We had a walk along to the Ampleforth lower lake at noon. It was still drizzling at the time but very still and quite atmospheric. As we arrived a very large flock of siskins flew up from the ground beneath some birch trees. I estimated 400 birds, making it the largest flock of siskins I have ever seen. There have been large numbers arriving on the east coast in recent days. Along with crossbills they seem to be irrupting into the UK in large numbers.
On the lake we saw a pair of mute swans with five well grown cygnets, It occurred to me that I hardly ever paint mute swans anymore, so I set about painting a watercolour of a cob. What a great subject in watercolour. A chance to observe the very subtle colours in its white plumage, which of course isn’t really white! A few swifts and house martins fed above the lake. A few swifts had bulging throats, meaning this was a flock of breeding adults collecting food for their chicks.
We started to notice, dozens of damselflies in the grass by the lake. Most were azure blues, but we also found a blue tailed and a large red damselfly. A pair of ringlet butterflies was on the wing. Ringlets are one of the few butterflies that chooses to fly in dull or even damp conditions. What a beautiful, subtly coloured species and one so welcome on a rather miserable July day when the temperature just about climbed to 13C.
We also saw a very large pike. It was resting still in the shallows. It must have been a couple of feet long at least. Our walk showed that even on a dull rather damp day there is always a surprise in store if you go out.
A very difficult day for swifts. Our pair left their two well grown chicks at 9am and up to now they have not been fed. They have been left alone now for at least 7 hours. This shouldn’t be a problem, but in my experience it is quite unusual and shows how testing this cold weather is for swifts and other species that feed on aerial insects. Our non breeding swifts have been absent for more than five days now.
Below. Ampleforth lower lake- swifts above.
Below. Mute swan cob.
Below. Ringlet butterfly.