A young bird flies up from the heather and its panic brings a family of red grouse clamouring and tumbling into view. Birdsong accompanies us all along our walk, skylark and pipit always, and curlew fall silent as we climb higher and pick up the call of golden plover.
All day, we meet only a couple of walkers who wonder why we are down on our knees amongst hummocks of heathers. There are tiny flowers to delve and discover. No crowberry flowers but I like the contrast of glossy green leaves and red stems- sap rising.
Everywhere, tunnels in a weave of grass, burrowing into hummocks of sphagna. A scurry of brown bodies - mouse, vole, shrew, we cannot be sure. There must be a population explosion because we come upon tunnel entrances all day.
Austin hears golden plover and pinpoints a bird, outlined on a bluff against the sky. Having set my heart on golden plover, I like sightings to get better and better. And so they do.
East Tarns are somewhat desolate-looking, with few aquatic flora. (If I had realised we were so close to Knoutberry Haw, a stronghold of cloudberry, there would have been a pilgrimage to see how they fare.) Over lunch, we hear golden plover calling. As we begin a long descent toward Haskhaw Gill, tributary of the River Rawthey, we have a splendid sighting and by this time the light is perfect to show the wonderful plumage. We hear two birds and spend some while amongst the peat hags admiring them. Austin locates them. He’s doesn’t realise he’s a good spotter. To gauge distance and direction and is harder than you might think. Cryptic colouring on the mantle of the bird blends them into the blanket bog, despite that wonderful black belly scrolled with white.
Barbara spots clusters of green-veined whites on rocks in Grisedale Beck. Several ruined farmsteads along our way. Not sure whether the smart Moor Rigg is a holiday home, probably. We are still coming upon tunnels of small mammals and Austin catches a glimpse of a brown creature.
Back at the car, a golden plover is still calling from a perch on a wall. The green-veined whites do well this year, they’re everywhere.
Another great day out!
Thanks to my botanist friend Fiona’s reminder that dark spots on the underside of a leaf are definitive of cowberry.
March 2019 I reappraise this day on East Baugh Fell. This spring, the dawn chorus has lost volume significantly- as bird populations crash. If only we might share the Viking experience, the abundance they knew.