This week’s guest column comes from Dr Chris Andrews, visitor services officer at RSPB Frampton Marsh...
Well, the middle of summer is almost here. Wait, what? Spring has only just sprung and I’m blethering on about mid-summer. What is going on?
Well, this is one of the odd things about the seasons. Since it takes a while for the sun’s rays to properly warm the Earth, the weather always lags a bit behind what might be expected to be the seasons.
The longest day or summer solstice, when we have the most light, is nearly always on June 21. Confusingly, ‘midsummer day’ often lags a little bit behind this, usually being considered to be June 24. But the warm sunny weather we associate with summer is generally in July and August. So from a heliocentric (ie related to the sun) point of view the summer might be expected to be May, June and July.
Whereas from a weather point of view it is considered to run from late June to early September. Some older calendars, notably the celtic one, used sun-based systems but these days we all seem to base our seasons on the weather. Old celebrations of the solstice seem to have died out too, except in parts of Cornwall where bonfires are still lit. The famous modern celebrations at Stonehenge and other similar sites are decidedly modern, only starting in the early 20th century.
In nature too, there are differences of opinion. Some birds that come to us for the summer, such as swallows, will stay with us until October. Others, like some warblers, will be heading back to Africa in July. Certainly by August we will start to see extra wading birds at Frampton Marsh. They will have raised chicks further north and will be on their autumn migration southwards.
From our point of view though, this is often the time when the weather starts getting better and minds turn towards enjoying the outdoors. And what better way than with a spot of camping?
The night of June 21 is the RSPB’s Big Wild Sleepout, when we encourage people to spend a night under the stars. Either in their own back garden or at one of our organised events. Who wouldn’t like to spend an evening telling stories around a campfire, going to sleep under the stars then waking up to a breakfast cooked in the open air? Check the RSPB website for more details of how to take part.