Mary Magdalene shows on the Ruthwell Cross, washing Christ's feet. Surrounding the images is a Latin text and Anglo-Saxon runes. In 700 AD Ruthwell was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. We drove to this out-of-the-way little church to see the stone cross but I confess I was distracted.
The morning was sunlit with an ambience of lushness and May flowers. The church looks out onto green pastures and the churchyard was alive with house martins who had built their nests up against the corbels beneath the eaves. We walked amongst the lichened tombstones, half-hidden to the birds which flew in low, calling all about us. We watched them busy about their nests, mending them, tending their broods. Ruthwell is a low, little church and we were so close to the birds.
On this trip to Scotland and Solway birds showed unexpectedly, not where we thought we might find them. Solway is renowned for its over-wintering geese and waders flock to the estuary with its broad tidal-flats and river estuaries: the Eden, Esk, Annan, Nith and Dee. In summer, geese have flown to their northern breeding grounds and many waders are breeding away from the estuary on the uplands. The Solway barnacle geese were hit hard by Avian flu this winter. Views across the Solway when the tide is far out are spectacular, but birds come in with the incoming tide.
When I first visited Scottish Solway in late October in the 1980s I was with a birding friend. Each morning, we walked beside the shore to find flocks of golden plover and of grey plover, in abundance. Now it's almost summer and in the intervening years there's been a dramatic decline in bird numbers, with species under threat. It's difficult to interpret the picture, to put together factors like tide, season and a decline in numbers and to understand what we're seeing and not seeing.
BBC radio 3 broadcast Between the Ears: Jamming with BIrds
Musician Cosmo Sheldrake reflects on his 2020 album Wake Up Calls.
The Dawn Chorus: Wake-up Calls - a title attributed to the writer Robert McFarlane. Time to wake up to what we're losing.
I like the idea of celebrating birdsong and the dawn chorus, of listening. Disappointing when birdsong is overwhelmed by the musician's loud music. More birdsong and less art. Is this about birdsong or the musician?