Dark shapes loomed out of the darkness before dawn. We skirted around Galloway cows, down beside Park End Wood where we startled roosting birds that broke frantic from the tree tops. The high- pitched reeling trill of grasshopper warbler reached us from the edge of the reed bed, their preferred habitat. They sing at dawn and dusk, sometimes through the night, and this morning theirs was the first song I heard. Impossible to see them before sunrise. Even in good light they’re secretive and difficult to spot, despite their incessant trilling. From the hanging wood of the escarpment came birdsong. The dawn chorus is an aural experience and none of the water-birds I saw here earlier in the month was in flight. To the woods.
In crepuscular light, bluebells were invisible. Wood warbler were singing, chiffchaff and nuthatch. A rasping bark came from deep in the wood, the alarm call of roe deer. An alarming, raucous bark from the gloom of trees, to warn us that we've been seen perhaps. We followed the sound through the wood, closer and closer but the deer was well hidden. A rosy light glowed through the trees, the first glimmer of sunrise. So we made for higher ground, toward Sizergh Castle, to see sunrise. Back through Park End Wood where swallows flitted about the farm, and up beside the beck toward the springs which burst from the limestone escarpment.
Catkins of bog myrtle
By Helsington Church we sat to eat bananas and chocolate and watched sunlight flood the landscape in the Lyth Valley below. We looked south, toward Foulshaw Moss. Shall we go there, Bel suggested? Excellent idea. From a viewing platform we listened to loud warblers in the reeds , and made out the osprey nest- we think. April is the season of bog myrtle catkins, a plant entirely fragrant, and the all along the boardwalk we found them.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)