Sunday, 7 August 2011

Back to school?

The school holidays have hardly begun and the ads on the TV are already beckoning the kids back to the classroom, kitted out in new uniform or whatever is being pushed on parents for this term....

Autumn collections are hitting the highstreet shops and trend-spotters are already looking for this winter's "key" fashion accessory. I think that snoods are gonna be massive. (Or was that last year?)

It is as if we are writing off summer before it has really finished. Fed up with the season snatchers I hop on the Super Deluxe and pedal to Gilroy to see if any more Blackwits have dropped in to join the couple from the other night.

It turns out numbers are going in the wrong direction, in fact they have halved. Just the one. Ho hum.

Plenty of Swallows though, and they seem determined to continue with the summer. One is even collecting mud from the edge of the pool. It zips up to the gutters of a house and stops.

Even a summer optimist like me doubts they have time to start nesting from scratch again. The sun has come out and it is lighting them brilliantly. The black-at-a-distance plumage flares irridescent blue as the clouds part. Another lands with the mudplugger, but closer. I can't resist a portrait.

I'm not usually a fan of close up shots of birds, they say little about the habitat, they lack context for me, however the shiny feathers are worth trying to record so I'll make an exception this time!

Not much else around, the Ringed Plover and Greenshank have bugged out and the Blackwit is probing the far muddy bank, out of range of even the longest of lenses. I decide to head out across the golf course and back home along the cinder path.

Just around the corner I run into more summer Swallows. I had stopped at a gap in the hedge to scan the farmland for a Wheatear or a Yellow Wagtail, realising that if I see one it is a sure sign that autumn migration is starting. That's when the Swallows drop in and start to line up on the wire fence a few yards to my left. This is a bonus, no need to sneak up on these, they sit there for ages. One checks me out, staring right down the lens...

The fence sitters are mainly juveniles, I count 20-odd, I can't get a final number because more swoop in and displace others. They beg for food but the adults won't feed them on the fence. Instead they make them fly up and recieve a meal on the wing. They do this right above my head, an amazing thing to see. The sun has gone in and white cloud renders all my attempts to capture this feeding frenzy with the camera as recycle bin bound silhouettes.

Optimistic youngsters still flutter and squeak for an easy snack, but the grown-ups are having none of it....

Mealtime is rudely interrupted by a Sparrowhawk zooming along the hedgerow that runs along the footpath that we are on. Photo opportunity gone I saddle up and head home. Soon these birds will be gone, but for now we should all pay them a little attention....


For me the old cliche of one Swallow not making a summer is redundant.

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