As the summer progressed here in South Shropshire there was sadly little change in the miserable weather. We were blessed with the very occasional warm and sunny day, but between these wonderful little windows of summer, cold, wet and even very windy weather prevailed. These episodes affected the wildlife in the garden as well as the garden itself and borders were battered and leaves blew from the trees as though autumn had already arrived.
In spite of the miserable conditions wildlife was, as always, abundant, especially the birds feeding in the garden. Several families of birds, especially yellowhammers and bullfinches fed around the garden regularly. The bullfinches in particular – a pair with two juveniles – fed daily on a variety of seeds especially those of the native selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) which grows in abundance in our lawns, and is left uncut for this very purpose. The yellowhammer family was watched ‘anting’ on the driveway on a couple of occasions. Other birds were plentiful, especially young tits, and it was really good to see a willow tit visiting the bird feeders. This species appears in the garden during the winter months and has not been seen since last March. A single bird visited almost daily from the 2nd of August and is still with us as I write on the 6th of September. The photograph here was taken from my back door. This little tray is a favourite feeding place for smaller birds, especially tits and finches.
On the odd warm and sunny afternoon late summer butterflies, especially red admirals were still abundant. Verbena bonariensis was the favoured nectar source while gatekeepers continued to feed on water mint and marjoram. Other butterflies seen included brimstone, peacock and a single wall brown on the 24th also feeding on Verbena.
This lovely species breeds in roughly the same spot in the garden every year, but this year only two individuals have been seen. Hopefully this butterfly will continue to hang on here.
The moth trap was brought into use on a few dry nights. Mostly the catch was of species we have recorded in the garden here over the last twelve years, but the rather gorgeous gold spot was new for the garden as was pale prominent, plus a few unfamiliar species are still awaiting identification. It was good to see an abundance of garden tigers and hawk-moths. Larger dragonfly species were rather few around the ponds, but smaller species such as common and red darter were quite abundant.
Mammals were rather few and far between last month although a stoat was seen briefly pursuing a bank vole! Fox scats were only noticed once in the garden. Amphibians too were quite scarce although with meadow cutting approaching frogs in particular, which tend to spend their summers in the long meadow vegetation, will soon be seen regularly. One large toad was discovered amongst the vegetables – a favourite haunt of this garden dweller. A really exciting resident was seen well though – a very large male slow worm. We know these reptiles live in the garden but we rarely see them, so a good sighting of a well grown adult was quite special. Photographing it though was quite difficult!
As we move into September there is no improvement in our weather and I think I may have to be content with wildlife watching from my office window as autumn approaches and bird numbers build up at the feeders.