A farmer is taking a cut of silage in the Lyth Valley on a fine day with a wet weekend in the forecast. White cloud is mirrored in the pool at Park End Moss where a heron disappears into the reed bed. Azure Blue Damselfly show acrobatic in the mating-wheel. The azure male clasps his dark green female by the neck and she contorts her abdomen to reach his reproductive organs. They’re in reeds close to the water where the female will lay her eggs on plants just below the surface in that soupy aquatic vegetation of blue, green and gold.
The shingle spit curves toward what remains of the old pier and to Piel Castle. There's yellow ragwort and the blue flowers of bugloss. We watch a trio of ringed plover, always difficult to pick out amongst pebbles of the shingle- despite their bold patterned plumage. In the distance we make out a group of birds huddled on the shingle beside the old pier. As we come closer we see they are eider in eclipse plumage. The occasional seal pops up its head to regard us.
Look at those sunlit clouds. It's rare to have a day so fine.
What might we find on South Walney on a sunlit July day? Eider, perhaps.
The day is enriched by memories of other days, other seasons when the elements created a different mood. When flora and fauna showed in seasonal variation, might appear, might not.
In April 2015 we came to South Walney hoping for eider and witnessed their spring courtship behaviour. Their soft cooing rose from pools about the Oyster Farm and I've never seen so many.
Can swallow and house martin nest alongside each other, sharing territory? If you live in an old farmhouse or a converted barn you'll know. I pursue investigative journalism and discovery.
Trust me, I'm a Nature Writer. I hope you do. If I'm at all unsure I consult naturalists of repute. Jeff Holmes will confirm identification and encourage me to look closely, to think it through, to make connections and interpret. Here's field-craft at its best.
All week I'd watched house martin in flight, studying flight-patterns and calls. I knew I'd seen them at Sizergh Castle in previous summers but could find none on this latest visit. A surprise awaited me in the day's cache of images.
The fragrance of sweet-peas in the flower and vegetable garden is delightful. And contrasts of colour, form and architecture in the planting are impressive. All that's missing is a warm welcome from Charlie the cat. Visitors to SIzergh wander the gardens and perhaps have lunch at the cafe. Then head for home having taken in the highlights of the season.
I always wonder about past inhabitants of this ancient castle. And who is ensconced here after we visitors have departed?
I'd watched swallows in flight, had photographed a swallow on its open, ragged nest. So I was puzzled that this nest was cone-shaped and a neater construction, enclosed with only a small opening. I hadn't realised the two species of hirundine might nest so close to each other, but here's the evidence. I sent the image to birder Jeff Holmes who I knew would identify the bird and would point-out a range of features in confirmation. Look closely and you see not only the bright white on the face of the bird but its forked tail is angled toward the centre of the nest, a moderate fork not like swallow streamers.
The soprano bleating of twin lambs is a surprise. Lambs appear in April so this must have been a rogue mating. Those born early in spring are plump and robust.
Brightness falls from the air, clouds veiling the light. Swallows zip across the pasture hunting insects and back to the trees about the farm. I hear kestrel calling to each other and realise they have young too. So I search for them along the tops of dry-stone walls where the dark shapes of corvids show. A kestrel sits atop a pole and photographs reveal an adult female with barred tail and moustachial stripe. She shares her territory with swallows.