At the beginning of June the weather was yet again very variable in South Shropshire, although the rain we had was actually quite welcome. Cooler damper weather was interspersed with sunny periods with a little warmth, and the garden was almost overwhelmed with young blue tits and great tits which all seemed to fledge from our bird boxes within a week. Other young birds though were rather scarce with just a couple of young robins and no juvenile blackbirds at all in spite of nests here. The common spotted orchids in the garden continued to appear and the small ‘orchid meadow’ at the back of the house – once just a patch of lawn – was full of this beautiful species – over 200 were counted in this one spot. These orchids found their own way to this area of lawn, seeding naturally from a few plants in the big meadow where a little seed was sown when we first created the garden. Clearly this spot with fine leaved grasses right outside our back door is just right for them. They seem to have found the perfect spot and are spreading year after year.
A single female mallard, most likely one from the brood that bred on the pond here last year, appeared in the garden and seemed fixated on my husband, following him around whenever he was outside! A couple of red-legged partridges also spent a lot of time in the garden and are possibly nesting at the bottom of one of our hedges. Sadly there were no more signs of spotted flycatchers here and butterfly numbers dwindled as torrential rain fell at the end of the week.
As the month progressed the weather in the second week remained wet, changeable and unseasonal! The damp conditions meant that the wildflower meadows grew rapidly. Numbers of young birds continued to increase and we were treated to the wonderful sight of a kestrel hunting over the garden as bank voles were plentiful here in June. Kestrel is a bird that we used to see frequently here, especially hovering over the meadows we have created, but is now a more unusual visitor. Young birds continued to flock to the garden feeders and the tits were joined by juvenile woodpeckers, their bright red caps making them very noticeable. Another seed feeder in the garden attracted a pair of local jays – they managed to remove the peanuts with great skill! A few house sparrows also appeared – a rare bird in the garden here.
The kestrel continued to visit, often sitting on a wire over the back garden, giving us great views of this beautiful bird. The weather became cool and changeable but the many young blue and great tits continued to use the feeders which needed filling up twice a day. The light evenings gave me the opportunity to see what was going on around the garden at dusk and a tawny owl one evening was followed by a barn owl the next! Barn owl has been seen here before but I do wonder how often this lovely bird visits us and we just don’t see it.
The weather warmed up in the last week of June, at least for a short while, and a few butterfly species appeared here in small numbers. Red admiral, holly blue and speckled wood and ringlet joined a few green-veined whites but the real splashes of colour around the garden came from the flowering plants especially the common spotted orchids. Knapweed, meadow cranesbill and lady’s bedstraw came into flower in the big meadow and meadowsweet covered the banks of the big pond and filled the apple orchard beneath the fruit trees.
As the month came to an end the weather was again changeable – it was cool and damp for several days which made me concerned for the young swallows in the nest in our porch, although the parent birds seemed to be returning with food for them even when there was drizzle. However warmer sunny weather returned and large numbers of house martins zipped around the garden in the early evenings, often clinging to the wall of the house but showing no interest in the artificial nest cups there which was very frustrating! Siskins were seen most days, usually on the sunflower heart feeders and a few meadow butterflies began to appear – ringlet and meadow brown danced around the meadows, feeding on knapweed and sometimes yellow rattle. An influx of painted lady butterflies fed from the catmint in the borders around the house and the garden was beautifully colourful with masses of meadow cranesbill in flower – a plant that has spread here vigorously.
In all June was an excellent month for wildlife here, and hopefully the trend will continue into July.