If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance. Bernard Williams
We had an early summer holiday in the Lake District in June this year. We always try and get a week away before the school holidays; we’ve found that the weather in June in the north of the UK is usually pretty decent, often good and sunny, but without getting too hot and comfortably cool overnight. We had a varied mix of conditions this year, from glorious sunshine to torrential rain and it was certainly pretty cool, dropping to 4C overnight a couple of nights. Likewise, we’ve found September to be a good time too for the same reasons.
The air temperature was largely cooler than average, which whilst a little disappointing in terms of lacking in sunshine, made for perfect weather for walking which we like to do every day – at least on the days when it isn’t actually pouring down. We use those weather conditions as a perfect excuse to do very little.
One of the best aspects of being away in June is the lovely long evenings and being able to enjoy the views etc. once back at the caravan we hire. We get back from a lovely day out in the fresh air and we wash up the picnic lunch materials and prep it all ready for a repeat performance the following day. We ponder dinner and spend an inordinate time gawping at the views. Just simply enjoying the tranquility. It’s one of the important reasons why we prefer static caravans to cottages – the large panoramic windows which allow you to enjoy the outside view, even when in repose on a banquette. Even around midnight, there was lightness in the sky and enough light remained to make out features of the landscape, even with no artificial lighting whatsoever for miles.
I saw a TV nature programme some years ago and there was a chap there sitting on the banks of a river and he said his favourite activity was sitting still and gawping and that if you’re still and quiet, nature will simply come to you.
This struck such a resonance with me, it’s something I’ve always loved to do – just to be still and observe with all of your senses. It’s one of the most restorative and rewarding ways you can spend your time, although I know that some people would simply find it dull. But that’s just fine with me, as it means they’re not competing with me for suitable spots to gawp. I also suspect, as I’ve posted previously, that it’s an activity that becomes more attractive with age, only then can you truly appreciate the value of peace and stillness.
The long evenings gave good opportunities to gawp – and as is often the case, even on the days when the weather wasn’t that good, the evenings came lovely, with lovely golden evening sunshine. Just outside the caravan is a feeding post for the bids and the owner provides good supplies of food. Because of the time of year, there were several families of recently fledged birds for our entertainment, including jays and woodpeckers.
We found that the larger birds tended to land first on a tree trunk at the corner of the plot and then hesitantly make their way to the feeders, as long as we made no noise or movement to spook them.
So we thought it was worth trying to put some food on the tree trunk itself and within minutes, it paid dividends. The greater spotted woodpeckers were obviously a family, with the pair and at least one juvenile. The parents would seemingly visit, break up the peanuts we left, cram their beaks full and take them off to feed their brood. At one point, we did see three of them together at the trunk, so the youngsters were certainly capable of feeding themselves by this stage.
Getting photographs of such timid birds is always a bit of a trial as they are so easily spooked, the slightest movement or sound will cause them to leave rapidly, so the only way I’ve found over the years to be successful, is to set everything up in advance, eliminating anything other than minimal movement to take the shot.
This was how I managed to get these frames, by setting the camera up on a pod in the window and pre-focusing, so that I only needed to fire the shutter.
The male, as shown, liked to grab a peanut from the top of the trunk, take it down the side to a little perch, where he would break it up against the bark, fill his beak with the broken pieces and take them off to feed his youngsters.
We also had visiting jays to the tree trunk, but their method was more snatch and grab. They’d swallow down whole peanuts, presumably into their crop, then fly off once they had a dozen or so. We assumed that they then regurgitated these for youngsters, or cached to return to later. I wasn’t aware until I saw them do it, that they do in fact cache food when there is a good supply, a practice that stems from their favourite time-limited food of acorns.
We both noted on several occasions that they were seen pulling up tufts of grass and at first, we wondered if they were nesting for a second brood. But I later caught one of them revealing just what he’d used the grass for.
In the grassed lawn area outside the caravan there must have been a nice little neat round hole, about 3 inches deep and the same in diameter – whether the birds made it, or just found it left from some other activity, but they’d filled this with peanuts and must have used the plucked grass to cover it over. I watched the bird shown left remove the grass covering and then proceed to swallow at least a dozen whole peanuts. He clearly didn’t want to give away his hidey-hole as he spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder and being furtive. Apparently, once acorns are available, they can do this with many thousands of acorns.
When stopped one afternoon in a favourite spot, I saw a movement on the wall outside the car and saw a mouse moving about amongst the stones of the wall, something we see often with this type of wall, the space amongst the stones must make really good lodgings for small mammals. I noted where the mouse had vanished into the stones, so took out some sunflower hearts to see if he would come out for them, which he did within a handful of minutes.
He ate his way through a considerable quantity of them, before deciding to take some off to cache. Whilst away from the food, I saw a movement in a slightly different position and a shrew appeared and helped himself too – but the mouse wasn’t for sharing and chased him off at speed. And they continued between them in snatching food and chasing each other for some time. When we left I put some more food out and in several other positions too and when we passed that way the following day, it had all gone. I think it’s a fair exchange if I put down a handful of food in payment for my entertainment.
I’ve always loved taking landscape and panoramic photographs, but I’ve got lazy about it recently as my old computer wasn’t really up to stitching the much larger modern digital files, so I had got out of practice. We found ourselves at Arnside as we were coming home and it had rained very heavily in the morning, but the cloud now lifted, giving rise to a glorious warm and bright afternoon – and the lovely clear atmosphere that follows a cleansing downpour. There’s a large vista to view on the sea front at Arnside, so I took some frames for a panorama.
This is my favourite of them, stitched from 3 photographs. If you click on the photograph below it will lead to a much larger version – they need to be viewed at a decent size to fully appreciate the area they cover. The linked image is 174Kb and 1634 x 480 pixels.
If you enjoy looking at panoramas, I have a page of my favourite panoramas on one of my other web sites and I recently added a blog post here featuring a brand new set of panos of the English Lake District.