27th June: After an ‘exciting’ seven hour drive up on Friday 26th and an overnight stop in Preston we headed north in the following morning. With the sun shining I decided that at visit to RSPB Leighton Moss was in order. It was very quiet bird wise although the Marsh Harriers had just fledged but the undoubted highlight was the big dog Otter catching and munching fish in the shallows. Plenty of Bullfinch and Marsh Tit action but the Great White Egret did not show itself.
|Plateumaris sp of Reed Beetle|
On to Arnside Knott for some butterfly time and it did not disappoint and an hour in the sun produced all that I hoped for and more. Northern Brown Argus was main quarry here and I welcomed it to my list with several seen well, nectaring on trefoil. Both Small and ‘normal’ Pearl Bordered Fritillaries were still on the wing and to be honest were also probably new for me while Dark Greens but no High Browns powered around. Eight other species were seen including my first Grayling and Ringlet for the year. It was a beautiful place with stunning views through the Yew and Juniper, north to the Lakes and west out towards Morecombe Bay.
|Northern Brown Argus|
|Northern Brown Argus|
Nearby Gaits Barrow was very quiet with little butterfly action but it was good to see the Limestone Pavement again having visited when we came up for the Dunsop Bridge Eagle Owls and Lady’s Slipper Orchid here a good few years ago. A wonderful spread of Herb Paris between some limestone slabs amongst the trees was a pleasant surprise.
|Common Awl Robberfly Neoitamus cyanurus|
Time to head for Burton-in-Kendal to Tyee Cottage, the base camp for the week.
28th June: It dawned bleak and wet and after an aimless drive round towards Barrow, we headed east into the Yorkshire Dales via Kirkby Lonsdale and the stunning Ribbleshead Viaduct. A cheese fix in the Wenlseydale factory in Hawes and then a quick riverside stop that gifted me a pair of nesting Spotted Flycatchers and both Dipper and Grey wagtail saw me happy for the rest of the day.
29th June: Yesterday morning I drove past a big yellow arrowed sign saying ‘Ospreys’ so today I pulled off at Fowlshaw Moss CWT reserve and spent a happy hour on this still developing Moss that has been constructed over the last 12 years on a site that was previously just conifer plantation. The pair of Ospreys was visible near the nest although I could not see the three young and Tree Pipits sang all around me.
A few damsels and dragons were on the wing but I could not find any of the increasing population of re-introduced White Faced Darters. These have been taken as larvae from the three remaining off-limits Cumbrian sites for this enigmatic species which I was fortunate enough to see at Thursley Common just before they died out many years ago. The area is also well known for its Large Heath butterflies and a singleton fluttering through the heather added itself to my tally. A Honey Buzzard circled over the woods on the opposite side of the road as I closed the entrance gate; a nice bonus but I was not unduly surprised given that I had been told that they were breeding fairly nearby.
The rest of the day was spent on Windermere with lunch at Brockhole in the sunshine and the sound of jets tearing up the valleys.
The drive back via Coniston included a couple of little side roads complete with Spot Flys and Redstarts and calling, but invisible, Wood Warblers and Pied Flys and a family of Goosanders and a Common Sandpiper on the Greenodd Sands.
|Oak on a rock at Coniston|
30th June: Up the M6 first thing to Shap and its ancient Abbey ruins, complete with gorgeous Grey Wagtails and breeding Jackdaws. Pink Shap granite.... ahh... memories of the very first piece of rock I ever looked at under a microscope at Uni 25 years ago....
After visiting the imposing Neolithic Mayburgh Henge at Penrith, it was into the Northern Lakes with the sun beaming down and my hope of Mountain Ringlet in Honister Pass increasing by the moment. The scenery was stunning and I felt so lucky to be seeing such a huge landscape in glorious weather. Blencathra stood majestically to the North and the fells to the south gleamed green.
|Looking north east from Fleetwith toward High Seat... I think|
|Two Banded Long Horn Beetle Rhagium bifasciatum|
|Honister foot spa spot|
|Buttermere High Stile & Red Pike|
We had dinner (KFC!) with the very hospitable Branch family in a still very hot Morecombe with the statue of Eric and the multitudinous promenade bird art behind and waves of incoming Oystercatchers over the golden bay in front with a Lakeland misty mountain skyline for the perfect backdrop. Magic.
|Me, Eric and the Branch Boys|
1st July: It was a scorcher and by the time I reached Fowlshaw Moss it was already 25c and there were dragonflies everywhere. I have never seen so many Four Spot Chasers and the sound of them wing clattering in territorial disputes over the sphagnum pools was clear to be heard. Teneral Black Darters were taking their maiden flights on shiny silver wings and the first Emperors were out and making the Large Red and three blue Damselflies behave a little more cautiously! Large Heaths were bouncing around the Moss with a flight that reminded me of the bounce of a Meadow Brown but they do not seem to stop much and seldom close so I was pleased to get a shot of one showing the eyed underwings.
|The Cotton Grass was going to seed nicely|
Ospreys and Tree Pipits were as before and two Grasshopper Warbler reeled from small birches while a Water Rail ‘kipped’ from a pool.
West now along the coast and then up over the rolling Thwaites Fell before dropping down to Ravenglass and its sweet little narrow gauge Steam Railway which takes you chuffing up Eskdale and back. It was a bit drizzly but the views and smell were great and sitting at the front of the way back resulted in some proper coal smut!
|Roman Baths...closed for the day...|
I wondered down to the Roman bath ruins before it was time to move back east, up, over and through the Hardknott and Wrynose passes. I stopped and had a bit of a climb which afforded me even more panoramic views but of the Roman fort, there was no sign but this is probably because I started walking up at the wrong spot!
It took a little while to get back to Ambleside as we (and others) got seriously stuck in village of Little Langdale where contractors had started digging up and resurfacing the tiny road nine days before their sign at the head of the valley said that the road would be closed! A happy shrug of the shoulders and ‘Oh well!’ was the only comment from the road gang but with no way of turning round and a line of cars behind we simply turned off the engine and enjoyed the scenery until the chance to move on arrived...
2nd July: This was a drive around day with gloomier weather and the first low cloud but the views were still superb and the drive over the Kirkstone Pass and down to Ullswater was great. I know that this area is another Mountain Ringlet hotspot but some serious effort and better weather would be needed to succeed. An evening pop down to RSPB Leighton Moss gave views of seven Little Egrets roosting up but still no Great White and a memorable sunset over the sands at Silverdale.
|High Cross, Hawkshead|
|Approaching Red Screes from the Kirkdale Pass|
|Kirkdale looking down to Ullswater|
|RSPB Leighton Moss|
|Thrifty Sunset at Silverdale|
|Windermere from Townend|
3rd July: And here was that sunny, still and warm day so I packed my rucksack and headed back up to Kirkdale. The Red Screes were where I had been told but the ascent looked terrifying from just over half way up so I looked at my map and decided to head across the road and tackle the less imposing but equally high Stoney Cove Pike.
It was quite energetic to start with but once at the first peak at St Ravens Edge it was already worth the effort whether I managed to see my butterflies or not.
Onwards to Pike How passing many Small Heaths and a superb Golden Ringed Dragonfly on the way along with a few Wheatears and the ever present Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I was amazed at just how dry it was up there with the majority of the peaty pools and seeps being bone dry or fading fast. Clegs watched me from the walls but I found no lurking Sheep Nostril Flies only quite a few Downlooker Snipe Flies!
|Downlooker Snipe Fly|
|Golden Ringed Dragonfly|
The views got bigger and better all the time looking west towards Scaefell Pike and Helvellyn, the incoming tide in Morecombe Bay and Windermere to the south, Ullswater just north and the Shap Fells stretching out east.
|The vista from the Yoke to the left via Windermere, Grasmere, Red Screes, Scaefell Pike and Helvellyn|
And at the summit cairn at 763m I found my Mountain Ringlets flicking around in front of me... All chocolate brown and orange spots.... I was over the moon and sat down at the cairn for lunch in the sunshine with the Lakes and their Mountains laid out before me.
The walk back down was quicker but gave the knees a work out in the other direction but I felt that it had all been worthwhile.
I headed south back through the crowded Windermere to Fowlshaw Moss for a final look and got my rewards by at last finding a male White Faced Darter. Long and skinny with the tell tale white face and red abdominal markings. I soon lost it but was pleased to have connected with one. There were more Black Darters on the wing now and Large Heaths flopped around while Emerald Damselfly was new to the trip list. There was quite a bit of Osprey action with three young on the nest and one adult circling overhead before descending to see them while another adult moved through and was apparently from another local pair. Let’s hope that English Ospreys continue to go from strength to strength.
|Four Spot Chaser|
An evening drive took in another visit to Gaits Barrow where there were still no High Brown frits although I did see a couple of Small Pearl Bordereds along with Ringlets and Meadow Browns and a field full of orchids that are still giving me a headache. The Clegs were persistent so fish and chips at Arnside beckoned and were enjoyed on the beach with a juvenile Raven for company.
|Northern Marsh Orchid|
|Young Raven investigating the train tracks at Arnside|
A final circuit of the Lakes in the evening sunshine rounded things off very nicely before the long journey home tomorrow.
|Three shots of Coniston from the east side in the evening light|
4th July: After a superb week of weather it was time to head home in the murk and drizzle of a dank Saturday morning. I headed cross country through the southerly Dales via Settle before stopping for lunch at the now sunny RHS Harlow Carr on the outskirts of Harrogate where a pleasant amble was had after a posh lunch at Betty’s. Expensive but thoroughly recommended for the quality of the service alone.... AND proper loose tea in a pot!
From here on it was a straight and unhindered run home down the A1 with Red Kites for company for most of the way...