damp August days
What a washout. We have barely seen the sun this month. It teases us with the occasional bright early morning or warm afternoon, only to disappear behind the clouds again just as we are thinking it might be worth taking off our cardie. The whole summer has been unusually wet in Britain, and Perthshire may have been the wettest area of all. According to a report in our local paper today (Fri 19 August), a weather station in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire, measured 207.6mm (8.2in) rainfall in July, more than anywhere else in the UK. It is even wetter than Wales, for goodness’ sake. An unprecedented 65mm (2.5in) fell in Aberfeldy in just one day in June. We are not supposed to have a monsoon season in Scotland!
Looking on the bright side, though, this is good weather for herons. Our wee lochan has flooded to almost twice its usual size, which is lovely for water-birds.
This morning, I saw three herons standing in the boggy grass beside the lochan. Two were hunched by the fence, grey and dour-shouldered. One flapped about the field like an old raincoat on a wire coathanger. A flock of young pheasants picked their way cautiously around the herons, eyeing them from a safe distance: the herons did not deign to pay them the slightest attention. Too busy looking for frogs, I suppose.
It seems to be good weather for fungi, too. September is usually the peak of the fungi season, but I have been noticing umpteen varieties over the past month. We have a giant puffball again,
as well as all sorts of brownish varieties to which I cannot put a name.
Then there are the stinkhorns. You can smell these before you see them: they reek of rotting flesh. (Flies love them.) And they look…well…even the dogs seem startled by them.
This year we had a whole bank of them. It was rather unnerving, seeing thirty or forty glistening, stinking white phalluses poking up from the soil. Their pomp doesn’t last long, however: a day or less, then they are spent. There’s a moral here somewhere – or at least a dirty joke.
Right, well, moving on – she says brightly – there are plenty of late summer flowers to be seen, despite the rain. A patch of poppies is blooming joyfully on the waste ground beside the compost heap, having been evicted from the walled garden,
and the thistles are at their best just now.
A few dog roses are still in flower, although most are developing into hips already,
And foxgloves wave from the gorsy banks.
In the garden, where I am struggling to keep up with the bounty of lettuce and courgettes (zucchini), the wasps are glutting themselves on the last of the raspberries.
So all in all, there is plenty to enjoy for all of us. On reflection, perhaps I don’t mind the rain too much after all.
The best description of a heron that I have ever read is in a poem by Kenneth Steven, a Perthshire author. You can find it in his beautiful collection Wild Horses. If you like Dancing Beastie, I think you’d love Kenneth’s poems.