Arnside Viaduct, Kent estuary. Coniston Old Man in the background.
I was feeling a bit disappointed when I left the house at 0800 this morning. Last night the sky had been clear, but now it was cloudy and the only sign of dawn was a pink flushing of the clouds. I watched the tide rising quickly in Morecambe Bay at the gap near Far Arnside. This added to the bird list for 2011, and I was surprised at the large number of pintails and blacktailed godwits. The pictures from there would have made an acceptable blip.
Then I drove back to Arnside to have a look at the viaduct. As I arrived the low sun broke through the clouds and illuminated the viaduct with brilliant, golden light. The extraordinary aspect was that the mudflats in the foreground and the hills beyond were still under cloud, the sun at this time of year and day appears to be more or less in line with the axis of the viaduct, and a break in the clouds can produce this phenomenon.
The viaduct has featured often in this journal, but only once looking at all like this - back in the Summer when there was an extraordinary rainbow apparently striking the viaduct against a background of glowering cloud.
This photograph has not been photoshopped, I have slightly underexposed the foreground because the light of the viaduct was so bright it was burning out the detail.
The viaduct is due for major repair work in the spring, so for many months this year it may not be such a photogenic feature when it is covered in scaffolding.
Envy is not a healthy emotion, but I felt it yesterday when I saw Longshanks' blip of a purple sandpiper on the Fife coast. Greener too when he told me what else he had seen that day. It made my modest New Year's Day list look very ordinary.
As a follow-up to my comment yesterday about not twitching outside a 20 mile radius, I can elaborate by saying this applies to rare vagrants turning up in completely unexpected places. It is perfectly acceptable to have a holiday on Fetlar with a view to seeing red-necked phalaropes - or a trip to Fife to see velvet scoter, scaup, purple sandpipers etc as these are birds in their natural habitats and locations. Arbitrary rules I know, but we have to have them to contain our obsessions, and feed our passions.
Today's additions to the year list: long-tailed tit, song thrush, goldeneye, lesser black backed gull, great black backed gull, pintail, wigeon, black-tailed godwit, shelduck, herring gull, mute swan, cormorant. 2011 total: 53.
Something else unusual today. I had an afternoon walk over Arnside Knott, and I came back through Redhills Wood, a route I have taken on dozens of occasions. I noticed for the first time ever, a large plant of spurge laurel (Daphne laureola). It isn't a new record, but it's the only plant I've seen on the Knott, but how have a I missed it before? It's a plant I saw a lot in woodlands when I lived in Wales and then in Kent, but it's not common in Cumbria.