Sunday, 5 July 2015

What I (and Penny) saw on holiday

Goodness, there is much catching-up to be done on Martin's Moths because - lo! - I can now reveal a secret. For the last week I have been away in the Lake District, land of bliss. In an excess of vigour, I compiled a week of advance blog posts from a single night's catch on Friday 24th June and launched them daily from my Coniston B&B over my and Penny's morning tea. 

We didn't go to the Lakes in search of moths. Indeed, blog-posting apart, the holiday was largely a break from them. But I couldn't resist photographing a few that I came across. But first: admire my fungus! 

We were visiting John Ruskin's former home at Brantwood and, having been round the house many times, I wandered off into the lovely grounds, climbing steadily through a world of tasteful Lakeland greens and browns until - bazoom! - there on the trunk of a sickly oak was this amazing orange and yellow thing.  I thought at first that it was a deflated balloon, a child's toy or some sort of symbol for a junior nature trail but close inspection revealed that it was an astonishingly vivid mushroom or toadstool. That's Penny in the picture to the left, or at least part of her. Luckily, the fungus hadn't actually gobbled up her head.

I enquired of the very helpful staff at Brantwood, Tweeted for info and finally friends put me on to the eminent and extremely helpful Professor David Ingram who is an expert on Brantwood's botany. "What a magnificent specimen," he emailed, confirming that this is Laetiporus sulphoreus or the Sulphur Shelf Fungus, often known (because of its taste when young and cooked) as Chicken of the Woods. Personally, I cannot imagine giving this lurid object a go in the frying pan. But a special prize to a friend on Twitter who renamed it the Bagpuss Fungus.

Curiously enough, we were skirting the crags of Walna Scar the following day when I saw on the slopes of the spectacular flooded quarry below what appeared to be another example of sulphoreus.

Here it is, below, in the middle of the picture:

And here is what it actually was: a baseball cap but in identical Chicken of the Woods livery

There were two highlights on the entomological front in the Lakes. First, this beautiful Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly on the way up the Coppermines Valley below the Old Man of Coniston:

The first glimpse...
...and a closer look
And then I was thrilled to find myself in the middle of a large colony of Chimney Sweeper Moths, lovely little smudges of black with a tiny white rim to their forewings, like a Dickensian sweep in a new collar.  I hope you can make them out in the two immensely subtle examples of photographic art below. It was impossible (for me) to get any nearer without sending them fluttering away.

Penny meanwhile saved this White Ermine moth from the marching feet of mountain walkers on a rocky track near Goat's Tarn, a modest version of the mountain rescue heroics often performed on the gloomy precipices of nearby Dow Crag:

It was very refreshing, after two-and-a-half years in beautiful but low-lying Oxfordshire, to be striding up real hills again and the butterflies and moths appeared to share our glee. Here's a snatched picture of a Painted Lady on top of Catbells, along with one of a snowstorm of Crambyd micro-moths; I think that it is Crambus perlella? Update: No, I've changed to C. lathoniellus

The much higher summits of Swirl How and Coniston Old Man also boasted Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and Small Heaths - pictures of the latter two below:

And lastly, in the hope that a kindly expert on wasps, hoverflies and other such beasts may be dropping in, here are three characterful insect inhabitants of Wordsworth's nook of mountain ground. The background to the final, zebra-crossing one is our car's bonnet, but the skies and lakes of Cumbria this week were equally blue.

No comments: