Country diary: the heat ruffles all kinds of feathers

Brown Moss, Shropshire: Unlike the dragonflies, the birds seem to be struggling to fit into the skin of this August afternoon

A heron shook the feathery stick of itself. When the sun came out, the air was so hot and muggy that leaving the shade of trees in the afternoon was only for mad dogs who, unlike their Englishmen and -women, had the good sense to run into the water on the pretext of retrieving sticks. The open pools at Brown Moss felt as if they had slipped a long way further south.

The heron was perching, in that half-folded-deckchair way, on one of the fenced enclosures built for breeding waterfowl. It was at the centre of a group of companions gathered around its celebrity. The mallards were uncharacteristically quiet, standing around as if waiting.

Related: Country diary: this dragonfly is an alien creature from distant lands

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