Nature has decided its summer. Even though I live in the Scottish Highlands, its very warm. I decide to take my walk early this morning to avoid the heat of the day. As much as the sunshine is welcome, I know from years of experience that my body can struggle with the heat. Despite careful application of sunscreen, I still managed to burn my knees yesterday. As you do. So, to avoid this, I once again lather myself in sunscreen, pull on some light clothing, pop my water bottle in my bag and I'm off.
My route it very familiar now from much repetition. However, I'm still surprised to note how rapidly this scene is changing. Almost like a painting being filled in. Life is bursting from the ground. The sense of urgency is palpable as plants strive higher to reach the sun's rays. I gently let my fingers trial through the cow parsley that is thriving on the roadsides. A flash of colour catches my eye and I recognise a common red soldier beetle perched on top of the cow parsley's wide flower-head. A very attractive beetle. Swallows dart across my path performing aerial acrobatics that I'm sure would inspire jealousy from the other birds it they have the time to pause and observe. Everything is far too busy now. My slow and steady pace is juxtaposed against this busy landscape. I feel grateful that I, at least, am in no hurry. I whisper wildlife encouragement as I pass.
I have my own anxious wish that the weather remains warm and dry for the next few weeks. My capercaillie chicks will the hatching soon and June is a crucial month for them as they are so small. Heavy rain can be fatal, as it was last year. I let the breeze carry my well-wishes to the hens that will be sitting snugly on precious eggs right now.
I seek some shade to write this as the sun has already started blazing. As my thoughts settled on capercaillie, I was suddenly distracted by the most welcome sound. A cuckoo was calling. I stopped everything and allowed this to wash over me. Such a privilege to hear a species that has undergone a significant population decline and is now red-listed by the RSPB.
I often hear stories from older generations of the sounds that used to fill summer landscapes. From cuckoos to crickets, the diversity of life was breath-taking. I'm jealous of this memories. I am fully aware that I am walking through a tarnished landscape. There are gaps now. Humans have suppressed the full richness of life that summer used to hold. I allow myself to feel anger as it is justified. Working in conservation, I know well how wildlife is suffering. However, working in conservation also means that I know that humans can create miracles. Species are brought back from the brink of extinction again and again. We just need to want it enough.
As my anger subsides, pride fills me for being part of this conservation cause. I know we will keep fighting. It is too important. So I let myself hope as I listen to this cuckoo call. This will remain part of my summer's soundtrack for years to come.