Thursday 10 November 2022

Little Asby Common - Part 2 - insects, birds and frogs

 In Part 1 of this blog series I looked at some of the plant life on Little Asby Common, Cumbria which we saw when we were staying in the village. 

In this blog I share some of the wildlife we saw up there. Like many uplands in the UK, you can hear curlew with their bubbling call, though we were too late in the season to see some of the other waders that nest in the area and too early for the influx of ducks and geese from Iceland and Greenland that pass through the region on migration. 

Quite some distance from other flowers I found this Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans) with what I believe to be a Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) but I am not 100% sure of the identification! 

It does show how wide ranging bees are in search of food and it certainly found the thistle to its liking, as I was watching it for several minutes. 

This is a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), a common bird both in the lowlands and uplands. They are usually quite skittish around humans but this one was perched for a little while on a wall near Sunbiggin Tarn while we watched.

While we were at Sunbiggin Tarn we had to be very careful walking around as there were quite a few tiny frogs making their way towards the lake through the undergrowth!

I only had moments to get a blurry
photo of what I think is a Common Darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum) enjoying the sunshine on a rock on the hillside above the tarn. I wasn't expecting a dragonfly out in the middle of the moorland but looking at the British Dragonfly Society sightings map, some have been seen here before. 

And of course, although they aren't wild, meet one of the sheep living on the moor, in conversation!

Little Asby Common - sheep wrecked?? Part 1

Whilst on holiday in the tiny village of Little Asby, near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, we were able to take several walks up onto Little Asby Common which is a limestone pavement moorland and common land. This extends over towards Sunbiggin Tarn, which is a small lake a few miles away, of which more later. There is a lot of archaeology up there, going back thousands of years and beyond Sunbiggin Tarn there is a stone circle at Gamelands near Orton.

But having been gifted books on lichens, mosses and ferns for my birthday, and with an increasing interest in wildflowers, I wanted to see what species there were on a moorland habitat some deride as sheep-wrecked. 

This is an Autumn Hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis), looks a bit like a dandelion. Common in rocky places and is perennial. 
This is a Harebell or Scottish Bluebell (Campanula rotundifolia) more common in the north of England into Scotland than further south. Very delicate flowers, of which there were quite a few on the moor. 

Dreaming about harebells is said to symbolise true love! 

This is a Maidenhair Spleenwort, (Asplenium trichomanes) bit of a mouthful to say but I wouldn't try eating it!

This is a fern that grow out of rocky crevices and is easily recognisable by the shape of the leaves. 

This is Tormenil, a kind of Cinquefoil (Potentilla erecta) found on acid grassland and moorland. 

Many of the flowers I found whilst on the moorland were quite small and delicate but obviously able to survive the presence of sheep on the fell. In fact, the grazing of animals is a integral part of the survival of smaller wildflowers as well managed grazing stops these being outcompeted by larger species as Plantlife explain in this article

In the next blog, more wildflowers and some of the creatures I saw during my time on the common. 

Sunday 6 November 2022

Autumn in the Allotment

Gosh, it has been a while since I have posted on the blog! Have been pretty active on Twitter and been spending a lot of time sorting through photographs taken whilst on holiday in Cumbria, near Kirkby Stephen, of which more another time. 

I also have been doing some website and social media volunteering for , a non-profit foundation helping indigenous people in northern Brazil restore and protect rainforest. 

We've also made several bags up of mini sweetcorn, the variety is called Minipop and it does seem to do very well in our allotment. We start them off in sterilised compost in toilet roll tubes and then plant it in a block as it is wind pollinated. 

One thing that did benefit from the absurdly high temperatures this summer was the grape vine. Although the grapes aren't massive, it is outdoors, the quantity was significantly higher than usual and there's a huge bag in the freezer waiting for me to have chance to start off some wine. 

This Autumn we have had a lot of apples and pears, and I mean.... a lot! We have three minarette apple trees, a Gala, a Chiver's Delight and a Falstaff. There's also two minarette pear trees, a Conference and a Comice, the latter of which does ripen very quickly in storage and so I have had to preserve a lot of them in sugar solution, great in porridge!

We've had some lovely Cosmos in the allotment, and indeed sunflowers, nasturtiums and marigolds. We also leave some weeds to grow into flowers, mainly to see what they are, but also as you never know what wildlife will turn up on them and indeed depend on them for nectar etc. 

Earlier in the year, whilst it was so dry, we were really worried about the size of the potatoes. However, the dry and hot weather have meant no blight this year so we have been able to leave the potatoes in the ground for much longer which has meant they are now a decent size. They make great chips though some of them do fragment easily when boiled. The nasturtiums are taking over where the potatoes were!