Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 15th and 16th July 1921

Viola records in her diary that St Swithin’s day, the 15th of July, has been fine. She makes this note because of the belief connected with the name day of St Swithin or Swithun:

“St Swithin’s Day, if thou dost rain/for forty days it will remain/St Swithin’s Day if thou be fair/for forty days ’twill rain nae mair”

It is believed that if it rains on St Swithin’s day it will continue to be wet for the 40 days after, but that if it is fair it will continue to be fine. There is a scientific basis for this belief and it is probably from observation of the weather that it arose. Around the middle of July, the jet stream settles into a pattern that usually holds reasonably steady until the end of August. If it lies to the north of the British Isles, then continental high pressure is able to move in, bringing warm, fine weather. When it lies across or south of the British Isles, arctic air and atlantic weather systems predominate meaning wetter, colder weather for us. Let us hope that this July sees a dry St Swithin’s Day!

The following day, Viola sees a crossbill and follows it to watch it feeding on a pine cone. Viola recorded a diary entry about a crossbill previously.

The ‘Willow Wren that Viola mentions is another name for the Willow Warbler.

This tiny bird is a summer visitor to Britain and has recently been regarded as being in decline. You can read more about the Willow Warbler here.

Viola also spots a Bullfinch and a Coal Tit, both resident birds and found across Britain. She also hears the characteristic chatter of a magpie, these birds remain commonly found across Scotland.

July 15. Riverdale. 7.00 p.m. St Swithun’s Day has been fine.


July 16 Woods on Golf Course 6.30

Spent half an hour stalking crossbills. Saw a male and

female quite close and saw 15 or 20 flying about. The

one I watched longest wrenched the cone off a twig and

then held it in his feet while he picked out the seeds.

When he dropped it after about 5 minutes he had almost

cleared them all out. The note is a sort of zit zit. Also

saw a willow wren with a fly or something in its

beak – for the young ones I suppose. A bullfinch came

quite close to me, and a young cole tit perched with-

-in 6 inches of my head and chirped at me. Heard

two magpies.