Duddon Estuary

The clouds dispersed to reveal the estuary

domed with blue.

A cold north wind blowing

but in the shelter of a hedge

the sun felt warm, springlike

with birdsong

and the first frogspawn in a ditch.

The rising, full moon high tide paused

at the outer edge of the saltmarshes

where the birds gathered;

curlew, oystercatcher, redshank.

Then the sea quietly,

relentlessly, marched on over the marshes

scattering birds, forming islands of green

that gradually disappeared underwater.

A stream of sea pushed in past our feet

to the railway embankment

signalling the time to leave

this inbetween place

to the sea and sky

and the birds.

Counting birds

These graphs tell a story

A ski slope line runs from the year I was born,

Downhill to today.

A precipitous decline

In numbers

Or visualise it another way.

A gullimot fledgling’s daring plunge from the cliff,

The rapid whistling descent of a displaying snipe

The airborne dive of the gannet,

The mournful cry of a lone curlew.

The echoing silence of once busy seabird cliffs,

Fields full of crops, but empty of birds,

These graphs tell a story

But the story isn’t finished

How it ends is up to us.


A glimpse, from the window, of stars.

The great bear, or saucepan,

Tracing a line to the north.

After that, I had to go out.

Grabbed my coat,

Turned my face upwards,

Greeted familiar landmarks in the sky.

It’s so easy in winter 

To come home from work in the dark,

Spend the evening indoors,

Miss the simple wonder outside

Of a ceiling of stars.

The owls were quiet tonight

As I stood


Waiting for inspiration

I have been wondering where my next painting will come from,

When I’ll feel like picking up my brushes again.

I don’t force it,

Inspiration can come in waves, or drops,

It trickled through this weekend,

First, a glimpse of a dusty canvas,

A feeling that I’d like to play with paint on it,

But not knowing what the subject would be.

Then, brightening up breakfast, goldfinches on the bird feeder.

Later, out birding,  I glimpsed a tawny owl, roosting in a tree.

I watched a kingfisher, blue and orange among ochre reeds,

It caught three silvery fish while I watched.

And then, through my binoculars, a close up of branches and yellow lichen,

Mossy greens, rich browns and an idea takes shape,

The perfect background on which to paint


Out in the rain

Its been a week of grey, dreich weather and I’ve not been outside enough.  I’d been on a few short damp walks around the lanes and down to the estuary, but I was starting to get that feeling….too much time indoors, not enough exercise. A sort of ‘meh’ feeling.  That way when I can’t really be bothered to do anything, even though I’ve got 2 weeks off work and could do all those things I don’t have much time to do…paint, read, cook, tidy up the house, tai chi….but no, instead I was definitely mooching around aimlessly, spending a lot of time doing not much.

So I took myself off to a nearby nature reserve, Leighton Moss, and spent a happy, damp two hours walking through the reedbeds and watching the birds.  I saw lots of pintail; elegant chocolate, cream and black ducks,  one of my favourites.  And plenty of shoveller, teal, tufted duck and egrets.  Heard a strange whistling sound from all directions  and realised it was teal talking to each other. 

 And then small groups of starlings started appearing from all directions, flocking together, zooming around the reserve gathering members until there were maybe 30,000 birds.  30,000!  After putting on an aerial display they disappeard down into the reedbeds for the night; safety in numbers while they sleep.

It was damp, drizzly and grey. The light levels were low.  It would have been ever so easy to stay indoors.  I’m so glad I didn’t.