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July 11th- noctilucent clouds, turtle dove survey and swift diary

I have to admit to writing this having ‘hit a wall’ of tiredness! You can’t wake at 2.50am and expect to continue as normal throughout the day, well I can’t! The alarm didn’t ever go off, because long before it did I lay awake making sure I would not sleep through it! I crept out of bed, then the usual dress in the dark falling over, any naturalist will know this feeling! Anyway, as I tiptoed over the landing I glanced outside. I was amazed at what I saw. streaks of light electric blue spread across the inky blue of a pre dawn sky. Noctilucent clouds!

I picked up pace and was outside by about 2.55am. I rushed up to the village hall where the grounds afford open views to the north. What a sight! The noctilucent cloud was partially obscured by patches of low cloud which were just starting to catch light from the rising sun. I watched it for 45 minutes. I made a sketch, quite a challenge, but I am pleased with the impression it gives of this beautiful cloud, the highest cloud known at around 50miles above the surface of the earth.

But as the dawn approached I had survey to do. The aim was to find turtle doves. Sadly I failed on this front, but surveys are a win win. They get us out of bed at a quiet time when wildlife is more easily seen. I had several close encounters with roe deer this morning including a doe with a well grown fawn. I had time to sketch a hare which posed on a dew covered playing field.

We are tasked with recording other red list species of bird. I found four reed bunting territories and about nine yellowhammers singing in my single square kilometer. Whitethroats were still singing and I found four males. Crossbills called as they moved in from the east and a little egret flew west. That is very unusual record for my patch, a first in four years.

As I walked I was struck by the power of meadowsweet, its fragrance stopping me in my tracks several times. I like to savour these sights, sounds and smells to remember them in the winter. 

I make no apology for painting another watercolour of my favourite view of the Holbeck near Gilling East. This scene of the valley has come to epitomise my lockdown walk and the excitement I feel each time I walk this stretch of the beck. It will always hold memories of this time, especially the walks with Tolly.

Swift Diary
The non breeding swifts returned today. This was part of a widespread arrival of birds here in the north that left exactly two weeks ago. I very much hope that the weather remains favourable for them to stay until the end of July now. The weather is still on the cool side but the swifts arrived early this morning and began prospecting. Most exciting was a pair that visited several times flying round and round. One perched on box 3 several times, sticking its head right in the entrance. In flight their was much wing quivering as they approached the eaves. My extreme tiredness left in an instant the moment I saw five swifts flying very low over the back garden.

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