Gatekeeper butterflies in the blackberry bushes along the road edge, and Housemartins low across the fields, skimming just above grass height hunting for insects: for all the signs of summer it was, nonetheless, a cheerless start to August.
And yet, between showers, we walked our patch that first weekend: Mardon Down on the Saturday, and Sunday in and around the woods that border the Hennock reservoirs. There is always something to see and hear. On Mardon Down, Yellowhammers: first their unmistakeable song, and then we caught sight of three or four, heads as if dipped in sunshine yellow paint; and Redstarts, a first for us on Mardon. Sunday had us dodging showers. Looking back from the high road to the reservoirs, Fernworthy was half hidden in rain and the edges of the High Moor blurred by low cloud. We walked with the threat of a soaking but were back at the Land Rover before the skies opened, rewarded with seeing that the Great Crested Grebes that we had seen courting in late Spring had had at least one brood. There, at the dam end on Trenchford, the Great Crested Grebe parents and three youngsters, plus a slightly older one.