As a nature writer, I like to share the experience in a tight-knit fusion of word and image. Not always possible. There are days when the weather is against photography, when the light is too poor. And times when the subject appears only in silhouette, times when your bird doesn’t appear at all. There’s the rare, the very rare occasion when I go walking with binoculars and without a camera. I should know better.
I met a local man I know who told me to hurry to the escarpment because the mist hung thick in the Lyth Valley, with the fells emerging beyond. Sunlit mist on a warm September morning. Beautiful. I was just in time because the sun quickly burnt it off.
A stone wall marks the boundary of the park land at Helsington Barrows and I left the escarpment and headed north. A flock of goldfinch flew up from the grass and settled in the trees. Then I saw the swallows and I crept close to watch them. They were mustering in the tops of three larch trees just over the wall, gathering in the canopy and weaving about the trees. The light was strong and their white breasts gleamed against the green needles of larch and a blue sky as the birds settled and circled the trees. A spike jutted from a larch and birds clung on like dark fairies precarious on top of a Christmas tree. Swallows flew in and out, skimming the wall and so close to my head I heard the rush of their wings and their constant twittering. Something seemed to spook them and they flew off for a moment but the swallows and I were alone in the landscape and they quickly returned.. Hard to say how many with this constant movement but there must have been four or five hundred.
This has to be one of my best swallow musterings, for the solitude, the brightness and colour, and my being hidden close within the weave of swallows. I was merely a sunhat, colour of limestone, peeping over a wall.