The view across the Tude valley is dry and parched. The wheat is cut and fields disced and harrowed; the sunflowers are burnt brown and heavy; and the maize is still green with irrigation deployed to combat the long drought.
A great banded grayling sets up territory on the lime tree and chases off all comers including other butterflies and even swallows that forage around the crown.
In the early dawn, the Adonis blue colony in a corner of grassland just down the road is still; the butterflies hang motionless, adorned with tiny droplets of dew, waiting to be warmed by the morning sun. There are also praying mantis that move slowly through the dying grasslands.
A hornet moves through the vegetation weaving in and out and suddenly grabs a hoverfly and anchored to a stem it quickly removes the legs, then the wings, then is off with its plucked prey to the nest in a tree. Hornets work patches of flowers and sometimes knock, well head butt, the vegetation trying to dislodge prey; one attempts to grab a common blue from a flower head, then a brown argus and finally some flies but these are all too quick and the hornet eventually gives up.
In the wet ditch, the water is muddied by the Louisiana crayfish that for the past few years have taken it over. Bad news for native frogs and other amphibians and even small fish which are all caught in the bright red claws but good news for the local otters. Crayfish remains litter the banksides.
In the dying days of a hot and dry August, butterflies are not as abundant as last year; there is no bright orange flash from a low-flying, large copper and just a single map flies down from the tall ash trees but the water meadows still holds numerous fritillaries and blues amongst the ubiquitous meadow browns, gatekeepers and small heaths. A freshly emerged brimstone nectars on the purple loosestrife as does a painted lady and red admiral.
The three bee colonies are new in the hives at the bottom of the wild garden and so syrup is provided to strengthen their winter food supplies. Traps are put out for the Asian hornets which predate the bees; they hang their paper nest ‘footballs’ high in trees and also on the eves of houses hereabouts. Honey bees need all the help they can get these days.
The silence of autumn is only broken by passing swallows that congregate on the telephone wires and the short, sharp calls of spotted and pied flycatchers that appear to set up territory for a day or so in tall trees and woodlands to feed up prior to their onward migration to Africa.
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The beekeeper looks like the spitting image of someone I know/knew very well.