It always feels strange when the weather is sultry and insects abound, yet the swifts are all but gone. My initial feeling of melancholy when they go is quickly replaced by excitement at all the other sights there are to see. When the swifts are here I am continually distracted by their presence and at times I must confess this leads me to miss other animals.
These last few mornings house martins have been very active between 6-7am. Adults and young birds fly up to our artificial nests. The breeding occupants guard their nest cups but empty ones are visited by new adults- I wonder where they are from and if they might decide to occupy them next year, but after 7am they are gone and they certainly don’t return to roost.
I have taken to getting up early(woken by the calls of the martins just before 6am), make strong coffee then stand outside in the cool morning air to watch and sketch them. It is bliss. No swifts to watch at the same time just the lovely sight and sound of house martins around the eaves. They are such smart looking birds and I feel compelled to sketch and paint them. I have amassed many watercolours of this species as part of a new project. So far we have seen about fifteen young fledge from our eaves and at least four pairs are raising second broods.
This house martin study takes me right back to my childhood when I spent hours in the garden with my first rather cumbersome pair of binoculars observing their every move. When the swifts are gone house martins take centre stage and I love them equally.
Since my last blog I have indeed heard the first late summer robin song- daily, beginning on 9th August. It is slower paced than the spring song, relaxed and befitting of this time of summer when natural food abounds and the living is relatively easy. A sighting of this songster revealed immaculate, fresh, moulted plumage- what a beautiful bird a robin is. I have watched a moulting willow warbler frequent the garden. Occasionally It utters a soft version of its glorious spring song from the cotoneaster. I wonder where it bred and ponder the route it will take when it is ready to proceed with its migration to south Africa?
I have seen goshawk, peregrine and hobby over the garden and watched a great variety of butterflies on the hemp agrimony by our pond. Our buddleia is only just starting to flower- I am no gardener, but I deliberately cut the buddleia back hard in June to delay flowering. This works a treat in attracting late August and September butterflies and other insects as neighbours’ buddleias fade.
I look at the branches of beech trees bending under the weight of mast and rather than miss the swifts look forward to flocks of brambling, chaffinch, tits and nuthatches to be seen on our mid winter walks.
I will keep the blog going through late summer, autumn and winter, sharing my observations of landscape and wildlife as I observe and sketch the changing seasons until I look forward again to the arrival of the swifts in spring. 2023.
All images and text copyright Jonathan Pomroy 2022