A redstart sings in the hanging wood below Scout Scar. Every spring redstart return from Africa and sing high in whitebeam that rise on the scree buttress below the escarpment. His silver-blue mantle blends into tree bark but when he shifts a little his rufous breast and white forehead give him away. The sun illuminates him, the wind has dropped and the morning is calm. He lifts his head in bursts of song interspersed with the bleating of lambs, the song of chiff-chaff and croak of raven. In the glory of the morning I sit amongst blue moor grass beside a juniper.
The cuckoo was the bird for this morning's Tweet of the Day. Not a memorable broadcast. So much more exciting to find the bird for oneself. Every year, I hope to hear, see and perhaps photograph the cuckoo of Scout Scar: his lineage. It's ambitious, I know, because if he senses he's being watched he flies. He calls loudly but it's a female he hopes to attract, not a birder.
Willow warbler in full song, his feathers ruffled by an April wind. A green woodpecker yaffles down in the wood below Scout Scar. And skylark are in song flight.
There are violets, forget-me-nots and fat purple ash buds that burst into green. And wood anemones. The willow warbler is come and sings everywhere. The cuckoo is more elusive, but he should come soon.
I like the anticipation, and when spring migrants are settled in with tree flowers blossoming and the ground flora beginning to show then all seems well with the world.
How do you see a blackbird?
18th February on a snowy morning and this male blackbird has snow crystals on the tip of his bill, from feeding on sunflower seeds laid out on a garden wall.
February, the hungry gap when food is scarce and perhaps the thorns close to his breast suggest that life is full of difficulty.
On Tweet of the Day on an April morning Bill Oddie spoke of an eye ring 'yellow as a spring daffodil. HIs bill 'glowing like a buttercup.' Blackbird, a garden visitor, with images of garden flowers.
J A Baker saw the blackbird as ' a puritan with a banana in his bill.'
Tall shrubs of bog myrtle, their catkins opening in flower. The deep, rich colours of the shrub glow on a day when rain drops from a recent shower gather beneath branches. Fragrant bog myrtle, Sweet gale, Myrica gale. At its most beautiful in April as its catkins flower and pale leaf buds are tight-closed.
A sequence of images shows the shrub amongst heather and holly, with a backdrop of conifers. Bog myrtle grows in waterlogged ground, here amongst golden tussocks of grasses. There's bilberry and heather and dead wood habitat to enjoy.
Fresh snow gleams off Pen Y Ghent and the fell is resplendent. She resembles a great Tudor warship with tiers of gun-ports. The Mary Rose capsized. Perspectives change every step of the way as you approach her western flank through outcrops of limestone amidst golden sedges and grasses. Hoping to see purple saxifrage we scan the fell-side. After the intense cold spell of March the flowers may be delayed.
Limestone country: of cave, shake hole and pot hole. At Swarth Gill Gate look up toward Plover Hill. The gill is a tributary of Hull Pot Beck where a cascade plunges deep into Hull Pot, and vanishes underground, to Ribblesdale.
We headed north off Plover Hill: an icy descent via Foxup Moor. Plover Hill was my choice but an easier route is to take the Pennine Way west off Pen Y Ghent, taking in a cave and Hunt Pot. Next time.
We came to Hull Pot on a day of unbroken sunshine, after days of rain. So beck and waterfall were dramatic.
Early April and for moorland birds the breeding season is underway. As we climb the south face of Pen Y Ghent a mosaic of heather stands is laid out below. Rotational burning ensures tender shoots for young red grouse to eat, and cover where the hen bird makes a scrape to lay her eggs- ten or more of them. Heather, crowberry and cowberry plants are half-hidden in snow. Fresh snow on Pen Y Ghent and crusts of old snow drifts trace the wall to Plover Hill. There's strong sunlight and a sky of blue. The air is full of larksong.