Whilst for us August is the height of summer, for much of our wildlife it’s almost the beginning of autumn. The breeding season’s over, lots of plants are ripe with fruit and some bird species are even starting to move south.
On the Pools
This is the month when you should start looking out on the pools for birds beginning their migration. Some species will be arriving from spending the summer further north, some will be setting off to the south having spent the summer here.
You might see gatherings of Swallows and Martins as they get ready to leave for Africa. They will often come together in big numbers close to water, where there are lots of insects to feed on and reeds to roost in overnight.
Swifts are one of the first summer visitors to leave us. By the middle of August most have gone. It is an amazing fact that young Swifts, when they launch themselves from the nests in our houses where they hatched, will probably not touch down again at all for two years! For two long years they will fly continuously; eating, drinking and sleeping on the wing and during this time they will make two return visits to southern Africa. Amazing birds!
Look out as well for the first waders returning from the north where they nested. Some, like the Curlew, will stop here and stay the winter with us; others will push on further south to Europe or Africa. With so many birds moving through, there’s always the chance of seeing something unusual on the pools at this time of year.
In the Fields and Hedges
Many of the wild flowers start to go over and dry up in the heat as we go into August, but brambles are in full flower and we will soon be seeing the first blackberries.
Bramble flowers are a great source of nectar this month for lots of insects, but especially for the butterflies. In addition to the Commas, Red Admirals and Peacocks that you can often see around th reserve, look out at the moment for Painted Lady butterflies.
These lovely butterflies are long-distance travellers and each year they move up from Morocco, where they spend the winter, and push north. How many reach us in Britain depends on the weather in southern Europe. They breed as they move north if the weather is suitable and in some years they can arrive here in huge numbers. This year is proving to be a good year for Painted Ladies, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk around the reserve – they are a beautiful sight!
Why not send in your butterfly sightings from the reserve to the Big Butterfly Count ? This is a national survey that takes place this month and relies on members of the public to send in counts from their gardens or neighbourhoods. The reserve would be a great place to do it. You can find all the details on their website here: https://www.bigbutterflycount.org/about