It’s that time of year again – our summer migrants are heading off to warmer climes and the skies feel distinctly empty. Most of our swifts left in the first fortnight of August, with the few remaining still feeding late chicks in the nest. In the days before their departure it seems that their screaming parties sound even more excited than usual. This is one of the quintessential sounds of summer and I always miss their happy-sounding calls once the birds have gone. Ted Hughes summed up the joy of their arrival in his poem ‘Swifts’ – here’s an excerpt.
From Swifts by Ted Hughes
Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts Materialize at the tip of a long scream Of needle . “Look! They’re back! Look! And they’re gone On a steep
Controlled scream of skid Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone. Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together, Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening
For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance, Then a lashing down disappearance
Behind elms. They’ve made it again, Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s Still waking refreshed, our summer’s Still all to come
This has to be the best time of the year, with all the wildlife activity that is taking place. And seeing the first wildflowers in bloom is enough to lift the spirits. Probably the first to be seen in flower are the Butterbur, whose flowers come out long before the leaves, and who are so-named as their large leaves were once used as wrapping for pats of butter. They are usually found in fairy damp areas.
Lesser celandine and Wood anenome are next – the celandine have bright, shiny yellow flowers and the Wood anenome have white and yellow flowers. These pretty nectar sources are a life-saver for the bumblebee queens just out of hibernation and extremely hungry. They mated before going into hibernation in the autumn, and all the males and workers in their colonies died, so it’s very important that these bees survive the first few lean weeks to be able to establish a new colony and keep their species going!
The ospreys at the Loch of the Lowes arrived back in the last 10 days and have been busy tidying the nest and mating, so fingers crossed they do as well this year as they did last year. Here’s a video of the pair that we recorded last weekend. Enjoy spring!
It’s almost mid-March and our garden birds are starting the dawn chorus at about 6am, with the robin being one of the earliest. Birds sing so strongly at this time of the year as they are establishing territories and trying to attract a mate. Have a listen to our Perthshire Wildlife HQ garden robin here (he isn’t looking at his best due to losing most of the feathers on his head!):
We have had great viewings of the 2 kits, the yearlings and the adults of our little beaver family on the Ericht on all our recent tours. It is wonderful to spend a couple of hours watching the family behave in a completely natural way – grooming, eating, collecting food and interacting with each other.
I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an evening and many people who have bought the Guided Beaver Tour as a gift have said what a great present it has been.
The only down side is the midges but they are great food for all the bats, swifts, swallows and sand martins that are flitting about!