Lower Rhine Valley, Opheusden, The Netherlands, May 2012

20 May 2012 -  

Muted thunder crackles overhead. Stifling humidity is spoiling the first heatwave of the year. The grey sky belies a harsh, unnatural light. Flotillas of Greylag goslings, 37 in all, cruise noisily across the lake with their minders. The distant but harsh, twanging honks of the adults hang heavily in the air and the fluffy chicks squeak quietly and insistently. A lone Blackcap is the other leading voice in the unnaturally still air, its loud, sweet warbling intermittent as it works through the fresh new growth of Walnut leaves. Frogs in the ditch squawk and squelch in a subdued, non-stop chorus. Swifts, newly arrived, strangely silent, scythe the sky, refuelling on dancing swarms of flies. A flash of dull, patterned orange reveals a Painted Lady butterfly, also fresh from the south, settled on a log.

The first decent peal of thunder follows a startling flash of lightning and ricochets from sky to earth and back. Its stunning violence changes everything. Gentle sounds are suddenly drowned by tearing wind and rain. The air is suddenly breathable and cool, the sour agricultural stink replaced by the delicious fragrance released as the rain soaks the parched soil.

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