A melting-mellow day, so still and warm. Can this be Halloween? Sunlight poured onto the Scout Scar ridge but a soft blue mist lingered below. The panorama of Howgills and Lake District Fells was swallowed up in mist, simply vanished. Even Whitbarrow could not be sure of itself, might have been cloud. Sound carried: pheasants sunning themselves on the escarpment edge, a cockerel down in the Lyth Valley, distant traffic. Bramble patches interweave with hazel, rose hips and sloes. Insects sun themselves on autumn leaves and seek nectar on late flowers.
Carriages full of pumpkins all ready for the Halloween ghost train. The engine-driver, in pumpkin coloured top, posed with passengers bearing pumpkins, but my smartphone blurred their images and they are ghosts- edited out. We set off for Gaitbarrows on a merry morning, stopping by a box of apples left on a wall for us to help ourselves. A plastic cow looked on from an orchard. In the approach to Halloween the boundaries are blurred, nothing is quite real.
Flocks of winter thrush feast on yew arils, delving into the dark yews of Whitbarrow. ‘What are you looking at?’ ask men with a trio of dogs. Winter thrush, we might say, because sunlight comes faintly and it’s hard to distinguish fieldfare from redwing and mistle thrush. Sunlight too faint to colour the birds and they sweep through the yews with only contact calls, only a note or two. We hear the high-pitched call of redwing, the football rattle of mistle thrush. The fieldfare say little but jizz is certain. In the afternoon the sun grows stronger but the flocks have moved on. Nature study is often about coincidence, a coming together of seasonal elements, of weather.
A warm day in October with chevrons of geese flying south. Autumn colour in sedges about the tarns and over the fells. Approaching Grasmere, we descend through juniper and look for ripening berries amongst the foliage.
The bull was following me and they called out my name to warn me. My heart was pounding. I wanted to run but knew I should not. Useless anyway, the bull could accelerate from nothing and was much faster. If I could find a breach in the stone wall I could climb out of harm’s way, but there was none. Perhaps I could reach the gate and climb over it. A dark shape loomed ahead of me. I was caught between the bull and one of his cows.
A whitebeam laden with fruit, its curled and crisp leaves rustling in the wind. On the edge of perception a fieldfare called. The first I've heard this autumn. A pair of wheatear on a sunny wall, soon to migrate. Arrivals and departures on Scout Scar. Yew arils await fieldfare and redwing and after two poor winters perhaps this year will see more winter thrush. Blackthorn straggled across a fragment of limestone pavement beneath the whitebeam, the only tree rich in berries. I came across a mass of blackthorn, with few sloes. The shrub walks, putting out suckers and striding out across the fell.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)