Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Fell Walking For Wimps 3 - Sale Fell

We’re being a bit more adventurous this week, climbing 613 feet up Sale Fell but, being true wimps, we’re walking around it rather than going over the top. The views are excellent, even from the lower elevations, and if you want a view from the top, well, that’s what Google Earth is for! Butterflies, flowers, falcons and fungi are all about in this bracken and grassy habitat but first, let’s have a closer look at the gorse. This is a plant that is so common that it is often overlooked but is quite fascinating in its own way.

This is common gorse, (Ulex europeas), also known as furze or whin and is usually to be found on heaths, moors and hillsides where the soil is poor but well drained. It provides food for certain caterpillars, wild ponies and even ourselves. The flowers are reminiscent in smell and taste to coconut and you can make tea or wine from them, or even add them to salads for an exotic touch. Their thorniness makes them ideal for nesting birds such as the Dartford Warbler and the Whinchat, and in southern England, where gorse is in flower almost all year round, they have a saying: "When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion". If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your blood test when it goes away to the lab, it could meet up with some gorse seeds. They contain a particular chemical (Ulex europaeus aglutinin, if you’re interested) which is used to identify certain antigens which may, or may not, be present in your blood. Who knew?


T
hat’s the northern and eastern flank of the fell climbed, so let’s rest awhile on the soft grass, admire the scenery and look at some of the other plants that we’ve seen on the way up. Just back there, in the damper area, I noticed some Bilberries just coming into fruit. This is a good dessert fruit and, in Celtic tradition, they are traditionally collected on Lughnasahd (on or about August 1st) which marks the beginning of the harvest season. If the Bilberry crop is good, then so will the rest of the harvest be. We also have some English Wild Thyme growing up here, which we also saw on Slate Fell a couple of weeks back, and this pretty little blue and yellow job. This is a Mountain Pansy and it’s a bit unusual in that it’s blue rather than a pale yellow. It’s a northern English flower which only grows at an altitude of 660 ft and above, according to the literature. There’s a kestrel up there, look. You can only make out the silhouette, but they’re easy to identify from their flight. He’s quartering the fellside with wings outstretched - he’s spotted something…. wings up into the classic kestrel ‘V’ shape for hovering – check and lock on to target…. down come the wings and undercarriage and... drop like a stone into the heather. Magnificent. I wonder if he caught anything?


Onwards and downwards, for a change as we round the sunny, southern side. The gorse is flowering more on this side and there are a few little butterflies enjoying the warmth of the day. About half the size of a Peacock or Red Admiral, these are Small Coppers (or to be politically correct, maybe they should be Vertically Challenged Police Officers?
). Like many butterflies and moths, they lay their eggs on specific food plants, in this case sorrels and other docks. The larvae hatch out on the top surface of the leaves, then walk round to the underside and begin munching, leaving little windows of the transparent top layer of cells. So, if you see a dock leaf in spring or summer, with little windows in it, turn it over. You may see a Small Copper caterpillar underneath. Talking of caterpillars, there’s a woolly monstrosity wandering down the path. It’s a Fox Moth caterpillar. This is one of the Lappet or Eggar Moths and although the caterpillar is quite spectacular, the adults are a rather disappointing dull brown-grey with a couple of wavy, cream lines.



A
nd now it really is downhill all the way, with a nice view of Bassenthwaite in the middle distance. I’ve seen a few mushrooms/toadstools and jelly fungi on our way round and this golden one by my feet, here, looks to be a very choice Golden Chanterelle. I say ‘looks to be’ because, without examining it more carefully; checking what it does when you cut it, taking a spore print, and so forth, I wouldn’t risk putting it in my mouth. In all honesty, I find that the romance of fungi foraging is a bit overrated. For a start, about ninety percent are not worth the trouble, as they’re tough, tasteless or both, and the other ten percent are either delicious or deadly. Having sorted the lovely from the lethal, you then have to get them home and cook them before the ‘room’ disappears and you’re left with ‘mush’. Far better, in my view, to concentrate on the fungi within a mile of your home; find out if there are any good ones, check that you like them enough to get up early and collect them, otherwise buy cultivated ones which have been grown for the table. But that’s just me – no romance in my soul at all.



I
spotted a pheasant on the way up to the start of the walk. Not just any old pheasant, but The Pheasant, which I know from last week’s visit to Dubwath Silver Meaows, serves a nice pint in a pleasant garden, and the nibbles aren’t bad either. I suggest we adjourn until next week, when we may go and investigate one of those permanent puddles that the county is famous for.


Stay safe and be happy,


Steve


Steve's Books


The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies

All you need to know to identify any type of insect, spider, worm or snail very simply and find out more about it.

Yvonne: This was a gift for a family so that the children can understand what they see on days out. The second was for me. Logical and easy to use. If you know anyone who likes nature you can be confident that gifting this book will give years of pleasure.




The Eggs of Saramova

A science fiction novella for those who don't like science fiction. A fast-paced thriller that is, literally, out of this world (and it starts right here in Crete).

Too new for reviews yet!




Not Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels 

A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Janet: If you are short on time but enjoy reading and are maybe not into long extended novels then Not Just For... Twisted Women provides readers with concise stories that stand alone and most certainly entertain with their ultimate twists. Loved it.

Helen: A very good read! Well written and entertaining!

Margaret: Each quick tale gives a glimpse into a character's life and has an often humorous twist at the end. I would love to read more.

Yvonne: These days many people find it hard to find the time to read a novel, so this book of short stories is ideal to dip into. It is also makes a good gift.






See sample pages of all my books and latest blogs, and keep abreast of latest publications here:

http://author.to/SteveDaniels






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LINKS:

Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)


Explore east Crete with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map


Crete

Cumbria

Cretan Flora


Crete Birding


Greek Butterflies and Moths

Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Bodiversity Data Centre

Carlisle Natural History Society




Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Dubwath Silver Meadows


We’re off to explore another one of Cumbria’s small Nature Reserves today, Dubwath Silver Meadows, at the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake. This is a wetland reserve which has been thoughtfully laid out with cinder paths and duckboards made from recycled plastic and, as far as I can tell, it is wheelchair accessible.

We’ll make a start by walking alongside the hay meadow and around the snipe bog. Whether we’ll see any snipe or not is debatable as they are very well camouflaged and have nerves of steel. They’ll keep very still amongst this tall Tufted Hair Grass and let you pass within a couple of feet without moving a muscle. You practically have to step on their tail feathers before they spook, and then they take off like a rocket. Looking at the wetland flowers in amongst the grass I see that we have Great Burnet; some species of Woundwort, probably Marsh Woundwort, which can help promote the healing of wounds (any plant with wort in it’s name is a traditional healing plant); and Bird’s Foot Trefoil which is one of the host plants for the caterpillars of the Wood White butterfly.

We also have various thistles, which the Small Tortoiseshells are enjoying; Meadowsweet, which is attracting the Sun Flies (a type of Hoverfly) and, sadly once again, the 7-spot Lady Beetle is the only beetle to be seen. We do however have a bug, a true bug that is, being a member of the order Hemiptera, rather than the generic use of the word bug to describe any invertebrate. True bugs, like this beautifully marked Lygus Bug, have specialised mouthparts, like a hypodermic needle, which they use for sucking sap from plants. Females have needles at the other end as well, which they use for piercing plants and laying eggs in them. In small numbers they don’t do much harm, but some Lygus Bugs can become a serious agricultural pest, particularly where you have very large fields of a single crop and thus, no habitat for their predators.

I’ve heard a few vague tweetings, and there’s a buzzard mewing above us but I see some bird feeders up ahead so, if we stand still and try to look like tree stumps (difficult in your bright pink anorak, but do your best), we’ll wait and see who comes along. There’s a Great Tit on the feeder already and a Blue Tit up in the branches waiting to come in (the Great Tit is slightly bigger, more boldly marked and has a black cap as opposed to a pale blue one). Just over to the left is a Coal Tit, with a black cap which has a white patch at the back and a greyish chest. That’s out tits sorted out (behave), but over to the right we also have a Nuthatch. These are more closely related to Wrens than to Tits and have a similar crouching posture. But wait, did you see something move on the ground beneath the feeder?



There, just coming out of that tussock of grass, it’s a little Bank Vole. It looks very mouse-like but it’s tail is quite short and straight, whereas mouse tails are quite long and often seem to have a life of their own, quite independent to what the rest of the mouse is doing. Voles are a big favourite with birds of prey which means that they are very cautious as a rule but this one has a couple of advantages. Firstly, the Tits are wary of Birds of Prey too and set up an alarm call if there are any about, and secondly, birds are such messy feeders that there are plenty of seeds on the floor so he doesn’t have to concentrate too hard on finding his food.






That was a nice find and it was good to watch the small Passerine birds up close and personal. I think we’ll just take a seat on this beautifully carved wooden bench and watch the hay meadow for a bit.

Excuse me, but is this seat taken?”

Would you believe it, there’s a Lizard here, calmly shedding its skin, without an apparent care in the world. Lovely habitat for him here, plenty of insects and spiders in the hay meadow, good cover with old logs along the verge of the path and a nice warm bench to bask upon. I one rescued a lizard from a cat in a Cretan taverna. He spent the entire meal curled up in the cradle of my arm, much to the amusement of my fellow diners. Lovely little creatures.

Until next week, when we’ll be walking around Sale Fell, up to our left there,

Stay safe and be happy,

Steve



All you need to know to identify any type of insect, spider, worm or snail very simply and find out more about it.

Yvonne: This was a gift for a family so that the children can understand what they see on days out. The second was for me. Logical and easy to use. If you know anyone who likes nature you can be confident that gifting this book will give years of pleasure.

The Eggs of Saramova

A science fiction novella for those who don't like science fiction. A fast-paced thriller that is, literally, out of this world (and it starts right here in Crete).

Too new for reviews yet!


A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.

Janet: If you are short on time but enjoy reading and are maybe not into long extended novels then Not Just For... Twisted Women provides readers with concise stories that stand alone and most certainly entertain with their ultimate twists. Loved it.
Helen: A very good read! Well written and entertaining!
Margaret: Each quick tale gives a glimpse into a character's life and has an often humorous twist at the end. I would love to read more.
Yvonne: These days many people find it hard to find the time to read a novel, so this book of short stories is ideal to dip into. It is also makes a good gift.


See sample pages of all my books and latest blogs, and keep abreast of latest publications here:



*********************************************************************
LINKS:
Share your nature thoughts, photos and comments on Naturalists (the facebook page that accompanies this blog)

Explore east Crete with the #CreteNature interactive Hiking and Nature Map

Crete
Cumbria






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