I’D JUST passed a sign warning people to take care because of ground-nesting birds during the summer months as I walked from Penistone Hill country park, Howarth, towards Top Withins via Harbour Lodge. I thought yes, they might well be hidden amongst the heather but with alarmed adults flying around making sure they stay under cover I’m not going to see any, but just 20 or 30 yards along the track over the moor I came across two lapwing chicks wandering around on the track.
As I approached them I took my camera from my pocket and switched it on, took three quick snapshots as I walked on by and left them hoping that the adults, of which there was no sign, would soon come back to them.
So what happened to June? We had a week at Nethergill Farm in Langstrothdale, in the centre of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, not far south of Hawes. The Nethergill eggs are described as ‘very free range’ and, as many of them had been used to make a Yorkshire curd tart for the launch of the farm’s new field centre on the day we arrived, our half dozen were laid by special request. We were staying in a self-catering apartment called the Byre and as we walked upstairs in the evening we could look through a window into the barn and see the little red hen and her ‘sisters’ (there’s no cockerel, so that guests can sleep in!) settling down to roost, three of them tucked snugly onto the windowsill.
It was partly a research trip but mainly a holiday. The trouble with taking a week off is that we came back to what seemed like more than double the work, gardening and errands for mum. Add to that all the reading I’ve been doing and the research trips for my book and I’m afraid the diary has slipped.
I’ve just finished my monthly nature diary for the Dalesman magazine so that back in diary mode I’ve got so much that I could write about this month that it would take many hours. But for a nature diary I prefer to write about what has happened on the actual day so now would be a good time to draw a line and start afresh tomorrow and try and get back to a page a day format. To try to write a little every day, even if sometimes that didn’t amount to much. There’s always something going on.
Link: Nethergill Farm
ALONG WITH TWO white ermines in the moth-trap this morning (and the usual one that got away) I found this unfamiliar species. It wasn’t too difficult to track down in the book thanks to those straw-coloured bands along the edges of its wings, made more conspicuous by a flash of black alongside. There are also two oval or kidney-shaped markings outlined in white and its underwings are conspicuously off white.
It’s the flame shoulder, Ochropleura plecta, a common resident. In a good year in Yorkshire there will be two generations, although the second will not be so numerous. Further north in Scotland there would be one generation, in southern Britain two.
The Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland warns that it ‘comes to light, when it flies wildly and has the unfortunate habit of occasionally entering the ears of moth recorders near the light!’
This one was flying wildly around its bug box so I released it as soon as I’d sketched and photographed it as best I could.
The little moth in the top left corner of my sketch is a small dusty wave, Idea seriata, which is often found near houses, sometimes on window boxes and potted plants. I think that I’ve seen this indistinct little moth before, resting on the wall by the back door. Some pug moths look very similar.
SHOULD I BE spending more time at my desk? Well of course . . . but there are other things in life.
We fitted in a session weeding the onions when we got back this afternoon which I can’t say was urgent but it’s one of those jobs that, if left, leads to bigger problems later on. The onions get swamped by the competition and you run the risk of damaging their roots as you remove the by then established weeds.
I have to admit that I prefer weeding, at least when it is as easy as this, to the fiddly business of sowing and planting out crops. No decisions to be made, a fairly mindless activity. It’s the first time I’ve used my little hand-held onion hoe for the job that gives it its name; weeding the narrow spaces between the rows of onions.
A spoonful of honey
After that half hour in the garden I took time out to bake a farmhouse loaf, again not strictly necessary – we could easily have picked up a loaf on the way home – but it’s such a pleasure to do. Being pressed for time after everything else we’d fitted in today I went for a recipe which doesn’t require knocking back and a second rising, saving 30 or 40 minutes.
This recipe includes a couple of spoonfuls of honey which gives the yeast a bit of a boost, helping speed things up. The hint of honey works well with the country grain and rye, which I add to the basic mix of white and wholemeal flour.