28 June 2011
We had hurried to the shelter of the alders
alongside the river Derwent, as dark clouds
drifted across the sun and a rain squall
swept through the valley. It passed in minutes,
soon followed by shafts of sunlight that pierced
ever-widening gaps between clouds whose
racing shadows traced the contours of the fellside.
As the wind subsided, the descending scales
of willow warbler song began again
and bumblebees emerged from shelter to feed,
shaking raindrops from the last of the bluebells
and newly opened wood crane's-bill flowers,
a floral succession that marks the transition
from spring into summer in these woodlands.
Down at our feet a male ghost moth had emerged
from a brown chrysalis half-buried in the soil –
not without struggle judging by the damage
to one of its wings that had still not fully
expanded. It took its first uncertain
steps across wet grass towards the bracken
fronds, where it would remain until nightfall.
Ghost moths are unusual in engaging
in communal courtship displays at dusk,
drawn together in leks by emitting
come-hither scents that are reminiscent
of the aroma of goats. They hover
just above the vegetation, swaying from side
to side as if dangling on the end of a string.
From Country Diary: Blanchland, by Phil Gates in The Guardian. A few words removed for scansion: 'a' (line 17); 'shelter of' (20); 'of a dozen of more' (24); and 'said to be' (25). Submitted by Gabriel Smy.