The clouds rolled in, snuffing out the evening as we were pulling up. Suddenly torrents of rain crashed into the road, turning it into a river in seconds. Parking up under tree cover the drops drum an impatient tattoo on the car roof. We had to be patient though: dad forgot his waterproofs…
Eventually a gap in the clouds saw us walking down to Livermere Lake on a sodden muddy track; strands of young ragwort populating the mud and pushing up through the frequent puddles, looking uncannily like saltmarsh. The skies to the south of Livermere were a foreboding mix of grey and black; over the lake they break into blue, flanked by grey and streaked by gulls flying over their roost. This is the summer doldrums. June’s final flourish of spring has long withered in the reality of fledging chicks and moulting ducks. The silence is… disappointing? You only appreciate the melodic clatter of Reed Warblers when they’re gone. It’s not a pretty song but it is reassuring; they’re still there and so is spring.
Midsummer has none of that. It has hardly anything it seems. A scattering of Shelducks of varying ages on the lake; a pile of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the edges. A buck Roe peers at us, peering at it, then saunters off – not even bothering to bark. I can’t blame it. Carp fishermen have an expression for days when they don’t catch a fish; they call it ‘blanking’. Today was blanking for birdwatchers. No matter where you swung the scope, there was nothing to find to sustain more than a momentary interest.
Autumn will come. It will bring more rain, east winds, and more excitement than you ever thought birds could offer. Until then birding may just be a going through of the motions instead of the emotions; more about the chill in the freshening air and the scent of the grass after rain; an excuse to escape the house for the sake of escaping. And that, for now, is fine by me.