Sunday, 30 August 2009

Dreek, dreary, damp drizzle = FUN

Yesterday's sporting safari was a resounding success in the summer sunshine. 3 - 0 home win...YES!!! sorted! Took the little used pocket camera WITHOUT CHECKING the batteries...dozey no pics of the Tangerines coming up with the goals. Had great seats right behind goal too.
Well yet again the afternoon sun didn't make it to the following morning - woke up to drizzle and steel grey skies. But for once that didn't matter rain makes mud and 'the best 4x4 by far' likes mud...lots of it. BRING IT ON. A trip to the quarry at Whitworth up in the hills was today's safari - 'One life - Live it' ...ADRENALIN!!! Adrenaline my ar*e on the motorway on a Bank Holiday Sunday stuck behind a flat hat merchant with a cauliflower in the passenger seat racing along at 45mph.
Got there eventually - Pity they can't get to heaven quicker 'cos it's just hell being stuck in queue of traffic behind 'em. One old chap had ears the size of satellite dishes. Why do old bloke's ears grow unfeasibly large? Must go and borrow a set of calipers from Fleetwood Birder - he only lives a little way up the road and does a bit of ringing and measure mine 'cos I'm getting in to that category now. When I got there and signed the damage/death disclaimer I had to put my age, hand shook as I dallied over whether or not I should write 49 1/2 and a bit and a bit more but I no longer have time to waste and anyway serious fun in the mud was beckoning. As it said on one of my cards Growing old is mandatory - growing up is optional!
This site is no genteel Green Lane tour of the byways of rural Lancashire this is full on, hardcore, rollercoaster off roading venue. Well it would be if the Land Rover was a little more tricked up but we did do some of the 'Red Route' sections testing the full articulation of the wheel travel to the full and hitting the bump stops on the suspension with a body shaking thud a few times and making the turbo sing for its supper. The last climb on the curcuit was a slippery, foot to the floor, 'hang on and go for it as failure was not an option' affair - believe me; unless of course you like to reverse down a 100m 45 degree slope with falls off both sides and you can't see in your mirrors for the mud you just put on them...then again you might be one of those few, I prefered to get to the safety of the plateau at the top...and go round again...and again...
Only trouble is with two hands firmly - well actually not firmly at all, a light but very responsive touch is needed - on the steering wheel it's pretty difficult to take many photos. But look closely and you will see Extreme Photographer, Raf lurking in the cab so there may be some links to You Tube coming soon...when he's washed the last of the mud out of his this space. He should also have some good footage of some seriously extreme (Su)Zuki Rhinos doing some mad stuff...hope it came out those guys were bonkers - and a some rather well stuck Defender and Cruiser shots!
The blue Disco behind the safari truck has a beautiful front bumper - look at the approach angle on that! Had a tricky rear winch too - very unusual on a Disco. Glad I've taken the plazzy front spoiler off and had the tow-bar raised, they would have seriously got in the way today.

Anyway the safari truck's second excursion was a tad more successful than the first and didn't disgrace us in anyway. Must get those rock sliders fitted for extra's hard to go full on if you risk seriously damaging your pride and joy.

Wildlifewise east Lancashire seems like a bird free desert on a cold wet miserable afternoon just a couple of Carrion Crows and the odd Woodpigeon knocking about. A Rabbit shot out from under one of the big rocks after the Zukis had been through the crawl, probably choking from the smell of burning rubber from their slipping tyres.

Where to next? Back to somewhere with wildlife, I think I'm too late to twitch the Wilson's Phalarope ...bugger!

In the meantime let us know how rocky the roads are in your outback.

And no environment was harmed during the making of this post - all done using recycled cooking oil...and I wasn't the only one.

Friday, 28 August 2009

A new era

The safari was exempted from early morning dog duties and got breakfast in bed. A trip out to a fine and dandy pie shop led to a brief detour to a local birdinng spot. Not much there, a few Swallows that's all. But even in the dreadful weather a few butterflies were flitting about, several Large White's, a Green Veined White or two, a Small Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral feeding on the local Buddleia. Seen a few goodies there in the past like Buff Breasted Sand, Glossy Ibis and Common Crane probably pick of the best. The tide was a couple of miles out so nothing within sight. Batteries flat in the big camera but if you want to see it look at Dean's photo, didn't see him lurking in the woods but he got the same pic today as we saw. Frank had a good time and ended up in the mud as usual.At home there was no respite from the weather so no chance of a quick dash out to see if 'owt was about'.

Nothing for it but to knock up something for dinner and wash it down with a bottle of quality plonk which has been lain up in the cupboard under the stairs for a couple of years awaiting this day. A 1994 Chateau Grauad Larose Grand Cru...ooohhhh I say laa-de-dah...15 years old surely its gone off by now...sincerely hope not...hope its improved!

A break in the downpours allowed a quick visit to the patch, where mammalian bizarreness happened. A Fox was walking down the edge of the footy field in broad daylight - never seen one there before, wonder why it was out at that time. Then on the way back we came face to face with a Grey Squirrel hopping about on the path right towards until it spotted us and disappeared into the bushes...weird or what.

Nothing further to report.

Where to next? A sporting safari tomorrow...shhh it's supposed to be a secret.

In the meantime let us know if it is as wet in your outback?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A rummage round the past

The safari hasn’t been out safari-ing since the weekend but after following Warren’s escapades for a while I asked him if he could supply some photos of his daily walk round his patch. Which he has very kindly done. Reading his (almost) daily reports got me to thinking here was a serious patch worker had he ever heard of the magazine/pamphlet for birders such as himself – cunningly entitled Patchwork. I was under the impression it came out in the early 90s but on asking the Rangers to track down our copies if they still had them it transpires that it was issued much later; in 1998 in fact – but jeez that’s still over a decade ago, when I was still in my 30s.
I don’t think there ever was a Volume 2 and we don’t quite have a full set. Does anyone remember the publication? Did you subscribe? Did you contribute? Does any one still have their copies? If so have you got the full set?

One of the Rangers, who was then a volunteer, and myself both had articles printed, mine (about ducks) even got a response…ooohhh. I have scanned them but our machine saves them as pdf files and don't seem to be able to add them to the post - anyone know if it's possible?
I think it was published as the antithesis of the glossy birding magazines which were prevalent at the time (maybe they still are – I don’t know), and which I contributed to too, whose main focus seemed to be garden birds and twitching…again something I was known to do from time to time 50,000+ miles in 2 years in Lada estate!!! All four countries of the UK in less than 24 hours etc etc. Thankfully my carbon footprint is a little smaller now despite the replacement of the Lada with a Land Rover. Anyway there seemed to be a gap in the market for dedicated birders who trawled away on their own patch without much recognition in the glossies.
So there you have it – all there is to know about Patchwork. My patch now is either the park of a couple of acres and pretty crap for birds other than the regular garden species - one day I'll find a biggy in there, it should be possible I'm there early doors in all weathers and it is the highest as well as being one of the most wooded parts of town - and/or 30 or so square miles of ‘empty’ sea that I regularly stare at- seem to miss all the good stuff that flies up and down the coast - Sooty Shearwater last week and Surf Scoter last winter spring to mind – now why doesn’t someone build an island just in range of my 10x42 Swazzers.
Where to next? Milestone birthday tomorrow (½ a hundred!). So won’t be out ‘n’ about for a day or two until…well it’s going to be a safari with a bit of a difference so you’ll have to wait and see…unless someone has organised a ‘surprise’ something or other and I can’t activate the planned safari…the plot thickens…anyway whatever happens I’ll be back in a coupla days.
In the meantime let us know how big your outback patch is and what there is lurking in it.

In the twilight of my 40s I'll leave you with a lovely Blackpool sunset picture...bye for now. Well it does have Black Headed Gull in it, what more do you want the bird flying more aesthetically pleasingly into the picture rather than out of it? The spot at 4o'clock from the sun is another BHG not dust on the lens this time!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Rain, rain, rain

Well it was never going to last was it? One day's sunshine and straight back to wet and windy. The safari had a couple of plans, not enough sunshine for the first, too windy for the second so Plan C was launched - head inland. An emergency stop was required but we took advantage by looking for the Kingfisher along a regularly used stretch of river. No luck. The place is smothered in Himalayan Balsam. A pretty plant and well liked by bees but I dare say you can have too much of a good thing.As I mentioned bees like it but which species these are is a bit baffling and photographing them was a nightmare as you can see. The turned round iside the flower and came out at full tilt. I like the pointy nose on this one - but note the dark 'Ugg' boots on the hind leg. The pale back seems to be pollen from the stamens in the top of the entrance to the flower.

This one too has the Ugg boots but some our Extreme Photographer, Raf, photographed seemed to be much more wasp like. Thanks to Extreme Photograper, Raf, for the close ups. Yellow legs - no boots. Not a Kingfisher in sight but in the river Brown Trout were jumping for fun after the huge amount of insects the humid weather had brought out. Like this small Caddis Fly.That was it for that site so we went a bit further in to the hills. The rain poured down and we sat it out whilst having a brew. Oh my eye! a Kingfisher flew straight past the bonnet of the Land Rover and landed somewhat out of sight in the vegetation on the far bank. No chance of a pic. The rain eased a little and Raf went for a wander into the stream and came back with this slightly deceased Stone Loach. It has some kind of injury by its pelvic fins, the red patch on the flank. very fresh, a victim of the Kingfisher or unluckily under a stone someone paddling trod on? Whatever the cause of death it was an unusual and totally unexpected find.
The rain eased a little so we headed off upstream. nothing much doing. A few Swallows milling around the farm buildings, a couple of Pied Wagtails on the dry stone wall and brief views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
We did find an awesome Alder tree which at about 20 feet circumference will have to be reported to the Ancient Tree Hunt. A Brown Hare was disturbed from some rushy grassland.

A few minutes later we had a pair of Roe Deer prance across the field in front of us. They disappeared into a rushy gully. The wind was favourable and Raf was dispatched to get a photo. He was within a few yards of them when one of them popped its head up to scout around and spotted him. Before he could get finger to shutter they had legged it over the gully and into the wood out of sight. A Buzzard quartered the field overhead before it glided down the valley.
We followed the deer in to the woods where Frank found a vole or mouse in the leaf litter but that was far to quick on its toes to identify as it bolted into a thick patch of moss. No sign of the deer.
Not alot else about and the rain was getting heavier so it was back to the Land Rover and away. Before we had gone too far we spotted another Brown Hare in the field just the other side of the fence. As we stopped the Land Rover it moved away but soon settled down again. Looks a bit anxious in the first pic, ready to do one.
Settling down but still wary.
Relaxed; enough distance between him and us.

A Kestrel on the wires on the way home was a bonus. seem to see more Buzzards than these these days - how times have changed!

Best bird of the day was well before the safari at a few minutes before 6 am when there was a Peregrine Falcon on the Water Tower round the corner from Base Camp when taking Frank out for his early morning constitutional. Almost glad he got me up so early on a Sunday!!!
Not a bad day out by any stretch and better than expected.
Where to next? What will the week bring...who knows I don't yet.
In the meantime let us know what is wet and wonderful in your outback.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The gates of sweet hell, Babylon

A musical safari today (well the X-Factor starts (yet) again tonight (has it not run its course yet?) .
The gates in question are the back garden gates.The hell is painting all those edges and in-betweeny bits, but the sweet bit is the sound of wifey belting it out on the karaoke machine. Isn't it great when the neighbours p**s of away on holiday and she can give it a 'proper' go!
Whilst painting, wasting one of the few sunny days of the summer, we could have been out safari-ing but chores have to be done, the work was made much easier listening to Mrs McG giving absolutely superb renditions (yes I know its easier in your living room than in front of Simon Cowell and his crew but it was that good) of a variety of artistes, Abba, Robbie Williams, Jamelia, numbers from Les Miserables and The Lion King. Then stunning versions of songs by musical divas (and I don't use the term lightly) like Shirley Bassey and Dolly Parton.
Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Large White butterflies flitted round the last of the flowers on the Buddleia. The heat was hot in the yard but 'Wichita Linesman' had me coming out in goosebumps - brilliant - not my favourite song by a long way.
'Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell' Alannah Myles' bluesy tones simply oozed out of the living room window. How well Mrs McG sings this!!! 'The sun is setting like molasses in the sky' (for a recent Blackpool sunset see here on 16th August). I can feel the sweltering heat, the tension in the still Southern air and even hear the Cicadas rasping in the trees along the levee (if levees have trees). Never liked Elvis much but I'll forgive him for being the inspiration for this song.
Interruption - - - the gulls go up in a cacophony of yelling - a Buzzard is spotted disappearing over the rooftops, a desperate scrabble for the bins ensued - missed it. J.D on the South side had a Honey Buzzard as a garden tick yesterday and B.A had an Osprey. 99% probably a Buzzard but that niggling 1% could have had as something else...It did put up the local female Sparrowhawk which kept the gulls squawking a bit longer.
Goldfinches (the new House Sparrows?) and Greenfinches work their way through the sunflower seeds in the feeder.
Finished the painting - hands are sore and going to suffer out on safari tomorrow. But at least the dang gates are done for this summer. A few Swallows twittered southwards as the afternoon cooled.
Posty has brought the latest Subbuteo Books catalogue and in it I notice my mate Johnny- Boy Poland's cracking book 'The vegetative key to the British Isles' I recommend anyone with an interest in botany to get themselves a copy, a bargain at 25 quid. Now all I need is a publisher for my own book and that's my next job this evening!
Where to next? First up a dash out to the beach with Frank to play in the surf. Then tomorrow, depending on the weather, could be a safari to try to get a 'north of the river' tick.
In the meantime let us know who's been singing in your outback.
PS. A prize to anyone who can give the artist etc responsible for the title of this blog - no googling now!!! Answers on a postcard again to......
A late PPS - Les Paul as in Gibson guitars died recently...RIP...that guy was responsible for some awesome guitarists and guitar music including, amongst many many others, Slash (English not American - born in Stoke-on-Trent), Bernie Marsden (underrated) and the superb Gary Moore (better in Colluseum II than Thin Lizzy but never a slouch), oh and Eric Clapton of course.

Friday, 21 August 2009

More mothy musings

More moths and nocturnal goings-on from the safari. This time featuring extreme photographs from our man with the lens, Raf.
In the darkness by torchlight we had this one down as Dark Marbled Carpet only to discover it hasn't been recorded in lowland Lancashire for many years. So is it just a dark Common Marbled Carpet. Guess where the ID features are...the underside patternation...guess which bit we never photograph on moths...yep you got it. Fingers crossed we are right but we'll probably never know

The best way to tell Svensson's Copper Underwing from an 'ordinary' Copper Underwing is by genital dissection. I don't think they had Frank's canine teeth in mind as the tool for the's one he chobbled at. Not a definitive dissection but the underwing pattern points to ordinary, the copper band is straight and doesn't appear to extend up into the wing base.Some of the moths were only small, the dreaded Micro moths. Its hard enough getting to grips with Macros never mind the tiny stuff. This one was readily ID'd as a Plume moth and pinned down to Amblyptlia puntidactyla. That's one of the biggest problems with the Micros (along with their size and number), most don't have easy English names.
This beautiful little fella goes by the extensive name, Ysolopha sequella, his name is longer than he is!

In the field guide this specimen stuck out a mile, there was nothing really approaching it. There was a choice of one other but it would have been a long shot. The field guide, however, doesn't show every species so we thought there could be something similar in the genus that wasn't illustrated. Why were we concerned? In the book it described the habitat as being mountain moorland or acid heathland with the foodplant as Swan Necked Moss (never heard of it) but it's a long way for those little wings to fly from the nearest given habitat. So what was it? It was what we thought it was Catoptria margaritella. Just to confuse an already confusing issue it is known to wander into different habitats far from where it is supposed to live - now why didn't it say that in the book.
It's not only moths that are attracted to light. We had a huge number of Crane Flies, a Water Boatman (front swimming Notonecta) from the nearby pond, a few beetles and this Forest Bug - told from the horribly similar Sloe Bug by its pointy shoulders rather than softly rounded. More Alexis Carrington than Forrest Gump!

A Common Froghopper clanged into the lamp with almost enough force to crack it. This shot was taken a millisecond begfore it jumped.
Not all the visitors were welcome as this Mosquito, Theobaldia annulata I think, that is full of its recent blood meal shows. Don't know which one of us this one bit but we are all covered in large red itchy weals. Why does it need pied legs?

Where to next? If the Dark Marbled Carpet pic proves to be inconclusive we'll have to brave the mozzies and reset the trap to try to get another for an underside shot.
In the meantime let us know what is out there biting in your outback.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

A moth or two

A veritable box of moths was emptied today and surprisingly there seemed fewer than there ought to have been. That means many might well have escaped into the inner recesses of the Land Rover to reappear at the most inopportune moments!

Mostly Large Yellow Underwings, they are a 'nuisance' species. Over 100 in the box. Plenty of Lesser Yellow Underwings too.
A brace of still well marked Large Yellow Underwings. Most of them were faded and worn as a result of their migration. This species is an immigrant from the continent.
A Flame Shoulder takes a nap on a Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing.
Yellow-barred Brindle was a good find being described as local in the NW. It looks green rather than yellow as this is a fresh specimen. We had half a dozen of them both fresh and faded 'yellow' ones.
A faded Willow Beauty made a dash for freedom but only got as far as the kitchen wall. he's a male as can be seen from the feathery antenna just visible at the base of his left, our right, hand wing by his leg.
Hmmm...a copper underwing but is it an ordinary, common or garden, Copper Underwing or is it Svensson's Copper Underwing? No idea, but we did get at least two of each thanks to chomping Frank who gave us dead, dying or well stunned specimens to study in minute detail. In the daylight their copper unnderwing lives up to its name - a beautiful metallic coppery sheen to it as they sped towards the safety of Base Camp's flowerbeds.Two in the pot but are they the different or the same - if the same which one are they? Anyone's guess really.

Not the world's best picture of a Shuttle Shaped Dart. More to follow from Extreme Photographer, Raf's exloits in the pitch dark last night, when I get 'em, including one which if it is what we think it is, and he got a good photo, shouldn't be in these parts...hmm for the experts me thinks.
Where to next? Could be anywhere next!
In the meantime let us know what's flying round your pitch black outback.

I promised you moths

Oh boy did the safari find some moths last night...the place was crawling with them!
At the moment they are still boxed up in the trap in the back of the Land Rover waiting for the rain to stop so I can get in the garden and sift through them - it's gonna take ages! There are some very interesting ones I don't recognise despite the trapping site being only a few hundred metres from Base Camp.
Back on this post later with a list as long as your arm and hopefully some photos.
Frank kept snaffling up the Large Yellow Underwings as they came to the light. He ate loads and at least one Svensson's Copper Underwing. The latter is tricky to identify but as he spat out the crunched carcass we were able to get a detailed look at its underside. Nice one Frank, there'll only be 200 LYUs in the trap instead of the 300 that came zooming out of the dark.
One of the most interesting sounds of the night were the noises the local chavs were making, not sure if they always make these sounds or if they were putting on a show for our benefit. Hope I don't sound too snobby when I say that Darwin would be turning in his grave if he could see what many of the human species has de-evolved into. Survival of the thickest, or survival of the ones who can claim the most benefits..."whatever!!!" Anyway they do make some fascinating sounds after dark. We packed up at midnight as it started to rain abit but the chavs were still there secreted about the bushes hooting and howling away like there was no tomorrow! Actually by this time it was tomorrow!
BTW thanks for all the hits, Fat Birder ranking was under 400 for the first time today, must have been those Wheatear and the dodgy distant Buzzard photos from the Lakes...must do some more birdy pics and try to get to 350. Maybe you couldn't resist the Slime Mould? By last night it had degenerated in to a right old snotty mess, glad I got it at its best yesterday lunchtime. Long way to go before the safari gets anywhere near Warren though. Not that I'm competitive...I'm on yer tail Warren! Haha.
Where to next? Back after the rain with more moths than you can shake a stick at.
In the meantime let us know what's creeping about, hooting and tooting, after dark in your outback.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

No idea!

Can anyone out there in Blogland help the safari with this ID? Any help much appreciated. Not even sure if it's a fungus. Never seen anything quite like it before!!!

Some details: - at 07.00 this morning it was creamy white with yellow patches. A little of the white can still be seen in the close up photo. By 13.00 it had turned to this dark chocolate colour. Temperature this morning 24C (WOW) sunny but humid.
Growing on a fairly old felled Pine stump on heavy damp soil - Blackpool, Lancashire, (c. 53 degrees N).
It is, or at least was early doors, soft and squidgy.
A most bizarre organism.
Tried getting on the Wild About Britain forums but pc gremlins kept booting me out! They are usually pretty good with this sort of help.
Where to next? Got some mothing sorted out for later, hope the 'hazy sunshine' keeps off, not looking too promising now... 'A bit black over Bill's mothers' and the wind has picked up again...still warm enough though.
In the meantime...answers on a post card please......and let us know what is weird and wonderful in your outback.
STOP PRESS - The clever chaps at WAB (problems accessing WAB seem to have been universal and are over) tell me it is a Slime Mould, but there are hundreds of them". Stemonitis sp is the best 'guess' so far. Could be the nicely named Chocolate Tube S/M.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Hazy sunshine...clearing...20C

With a forecast like that the safari set off in the early hours for the Lake District National Park. The drive up was uneventful and very quiet on the motorway. The lanes near our destination had a lovely selection of wild flowers including Field Scabious, Meadow Cranesbill and lots of Meadowsweet. Not many birds about except for what seemed like half the world's population of Pied Wagtails. The woodlands in this area still have Red Squirrels but they either hadn't got up at this ungodly hour or were hiding from the 'hazy sunshine', not that we stopped to search for them but I have seen then cross the road using high level branches before.

In the car park, at Mardale, (where there used to be a village - under the water before the rocky outcrop with the trees on the left of the lake - the remains are exposed when the water level in the reservoir, Haweswater, is low),and at he start of Gatesgarth Pass (more about that later) brewing up for a cuppa at 8.30.Then we were on the hill before 9 o'clock but there was no sign of the promised hazy sunshine, hazy heavy drizzle more like it. Still the weather is set to improve so off we trotted towards the valley of the Golden Eagle, Riggindale.
A distant Raven's deep croaking broke the morning air...things were looking up...literally! Round the first corner a family of Stonechats who just would not sit still.
I apologise now for any more telephoto shots that are a bit dodgy and any pics with drips of 'hazy sunshine' on them. The field behind the wall he is sat on had a decent patch of Sneezewort.

Sorry there's no close up, but I wasn't prepared to jump over the wall in to the morass on the other side for you today so you'll have to look it up on Google Images if you so wish.

On with the trek and the path skirts the bottom of a very steep boulder and scree strewn slope with a few stunted but probably very old trees. This used to be a good place to look for Ring Ouzels but as their numbers have crashed recently I don't know if they are still here - not been to this site for over ten years!A couple of Meadow Pipits and Rabbits were all we could find on the hillside and we heard a Goldcrest in the conifer plantation on the lakeside. It was here that we discovered that Frank likes sheep and when he isn't allowed to chase them he eats their droppings- the dirty dog! Talking of dirty - first rant of the day coming up - why on earth throw away a disposable nappy up here on of he most ruggedly beautiful parts of England.

Why not let your little one do its business away from the path and let some fresh mountain air get to their little backside rather than all those nasty non-biodegradable chemicals. And what is the recommended way of combating Swine Flu? Yes sneeze in to a tissue and BIN it - not CHUCK IT ON THE FLOOR where the sheep will pick it up and infect us with a mutated Sheep Flu double whammy. If you brought it - in take it out!!! Sorry about that but there may be more rants to come - it was a good day - honest...

Much better than nappies were these Harebells.

Absolutely delightful in the 'hazy sunshine' don't you agree?

Continuing along the path we come in to RiggindaleWhere Golden Eagles fly - well only one hunkers down against the weather actually.There are at least six Red Deer in this photo - honest - they are on the far fell side above the highest part of the diagonal wall - you'll never see them they were difficult enough through the 'hazy sunshine' with the bins.

Up on the side of the valley there is more old woodland and still no sign of any Ring Ouzels. No sign of any anything really. If the sheep were fenced out of these woods they would probably start regrowing. Most of the bleak treeless landscape in today's pics was originally wooded and c(sh)ould be again.

The 'hazy sunshine' got much heavier so after only a short Eagle hunt we headed back. He wasn't on his usual perch under the Hawthorn bush high on the flanks of Kidsty Pike and you couldn't make anything out on the nearer left hand crags were the nest site has been in the past and there was no chance of seeing Twopenny Crag at the head of the valley so turn back we did. On the way we passed the old hut the wardens used to sleep in, but it now falling in to disrepair. It did have a nice Wheatear on what's left of the roof though.
We retraced our steps as far as the nappy but it was too early to consider leaving. We couldn't stray far as we had left a note in the car as to our whereabouts so we made a short detour and headed up the well made but seemingly little used track towards Blea Tarn to see what we could find. A Buzzard was the nearest we got to any Eagles.
Looking down at our feet - important in mountainous terrain - the wet boggy areas held patches of Butterwort, not in flower unfortunately. This is an insectivorous plant, and where it occurs there is a good chance of the other more bizarre insectivorous jobby...and there it was a Sundew. Going hungry by the look of it, not a stuck insect to be seen.

Anyone any good with Heathers? Is this Cross Leaved Heath? It was everywhere but I'm not so good at montane plants, I seem to have forgotten most of what I learned when I lived up this way 25+ years ago.That's the end of the wildlife shots - just scenery to follow. No shortage of it in Mardale. Gatesgarth Pass winds it way up and over the fellside behind the square block of conifers in the middle distance - got to be England's best road. At the moment it is closed to traffic for repairs - lets hope it does eventually reopen. I haven;t driven it yet and would like to take a safari over it to Kentmere via Long Sleddale one day - a cracking tricky technical drive. Used to be able to drive from Kentmere to Troutbeck over the Garburn Pass ( a track I helped repair in the early 80's for vehicles) but no longer its been closed. Might go up and have a look how its looking now some day soon.Meanwhile back in Mardale!
A beautiful little water chute in Mardale Beck.As the path climbs higher you get a good view of one of my favourite glacial features, drumlins - aka 'basket of eggs' country.You also get a view of where Gatesgarth Pass goes from this side of the valley.

I think it's on those zig-zags that the worst erosion has occurred.
The other pathway from Mardale leads over the Nan Bield Pass directly in to Kentmere. At the top of this pass are weird little bee-hive like shelters. Didn't get anywhere near them today so again if you're interested patch in to Google Images. The water is spewing down from a high level tarn, Small Water, set in a dramatic cwm, or corrie.In this telephoto pic you can just about make out some hikers - on the left hand side level with the big waterfall. 45 degrees above them below the bottom of the dip in the fell is the erosion scar along the footpath. No-one seems to be advocating banning pedestrians from the fells yet they do as much, or probably more, damage than a few 4x4s which use the area. Discrimination is a word that springs to mind. I used to walk all over these hills, and have even spent a very very cold night in one of those little shelters, but am no longer physically able to do it so why do those that can feel they have to stop me! Much of the alledged damage done by wheeled traffic is no doubt due to the fact that the CROW Act closed over 90% of green lanes so the remaining <10%> get all the vehicles.Rant over; enjoy this view of Blea Water in the hazy sunshine. Blea Water emanates from Blea Tarn, slightly bigger and slightly less dramatic than its smaller neighbour, but not by much. Wonder if I'll ever be able to make the climb up again now. no chance of driving as this route has never been for wheeled traffic, ponies yes so if I could learn to ride properly I might still be able to do it. (would need to borrow someone's horse as I don't have one - you don't say!)
Frank is still checking out those sheep in the 'hazy sunshine'.
But he does get to cool off in the icy Mardale Water. Why did he need to cool off the temperature barely reached 15C all day?
On the way back we chased a Grey Wagtail along the road through the woods. Plenty of Swallows around some of the farms still and a huge female Sparrowhawk speeding low over a field with its beady eye on some poor unfortunate.
Home at last and sound asleep in the hazy sunshine - no actually - this was taken in some real hazy sunshine yesterday afternoon - it's still raining outside!

Where to next? Somewhere a bit drier perhaps.
In the meantime let us know what's lurking in your mountainous misty outback.