THIS was the time of year the native American Indians loved to hunt – just when the heat was waning as autumn began. The Indian Summer they called it, when the weather is ‘warm, quiet and hazy’.
This short spell of fine weather can happen any time between September and November, and not just in North America but across the Northern Hemisphere. Here it was called samhradh beag, wee summer, and thankfully we’re right bang in the middle of one. Or at least we were when I wrote this – given Irish weather, it could already have been washed away. But right now it’s a picture of perfection outside.
Maybe it’s because of working from home, but Dúlra has rarely experienced such sheer, breathtaking beauty – no 3D TV with surround sound could ever hope to do it justice. And this nature overload isn’t on the peaks of the Belfast hills or the depths of Colin Glen, but outside your door.
There are a phenomenal number of butterflies visiting the rose bushes and other late-flowering plants in the garden. An army of them – Dúlra photographed these three red beauties – the peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell – all within a couple of feet of each other.
And there’s a multitude of birds in the garden – Dúlra glanced out the kitchen window this week and what was looking back at him but a willow warbler, a bird he had never seen in the garden before. Then he was watching what he thought were dunnocks in the bush when he realised they were a pair or blackcaps, another exotic warbler.
A family of goldcrests were playing in the fir tree, while a sparrowhawk came calling as well, this time taking out a passing jackdaw.
It’s no exaggeration that you could make a spellbinding nature film outside the back door during this Indian summer – any of our doors. The death throes of summer make for a brilliant last hurrah.
Like most things beautiful, they all carry an almost imperceptible flaw, a sadness that’s masked by brilliant colour and youthful agility. Beauty doesn’t last forever, it wanes and wrinkles and eventually dies. Like us all, these young creatures carry the seeds of their own destruction.
They don’t know their world is like a tap that’s being slowly turned off, a tyre with a slow puncture. The wonderful world they’re lapping up has a sting in the tail. Slowly, but surely, the sun’s trajectory lowers each day and its rays become less powerful. These halcyon days will be a distant memory as our birds face a winter-long fight for life that will, inevitably, wipe out their population increase.
But why spoil the moment? Youth must have its day and at this time of year our gardens, parks and fields are brimming over with newbies. The numbers are astounding – our bird population has jumped by at least 500 per cent in just six months, given that each pair raised an average of ten youngsters in two broods. During our Indian summer – samhradh beag na n-éan as it has been also been called, the wee summer of the birds – the 2020 generation burst with enthusiasm for all that our country offers. And we can all be cheered by that.
* If you’ve seen or photographed anything interesting, or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804. A reader from Norfolk Drive watched a kestrel devour a pigeon in her garden this week – a stunning but gruesome experience – and not just for the pigeon! It’s great we still have kestrels hunting our city streets.