The weather was variable at the start of July with a very cool and damp feel on the 1st of the month. Luckily the weather grew warmer as the week progressed and the last few days were quite warm! There were lots of young birds around the garden especially tits, with great tits anting under the climbing rose in the back garden. There were several ringlet butterflies around the meadows – certainly more than we have had for several years here, plus meadow browns were also plentiful. It was so nice to see these meadow species dancing over the long grasses and wildflowers. Other insects were also plentiful with lots of bumblebees feeding and a couple of scarlet tiger moths around the vegetable patch. As the week progressed we began to see swifts feeding over the garden and the small field next door. This is a relatively unusual bird for us to see here but as the week progressed more appeared every day until a maximum of about 50 were counted. They were joined by house martins and swallows and we enjoyed this spectacle every day with swift numbers building up to still further. Our own swallows continued to feed their young in the nest in the front porch, and our post lady got used to dodging them as she delivered the mail.
The second week of the month still brought variable weather but there were a couple of warm days at the beginning of the week. The pair of red legged partridges were around every day often feeding on the sunflower hearts that fell beneath the feeders. A female mallard also appeared daily – usually at the end of the afternoon to stock up on food and have a swim in the pond and we became suspicious that she may have a nest somewhere. Single butterflies of several species appeared around the garden including comma, small tortoiseshell and peacock in the long borders. A wood pigeon continued to build yet another nest in the hedge in the back garden and the large numbers of swifts continued to feed over the garden with the local swallows and house martins. Towards the end of the week numbers of meadow brown and ringlet butterflies increased considerably and we had the best numbers of these species here for some years.
In the third week of the month our swallows fledged – possibly on the 15th – with 4 or 5 young. The parents were seen fluttering around the porch trying to encourage the youngsters out. They flew around the garden this week, resting on the overhead wires. The weather alternated between sunny and warm to cool and windy and there were still masses of young tits feeding – probably from second broods. The orchids in the back garden now going over but were being replaced by lots of the biennial wildflower wild carrot which looked stunning! There were plenty of butterflies still around in the meadows especially browns, commas, small tortoiseshell and peacock. The bullfinch family was constantly in the copse hooting and feeding on the wild cherries and there were a couple of young robins around the garden at last.
In the last week of July the weather was yet again very variable. The bullfinches were now beginning to use the birdfeeders and our swallows seemed to be out all day, returning in the evening to roost in the nest. There were excellent numbers of butterflies in the wildflower meadows especially ringlet, meadow brown and essex skipper and we also saw a sudden large hatch of hoverflies which were all around the garden feeding on flowers in borders and meadows. A surprise find was a slow worm in one of the compost heaps. This is a very welcome garden resident that we only occasionally see here. Other welcome visitors to the garden this month included the local kestrel and several linnets, the latter feeding on seeds of various small wildflowers in the meadows. Towards the end of the week the inevitable happened – our local wild mallard duck appeared with eleven fluffy ducklings. We suspected that she might be around after last year’s successful nest here and she proudly paraded them around the garden, only once attempting to attack me when she came across me unexpectedly in the garden. The month ended with more variable weather but the butterflies were fantastic as huge numbers of peacock and painted lady fed all around the garden.