August 28th- wood sandpiper, late swifts and dramatic skies

It feels like we are clinging desperately on to summer at times now, but fine periods of weather see the garden alive with butterflies again. We had an all time record of 59 tortoiseshells on the buddleia last Friday. A wonderful sight, especially given how low in number the species seemed to be just two years ago. I am providing a few overripe bananas and pears for red admirals, commas and speckled woods. These three species in particular love rotten fruit. I hang the fruit in wire bird feeders in a sunny position and they are visited for much of the day.

Tolly and I had a great trip to Ripon City Wetlands last week, a superb reserve managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. We quickly found one of my favourite waders, the wood sandpiper. We had really good views of this smart, warm brown wader probably fresh in from Scandinavia- a very small population breeds in the North of Scotland. After feeding for a few days it will continue its journey to West Africa They are a beautifully proportioned and elegant wader and can change shape dramatically if alarmed as the sketches show. I couldn’t resist sketching lapwings too, an all time favourite subject. They are coming through their moult to reach smart winter plumage. Most have rather short crests at the moment. These will grow longer over coming weeks and months.

We have had some very heavy rain showers over recent days. As such skies have been dramatic so I have been sketching them in watercolour. I always have a sketchbook and watercolours ready to capture the moment. Up until a couple of days ago we still had 5-6 swifts battling the conditions. There were at least three late pairs in the village this year, doubtless a consequence of the poor weather we had in June and early July.

The house martins by Tolly’s bedroom window are giving us lots of pleasure. They swoop up to the artificial nest in front of the window. I positioned it so he can see into the entrance from his pillow! It is a treat to lie there and watch their black and white faces looking out and to hear their calls in the early morning. They are still incubating eggs which will probably hatch around 4th September. This means that if all goes well the chicks will fledge around 25th September. Not exceptionally late but they have already seen some dramatic weather and it will be interesting to follow their progress.



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