Skygazing in Cumbria

Today was a beautiful, if unsettled day. There was a breeze and the sun was filtered at times by high wispy clouds. The air was still warm when I set off for work at 19:30, and the sky was by then almost clear of clouds. Approaching Shap, it felt like driving on top of the world, being able to see so far into the setting sky. The only clouds that remained were the ones that look like alien spaceships. Lenticular clouds. Apparently, they appear over hilly country in response to high pressure (and a few other factors).

So now I’m driving over Shap looking at the view and putting myself on the other side of the mirror, thinking how I’d feel if those really were clearly alien spaceships. Uneasy, for one.

Later, I was coming out from my last call, fumbling for the lady’s key, when a murder of crows flew overhead, cawing as they went. The main body first, then stragglers, and finally tailenders. Tolkien called crows Watchers in the Lord of the Rings. There are many crows and ravens here in Cumbria. A raven on a red background was the symbol of the Kingdom of Rheged in this area 1500 years ago. I think about what the crows saw, and who they might tell.

Driving back over Shap Fell, the spaceships were still suspended over the hills, but now they were encased in varying shades of a slumbering fire; silhouetted against the embers of the sunset with the sun no longer lighting them.

On Friday night, I was in the same spot at about the same time when I noticed a large white bird tearing meat from some roadkill. As I got nearer, it flew off, banking away from me, and landed a few feet away from the road. As I passed it I looked hard, thinking it was a seagull, it was so white, but it had an eagle’s face with its huge beak and angular forehead.

I nearly skidded to a halt, but resisted the urge to turn round and drive back because another vehicle was bound to come just at point 2 of the 300 point turn.

As far as I know they only have golden eagles (only! sorry) at Haweswater, which is over the way from Shap Fell. I am certain it was an eagle because I wasn’t expecting to see one, at all, it hadn’t even crossed my mind in recent times, so my assessment was based on what I saw, not any presumptions.

Goslings hit the water for the first time; 2 and a half months old

The high pitched squawks from Madam start another two goslings shrieking and then they all kick off as I round the corner. They still run down the hill to the gate, but now they’re bigger, they don’t all crash into the fence at the bottom, though it’s a close call sometimes.

The three eldest greet me with their usual confident attention, grabbing at my earrings and pecking away at my laces. The younger crowd still hangs back, but their desperation to join in is almost palpable. There is a pecking order, y’know.

I drove them down to the river for the first time, because it was such a beautiful day and they splashed and played and washed … and swam under water … and flapped their wings in the water – 2 flaps and they were at the other side! And after about 15 minutes, as one goose they got up and made their ways back to their compound. I’ll never understand why geese do that. They play, then they’ve had enough. You’d think they’d want to spend more time on the water, but perhaps that bit of the yard isn’t their home. Right, I’ve had enough now, I want to go home.

Some pictures:

Madam looking beautiful


Everyone in, almost straightaway.All ten in the water first off As if this happened every day of their lives.

Madam washing herself (the red paint is to mark her out from the others).A very clean goose

This is the same gosling who stared at me from the corner of the black tub:

Madam at under a week old