I promised myself a late-afternoon walk yesterday, if I could get through the work I'd set myself. Once again, I headed off down Burlees Lane and and up through the wood.
There were a lot of young birds around, being attended to by their parents. I saw robins, great tits, blue tits and swallows. It's a great time of year for a walk in the countryside. Mind you, when isn't?
Shutting the gate after returning home with the Sunday newspaper this morning, I was treated to a virtuoso solo performance from a wren singing somewhere in the conifer in the back garden. At least, I was pretty sure it was a wren, but it was so loud—almost painfully loud—that I wondered whether it might be something else. But, sure enough, as I listened, transfixed, a tiny bird with an upturned tail flitted out from its hiding place amongst the branches and perched on the topmost twig of the tree. Pound-for-pound, wrens must be one of the loudest animals on Earth—as far as we vertebrates are concerned, at least.
Yesterday afternoon, I spend a most enjoyable hour reading the latest London Review of Books, taking in the sun on the patio. Swallows flopped into and out of view, ducks dabbled invisibly in the still-waterlogged field behind the wall, and a curlew even graced me with its presence.
I've always loved Burton Marshes. They're effectively man-made, exploited by farmers and the military, yet they feel utterly wild and remote. And, most important of all, you tend not to bump into too many other people there.
The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they're back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn't make a summer. It's good to have them back, though.
The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn't spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.
Writing at home, I am temporarily distracted by a sudden, rather violent, bout of hail striking against the study window. I walk through to the galleried landing to look out of the round barn window for a better view.
A swallow flies by, twisting and turning in the hail. My first of the year. An unexpected, though not unlooked-for, delight!
More like summer. Three days of unseasonably hot, sunny weather, with more promised.
I stood for twenty minutes, leaning over the gate near the compost heap, soaking it up. A couple of butterflies, several bumble-bees, lapwings calling, and a pair of rabbits in the back field. I have been seeing quite a few rabbits there in recent months, which is unusual. I think they might have established a new outpost nearby. They have even been digging in the lawn by the compost heap.
The larger of the two rabbits, which I assume was a male, was very active, hopping back and forth, scratching in the soil, and rubbing his chin against spiky, dead nettle stalks, presumably leaving his scent. The sap is rising. He had a sizeable, ginger, Mohican strip at the back of his neck. Do rabbits usually have these? I have not noticed them before.
It's about now that I start looking optimistically for swallows, but the earliest I have seen them up here is on my birthday, 2nd April.
An unseasonably hot end to September—hot enough for it to be July. In a fit of madness, I head up on to the moor. I have decided to check out a couple of the moor's ancient monuments for a project I'm thinking about (on which, you can blame the lateness and brevity of this post). I visit the site of a Bronze Age urnfield, and an ancient barrow known as Miller's Grave.
En route to the latter via Churn Milk Joan, I spot a lone wheatear, flying low across the heather. Surely this wheatear must be the year's last! No sign of any swallows—it looks as if they really have gone this time!