Sunlight and shadows play over the face of Scout Scar escarpment. The woods below show all the freshness of May. Birch trees of vibrant green, the pallor of white-beam on the grass and scree of the buttress, tapering fine as they climb the cliff-face. Dark slivers of yew like shadows in the rock. Louring cloud with welcome rain is not far off, after weeks of blustery, fine weather that dries and cracks the earth. At this season the cliff-face flowers with hoary-rock rose and the motif of yellow takes hold on the cliff-top, the very edge. What flowers grow in this exposed location?
Scout Scar escarpment, looking north. The pale green foliage of white-beam, far left and right. Ash and birch on the buttress, the evergreen of yew in the mix. Hawthorn scrub up on the ridge.
The doorbell rang at breakfast this morning. A cuckoo had been heard on Scout Scar, so I was off to find it. Not this morning, although I visited all its haunts, its favourite trees. I await the late- May flowering of the cliff- face and hoary-rock rose is in bloom. Not surprising, given the south, south-west facing aspect and the fine weather of the last few weeks. On the cliff- top, close to the edge where no one can trample, there's hoary rock rose, vetches and soon there will be a discrete location of kidney vetch. Common rockrose is a little later, but its flowers are dispersed far more widely over the limestone grassland and its flowering period is much longer.
I had hoped to hear cuckoo, but did not. Nor were the redstart singing on the escarpment edge. Interpreting behaviour fascinates me: what is to be found and when, and if not, why not? Skylark and willow warbler are vocal through their season. But that magical encounter with redstart all along the escarpment edge is far more elusive. Some years I hear them in the ash trees of the ridge, but not to-day. Perhaps redstart are affected by weather conditions. It's a blustery and louring morning, the ridge often plunged into shadow. It feels as if redstart simply will not display unless the sun shines on 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.)