While some areas of the country, especially the south and east, were basking in high temperatures in July, the west was having rather a different set of weather conditions. There were hot sunny days but these were interspersed with windy, wet and cold weather and by and large the poor weather seemed to be the norm. The garden here really took a hit in terms of the wind – wildflower meadows do not stand up well to those sorts of conditions – but by and large the meadows, and to a lesser extent the Pollinator Borders, managed well with only a few areas where plants blew down and didn’t recover. The Big Meadow in particular though suffered badly and this year will be cut earlier than usual as a result. The smaller meadows or ‘pop-up’ meadows as I tend to call them, as they are only left uncut for a few weeks, and then are mown before being allowed to pop up again, did well with plenty of small wildflowers, including birds foot trefoil, clover and selfheal flowering well and attracting lots of invertebrates.
On the positive side, much of our usual garden wildlife was plentiful with birds in particular doing well. At times the feeders seemed almost overrun with young blue tits and great tits and other bird species were plentiful too. Yellowhammers visited daily, often to pick up the bird food beneath the feeders, and at least four young great spotted woodpeckers continued to argue over the peanuts. All the bird activity naturally encouraged the local sparrowhawks, plus a pair of bullfinches were regular visitors, but were more often heard than seen.
July was an exceptional month here for butterflies. The Buddleia ‘Lochinch’ in the Nectar Garden was covered with red admirals, peacocks, commas and small tortoiseshells from the start of the month, and later gatekeepers plus small and green-veined whites visited the purple loosestrife, viper’s bugloss and marjoram. Other plants attracting pollinators, especially bumblebees, honey bees and hoverflies, were Verbena bonariensis and Japanese anemone. In the long Pollinator Borders teasels, Heliopsis, Centaurea and Eupatorium, were favoured by butterflies while the small foxglove species, especially the small green foxglove Digitalis viridis and the rusty foxglove Digitalis ferruginea, buzzed with bumblebees. A single, perfect male brimstone butterfly appeared at the end of the month, feeding on greater knapweed and hummingbird hawk-moths visited on several warm days, feeding from Buddleia, lavender and jasmine.
Burnet moths were quite abundant in the Big Meadow and the moth trap yielded just one new species for the garden in July – a stunning cloaked carpet moth.
Around the wildlife ponds, especially the smaller Marshy Pond, the native water mint attracted a lot of attention from hoverflies and gatekeeper and meadow brown butterflies. The Big Pond was a battle ground for southern hawker dragonflies, but smaller dragonfly species were rather few.
Bank voles were common all month as usual and a fox visited from time to time but the highlight of the month (other than the cloaked carpet moth pictured below) was a willow tit visiting the feeders – not recorded in the garden since April. The biggest surprise of the month though was a large hedgehog. This was only the second we have either seen or had evidence of here, in twelve years. As we move into August I am hoping for an improvement in the weather!