Fledglings, Field walk and Hawkers

This season’s second swallow brood hatched earlier than last year’s and of course fledged sooner so chances of survival on the great migration begin to look better. Their departure from the nest under the eaves of the garden door deck took place the very Sunday morning we held a celebratory outdoor party, which saw some 60 – 70 family and friends in attendance. Perhaps some sixth sense told them that they better get flying now or else they’d be crowded out. Guests were later entertained to catch the parents feeding their young – beaks agape and wings fluttering – while perched on the rungs of the access ladder between roof and chimneystack. Some days, at certain times, the skies above and around us are filled with the frenetic activity of family flight schools, 30 birds or more.

The fledglings return to their nest of an evening to roost. Initially heads in and tails out. (Something of a comedy turn it has to be said). Only three could be accommodated in this fashion and we witnessed a short scrap to see who of the four would lose out. Since then the quartet have given over trying to fit back in their mud and straw cup and currently snuggle up together in a row along the supporting beam.

For one reason or another our four acre field has had hardly a visit from either Kim or myself during the summer. Southridge’s Texel tups, shorn of their fleeces, are back in residence this past two weeks, which is welcome. I followed paths they and wild animals like hare and fox have made, by fences and through the verdant foliage, getting slowly and happily soaked in the soft rain.

My delight was in seeing oaks and willows in lush leaf at the foot and a widespread dusting of yellow flowers everywhere else. Starry ground hugging Tormentil, alongside two members of the pea family; meadow vetchling and birds foot trefoil, just falling to seed. Hundreds of weak flying crane flies on the wing clinging to the long grass stems.

Some umbellifers too, standing proud in the marshy bottom among the swaying mass of bog grasses and meadowsweet. Not sure what variety these purple stemmed damp loving plants are, as seen here….Suggestions welcome!

The crags at the high end give our rough grazing land its name. Here’s the defiant rowan, displaying like a banner and already in berry, rooted in a crevice of the rock face. This vertical surface is a safe haven for tree, fern and heather while the lesser grazed slopes nearby shelter the delicate looking but tough harebell flowers from ovine grazing.

Casually lingering by the garden pond recently I got a big surprise. Came within a couple of feet of a large dragonfly, of a type I’d never seen before. Returned too late from the house with a camera as it had helicoptered off by then so here’s Ian Worsley’s fine image from the British Dragonfly and Damselfly Society’s website….A female Southern Hawker. Research tells me it prefers ponds to rivers, is particularly curious and will investigate at close quarters, is common down south (hence the name) but localised elsewhere. Using its powerful jaws to hunt prey on the wing gains this type of dragonfly the appellation of hawker. Knowing that dragonflies as a species have been around for at least 250 million years is a sobering thought. What beautiful finely engineered creatures they are with huge compound eyes, transparent two paired wings and multi directional high speed flight abilities. Awesome indeed.

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