Can you see the wildlife in this photo?
Well no. But I can tell you that there are always lots of rabbits in this field. And that both Buzzards and Kestrels frequently hunt here. There were ducks down on Haweswater and just after I took this photo a flock of geese flew overhead. Shortly before I had been watching a heron flying laboriously past. Parts of the field are littered with mole hills. (More of that rich red coloured soil that I’ve mentioned before.) I’ve never yet seen one of the moles, but I’m confident that they are there.
In the woodland down by the lake I was crouching to photograph some snowdrops when a dog walker came by.
“Bit special that, finding them here in the woodland. There’s loads in the gardens and the lanes, but this is a bit different isn’t it.”
He was right of course. The snowdrops were the reason that I had come this way today. Just as I do at this season every year. Somehow here amongst the leaf litter in a damp woodland on the edge of a small lake the snowdrops are more valuable than the hundreds flowering on the local roadside verges.
He told me that his dogs had put up two roe deer. I knew that it was unlikely that I would see them myself. But now I knew that they were there.
He volunteers at Leighton Moss and described how a forthcoming job is to assess the size of the Water Rail population. Water Rails are very shy birds, so the wardens row around the meres and channels playing a recording of a male water rail’s cry. In the breeding season any nearby males will respond, intending to put off any potential rivals. They rarely see the birds. But they know that they are there.
Haweswater is quite a deep lake, sitting on a layer of volcanic ash deposited when the mountains around its Lake District namesake were active volcanoes. According to local legend it has a Wyrm, though I haven’t seen it. It reputedly has otters, but I’ve never seen them either. On the far side of the lake is a small bridge over an inflowing stream. I have seen otter spraints on the rocks here, and one bank of the stream is always muddy and clear of vegetation. I like to imagine the otters getting in and out of the water here. Today I almost convinced myself that I could identify otter footprints.
Last night, half listening to a television documentary whilst washing-up, I heard something that seems quite shocking to me. Apparently there are more tigers in American zoos than there are in the wild in India. We often take our kids to the South Lakeland Wildlife Park. They have a pair of Amir tigers and a pair of Sumatran tigers. My favourite part of our visit is watching the tigers power up tall posts to grab their meat for the day. It’s breathtaking. I don’t suppose that I will ever see a tiger in the wild. But like the moles and the otters that I don’t see on my walks, it’s important to me that they are there. Like the snowdrops, they become more special in their own environment.
This afternoon we took the kids to Leighton Moss. Our intention was to see the starling roost. Because most of the paths were underwater we didn’t get right under the flock to where you can hear the screeching and the woosh of thousands of wings. However, we did see it from a distance. It’s breathtaking. And I’m pleased to say that the kids were captivated too. The starlings gather together as the light starts to fade, until a huge flock is wheeling, pulsing, flowing around the sky. It’s amazing how they all seem to turn together. Watching this black cloud of birds moving seemingly with one mind, it’s easy to imagine how you might think that you were witnessing the flight of some supernatural entity. A wrym for instance.
Amy and me misunderstanding the point of a hide.