Every cloud of flies has a golden lining


After weeks of bitterly cold weather, summer finally arrived on Saturday, only to be replaced again on Sunday by more of the same.

It was so good on Saturday, that I decided it was time to get back in the saddle and go for a spin on the bike.

After months of neglect, the tyres were flat and after 15 minutes of frantic pumping, I decided that the tube on the front must be perished, as I couldn’t get any air into it and so proceeded to take the front wheel off to investigate.

It looked OK, so I put it all back together again and still it wouldn’t inflate. To cut a long story short, I discovered that it was the pump which was knackered (and so was I!).

A neighbour kindly loaned me one which worked and off I went.

Selkirk is not the easiest place to get around in just now, due to the massive flood protection scheme, and it took me some time to escape into the countryside, thanks to road and bridge closures and footbridge removals.

However, I eventually got free and began to enjoy the riverside wildlife.

On a bike, insects become particularly noticeable, especially when they are projected into your face, and at one location it was pretty bad.

Clouds of slow-moving, big black flies with long trailing back legs, made cycling with your mouth open a bad idea.

They were St Mark’s flies. They are so called because they emerge around St Mark’s Day on April 25 every year and can be seen in flight in May. They are found around woodland edges, hedges, rough grassland and wetlands.

Male St Mark’s flies are around 12mm in length with clear wings, large eyes and long dangly legs.

Interestingly, the male’s eyes are divided by a groove and have separate connections to the brain.

This allows the males to use the upper eye part to look out for females and the lower part to monitor their position in relation to the ground, allowing them to hover in the same position.

Females are bigger than their male counterparts at 14mm in length, with smoky brown wings and much smaller eyes and legs.

The St Mark’s Fly has a very short adult life cycle, being in flight for approximately only one week.

Swarms of St Mark’s flies may be annoying, but they are very useful creatures as they feed on nectar, making them important pollinators of fruit trees and crops.

Nearer to home, a newly-purchased, suckered window feeder has brought our garden birds even closer and it is fascinating to watch them in comfort from a few feet away.

The garden is presently full of young sparrows and blackbirds, all begging for food from the adults and our niger seed feeder has at last attracted a pair of beautiful goldfinches, which now visit regularly.