So here we are, New Year's Eve, a dull, misty and very damp day, one to easily forget. The excesses and once a year fakery of being religious for a few days are now almost behind us and already we are ten days past the Shortest Day. Tonight we step over the threshold into not only a new year but a new decade. It'll still be several weeks before the days lengthen enough for us countryside and wildlife lovers to begin to get excited about a new Spring but I console myself with dreams of one of my favourite times of the year - Midsummer.
At that time of the year it's quite usual for me to rise, after a sleepless and hot night, at around 4.30 and set off with my dog to the nature reserve on the marsh. There, in the brief freshness at the start of another long hot day, is a wondrous place. The first thing to greet me as I step onto the marsh is a great avian chorus - the geese the backing group, the Skylarks the lead singers and the Curlews the bubbling orchestra in the background.
As I begin to walk round, there will be faint wisps of mist rising from the surface of the ditches and fleets and I will be surrounded by the business of parent birds as they rush to feed offspring before the heat of the day starts to take effect. Coots will be "tucking" at their chicks, shushing them into the cover of the reed stems to hide from me. In the reed beds themselves, dozens of Reed Warblers will be constantly uttering their song, which is little more than the same couple of notes monotonously repeated over and over. Then there are the Marsh Frogs, noisy as hell as their loud croaking spreads like a bushfire throughout the whole marsh, to suddenly stop in an instant as some threat or other appears in their vision.
On the clumps of Ragwort large clusters of the stripey yellow and black Cinnabar Moth caterpillars feed hungrily on the leaves while assorted butterflies feed from the yellow flowers. Moving across the longer grass of the grazing meadows, where the skylarks continue to serenade me from far above, there are the butterflies. Meadow Browns, Small Heaths, Small Skippers, lazy in flight and giving a peacefulness to the avian frenzy all around. It's a lot to take in and enjoy but soon, as the heat begins to build again, it's time to head back home again and the rigours of the day.
In the evening, as the first zephyrs of cooling air begin to peck away at the lingering heat, it's time to sit in the garden and mull over the events of the long, hot summer's day. Small parties of Swifts will circle,high overhead, screaming down at me as they feed on rising insects. Then, as dusk begins to lessen the light, bats begin to appear. They circle my garden like large dark moths, happily feeding on the mosquitoes above my garden pond. Soon it is gone 10.00 and only in the western sky is there the last lingering brightness in the sky as the the day tries hard not to die, but it's time to draw a curtain on it all and go to bed, a midsummer's day to dream about.