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Well, the weather has finally improved.  Endless leaden skies have given way to towering white cumulus clouds and, finally, some feeling of summer days.  The charcoal horizons of late do still make the odd appearance but at least the endless deluge has ceased.  For now.

The wildlife seems to be a lot happier about it too.  Bursts of August sunshine contain real heat.  With the ground still loaded with the recent rain you can almost hear the plants growing; the landscape virtually glows with its own succulence.

Dappled light moving across open countryside

After nearly a solid month of cold, rainy days this burst of warmth has triggered large hatches of insects.  I have always found clouds of flies dancing in the slanting rays of early evening sunshine to be a real icon of summer.  It’s a hypnotic motion if you give yourself over to watching it for a few minutes.

Swarm of flies dancing in summer sunshine

Of course to other animals this sudden explosion in the insect population has a far more practical value – food.  They are essential if some of the summer migrant birds are going to build up enough reserves for the return trip.  The house martins (Delichon urbicum) for example have been engaged in some frantic feeding, with that fabulous screeching as they carve up the air.  A few of the pairs nesting on my house this year have already vanished but others have held out and are now reaping the benefit.

I did find two dead martin chicks underneath one of the nests a few days ago.  It seemed odd that two should fall out considering the apparent security of the nests and the tiny entrance.  Do house martin parents push offspring out if bad weather reduces the food supply?  Must look it up.  I can’t think what else would have caused it.  A stronger sibling?  Mystery.