Lambert’s Meadow Kaleidoscope.

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Lambert’s Meadow.

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Black-tailed Skimmer, female.

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Cantharis rustica – a soldier beetle.

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Common Blue Damselfly.

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Cheilosia chrysocoma (Golden Cheilosia) – two photos, I think of different insects on different Marsh Thistles. A hoverfly which, for some reason, has evolved to resemble a Tawny Mining Bee.

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Four-spotted Chaser.

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Another hoverfly – possibly Helophilius pendulus.

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Bumblebee on Ragged Robin.

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Common Blue Damselfly, female – I think.

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Azure Damselfly.

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Water Avens – and another hoverfly?

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Heath Spotted -orchid.

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Another Common Blue Damselfly.

Just a short walk, but packed with interest. If the large blue and green dragonfly which was darting about had landed to be photographed too, my day would have been complete. It was an Emperor; large blue and green dragonflies which elude my camera are always Emperors. When they do land, they always somehow transform into Hawkers of one kind or another, lovely in their own right, but not Emperors. One day I’ll catch an Emperor in an unguarded moment.

In the meantime, the colours on offer at Lambert’s Meadow will do just fine.

Lambert’s Meadow Kaleidoscope.

The Weeds Are Rising!

Spoiler: Dad (and anybody else who doesn’t like rodents) mouse pictures imminent later in this post.

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Peacock butterfly.

There’s a section of Inman’s Road where the sun gets through the canopy and warms the stones of the track. It seems to be a popular spot with butterflies. Strangely, despite their flashy colours, I often don’t see them until I’ve got too close and one of them takes to the wing. And once one lifts off, they all go.

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Another peacock.

There then ensues one of those, for want of a better phrase, butterfly dances, in which the assembled Lepidoptera swirl around each other in a merry waltz. Or is it merry? I can never decide whether the dance is an expression of aggression, curiosity, amour, or sheer joy, perhaps, at the end of lockdown hibernation.

“Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field, and the still
waters.”

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“I ask again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure – your life – what would do for you?”

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There was some doubt, I believe, about the future of these Exmoor ponies who, for years, have been used for conservation grazing at Gait Barrows. Apparently their services are no longer needed, but fortunately a new home has been found for them. You could say that they’ve been put out to grass.

No?

So – what about my so called lockdown aspirations? Lets deal with an easy one – have I caught up with my blog? Well, yes and no: at the outset, I was still writing about last summer’s holiday, so things have definitely moved on.

But since I’m out walking and taking photos just about every day, new material is accruing at much the same rate as I’m posting it. I suppose one way to look at it is that  I’m close to reaching an equilibrium, which doesn’t sound like a bad place to be.

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The Bay post sunset.

“And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.”

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Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), also know as a Field Mouse. The white belly, large back feet (for jumping) and general cuteness differentiate this from a House Mouse.

The wood mouse is the most common species of mouse in Britain. Very common in our garden judging by the number the cats leave lying around in the house. This one had a lucky escape, I rescued it from the cats and persuaded it to shelter in a cereal packet, before releasing it onto our patio. Understandably, it was terrified and I was able to take some photos before it ran off.

All winter, it’s been evident that something or other was burrowing in our compost heap. The size of the holes had me convinced that it must be rats, but subsequently I’ve found a few bedraggled wood mice corpses near the compost, so maybe they were the culprits.

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A few days after I rescued this little chap, I found another one in the house. (Or perhaps the same one?) B and I tried and failed to catch it. In the end, the whole family were enlisted. It got behind some bookcases – we had to unladen three large bookcases, and move them. The mouse was still too quick for us, but we had it surrounded, and staked out the desk it had nipped behind. B, armed with a feather duster, flushed it out and S dropped an ice-cream tub over it. We re-wilded the perisher and then all we had to do was move all of the furniture back into place and try to work out how to get the contents of the shelves back into place, although it was evident to all that we somehow now had at least four bookcases worth of books, maps, craft items, correspondence, shoe boxes full of who knows what etc to ram back in.

A Sunday evening to remember!

I realise, a little belatedly, that I’ve posted about my birthday, and mentioned my birthday presents, without having said anything about the gifts I received at Christmas. Principally, I got to spend time with family, which now seems even more important than it did at the time. But I also asked for a couple of things. And just to make sure that the message didn’t get garbled, having asked, I ordered them online for good measure. If a thing is worth doing….

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There were just two items: a CD, ‘Doggerel’ by Fontaines DC, of which more at some point I’m sure, and a book, ‘Devotions’ the selected poems of Mary Oliver.

It was a comment on this blog which first alerted me to the poetry of Mary Oliver. It took me a while to track that comment down, but it was on this post. And Moira, I don’t know if you are still reading, but I hope that you are well and coping with the vicissitudes of lockdown, and you should know that I am extremely grateful for the nudge you gave me.

For the purposes of this post, wanting something suitable to quote, I opened a page at random in the book and found the poem ‘Evidence’. All of the quotes, and the title, come from that.

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in
singing, especially when singing is not necessarily
prescribed.”

Which brings me to:

Back in March, I was involved in a marvellous project, ‘These Hills Are Ours’, which involved climbing Clougha Pike from Morecambe seafront, as part of a volunteer choir and singing a specially composed song. I expected today’s blogpost to be about that walking and singing, but the film of the event is still under wraps, so I’m biding my time.

However, the week before, a group from Stockton had done much the same thing, climbing Roseberry Topping and that’s them in the film.

Two more walks, in London and Devon, were envisaged, but I suspect the coronavirus may have put a stop to those.

Some links to the creatives…

Daniel Bye who wrote the words.

Boff Whalley who wrote the music.

and Bevis Bowden who made the film.

It’s only now that I’ve realised that Boff was lead guitarist in Chumbawumba, which for most people, I know, means the one-hit wonder Tub-thumping, but I was more than a bit obsessed, for quite some time, with their first album, the snappy title of which should appear below in the video. The phrase “it’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound and it’s not doing anybody any harm” became a bit of standing joke for me, my brother and our flat mate S.

They did make other records, but there was a long hiatus before the second, and by then I had literally moved on, started teaching and somehow it passed me by. Maybe I’ll delve into their archive now.

Oh, and I almost forgot about yesterday’s quiz question. It was, of course, Rockafeller Skank, by Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim:

It’s a nice sound, it’s a happy sound…..

The Weeds Are Rising!

Roe Deer

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When we got home from our trip to Roa Island it was to discover one more wildlife treat awaiting us – a pair of roe deer in the garden.

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Deer visit from time to time. Sometimes they sleep on our lawn. We’d seen them a few times recently, but it was pleasing that they visited whilst our guests were still with us – putting on a show as it were.

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The slightly scruffy look is because they are shedding their darker, winter coat in anticipation of warmer weather (which we are still anticipating patiently).

Roe Deer

Whitsun Treadings VI: Roa Island

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We went to Roa Island again (after a tip-top picnic on Birkrigg Common – we really must go and explore more thoroughly there). It wasn’t a particularly low tide and the water was pretty cold. Even so, there was, as ever, plenty to be seen.

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Rhizostoma octupus – not an octopus at all, but actually a jellyfish.

As always, there were lots of shore crabs to be found – many were females carrying a clump of eggs. Many others seemed to be at that vulnerable stage where they had recently shed a shell and their new shells were still soft.

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Their markings and colouration vary enormously.

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Lots of the rocks we turned over were smothered with these…..

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…presumably eggs of some sort. Not crabs, I don’t think, but I don’t have an alternative suggestion.

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Not sure at all about this either.

Look carefully into this shallow pool…

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..can you see something snaking across the middle of the picture?

It’s a greater pipefish….

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Every visit seems to deliver something we haven’t seen before. This one was spotted by our friend TJF/

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Brittlestar.

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Starfish.

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We walked farther down the beach than we ever have before, eventually reaching the harbour wall, where judging by the stench, untreated sewage was flowing into the channel. (I’d be pleased to know that my suspicion is wrong about that, if anyone knows better.)

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A whelk?

It’s entirely possible that the huge clusters of eggs we saw were whelk eggs. Whelk roe anyone?

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A shanny.

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Also a shanny, possibly the same one.

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We found quite a number of these large, appealing shells – wrinkled and rippled without, shiny and super-smooth within. Oysters I presume.

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We often see, and catch, prawns and shrimps, but I’ve not had much luck with photographing them before. I think that this is the former – maybe a common prawn.

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Always a grand day out. Hopefully we’ll be there again before the summer is out.

Whitsun Treadings VI: Roa Island

Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots

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It’s all there in the title really. Another local walk – we might have gone further afield more often, but the weather forecasts were often pretty poor, so a short wander not too far from home often seemed like a safer bet.

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We were joined for this walk by our friend G and her kids. G grew up here in Silverdale and remembers crawling through the narrow cave which runs through the cliff near Burton Well and which I only discovered a few weeks back. We decided to mosey over that way and let some of the current generation of Silverdale’s youth experience that same thrill. I think they enjoyed it. They certainly wanted to go back and through several times over.

From there we went over to Woodwell. The sun shone, and for once it actually felt quite warm. We were lazing and watching the fish in the shallow, silted pond there, and I was busy telling everyone that I’d often seen newts here, twenty-odd years ago, when I first moved to the area, but not since, when….

‘There’s a newt!’

‘There’s another one!’

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It was newts on parade day. We watched for a while. I took several photos, of which this is probably the sharpest. The UK has three species of newts. And the newts we watched  were…..almost certainly one of those three.

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Anxious not to be left out, a damselfly joined the party by pig-backing on our friend B’s coat. B loves small creatures which he can handle and soon had made a pet of what I think is a female large red damselfly.

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It was surprisingly content to sit on his hand. Perhaps it had only recently emerged? So happy was it, in fact, that B was taking her home with him.

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I persuaded him it might be best to take her back and leave her by the pond.

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We finished with a stroll across the Lots, where the green-winged orchids were looking spectacular.

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Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots

Kent Estuary Dolphin

On Arnside Knott

Another half-term stroll, this time for all of the family, which began in Eaves Wood, took us past Arnside Tower and then over the Knott. On the Knott the kids enjoyed the variety of finding some new trees to climb…

Arnside Knott tree climbing 

It was a cloudy day, but the Lakeland fells were mostly clear, and we certainly had better views than on our previous visit with friends a few weeks back. In fact, over Dunmail Raise we could even pick-out Skiddaw in the Northern Lakes.

Big stick 

From the Knott we dropped down to the shores of the Kent estuary where we in for a bit of a surprise. Something floating in the river….

Object in Kent Estuary 

….a dolphin (or porpoise I don’t know which).

A dolphin? 

It must, I think, have been a young one – it was around a metre long. And decidedly dead. Although passers-by were asking whether somebody should be rung to come and attempt a rescue – it was clearly too late for that. I’ve never seen a dolphin or a porpoise in the wild. How sad that my first encounter should be with a prematurely dead youngster.

Evening light on the Row

After tea and cake in the bakery on the promenade, we caught a train back to Silverdale station. From there TBH and the boys used the shuttle bus service to get home, whilst A and I walked across the fields. The sun had sunk below the blanket of cloud and briefly suffused everything with a warm golden glow.

Kent Estuary Dolphin

Towyn Farm – Early Morning Strolls II

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One morning I cycled down to the natural harbour of Porth Ysgaden and walked along the coast to Porth Gwylan, another, larger, natural harbour. Between the two, this rocky inlet, unnamed on the OS map, was home to many cormorants with two obvious, large and untidy nests and birds dotted about the cliffs.

Cormorants 

Cormorant

Six spot burnet moth

Six-spot burnet moth.

Porth Gwylan

Porth Gwylan

You can perhaps see a small speck in the water almost in the centre of the photo. It’s a grey seal. Sometimes one or two other seals would surface for a while, but this one stayed almost stationary, snout pointing upwards, apparently asleep. I went down to the shingle beach to get a closer view.

Grey seal

And even momentarily attracted the attention of the sleepy seal.

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But not for long. I watched the seal for quite some time before heading back to the campsite.

Rock samphire

“This is rock samphire isn’t it?” TBH asked.

“I’m not sure. It could be.”

She tasted it. “Yes, it is. You try it.”

So I did, reluctantly. It was foul – tasted like soap.

“It’s foul – my bit tastes like soap!” I said, between all the spitting and retching.

“Yep – so did mine.”

Unopened centaury

I made a special trip to photograph these tiny flowers, which I had seen several times on my way down to the beach, only to find that in the early-morning shade they weren’t open. I got them again later:

Centaury

I’m pretty certain that it’s centaury, but I’m not sure which one.

Nearby another small pink flower…

Restharrow

…restharrow.

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I think that this is a centaury again, growing much taller on the rocks where the sheep can’t get to crop it short. Judging by the rosette of narrow basal leaves it would say that it is seaside centaury, which I suppose makes sense.

Towyn Farm – Early Morning Strolls II

Butterbur and Excavations

Woefully behind as ever. A week and a half ago: ferrying A to pre-exam ballet lessons in Milnthorpe again, I took the boys too, knowing that they would enjoy the path beside the Bela I had walked earlier in the week. It gave them an opportunity to lob great boulders into the water and me a chance to take photos of the butterbur whilst the sun was shining.

Later in the week I had a short post-work stroll to Pointer Wood and Clarke’s Lot. There were many more violets…

And an ants’-nest mound which had been comprehensively hollowed out.

I know that both green woodpeckers and badgers will dig into these mounds in search of ants to eat. This time the culprit had left footprints….

….which I don’t think belong to either a woodpecker or a badger, but I’m not at all confident of a positive ID.

Butterbur and Excavations

Ninebanks

Last weekend (back before Christmas) we travelled up to Allendale for our regular pre-Christmas get-together with old friends. We (well, not me personally: I’m hopeless and would definitely cock-up the organisation if it fell to me) had booked a youth hostel for our sole use – this year Ninebanks hostel. I’m reliably informed, by TBH, that this is the eighth year that we’ve done this. Which is true up to a point, but before we used Youth Hostels we used to gather in one of our homes – this was when we were young and able to sleep on floors, and perhaps more importantly we didn’t have so many kids between us.

It’s as much a social event as anything – communal meals, rehashing old stories, a kids party, a few beers. This year tobogganing and a music intros quiz also featured. There wasn’t really enough snow for the former and every stone and rut bumped and jolted as we slid down the icy field. Frozen mole-hills proved to be particularly hazardous and all of the sleds were fatally damaged over the course of the weekend. I finished the trip with very painful sciatica which I think was probably as a result of the sledging.

I did manage to fit a couple of walks in too though. On Saturday I was up early for a pre-dawn start with the Adopted Yorkshireman (henceforth AYM). We walked a horseshoe around the valley of Wellhope Burn – up to the trig pillar at Hard Rigg, across Hesleywell Moor, over Whimsey Hill and the Dodd before turning North back toward the hostel. It was phenomenally cold – I’m essentially a very warm person and usually find that I can’t wear gloves for long, but on this occasion I comfortably wore two pairs together.

Hard Rigg

Twice – on the way up Hard Rigg and right by the trig point, we saw a mouse darting from a hole in the snow and then disappearing into another hole. Must be a hard won existence.

Where the going underfoot consisted of fresh snow over tussocks (approaching Hard Rigg) or fresh snow over heather and peat hags (the Dodd) it was hard work – letting the AYM break trial is not much help since his legs are about 3 yards long and it’s nigh on impossible to match his stride, and even if you do manage it’s only to find that he walks with his toes pointing out at 45 degrees and you can’t turn your feet to match his prints without the advantage of double-jointed ankles. Fortunately much of our route followed a wall in the lee of which old drifted snow had frozen into solid neve which was a delight to walk on. This was my first time around this moorland but with the boggy bits frozen it was probably an ideal time to visit. True to form however, on the Dodd I did manage to crash through some ice into peaty water which filled one of my boots – it was, needless to say, very cold.

Later on in our walk it brightened up considerably but for some reason I didn’t take any photos – probably too busy putting the world to rights as the AYM and I always seem to do whenever we are together.

After the early start we back in time for a late lunch, some sledging and to cook the curries for tea (my contribution to the weekend).

On the Sunday I was out with the AYM’s other half the Adopted Yorkshirewoman. We were on the afternoon shift having been on child-minding duties in the morning. As luck would have it we hit the best part of the day – it had been rather dull and dour but as we set-off the AYW opined that ‘it might clear up’, and she was dead right.

The confluence of the River West Allen and Mohope Burn….

…still running but with  ice building up under the water.

West Allen Dale

The track which took us up on to the moors. (Remarkably ice-free unlike many of the paths and tracks we followed)

The cloud begins to reassert itself.

We enjoyed the sunshine whilst we could, because when the weather turned again it did so very swiftly. And by the time we were following the edge at Greenleycleugh Crags, visibility was very limited…

Looking along Greenleycleugh Crags to the last of the sunshine disappearing in the North.

On the way back to the hostel we passed Throssel Hole Buddhist Centre which I’m sure I’ve read about before on the interweb but which I wasn’t aware was here. We talked to a couple of people here who I would guess were a monk and a nun from the centre. They were having problems with their water source. The centre is in Limestone Brae which is a small hamlet stretched out along the road on a steep valley side. Having seen the name Limestone Brae on a road sign I had been expecting it to be some sort of interesting geological feature.

At the end of our walk, in almost complete darkness, we came across a gathering of hares – I think seven in all. I thought that hare’s were essentially solitary creatures and was surprised to find them fraternising in a field.

In all a great weekend, and we didn’t get round to exploring Allen Banks or visiting the forts on nearby Hadrian’s Wall. We shall have to return.

Ninebanks

Gait Barrows Two Times

On Thursday night, then again on Saturday afternoon, I was at Gait Barrows. The first was a solo and very late trip, the second a family outing to the Gait Barrows open day as part of the local Wildflower Festival. We were late the second day too, but only because we were using the free bus service laid on for the occasion: the first whizzed past, the second didn’t show at all, so we finally caught one an hour after we had intended.

The stars of the show were the lady’s-slipper orchids, apparently Britain’s rarest flower – there’s just one native surviving example in the wild, at a jealously guarded site somewhere in Yorkshire. Another plant has been flowering near the village since the 1930’s, when it’s thought that somebody planted it there. Now the clever people at Kew Gardens have undertaken a programme to try to reintroduce the flower to the wild. Plants held by orchid collectors and known to be of English origin have been crossed with plants from the continent. Now several orchids have been planted at Gait Barrows. Apparently the orchids need a particular fungi present in the soil in order to thrive and it’s thought that it’s likely that that fungi will be present locally.

Another really noticeable feature of both trips, particularly on Saturday, were the wood ants. There are lots of large nests at Gait Barrows. At present the ants are so busy that if you stand near to a nest you can hear the noise of their combined movements. On Saturday the ants were using one of the main paths through the reserve and one side of the track was a awash with them. I was going to say ‘like a river of ants’ except that the ants were flowing in both directions, so perhaps not the best analogy. I’m always impressed by the things that ants will carry…

  ..like this dead beetle which dwarfs the ant which is dragging it.

On Thursday night I saw several roe deer – mostly they ran off long before I could photograph them, I did take some photos of one which was in the middle of the damp meadow by Little Haweswater but it was a long way away and it was by then quite dark so the photos weren’t up to much. Near the end of the walk a fox ran past and disappeared into the trees – I know that foxes can be very common in our towns and cities these days but I very rarely see them, so was thrilled. Later still, when I was almost back at the car, another roe deer crossed the track ahead of me and paused to stare before running into the trees when I raised my camera. From the woods I then heard what sounded like the barking of a dog. I knew that roe deer could bark like this – there are film-clips on YouTube – but I’ve never heard it before myself.

There were many moths flying and on Thursday night when I was alone I chased around after one or two without any real success. The best I managed…

…at least enabled me to identify this as the day-flying moth the speckled yellow.

I almost walked into….

…which was hanging by a thread from a tree by the path. It was swinging in the wind and I couldn’t seem to hold it in my viewfinder to take a photo. Then it simply disappeared and it took me a moment or two to realise that it was now sat, rather imperiously I thought, on the top of my lens. So in the end I photographed it sitting on my finger, which gives an idea of how tiny it was. I’ve trawled through the caterpillar pages of my insect field guide but can’t find anything to match – as ever, if anybody knows or has an idea…

The lady’s-slipper orchids like limestone pavement and in the same area there were several other flowers which also seemed to be thriving in that environment:

I’m fairly sure that this is lily-of-the-valley. There were lots of plants, but not many flowers – I think that next year I need to visit in May to see them at their best.

Rock rose which is fairly common locally.

I think that this is biting stonecrop although the flowers aren’t fully opened yet.

Columbine – aquilegia vulgaris – likes lime rich soils too, which is perhaps why they seed so effectively all over our garden. I love them. Some of the plants in our garden have pink flowers rather then white and I had always assumed that this was the result of some commercial cross-breeding but I saw a pink one at Gait Barrows on Thursday and my flower guide says ‘usually violet, but occasionally white or reddish’ so perhaps not. The light wasn’t helping on Thursday night but I can’t resist including this unopened flower, blurred though it is, because of the fabulous colours and shape…

 

On Saturday TBH and I walked home with her brother Dr A, whilst the kids went on the bus with their grandparents. The stream which flows from Little Haweswater to Haweswater was chock full of big fat tadpoles. In the meadows by the lake the bird’s-eye primroses are flowering…

Gait Barrows Two Times