The call of the cuckoo frames my morning. I hear him the moment I step down from the milestone stile onto Kendal Race Course. Another is calling over toward Helsingon Barrows. Perhaps the same male- his territory is wide-ranging. The call arrests me as I head for home, to and fro over the Race Course. He must be down-slope of the horizon but I cannot find him and I've looked for him all morning. Another day.
I'm trusting the ash tree where I photographed the redstart is one of his regular perches within the territory he’s defending. Yesterday, I worked out sight-lines for photographs, if he will oblige. My vantage point is above the canopy. I need a certain inclination of the cliff-terrace for his tree to be visible and a distance he’ll be comfortable with. There’s no cover on the escarpment so my only chance is to be silent and still and for him to accept me. So I settle down and listen to his singing, invisible in hawthorn and whitebeam where terrace shelves to cliff-edge. The day is warm, a milky haze of sunlight, the fells indistinct. There’s a distant cuckoo calling. Now the redstart flies to the slender ash As he sings from his display perch he turns this way and that, his song in waves of sound across the greenwood. Seen head-on, his colours are bold: white brow, black head, red breast. His blacks and silver-greys blend so subtly with the ash bark but the flame of his tail and belly are vibrant. A power of song pours from him. He rises in display, and resumes his perch. Turning to send his song across his territory. He falls silent and vanishes. A red kite glides majestic below me, sunlight on rich colours and the finger-feathers on its wing-tips. Over the pasture and away, heading south. The second time I’ve seen it here this last week.
A prolonged spell of fine weather coincides with lock-down. Some are inspired anew by their locality. Others are alibi walkers- wanting to be elsewhere and talking only of escape.
'Can’t wait to be off on Easy Jet'- someone frets against lock-down.
'There’s a good-side to lock- down. I’ve never seen so much', he smiles. ' We’d normally be at work.' They’d stopped to ask if I had something interesting. A stonechat. They told me someone had just seen an adder, that or a slow worm. My third report of a sighting. An exceptionally warm and dry April into May suits them.
'Lucky to live here', someone says, relishing the day.
'There's always something new each day.'
I like the contrast between these images of May 2020 and the redstart I studied in May 2017 which you can find in my blog archive. This redstart displays in a whitebeam rising above the cliff, against a back-drop of blue sky.