Friday, 16 June 2017

A Summer's Night

My dog Ellie got me out of bed at 4.00 this morning barking at a cat that had dared to walk across the garden, I let her out and the cat was fortunate to clear the fence just ahead of Ellie. It was broad daylight then and with clear blue skies and the sun about to rise, I decided to make an early visit to the reserve, arriving there at 5.00.
The rather distant shot below shows the Little Owl peering out from the old nest box on the side of the reserve's barn. For the last two years a pair of Kestrels have successfully nested in that box but it has been a bit cramped and so this year we gave them the much larger luxury one that you can see higher up, which they have ignored. We hoped that the regular sighting of the Little Owl in the old box might mean that it was nesting there but that has not been the case and it simply uses it as a roost site.

When I got up on to the sea wall, this Thames sailing barge was making it's way down The Swale and out to sea in the early morning sun. I was surprised that it didn't have it's sails up because there was a pretty stiff wind blowing from behind it.

Last year a pair of Great Crested Grebes successfully bred on the reserve for the first time and they have returned again this year, although they have only managed to rear the one chick. This rather distant shot was the best that I could get with my camera and they kept on diving if I got any closer.

The weather for the last week has been sunny and warm to hot and looks like continuing in that way over this weekend - drying the garden out too fast but well enjoyable all the same.
It's also that time of the year again where the nights are pleasantly short - too much time gets wasted in bed. I just love going off to bed at 10.00 in the half light and waking up at 4.00 to daylight and birds singing. Last night at 10.00 as I waited for Ellie to come in from the garden, I stood there in the half light looking across the marshes over the road and listening to a Blackbird in full song - 10.00 at night, magic!
People who know their Wind in the Willows will recall that wonderful chapter "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" which reflects the current weather and time of year. Kenneth Grahame captured perfectly the emotions and sights of that short mid-summer's night as the Mole and Ratty spent it rowing the River looking for the Otter's lost son. The pleasant coolness as the approaching darkness ushered away the heat of a long hot day. The eventual rise of the moon to light up the surrounding countryside in silvery stillness, the gurglings of the river and the occasional "cloops" as an unseen animal dived into the water and then, in the whispering of the reed beds, how they became aware of the presence of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, a mystical creature that left them in awe.

I wonder how many people bother to experience the countryside of a warm summer's night after midnight, you may not see the Piper but it can still be a magical experience.


  1. Thanks Steve, trying to equal yours.

  2. Magical descriptions, Derek. The long summer days of more northern latitudes is the only thing I miss from living in Minnesota. Our longest summer day here is only a hair over 13 hours. Still, sunrise at 5:30 is plenty early for me and being right on the water of the east coast means that it is light enough to be out and about at 5:00. Darkness sets in before 7:00PM.

  3. You have many compensations though Wilma and about time we had a new blog from you.

  4. I just might read that chapter again tonight Derek - it is a while since I read it and i love this time of the year.

  5. Do so Pat, it really is quite beautiful.