Sunday, 3 July 2016

July: Treats in store?

Comma Butterfly on bramble flowers.
I really love June. Think orchids, bird-song and sunshine. Sadly, I spent an awful lot of June in the office or being trained. July doesn't look like being much different for me (writing appraisals and policies) but a short walk on July 1st whetted my appetite for the coming month.

It wasn't a particularly sunny day and the wind was getting up, so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many butterflies and other insects on the wing. There had been a fresh emergence of meadow browns and ringlets, both looking nearly black among the meadow grasses. I can no longer hear them, but the cricket and grasshopper tribe are all abundant right now. If you hang around the brambles and nettles, you will see  a huge variety of insects, and I defy you to identify even half of them!

Dragonflies are relatively easy to sort out if you have a decent book. Our famous Norfolk hawkers have probably all hatched now. Look for a big dragonfly with a brown body and green eyes on the Hayling Pit, but don't be caught out; brown hawkers are there as well. (They are the only ones with brown wings.)

Among the the smaller dragonflies, we have four spotted chasers and black tailed skimmers on the go, and maybe some of our scarce chasers are still around.  In July you might see a dozen species of dragonfly at Paxton in one afternoon.

Damselflies are altogether more difficult. The blue ones are especially troublesome as we have common blue, blue tailed, red-eyed, small red-eyed, variable, azure and white legged damselflies out in July, and they are all blue and black! The metallic blue male banded demoiselles present no problem as they have those spectacular dark bands on the wings.

Big and beautiful, but what is it?
Bird-wise, we always expect July and August to be pretty quiet as most of our birds will be moulting and in no mood for song. Without a full set of feathers, it's easy to fall prey to some predator so it's wise to stay in deep cover.

Growing new feathers takes a lot of energy. A lot of birds feel under the weather due to the strain and many die in the process of moulting when their resistance is low after the busy nesting season.

Small skipper. Have you seen one yet?
If you are about early or late, you might see a host of juvenile warblers and other small birds feeding in a pack. On the coast and (if you are lucky) on inland lakes like ours, the autumn passage of Arctic wading birds has already started. Dunlins, curlews, whimbrels, redshanks, sandpipers and assorted small "peeps" are winging their way here, right now.

Looking on the CamBirds website today I can see that Black-tailed godwits are on the Ouse Washes and green sandpipers are turning up at gravel pits like ours.

At the same time as autumn passage brings us new birds from the north and east, you can say goodbye to our cuckoos, swifts and nightingales until next year. Sad, isn't it?