May in Appleton Wiske is a whirlwind season of fast, exuberant growth. Blink and you will miss it. Trees that were bare come into full leaf; verges that were flat with dead grass from last year burst into a celebratory froth of cow parsley.
Within moments, it seems, the freshly-opened leaves are utilised by insects and small animals. It takes only a few days for pristine, perfect new leaves to become pock-marked with fungi and riddled with holes as the animal world feeds upon them.
Birds sing madly, busy building nests and raising young. They shoot out of the hedges so fast that it’s hard not to run them over when driving down the lanes. One moment, it seems, they’re gathering dried grass and moss to line their nests; the next, they’re accompanied by fledged chicks: little balls of fluff that crouch and flap their wings in a begging routine.
Flowers come and go so quickly, racing to set seed before the weather changes.
Insects seem to appear from nowhere; as soon as the air warms, it’s full of insects, too small and too numerous to identify.
For us humans, it’s a joyous time, when sunshine and flowers lift our hearts. And I honestly think the birds feel the same; they sing so musically when the sun shines.
We feel downheartened when it rains, but it’s the rain that gives us the lush green growth that feeds all the wildlife – and us. So far this year, farmers have been rewarded with lovely, healthy looking growth of the crops. Already, the first cuts of silage have been taken. We all pray that good conditions will continue, leading to a good harvest to keep the populace fed.
Swallows came early in the month; house martins don’t usually come until nearly the end of May. I saw some for the first time two nights ago, flying high in the warm evening air, their high-pitched eeeee-eeeee-eeeee sounds signalling the start of summer.