June is one of my favourite months of the whole year in my wildlife garden – and not just because the middle of summer is so wonderful with its light evenings and masses of birds, butterflies and other wildlife in every corner. My birthday is in June and as a present fourteen years ago my husband made me a Skinner moth trap. Moths had always been an interest of mine since I was a child (especially their caterpillars which are easier to find and identify) but after a friend brought a light trap to my wildlife garden back in Oxfordshire and opened my eyes to many fantastic species that I had only seen illustrated in the available books at that time, I was determined to take their identification more seriously. Those first few sessions back in Oxfordshire revealed a wealth of stunning species in and around my local area – a garden on the edge of a village where the sandy soil supported a range of interesting potential larval food plants including Scots pine, and amongst the wonderful species we caught on those first sessions were the huge Pine Hawk-moth and the stunning Green Silver-lines. An obsession was born.
Here in South Shropshire I am in a much more rural environment, surrounded by agricultural land but with oak and ash woodland next door. The garden has been planted with a large range of native shrubs especially as hedging, plus we have a tiny copse of native trees including wild cherry. The native planting around the garden, plus the woodland nearby, means that we get a good range of moth species, including those whose larvae feed on oak. The long grass areas in the wildflower meadows and wilder areas are also great for moth larvae so my moth ID journey continues. So far in this garden I have attracted over 200 species but there are photographs of many more that I work my way through when I have spare time, which is almost never! The most recent trapping event brought several garden tigers, poplar hawkmoth and a favourite of mine, the scalloped oak, along with a wealth of other species photographed and awaiting identification. Hopefully when I have worked my way through the ID of the unfamiliar species, there will be something new and exciting to add to the list.
Overall in the garden the weather in June was, like much of the rest of the country, both poor at times and glorious at others. A sad event was that our spotted flycatcher nest was predated after the young hatched on the 11th, possibly by woodpeckers which have had a very successful breeding season around us. We saw several juvenile woodpeckers in the garden daily throughout June. The adult flycatchers moved on and have not been since. We hope they will try again next year and plan to make their regular nest site more secure next year. As the month progressed plenty of dragonflies and damselflies began to appear around the Big Pond, especially common blue damsels and broad-bodied chasers.
As we moved through June the meadows came into their own. The recent proliferation of meadow cranesbill continues and it has now happily seeded into the orchard area (where it looks very beautiful with the meadowsweet I have planted there) plus the Big Meadow, although almost completely devoid of yellow rattle this year on account of the mild winter, turned purple with the usual mass of knapweed. Ringlet and meadow brown were more abundant than last year plus commas, peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells appeared as the month moved on. Our little ‘pop-up’ meadows around the garden filled with white clover, buttercups and selfheal as they were left uncut and were soon attracting masses of bumblebees. Mammals seen were our friendly bank voles, especially at their dedicated feeding station outside the back door, a fox, several wood mice, the usual grey squirrels and two yellow-necked mice.
The total number of bird species in the garden in June was thirty two with many juvenile birds, especially tits, feeding at the bird feeders. A highlight at the end of the month was a small flock of eight mistle thrushes in the copse. Ten butterfly species were recorded in June with large skipper appearing at the end of the month.