).
20220813_172448
Heading back. This road bridge is on the track we’d driven down earlier to reach Rock Pond.
20220813_174810
Paddling in Ampersand Brook
20220813_175027
Paddling in Ampersand Brook

We did see a handful of other paddlers – actually I think we may have seen the same small group twice – but it was very quiet and peaceful. It felt much further on the way back, although I don’t think it was actually very far at all, in either direction!

20220813_183131
Stoney Creek. Listing badly.
Ampersand Brook and the Raquette River

Big Crow and Little Crow Mountains

Adirondacks Day 5 Part 2

20220811_165234
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.

20220811_161948
Odd looking fungi – seemed to be a Big Crow speciality.
20220811_163525
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.

20220811_163741
Steep in spots.
20220811_164209
A flowering shrub.
20220811_164238
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.

20220811_164624
Hills, hills…
20220811_164627
…and more hills.
20220811_164652
Pano.

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

20220811_164848
The hill in the foreground here is Little Crow Mountain.
20220811_165011
Having a rest.
20220811_170109
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.

20220811_170128
Hurricane Mountain pano.
20220811_170440
‘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.

20220811_170900
Descending towards Little Crow Mountain.

It was steep. Very steep in places.

20220811_171025
Little Crow pano.
20220811_172744
Looking back to Big Crow Mountain.
20220811_173558
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.

20220811_174234
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.

20220811_174300
‘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.

20220811_201946
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

Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Adirondacks Day 4

20220810_133638
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.

20220810_134243
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.

20220810_134239
False Solomon’s-seal.
20220810_134409
Fungi.
20220810_134548
Fungus-mungous.
20220810_135449
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.

20220810_135949
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.

20220810_144209
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.

20220810_145016
Cascade Mountain.
20220810_145036
Cascade Mountain pano.

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

20220810_145248
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.

20220810_145253
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.

20220810_145354
Balanced Rocks pano. Cascade Mountain on the right and…lots of other mountains!
20220810_145407
Another pano.
20220810_145339
And another – Cascade on the left Pitchoff on the right.
20220810_145538
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.

20220810_145807
Balanced Rocks.
20220810_145908
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…

20220810_150432
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.

20220810_152027
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…

20220810_152940
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.

20220810_152957
Liverworts?
20220810_154125
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…

20220810_155955
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.

20220810_165850
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.)

20220810_191019
Flower Lake, Lake Saranac.

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

20220810_185816
B fishing.

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

20220810_190806
Dragonfly sculpture.
20220810_195624
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.

20220810_201924
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.

20220810_202311
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.

20220810_202248
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

20220809_101350
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.

20220809_102407
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.

20220809_103851
Setting out.
20220809_103915
Just 0.6 miles!
20220809_103903
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.

20220809_105200
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?

20220809_110019
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.

20220809_110032
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…

20220809_110545
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…

20220809_110606
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…

20220809_111648
Panther Pond.

And an expanse of misty woods and hills…

20220809_111842
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.

20220809_112110
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.

20220809_112351
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.

20220809_114500
Descending.
20220809_115154
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.

20220809_133540
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.

20220809_134703
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.

20220809_135836
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

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Adirondacks Day 2

20220808_105841
Green Frog

This handsome frog was sheltering under the paddle boards by the shore of the pond the next morning. I thought it might be an American Bullfrog, but they’re huge, up to 8 inches I’ve read. I think this is the very similar, but smaller, Green Frog. The dorsolateral ridges running from the head down the sides of the torso are a distinguishing feature apparently.

20220808_105849
Green Frog.

I think that this is a male, because the ear – the tympanic membrane – is larger than the gorgeous golden eye.

TBH and I needed another shortish outing because of our plans for the afternoon.

20220808_110111
B and M share a paddle board.

So we took to the water again.

Here’s the pond…

Stony Creek Pond.

We were staying on the north side of the southern most bulb – we canoed northwards, past a beaver lodge, under the bridge, which required a bit of care, up beyond the little island almost to the northern extremity of the pond.

20220808_112257
Little S taking it easy.
20220808_112307
Prof A.
20220808_112633
Our destination – a tiny beach.

We were heading for this little beach. The lake bed here was firm and sandy – perfect for swimming. By the boathouse the lake has a deep layer of very soft silt, which makes getting out for a swim a bit awkward, without a paddle board.

20220808_112638
W arriving.

The trees to W’s right are growing on the small island, where there was a Bald Eagle nest. Prof A challenged us to swim to the island and, I think, was a bit surprised when B and I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t all that far, maybe a 500m round trip, at a guess. The island is private, so we didn’t quite go the whole way. We didn’t see any eagles, but we had a good view of the nest.

Once back, I had a bit of a wander. Close by there was a picnic table and a fire-pit – I think this was one of the campgrounds which seem to be scattered around the area – they can be rented at relatively low cost I believe.

There were dragonflies and damselflies of various sizes and colours about. I took numerous blurred photos of a mating pair of damselflies, the male was a lovely combination of royal blue and mauve. I failed too with an orange dragonfly and an electric blue damselfly similar to those I see close to home.

20220808_121829
Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

I chased this dragonfly along the edge of the lake, but at least I got some relatively sharp shots. I’m reasonably confident with my identification, although online descriptions say that the markings on the body are ‘orange triangles’, whereas to me they look like red hearts.

20220808_121845
Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

Which reminds me of a blogger I once knew who found heart-shapes everywhere.

I was fascinated too by the plants and fungi under the trees. Although they were all unfamiliar, I was trying to figure out their place in the ecosystem by analogy with the things I see around home. For example…

20220808_122323
Berry.

This plant with its single layer of large leaves and what must have been a single central flower put me in mind of our own Herb Paris.

Time was marching on, and I turned to go back along the fringe of the lake to the boats when I was startled by this monster…

20220808_123355
A Fishing Spider.

In retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t quite as big as it seemed, but it was still, by some distance, the biggest spider I’ve seen in the wild. Feisty too: it kept waving two of its legs at me in a very aggressive fashion, or, at least, it seemed that way.

20220808_123539
A nursery net spider. Notice all of the ghostly baby spiders in the nest.

I think it’s a Striped Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Scriptus. There’s a very similar species, the Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Tenebrosus, but although this spider looks dark, I think that may be more to do with the fact that it was in the shade.

20220808_123542
A beady eye.

Fishing Spiders don’t use a nest for hunting, but the female carries her eggs around in a silken sac before building a nest for her brood when they hatch. That probably explains the aggression. This nest was pretty big. They are also one of the species of spider which practice sexual cannibalism, with the female devouring the male after mating.

I gather that, as the name suggests, Fishing Spiders can hunt in or under the water, eating tadpoles, small fish and insects which live in the water or on the surface. They also hunt in the woods surrounding the lake however.

Talking of hunting…

20220808_131401
A damselfly becomes a meal.

…this damselfly has fallen prey to this fly, which is not too dissimilar from the one in my previous post. During the damselfly’s death throes the pair of them landed on my hat.

The reason we needed a short outing, was that TBH and I had a long drive in prospect. Our daughter A was also in the States, working as a Camp Counsellor at a Summer Camp in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. A was keen to see her uncle, aunt and cousins whilst she was stateside. She could get a 24 hour pass and somehow TBH had convinced herself that West Stockbridge was about an hour-and-half’s drive from where we were staying. When we looked it up again, our app was giving three-and-a-half hours. Each way. And that was before the many wrong turns we took. It was a long day.

20220808_190854
West Stockbridge Shaker Mill.

This was the only photo I took in West Stockbridge. The following day, when we had to repeat the long journey to take A back, TBH and I had a wander around the wonderful Turnpark sculpture park, which was closed, but not locked-up. It was fantastic and I really should have taken lots of photos. Next time!

Whilst we were shouting at the satnav, Prof A took the boys bouldering. Or perhaps that was the next day, maybe they were shopping for a new toy. Or playing with that toy?

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

P1350355
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.

P1350348
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.

P1350350
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.

P1350357

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.

P1350361
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…

P1350370
Garden Snail.

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

P1350364
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.

P1350371
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.

P1350391
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.

P1350400
Common Darter.

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

P1350402
Guelder Rose berries.
P1350405
Another Common Carder bee.
P1350415
Angelica, tall and stately.
P1350412
And very busy with a profusion of insects.
P1350432
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.

P1350436
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.

P1350443
Female Common Blue and Hoverfly?
P1350445
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.

P1350456
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

P1350459
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.

P1350468
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.

P1350486
Female Common Blue Damselfly, green-form (I think).
P1350493
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…

P1350501
Migrant Hawker.
P1350505
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.

P1350510
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.

P1350516
Volucella pellucens – bucking the trend by feasting on Mint, instead of Bramble.
P1350521
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.

P1350522
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.

P1350523
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.

P1350529
Green-veined White.
P1350531
Meadow Brown.
P1350533
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.

P1350534
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.

P1350537
Green Bottle.
P1350538
Another Meadow Brown.
P1350540
Another female Common Blue Damselfly – not so heavily cropped – I liked the grass..
P1350543
Sicus ferrugineus – not perturbed by me, my camera or the presence of one of the White-tailed Bumblebees.
P1350548
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.

P1350549

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

P1350561

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

P1350565
Male Common Blue Damselfly.
P1350581

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.

P1350594
Male Common Blue Damselfly.
P1350600
Soldier Beetles – as usual making love not war.
P1350610
My ‘hunting ground’.
P1350612
Large Skipper. Not large. Notice the much more mottled wings than the Small Skipper at the start of this lengthy post.
P1350625
Large Skipper.
P1350628
Gatekeeper.

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

Lambert’s Meadow Intermission

Carn Fadryn and Garn Bach

20220726_134442
Carn Fadryn. (I’m cheating slightly here, this was taken at the end of the walk.)

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

20220726_111219
Agelena labyrinthica.

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

20220726_111341
Caption competition? Not had one of those for a while!

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

20220726_113219
Pollen coated bee, wasp, fly?

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

20220726_122526
Carn Fadryn panorama – looking East.
20220726_122544
Carn Fadryn panorama – looking West.
20220726_114925
Loafers.
20220726_114807
New trig pillar ‘decoration’.
20220726_123118
The birthday boy.

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

20220726_124105
Garn Bach, Carn Saethon, Carneddol, Foel Fawr, Mynytho Common. St. Tudwal’s Islands on the right.

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

20220726_124108
20220726_124127
20220726_124606

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

20220726_124849
Garn Bach.
20220726_130943
On Garn Bach. A bit windy.
20220726_131103
Garn Bach panorama.
20220726_130951
Carn Fadryn from Garn Bach.
20220726_130841
Carn Saethon, Carneddol, Foel Fawr, Mynytho Common, St. Tudwal’s Islands from Garn Bach.

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

Carn Fadryn and Garn Bach