Daffodils were the motif of the day, in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist at Woodland, and everywhere. With the first primroses. Catkins were a delight. Having searched hazel to find female flowers amongst the male catkins, today the little red female flowers showed in abundance. Like the beadlet anemones found in rock pools. Exquisite. Skylark were singing on the fells, and I heard yellowhammer in hawthorn too distant to see.
Snowdrops on the roadside verge. A young woman does stretches in the lay-by after a run on Scout Scar. Trash all around her. I’m collecting it. A clean-up before the Easter week-end so we can bring our visitors into the countryside with pride . You’re a saint, she says. No, I’m not. Not the way I feel about litter and litterers. The task contaminates me, and when I listen to writer and comedian David Sedaris talking on radio about the trash he finds in hours and hours of collecting litter I feel filthy. All my clothes into the washing machine and me into the shower. I need the deep cleansing Jonathan Pine went for after he’d killed Corky in The Night Manager. Do not think trash, think snowdrops.
The marsh harrier flew over the reed beds, feathery seed-heads illuminated by the sun, their gold mirrored in the bright blue water. That was the effect I wanted to show: the reed-beds shimmering in sunlight. Sunlit seeds drifting in the air. Dark bulrush bursting into whiteness. A heron stood still and stately. A pair of pintails floated on the water, their heads buried in their feathers- only an eye visible. The male birds distinctive in gorgeous breeding plumage, the females less colourful but with intricate patterning. A little group of shoveler surrounded the pintail, all heads hidden.
‘Have you heard skylark yet?’ I asked a local man I know as I met him heading off Scout Scar. He had not, but he had found a glove he knew to be mine and had secured it on the gatepost by the stile leading to the escarpment. In winter weather I shove them in a pocket when I’m taking photographs. Not always securely. I hurried by tussocks of snowy grasses, spotted a black glove and forgot all about it the moment the skylark sang. The joy of it. Photographing skylark is a challenge and today I came home simply with the song in my heart.
I walked to the cairn on Cunswick Fell, and back again, and again, listening to skylark. The distant fells gleamed in sunlit snow and patches lingered in tussocks of blue moor grass. Its steel blue flowers come early, but Easter is early this year, so no sign yet.
The Last Seabird Summer? Loving coast, and the spring spectacle of thousands of seabirds coming to sea-cliffs to breed, I feel forlorn at the prospect of their loss. On the Outer Hebrides in June and July, I sensed a change. Perhaps our visit was a little later in the season than previously, but there were fewer birds. Writer Adam Nicolson spent a summer living with seabirds on the Shiant Islands which his has known since boyhood, when his father bought the islands
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)