Who is the villain? Sirius, said the ancients: the Dog Star, guiding light of Canis Major. In high summer, it is behind the Sun, just visible in the east at dawn. Sticky, sultry days like the ones currently leaning on southern England were the fault of Sirius shoring up the Sun’s power.
Of course, we know now that Sirius is far too distant to affect our weather, but I look forward to seeing the brilliant blue fireball when it finds its way back to wintry skies. It is by far the brightest star in the night sky and follows Orion as the Earth turns.
In the meantime, Luna steals the morning light.
And down on overheated terra firma, fleabane is not entirely living up to its reputation as an insect repellent.
I gather its visitor is a species of solitary wasp, travelling slowly, seeing what there is to find in the meadows.
Slow and steady, head out early and watch the sullen skies. Dog days do pass. Soon there will be ‘dog nights’: crisp and wintry, and full of brilliant stars.
A name that needs no imagination. It’s very sharp, very short, and, well, very easy to lean into during a picnic.
Thistles can hurt, as all students of Scottish folklore know. If a party of Scottish soldiers really were alerted to a Norse invader by his anguished step upon a thistle, it wasn’t this species, which is only found in England and Wales. Even here, it has quite a localised distribution. It likes chalk or limestone meadows where grass has been kept short by grazing.
The North Downs have bones of chalk. Where the slopes have escaped modern agriculture, a dazzling variety of wild things grow. Field scabious peaks at this time of year, and here has been found by a marbled white butterfly.
Centaury continues the colour theme. It is named after Chiron, a centaur in Greek myth. Like pimpernel, it closes in uncertain weather.
It can have up to fifty flowers on a single plant. Scabious offers one, but grows in company.
And summer wanders on.
We may call it a moment of genius. It takes an object – a rock, a stick, a tool – and applies it to purpose never before imagined. We admire crows that use traffic to crack open nuts, elephants that swat flies with branches, and badgers that convert trailcams into toys.
Okay, maybe the last one is less brilliance than simple mischief. Be that as it may, Trailcam2 is gone. The strap has been chewed through by badger cubs and the camera dragged underground!
And there it will stay, at least until the badgers shove it outwards during their regular sett cleaning forays. I hope I do see it again eventually because I’m sure the footage that it has obtained during its captivity is spellbinding. Otherwise, an archaeologist in a few centuries’ time will ponder the meaning of a small rectangular camera deep inside a Surrey hill.
But even when the path has been trodden before, nature has the feeling of a pioneer. A toadlet venturing from its breeding pond into the wood cannot guess how many generations have preceded it.
It is the first of its journeys, after all. Not like the rain, which is evaporated and precipitated over and over again.
As for the badgers, they write their stories in rocks as well as on trailcams. Scratch marks on chalk tell of their travels.
Here’s a still that I got from Trailcam2 last week.
It was a good camera, and it will be missed – and replaced, of course.
But the badgers will still play whether they are watched or not.