July in my wildlife garden continued with the same warm, sunny weather we had experienced at the end of June without a cloud in the sky. All over the country hot, dry conditions were the norm and this inevitably had an effect on the wildlife in the garden here in South Shropshire. Many young birds from second broods came to feed in the garden, especially robins, blue tits, coal tits and great tits, plus young chaffinches and goldfinches were also plentiful. Down at the wildlife pond the mallard ducklings continued to grow.
After a slow start earlier in the summer, butterflies were especially plentiful here throughout July with good numbers of a wide range of species. Green-veined whites were very common and there were plenty of other butterflies including comma, small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, painted lady and for a while a single dark green fritillary. Smaller species such as common blue and large and small skipper also began to appear in the mini-meadows, while meadow brown and ringlet were seen flitting over the long grasses in the orchard and the wildflower meadows. A single male brimstone was also observed feeding around the garden, especially on the purple loosestrife flowers around the big pond and in the bog garden. Meadowsweet, lady’s bedstraw and wild carrot were in full, glorious, flower. Towards the end of the second week a male blackcap began to sing again from a variety of spots on our boundaries but there was still no sign of either chiffchaff or willow warbler. Two young song thrushes visited the garden on the 15th and two mistle thrushes were also seen this week but
where larger bird species were concerned this month the garden was dominated by a family of magpies that had bred nearby, plus the usual wood pigeons were happily producing another brood. A male yellowhammer sang daily from the top of the beech tree at the back of the house.
As we moved into the third week of July butterflies were still plentiful with fifteen species recorded this week, including several commas and painted ladies. Swifts, swallows and house martins swooped over the garden, taking the small invertebrates that were emerging from the big pond and the meadows, and a tawny owl was heard in the orchard on the evening of the 20th. Bullfinches were frequently heard, but not often seen, in our little copse of trees.
As we approached the end of the July there was still no sign of rain. Bumblebee numbers, which had been very low in spring and early summer, increased noticeably, with a variety of species feeding on the plants in the nectar borders, especially on Echinops and small flowered foxgloves such as Digitalis ferruginea. A nest of red-tailed bumblebees was very active in its usual spot in the ground at the back of the house. At the very end of the month a juvenile willow warbler was seen feeding on the tiny insects attracted to our buddleia – the first willow warbler seen or heard here for several years. This bird was soon joined by two juvenile chiffchaffs and as the month ended, the buddleia became the focus of my wildlife watching with warblers, bumblebees, honeybees and eight regular butterfly species feeding from the flowers. With warm weather continuing I am hoping to see even more species, hopefully including hummingbird hawk-moth, feeding on the flowers of this wonderful shrub.