June was an exceptional month all over the UK in terms of the weather, and even the counties further west, including my own of Shropshire, experienced amazingly warm, sunny conditions. This affected the garden here quite profoundly – initially in a positive way as many wildflowers burst into bloom in the meadows and around the ponds, and meadow butterflies were seen in good numbers, but as the hot weather continued the meadow grasses quickly went to seed and there was a much more ‘late-summer’ feel to the whole garden even though it was only the middle of the year.
Throughout the whole month the garden was full of hundreds of common spotted orchids – in the meadows, the shorter lawn grass and also now in the borders. All these orchids have spread and established from a single sowing of 0.1 of a gram of seed in 2006! They tend to make mowing the grassy areas that we keep short quite a challenge! In the spring many new plants are moved from the shorter mown grass areas and transplanted into the meadows where they continue to flower and spread extremely rapidly.
Dragonflies and damselflies of many different species began to appear around the big pond early in the month and the whole garden was soon alive with young birds, especially juveniles of tits and finches, making everything seem very busy. House sparrows are a rarity in this garden yet suddenly we had a small flock including six or seven youngsters. Young blue tits, great tits and coal tits crowded around the feeders and the local woodpeckers continued to visit with the first juveniles appearing on the 10th of the month. Yellowhammers continued to sing from the hedges and trees around the garden and a skylark also sang overhead every day as the clear warm weather continued. The occasional red kite flew high over the garden, sometimes calling with its characteristic high pitched whistle.
A pair of spotted flycatchers appeared for a few days, but after hunting for insects from their usual spots in the vegetable garden, inspecting the nest box, rearranging the nest material a little and laying one egg, they decided to move on which was a great shame. Last year the spotted flycatcher nest was predated, possibly by woodpeckers, so it was no great surprise that they decided not to use this location again, but it was still a great disappointment as this is one of my favourite birds.
The warm weather continued into the last week of the month with the promise of even hotter temperatures to come. Oxeye daisies, meadow cranesbill, wild carrot, tufted vetch and lady’s bedstraw filled the orchard and other long grass areas, meadow brown and ringlet butterflies continued to be seen in good quantities and the lavender in the garden around the house attracted small tortoiseshell, painted lady, peacock, comma and red admiral butterflies, while our ‘mini-meadow’ areas had common blue and large skipper feeding on white clover. As we moved towards July the garden seemed alive with wildlife. However the lack of bumblebees has been very obvious with only three nests in the garden so far – possibly as a result of the very cold,snowy weather here in February and March. Hopefully bumblebee numbers will pick up in the next few weeks.