As the lonely August sun rose over the Essex countryside, more than thirty greylag geese took flight from a field where they had rested overnight. Their shape was somewhat elegant; each one a bold, majestic silhouette on the early morning skyline. Their flight was sudden; a frenzy of monotone sound which increased as they gained altitude and speed and I wondered if they knew where they might be heading in such a frantic motion.
The following morning they had returned. With Canada geese also joining the gaggle too, I counted over seventy birds in total. During the days they moved on, but in the evenings they gathered again, every day, same place, for over a week.
It had been mostly overcast, but when the fierce afternoon sun shone, the butterflies were awakened again. A comma rested; sunning itself on grass along the headland, its torn-looking orange and brown speckled wings displayed in full tattered beauty. A red admiral drifted by; its stark, eye-catching distinctive red and black markings were unmissable. A meadow brown and large white were also enjoying the warm sunshine while it lasted. And after dark, an impressive Red Underwing moth settled for the night in our hallway.
Down by the water’s edge, I observed a pair of corn buntings which had playfully flown into one of a number of young willow trees that line the river bank. A reed bunting was also nearby, so I sat on the nearest tree stump and watched his display. I caught sight of the kingfisher too as he headed away through the reeds, his gloss body shined as it was touched by the sunlight. And over head, a little egret, as white as snow, silently glided by. I was mesmerised by the sound of the wind rustling through the trees with an occasional interruption from a moorhen who was hiding in the reeds. I watched as a shag flew over; a bird which surely on looks alone, belongs in a prehistoric world gone by.
Golden yellow sow thistles along the riverbank attract hoverflies and there are very few damsel flies now. A common hawker dragonfly sporadically darts through the air, but even he is a loner now. Maybe if the days were filled with sunshine, more might be encouraged to return.
The Perseids became visible late into the summer evenings when the cloud cover had finally broken. The display was quite spectacular as stars shot across the twilight sky from the north easterly aspect.
Edith Holden didn’t record this August celestial event in her country diary, but she did note the August sun eclipse of 1906. Would she have known of the Perseids? Technology has advanced our interest and knowledge far beyond that to which she may have conceived as impossible over 100 years ago.