WITH the temperature nudging thirty degrees, I'm in Richmond Park sheltering from the heat beneath a sprawling weeping willow alongside Beverley brook. The brook flows swiftly but low due to lack of rainfall and a gentle cooling breeze is blowing.

A dozen jackdaws fly down to bathe, fluffing up their feathers to cool down while a pair of female mallard stand in the shallows probing something in the gravel. Two red deer hinds and a young stag scramble down the steep bank and trot along for a few yards before climbing up again to join their herd in the meadow beyond.

Three small white butterflies patrol the margins , occasionally stopping to feed, and blue damselflies flicker above the brook as a shoal of young chub speeds upstream.

Suddenly, overhead, a flock of about 40 swifts, the most I have seen this year, wheel and turn above the meadow that is shimmering in the heat while, a skylark ascends to sing without a break for a full six minutes before parachuting back to earth.

Surrounding me in the parched grass grow large stands of ragwort, their massed yellow flowers attracting a few, albeit disappointingly few meadow brown, skipper (pictured) and gatekeeper butterflies.

In very hot weather, around midday, for an hour or so, especially in the tropics, butterflies may 'aestivate', that is enter a state of semi-torpor to avoid becoming dehydrated. However in Richmond Park, this is mid-afternoon so butterflies should be more active. Nevertheless, a satisfactory afternoon's wildlife watch.