August Gathering

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but August is not my favourite month, in fact it’s one of my least favourite – mainly because it promises so much (at least for those of us raised in the part of the country where autumn doesn’t start until September) and delivers very little, other than torrential rain and the existential dread that comes with the words ‘Back to School’ in every shop. Since my last post, I have endured two more soakings on the bike (and only escaped another one by getting a lift to the station) and our utility room was home to enough pairs of soggy socks and gloves to make it smell as if the Swamp Thing had taken up residence there, or was at least using it as a laundry.

swallow on fence

This week, though, we’ve had a pause in the weather and that has been enough to trigger the best bit of August: the point when all the young swallows seem to emerge at once and start practising their flying. My photos cannot even start to do it justice but yesterday and today the air has been filled with trainee swallows and it’s just glorious (except for the one that learned the hard way about windows just outside my study). Every so often a gang of them will come pouring past the window, or start gathering on the wires, and they seem to be chasing each other around as much as the insects they’re supposed to be eating. Today they mastered landing in the very tips of the birch tree branches, where they bounce gently up and down until another swallow comes along and bounces them off to go zooming round the garden once more.

swallows on birch

It’s not just the swallows, either. At this time of year the hedgerows are full of learner birds and I’m often having to brake as I head down the hill on my bike to let a flustered blackbird or thrush get headway in front of me. We’ve got tiny little willow warblers, gangs of swallows, great tits and coal tits, and a juvenile wagtail that was stamping around outside our front door looking for insects. It’s a time to celebrate all of them, but especially swallows because it won’t be long before they’re gone for the winter and then summer really will have fled.

swallow on wire

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3 Responses to August Gathering

  1. Andy in Germany says:

    “the existential dread that comes with the words ‘Back to School’ in every shop.”

    You too huh?

    You’d think they would have the tact to wait until a couple of weeks before the term, but no, they have the posters out from day one of the holidays… I remember it well…

  2. Charles says:

    Back to school ruined my holidays too. August did have one thing going for it though, it was the only month of the year, in England, with no term time attached. It was always completely clear.

    I counter gloomy thoughts about winter by a) thinking about the change in diet, stews, the odd roast, cheese on toast and b) booking a holiday in Perthshire in October. We have done this for the last 10 years at least and it is always great fun.

  3. disgruntled says:

    @Andy – it’s odd because it would be a brave parent who bought school uniforms for a growing child any sooner than they had to
    @Charles – not for viewers in Scotland – the schools are already going back this week!

    Mmmm cheese on toast though …

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