Sunday Triptych: an Early Outing.

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Saturday was another grey and damp day. I was taken in by the hype and watched the Six Nations opener, Scotland versus Wales, expecting a close match. Then was out for a late walk in the rain and the gloom and eventually dark.

When I woke up early on the Sunday and looked out to see completely clear skies, it was too good to resist and set off for a circuit of Hawes Water before the usual Underley Rugby trip.

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When I set off the moon was still high in the sky, although it wasn’t as dark as this photo suggests, since I’d switched the camera to black and white mode and dialled the exposure down to minimum, which seems to give best results.

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From Eaves Wood I could see mist rising off the land and the sky lightening in the East.

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Near Hawes Water, out of the trees, there had clearly been a sharp frost.

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Roe Deer Buck.

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Cormorants.

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This ruin in the trees by the lake has long been surrounded by a high fence and Rhododendrons. Both have now been removed, although to what end I don’t know.

I was aware that the sun had come up, although I couldn’t see it, or feel its warmth, because it was painting the trees on the slope above me in a golden light.

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Hawes Water.

Back to the house, quick cup of tea, off to rugby.

 

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Sunday Triptych: an Early Outing.

Towards the Waking

Eaves Wood – Castlebarrow – Ring O’Beeches – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Thrang Brow – Yealand Allotment – Yealand Storrs – Leighton Hall – Summer House Hill – Warton Crag – Crag Foot – Quaker’s Stang – Heald Brow – Woodwell – The Green

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The forecast for last weekend wasn’t dreadful, but it didn’t create much gleeful anticipation either – it was for dry weather, but cloudy and dull. Actually, on the Saturday morning (when I was busy) there was a bit of sunshine, but when I got out for a walk in the afternoon it was so gloomy that I didn’t bother to take any photos at all.

On the Sunday morning, neither of the boys were playing rugby and I had contemplated setting off early and heading out for a walk in the hills, but, given the forecast, decided to walk from home instead. I was still out quite early, in time to catch the sunrise from Castlebarrow, by the Pepper Pot, or so I thought, but perhaps due to the cloud low in the eastern sky, the sun didn’t actually appear until I was heading through the woods towards the Ring O’Beeches.

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I suppose it was the low trajectory of the winter sun which enabled me to apparently take several sunrise photos, each from a new vantage point, with probably about 50 yards between them.

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This was a bit of a surprise: pale blue sky and clear sight of the sun.

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From the boardwalk by Hawes Water, Challan Hall was catching the early light. Two Cormorants were interrupted by my presence and circled above the lake, before roosting in their usual spot in the dead tree on the far shore.

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Hawes Water and Challan Hall.

In the fields near Hawes Water, I was entertained by a pair of Buzzards, one of which eventually  flew across my view, tantalisingly close to my lens, but sadly the only photograph I was quick enough to take came out blurred beyond recognition.

I was a little concerned that the forecast had misled me into making a poor choice and thought that a short diversion to the minor hummock of Thrang Brow would give me a clearer idea. I haven’t been there for a while; it has a view of the Lakeland hills, although nothing to rival the view from Arnside Knott or Haverbrack. Or rather, sometimes it has a view of the Lakeland hills; on this occasion I couldn’t see anything much beyond Arnside Knott and even that was a bit lost in the haze.

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Arnside Knott from Thrang Brow.

I’m glad I went that way though, because then I remembered a small trod which wends it’s way through the woods and limestone pavements of Yealand Allotment and which I haven’t followed for quite some time.

My original plan, when I reached Yealand Storrs, had been to follow the road for a while and then climb into Cringlebarrow Woods, but for some reason I decided instead to cross the road and follow the path across the fields towards Leighton Hall. I hoped that the fields might have dried out a bit after a relatively rain-free week, but actually the going was very heavy. My hastily amended plan involved turning left at Leighton Hall Farm to cut up to Deepdale and so to Cringlebarrow Woods that way, but I could hear heavy machinery in operation and, thinking that there was some tree-felling underway, changed my mind again. Past the Hall and up Summer House Hill it was.

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Leighton Hall and Leighton Moss from Summer House Hill.

The view from Summer House Hill can be a cracker, but once again, anything at all distant was looking a little murky.

The field at the top of the hill had bluey-green, or greeny-blue….stuff…spread across the surface…

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This…

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…is the base of the former summer house which gives the hill its name. It had been very liberally…blued…

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Does anybody have any idea what this is?

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I’d just said hello to a couple who were walking with their dog, when I was surprised to see a Jay sitting calmly in a tree relatively close by. It’s not that I don’t see jays – I do – but that having seen them, I then usually almost immediately lose sight of them, because they are generally very shy and soon make themselves scarce. Since this one didn’t fly off, I thought I would play my customary cat-and-mouse game of edging forward with my camera and taking another photo every couple of strides. To my surprise, the Jay flew  toward me, down to the ground and then continued to hop in my direction before stopping to grub around in the leaf litter.

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It was a shame that the sun wasn’t still shining: Jays are so unlike their monotone Corvid cousins, with their pink and blue plumage and their striped head.

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Fortunately, the sun was soon shining again, if perhaps a little weakly in the haze.

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Peter Lane Lime Kiln.

Lime Kilns are a bit of a feature of the area and I often pass them on walks, but rarely remember to take photos of them.

The same could be said of sheep…

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…these few stood out because they are of an unusual breed for this area (I can’t work out which).

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Warton Crag’s Easter Island Heads.

There’s been a fair bit of tree-felling near the top of Warton Crag, which I think will take a little while to get used to. The view from the top was predictably limited…

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River Keer from Warton Crag.

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More Tree-felling.

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Quicksand Pool and Quaker’s Stang.

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Brown’s House and the ‘smelting’ chimney from Quaker’s Stang.

For the last part of my walk the sun came out again.

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Warton Crag and the salt-marsh from Heald Brow.

I like this time of year: it’s still winter, with the possibility of snow and ice, which is fine, but it also feels like we’re sliding inexorably toward spring.

When all sap lies quiet and does not climb,
When all seems dead, I cultivate
The wild garden rioting in my memory,
Count in advance the treasures which
The sleeping sap contains,

And winter runs from now toward
The waking of the sap and spring.

from Garland for the Winter Solstice  by Ruthven Todd.

Towards the Waking

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

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I had set my alarm for an early start, or to put it another way, I left the curtains open, which never fails. A quick cuppa and then I was out, the early sun lighting the clouds in the eastern sky from below, but not yet visible above the horizon. (At this latitude, and this time of year, that does require a bit of a sacrifice of potential sleeping hours.)

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Everything was freighted with pearls of dew and down towards Hawes Water a cloud of mist hung over the trees. I climbed up into Eaves Wood, hoping that the extra height would give me a good view over the low cloud.

With the trees in the wood now fully clad with leaves, the views weren’t as clear as they were after my last early start, but the mist was glowing pink with the early light, so churlish really to complain.

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The mist from Eaves Wood – Ingleborough on the right.

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Cobweb, Sixteen Buoys field.

The mist was more dense than last time. A pale white disc appeared though the murk and then gradually brightened, suffusing the fog with colour as it simultaneously burned it off.

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In the wildflower meadow beyond the lake, the grass was strung with gossamer, which was in turn bedecked with dewdrops.

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I suppose this mass of spider’s webs must always be here, at least at this time of year, but usually goes unnoticed without the coat of sunlit drops to illuminate it.

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It looked likely that anyone who had opted to watch the sunrise from Arnside Knott would also have been treated to a temperature inversion. I don’t suppose that Brocken spectres are a common sight from the Knott.

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In the trees on Yealand Allotment, I had more cheering, but slightly frustrating encounters with families of Marsh Tits and Great Tits; I have lots of photographs showing birds partially obscured by leaves. I did eventually locate a tree-top Chiff-chaff, which was singing it’s name as ever. I also saw a couple of Fallow Deer again, although they too were too veiled by leaves for me to get a very clear photo.

This big, old Horse Chestnut by a gate into Leighton Moss is a favourite of mine.

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We drive past it every weekday morning and I was alarmed to notice, last week, that its large limbs have all been lopped off. I hope that isn’t a precursor to chopping the whole tree down.

This tiny Sedge Warbler, probably weighing about 10g…

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…was singing with great gusto and astonishing volume.

“…exuberant song, full of mimicry, seldom repeating itself, suddenly halting, then tearing off again, always sounding vaguely irritated.”

from The Complete Book of British Birds

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Yellow Iris.

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On this occasion, I had Lower Hide all to myself. Aside from the Greylag Geese and a lone Moorhen, there didn’t seem to be much to see. But with a couple of windows open I could hear warblers on every side. I kept getting brief, occasional views in amongst the reeds, but it didn’t seem likely that I would get a better view than that, until, just as I was thinking of moving on, a pair of birds landed in the reeds right in front of the hide…

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They were Reed Warblers. Like other warblers, migrants from warmer climes. Paler than their close cousin the Sedge Warbler and less yellow than a Chiff-Chaff.

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They shuffled between the reed tops, the nearby bush…

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…and down deeper among the reeds…

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They would fly off for a while, or disappear into the reeds, but eventually they would reappear. Maybe they were building a nest?

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As I reached the Causeway path and looked out into the fields towards Grisedale Farm, I was lucky enough to spot these deer.

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My immediate thought was that they must be Red Deer, because they seemed relatively large, but then I began to doubt myself; if they were Red Deer, why weren’t they in a large group, which is how I’ve usually encountered them locally? Maybe they were Roe Deer and I was mistaken about their size? After the fact, I’ve realised that I should have had the courage of my convictions. Roe Deer bucks have mature antlers at present, whereas Red Deer stags have new antlers, covered in velvet.

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Dog Rose

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Another warbler

Where the causeway crosses a small bridge I always pause to take a look around.

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And to peer into the water…

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Common Backswimmer (I think)

I was astonished by these tiny red mites…

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…so small that I wondered at first if they were inanimate particles undergoing some sort of Brownian motion. But they have little legs, so clearly not.

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From the Public Hide, I took no end of photos of this Heron…

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…which was feeling very chilled, in no hurry at all, and quite happy to pose. Perhaps predictably, it’s the very first photo I took which I prefer from the entire selection.

Although it was probably still what most people would consider to be indecently early to even be up on a Saturday morning, there were quite a few people about now. Birdwatchers are an ascetic bunch; up with the lark and all that. A chap and his daughter (I assumed) had spotted this warbler…

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…which was singing from the reeds. He asked me if I knew what it was. At first I demurred from offering an opinion. Then said that it was a warbler, probably a Reed or Sedge Warbler. I don’t know why I’m so reticent in these sort of circumstances; I’m usually not short of an opinion, or shy about sharing my views. It’s a Reed Warbler. (And even now I’m fighting the temptation to hedge my bets with a ‘probably’ or ‘I think’). Not only does it look like a Reed Warbler, but it sang like a Reed Warbler. Reed and Sedge Warbler’s have similar songs, and it comes as something of a surprise to me to realise that I could tell the difference, at least on that Saturday morning, having already heard both species singing when I could see them clearly as they sang.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a huge variety of wildlife as I have this spring, but then I know I’ve never before made such an effort to get outside to have the opportunity to have encounters. Reed Buntings are a good case in point: I’ve seen far more this year then I’ve previously seen in total.

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Male Red Bunting.

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Yellow Iris with Tree Bumblebee (?)

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Marsh Harrier.

There’s more water to peer in to at the pond-dipping area.

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Pond-Skaters

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View from the Skytower.

This bumblebee…

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…was stock-still, apparently frozen in position.

Whilst I was taking the photo, several of her sister Early Bumblebees arrived to forage…

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But she stayed completely motionless.

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My theory is that, on cold nights, like many we’ve had of late, bumble-bees get benighted, too cold to continue, so they have no option but to stay where they are, effectively asleep until at least the following day, when the sun warms them sufficiently to get them mobile again..

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Ragged Robin in Lambert’s Meadow

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Early Bumblebees again (I think).

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Female Broad-bodied Chaser

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Episyrphus alteatus (?).

All that and still back in time for a latish breakfast. It had been slowish progress however: roughly four hours for a route which I know I can complete in two and a half. Sometimes, taking your own sweet time really pays off.

Up with the Warblers, Herons, Harriers…

A Saturday Triptych – Fit the First.

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Last Saturday and an early start revealed the forecast clear skies and frost, which had brought a low lying mist, particularly, it seemed down towards Hawes Water. I thought I’d missed the sunrise, but in fact was out just in time to catch it. And when the sun duly gilded the southern flank of Eaves Wood I was induced to bend my steps that way.

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Eaves Wood.

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The Coronation Path.

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Honesty.

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Not a great photo, I know, but I was thrilled to see another Tree-Creeper so soon after my last encounter.

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The Ring O’Beeches.

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A Ruddock.

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Hawes Water mist.

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The rabbits were much more tame than usual. In fact, I felt like all the wildlife I saw was remarkably sanguine about my proximity.

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This is one of the many gap-stiles I’ve been firmly wedged in over the years. It’s particularly awkward because the ground is higher on the far side, but it’s getting easier!

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Hawes Water.

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A Warbler. A silent warbler, so I don’t know which flavour. There were lots of small birds about. In this spot a male Bullfinch was tantalising me with flashes of its scarlet belly from the far side of the hedge.

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Cowslips.

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Another gap-stile, the fat man’s agony. To be honest, this one still requires fair bit of wriggling. I suspect that I will never find it easy to manoeuvre through.

I found myself – I hadn’t planned it – following a new favourite route of my, from Hawes Water, through Yealand Allotment and ’round the back’ of Leighton Moss. I’ve never quite followed exactly this route before this year, but this was now the third time recently.

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This one was singing – a Chiff-chaff.

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Willow catkins.

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Very different Willow Catkins – there are several kinds of willow and it’s a bit of a blind spot for me – I shall have to work on it.

I’d arrived at the Lower Hide. I dithered momentarily – to go in or to continue toward home? Just a brief stop I decided. But then, there was already a birder in the hide, and as is so often the case, a chatty, knowledgeable and generous birder at that.

He told me about recent sightings – a Whitethroat on Walney Island, a Bittern at Martin Mere, and, just that morning, an Osprey perched on a log by the River Bela near Milnthorpe.

“The Cattle Egrets are over there at the back of the mere by the reeds, if you’re interested.”

A nice way to put it, implying as it did, that I was already up to speed about the presence of Cattle Egrets. I wasn’t, although I had been wondering about the cars I’d seen parked along Storrs Lane over the last week – now I knew why they’d been there, twitchers in all probability.

Needless to say, I was interested. I’d never seen Cattle Egrets before, and whilst they were only bright white specks in the distance, with the aid of the powerful zoom on the camera, I would soon have a good view of them and some photos to boot.

What a good time then, for the camera battery to go flat. I’m not sure I’ve ever let this happen before, or not since I bought this new camera with a rechargeable battery, well, not till now at least. I suppose I have been taking a lot of photos recently.

Then, just to rub salt into the wound, a male Marsh Harrier decided to perform a number of leisurely fly-pasts. And then something very strange started to happen. First it was a male Pheasant. It was stood by the path. When I approached, instead of running comically away, or noisily taking to the air squawking and flapping, it sat calmly preening itself, completely ignoring me, even when I was a yard away. Then a Great Tit dropped to a tree trunk beside the path and continued to feed until I was in touching distance. Not one, but three successive male Wrens – normally fast-moving birds, hard to photograph –  landed on prominent perches near to me and began to sing lustily. I felt almost invisible. When I saw a rather portly man with a very large camera jogging along the Causeway ahead of me, I knew, with a sinking feeling, that there would inevitably be a Bearded Tit on one of the grit trays. There was. And me with no working camera. It was a conspiracy – the birds were laughing at me!

Still, it had been a good walk, the sun was still shining, it was still very early. Time to head home for a cup of tea, a bit of a chat with the folks, a bit of pottering, put the ham on to boil, recharge the battery, and then out again…

A Saturday Triptych – Fit the First.

Beneath the Boughs

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I was out early today, a half-moon still high in the western sky.

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It was my intention to watch the sunrise from Castlebarrow, but a line of cloud in the East was going to delay the sun’s first appearance and it was far too cold to stand around waiting.

Instead, I took a turn around Eaves Wood and watched the sunrise from the Ring O’Beeches.

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Later, I was out again with A. She chose the route and took me for another, longer tour of Eaves Wood. I hadn’t noticed the Snowdrops flowering there when I passed the in half-darkness earlier.

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I’ve walked past this new(ish?) bench once before…

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…, but didn’t notice then the small plaque attached to it.

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I’m sure I’ve quoted W.H.Davies poem ‘Leisure’ before. It must be his best remembered poem. I found his ‘Autobiography of a Supertramp’ very entertaining.

During both walks I saw, and heard, a buzzard coasting above the treetops.

I noticed last weekend that the Robins were singing, seemingly from every tree and bush. Great tits have begun to join them and I think I heard a Chaffinch today too.

I was out for a third time later, briefly in Eaves Wood, then crossing the Lots, but having set-off in the half-darkness again, didn’t take any photos.

Beneath the Boughs

A Snowy Sunrise

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Snow came to Silverdale, an unusual occurrence.

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I’d been up for a while, catching up on some red-ink dispersion, but was now heading for those woods on the skyline, to catch the sunrise.  I should really have set off earlier; twenty minutes before the sun came up the clouds were suffused with a pink glow which I didn’t have a decent vantage point to photograph.

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When the sun did finally rise, it was obscured by the clouds on the eastern horizon. I suppose I could have waited, but my toes were cold, I had places to be (well a place – Cartmell – to collect B from a night away with his team-mates), and if I had stayed put, I would have missed the spectacle of the sun appearing through the snow-rimmed trees…

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As I’ve noted before, coming back down the hill creates an illusion of a second sunrise…

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And with that, astonishingly, I’m up to date.

Feels a bit weird.

A Snowy Sunrise

Another Sunrise and Two More Sunsets

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The last day of our Christmas and New Year break. ‘All good things must come to an end’ they say. Well, who are they and why are they such a pain in the you-know-where?

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I was up early for another sunrise from Castlebarrow.

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In fairness, there’s no call to be up particularly early at this latitude to catch a sunrise.

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Nice though to grab a revitalising pre-breakfast leg-stretcher, a lungful of fresh, cold air and a free light-show.

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One advantage of watching the sunrise from a hilltop is that you can effectively watch it rise again as you descend the hill…

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Our old friend X-Ray came over for lunch, tea and a card game or two. As usual on such occasions we went out for a bit of a wander too. We all toddled down to the Cove and then the rest of the family decided that they’d had enough exercise for today, thank you very much, and left X-Ray and I to continue down the coast to Jack Scout. From where we watched the sunset over the bay….

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Not as spectacular as the previous days offerings from Warton Crag, but very pleasant none the less.

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We continued round Jenny Brown’s point and along the edge of the salt marsh.

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You can see that the light was getting a little low. And we still had a fair way to go back up through Fleagarth Wood and through Sharp’s Lot to the village. X-Ray has dodgy ankles and wasn’t entirely impressed by my choice of route for what had become a night hike. I, on the other hand, am rather relishing finishing my walks in the dark. At least for the moment.

Later that week I managed to make an early exit from work and dragged the boys out for another venture to the Cove.

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For yet another sunset.

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Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ve had the tune playing mentally since I typed the post title – I’m one sunrise short, I know.

More sunsets to follow.

Another Sunrise and Two More Sunsets