Look at those sunlit clouds. It's rare to have a day so fine.
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.
Swifts fly screeching about the houses. Sunlight and blue skies gives way to fair-weather cloud as the morning advances. The last week has seen cooler weather and intermittent showers so bramble flowers last longer. Sunlight sparkles raindrops on vegetation and micr-moths and butterflies are on the wing- those species that can fly in such conditions, like small-heath and meadow brown.
There is birdsong all about me and I know when I might hope to hear skylark in song-flight and, sure enough, there are larks singing on high.
Scabious comes into flower and there's yellow ladies' bedstraw with purple and white thistles.
Swifts flew screeching so low about the houses they looked huge. Swifts like black scimitars silvered and metallic in strong sunlight. Rain was not far off and others flew high in low cloud with rapid wing-beats. They made the day, my flash-of-silver swifts.
A few showers seem to make little difference and pastures looked burnt, flowers blooming and setting-seed quickly in the heat. This morning, sunlight caught trembling grasses on the cusp of shedding seed.
The Ghyll flora in June is a delight. Frothy white cow-parsley spills down the bank to meet white ox-eye daisies and red campion which flowered in late May. Now in fine and dry June weather plants grow tall and sorrel is seeding and wafts in the breeze. White campion appears and achillea ptarmica or yarrow. Long-stalked cranesbill, Geranium columbine, is flicked in and out of camera shot and long green buds open to a starry green calyx with petals in purple-pink. Long-stalked cranesbill is a less familiar geranium and I hope it spreads beyond the small patch showing this year.
A male skylark sings to assert that this is his territory, so the look is aggressive. His song is ravishing, the song usually heard in display flight. Individual feathers show on his raised breeding crest and his toes clutch the juniper twig.
For weeks now I've been hoping to find cuckoo but he was elusive. Today, I heard a cuckoo in the direction of Warriner's Wood so was off in pursuit. He was somewhere high in the green of larch trees. I always have binoculars but today I'd forgotten them.
Sunlight poured down through apple blossom to reach seeding grasses and the fragrance of narcissi was in the air. Bees were busy about the orchard hives and swallows flew high, swooping low over the lake below the castle. The morning grew warm with only a hint of breeze.
Last autumn we were struck by a beautiful Rowan, Sorbus Vilmorinii where bullfinch feasted on its bright pink berries. For everything there is a season and in May this Rowan is unremarkable.
'There's nothing there, just weeds. Why are you photographing weeds?' she asked.
Nothing but a limestone wall and a hay meadow winter-grazed by Herdwicks to bring forth lady's smock, then yellow rattle and diverse flowers. The high wall is a nursery of ferns, of toadflax and Herb Robert. And overnight comes a profusion of the tiny white flowers of rue-leaved saxifrage. Rare on Scout Scar, it thrives atop a wall on Queen's Road overlooking blossoming trees in an old orchard and the fells beyond. A precious place off a busy road where Nature thrives. Queen's Place and Queen's Road, named for Catherine Parr whose family were castellans at Kendal. But for Coronation Day I think Rue-leaved Saxifrage is fit for Queen Camilla.
Bluebells In an English woodland in May, what could be lovelier. The morning was cloudy so there were no butterflies on the wing and the light was low but after rain and cool days bluebells were fresh and beautiful. Bluebells come into flower as leaves unfurl and there's a contrast of sharp greens and shades of blue. For a photographer, the loveliness of a bluebell wood is elusive, that's the challenge. I like a foreground flower with a wash of massed bluebells beyond. Sunlight through the wood was the only thing lacking
We overlooked a Coot swimming close below Causeway Hide when Great Crested Grebe took to the open water in courtship display. Here was the spectacle we'd hoped for so we watched the pair preening, shaking their fulsome headdresses, gazing at each other and duetting on the water. Here's panache in a display of showy crest-feathers and neck-ruffs. All this to the sound of bittern booming somewhere in the reed beds.
What are the highlights of Scout Scar SSSI and what's special?
This week saw bright sun with a strong and blustery wind but a friend saw a male and female adder in a sheltered and sunny spot and he has some impressive photographs. Such a sighting is more likely on still and sultry days when they bask in the sun.
A chill wind on Scout Scar today, after the warm sun of yesterday. Flowering plants are slow to appear on this exposed escarpment. But there is wood anemone flowering in bracken. Blackthorn shows first on shrubs, now on the niche habitat of limestone clitter where it is prostrate and hugs the rock. It grows slowly on these rock-rafts and can be considerably older than might appear. Close by is prostrate juniper, a carpet of green. I come upon a rock resembling a canon ball in shape, something of a puzzle.
The drumming of a woodpecker resounds through the trees by Helsington Church. Remembering their habit of strutting their stuff atop telegraph poles I spy him in the distance and the light is so good my image catches the red patch on his hind crown. He runs to and fro atop the horizontal pole, then a burst of resonant drumming to proclaim territory and display.
With two weeks of April showers and bright sun the first bluebells appear, the sap rising . Soon the woods will be awash with bluebells. Today, I choose a detailed study amidst mosses of the woodland floor.
Bullocks crowd about the cattle grid by Kendal Race Course, they'd decided it was a drinking trough. Lambs are always irresistible and here are particularly striking creatures. Black ears, black knees as if they've knelt in the muck, and startling eyes with Goth make-up.
We're bound for Warriner's Wood on an annual quest to find toothwort. But there are distractions along the way. I hear tell of toothwort by Romney Bridge, below alder trees, toothwort of a purplish hue.
Must go and investigate.
Soon the Scout Scar scrub will be white with blackthorn flowers. There's a tallish shrub which always flowers first so I seek it out to find it rich in fat creamy flower buds opening with a flourish of pollen tipped anthers. The day is warm and bright so pollinators will be on the wing. The reddish branches are patterned with pale lichens so it's a fine study.
Two days ago I heard my first willow warbler. Now they're calling everywhere. I hear redpoll and I think I catch a single note of linnet which returns from overwintering on the coast to breed here in spring.
Watch David Attenborough's Wild Isles in awe and ask can we find such creatures for ourselves and are we giving Nature a chance?
The hare’s top-speed might be 45 mph but on this still and bright morning he grazed at leisure. The hare jizz was fresh in my mind and I see them here at this season. A sole hare loped across the scrub, alert and upright when he heard a dog bark. Wild Isles showed a hare-hotspot but I was pleased to see one in Easter Week, to know they're still here in this place.