Back garden, St Ives, 21 May 2020

Another very warm day, warm enough to barbecue a sausage for supper. The slight breeze had died completely until the air was perfectly still. I pushed back my plate, reached for the wine and then was distracted by movement over the pergola. Specks catching the low sunlight were moving up and down fast and waltzing around each other. Squinting revealed long graceful tails - mayflies! A quick count - about twenty. I watched for some minutes as they rose and fell and remembered the story. This was their one day of joy. They had spent most of their life underwater as nymphs and had just hatched to live just long enough to mate after the courtship dance. If I was a fly fisherman I would have reached for my tackle box.

Wine forgotten I was mesmerised. Then, disaster! A Black-headed Gull floated into view at low level, banked suddenly and did a fly past. In a flash it was gone. And so were a few of the flies. Before I had to time to realise what had happened it came back. And then again. Within a very few minutes my dancing Queens were no more.


Illustration from MDWFP Museum of Natural Science

Trustee: Ian Jackson