Nature Notes: Fleeting summer

A family of swallows

A family of swallows

First published in Nature Notes Streatham Guardian: Photograph of the Author by

Everyone can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing at any momentous event.

So it was on 21st July when summer finally and so suddenly arrived, in itself a a truly momentous event, that I found myself walking along the Thames towpath at Kingston enjoying the sun.

Dragon boats were drumming along, always exciting to watch. A few early returned gulls rested on the still swiftly flowing river; Canada goose families swam by, the juveniles resembling their parents. Noisy demanding coot chicks pestered for food; fluffy cygnets stuck close to adults and common terns patrolled the river margins peering down at millions of new fish fry swimming below.

Our swallow family (pictured) of seven birds jinked about, sometimes perching together on a bankside tv aerial uttering 'wit-wit' calls to one another almost as if they were discussing the sudden change in the weather. For the first time this summer flying ants swarmed everywhere taking advantage of the welcome high pressure and heat. Local house sparrows and wagtails snapped up the bonanza while above, gulls circled slowly picking off ants wafting high on mating flights.

Returning home, I sat in the garden watching a flock of about fifty swifts, their joyful screaming cries quite a scarce sound this summer but now,beneath the deepest blue they revelled in the sudden glut of insects and spiderlings drifting in the breeze.

On the ground, mated female ants broke off wings and searched for nesting sites while males lay exhausted and dying.

So real summer? Blink, and you missed it!

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