The red-tailed bumblebee is small and beautiful. In this wet July I’m photographing bees when the sun shines. I like the way the stigma of meadow crane’s-bill shows in colour, then casts its shadow on the veined petal. After overnight rain I thought if there were butterflies they’d be slow to warm up. I found a common blue on a plantain seed head and it stayed to be photographed. I couldn’t imagine what could go wrong. I had time to create the shot I wanted, my butterfly against a blue sky. Home with some fifty pictures. I couldn’t wait to see them on computer screen. I had great plans for them. So----
Linnets are secretive in spring as the breeding season gets underway, concealing their nest-sites. They’re easier to see in summer. Last July, I watched a family on a bare hawthorn. The advantage of a local patch is knowing where to look, and here they are- same time, same tree. They sense they’re safe, up in the tree away from predators. Close by in another hawthorn, young swallows were stretching their wings, gaining strength whilst mature birds wove the blue above. For some while I was still on the ground photographing flowers and hidden in the foliage of an ash tree a green woodpecker called loud in my ear.
There is strange and wonderful flora and fauna at Sandscale Haws. And there are everyday marvels, if you are curious and look closely. I chose today a certain way of seeing- or letting my camera do the seeing, then running with it and enlarging the macro image. I’m looking for design and pattern. Go close into the corolla of a flower and see it in a new way. Down on your knees, consider the pollinator's approach, guide-lines like a landing-strip to show where the nectar is. Macro highlights the relationship between flowers and the pollinators they seek to attract.
A chorus of golden plover to Mullach Buidhe through boggy ground with lousewort, sundew, butterwort and green spears of bog asphodel, our boots gripping on whalebacks of Lewisian Gneiss. Sunlight through scarlet wattles of red grouse. Leaving heather for thick mosses and lichen, we see a golden eagle as we climb. From Beinn Losgaintir, views of An Clisham, the North Harris hills and Traigh Losgaintir. From Beinn Dhubh we retrace our route and spy a clutch of golden plover eggs half-hidden by heather. A stream becomes a gully and from a bridge we watch small brown trout. Cuckoo in distinctive posture on a rock. 4 June 2005
Husinish, North Harris. 3 June 2005
Slow and narrow coastal road via Lord Dunmore’s castle at Ambhinnsuidhe. At Husinish we walk the fine beach and talk with an elderly woman who tends her enclosed vegetable plot, tells how she fertilises it with seaweed, and is still there at the end of our day when dunlin, turnstone and ring plover forage amongst fronds of seaweed. A rich coastal strand and a good trail through fields and on shore. The morning very wet, terrain rough. A geo where two black guillemot swim, their red legs visible. Fulmar nesting on the cliff.
Aspects of Hekla on a summer’s day. Sunlit cloud swirled deep in a corrie and hung upon the mountain. Hekla, the mood changed with weather off the Atlantic and the named changed too: Hekla, Thacla, Theacla . Walking to the church, we put up a flock of lapwing and in one image they looked like punctuation marks adrift in a blue sky. The air was pure and lichens draped the statue of the Virgin.
26 May 2005, North Uist
The Outer Hebrides are in the path of Atlantic weather systems. We remember the storm, and Loch Maddy breakfasts of porridge served with a pot of cream. Heavy rain at breakfast, drizzle or light rain much of the day. To the Grenitote peninsula. A glistening white beach with bruised clouds gathering over the higher ground beyond. Sand dunes anchored by marram grass conceal the machair- a cultivated dune-pasture of fertile shell-sand. Sea-meadows, they are sometimes called. Climbing up to look for primroses I discover a strip of ground blooming with yellow field pansies and lilac sea-storksbill.
Redshank are calling and a flock of lapwing rises from boggy ground by the Catholic Church, a statue of the Virgin draped in lichen. All day orographic cloud sits over Hekla. To the east coast, north of Loch Sgioport where, in wilderness, we yomp through heather and peat hags and rose and ochre sphagnum. On headlands crowberry, and cotton grass blows in the wind. A rusting otter trap above a seaweed inlet. Sunlight intensifies colour on the sea. Stepping- stones crossing tidal inlets will submerge, so watch the tide in this maze of inlets and lochans.
Friday 27 May 2005 Burabhal and Eabhal (Eaval) , North Uist.
A clear, dry day - cold as the wind got up. Through deep heather beside Loch Obasaraigh to a tiny golden beach. Up the long east ridge of Eabhal, the climb rough, often boggy, lots of heather and some rock. a long ridge of rock where orchids grew in mosses to a windy top where we had lunch in the shelter of rock. Splendid outlook over Loch Euphort. A red deer spotted on our descent. Down through a maze of lochans , and along a ridge which proved easier and back along the shore.
The adventure begins in the clouds, in Cumbria’s eastern fells. Up on Mallerstang Edge, vistas are lost in mist on a late March day filled with birdsong. Seeing little, other senses become fine-tuned to the world close about us. Here and now, the mist blots out beyond. Skylark, curlew and golden plover are come for the breeding season, settling in. Listening through the wind, we spy a ghostly golden plover through the mist. In the heather there are mystery feathers and bird droppings. Not the weather we might choose, but it made a day which resonates long after the experience is passed.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)