August was yet another very variable month weather-wise and some areas of the UK experienced high winds and torrential rain. Here in South Shropshire conditions could have been worse and at least we had some sunshine between the storms. Our nesting swallows were coping well with the poor weather conditions – they seemed to be experienced parents and possibly not first-time breeders as I had suspected, and they were confidently incubating their second brood – even when visitors came to the front door they generally sat tight and were not easily disturbed. Spells of good weather between the storms meant that they went into overdrive once the eggs had hatched. Around the borders butterflies were still very much in evidence with a huge influx of peacocks – I counted forty around the long borders and the herb garden. Painted lady and red admiral were also still numerous especially on the Buddleia and Verbena bonariensis. There were lots of birds all around the garden, and the local red kites appeared to have had a successful nest close by. Two adults and a juvenile soared over the garden on clear days and their whistling calls echoed all around our little valley.
As we moved into the second week of the month nothing really changed in terms of the weather except that it became even more windy! The local female kestrel visited the garden many times, sometimes hovering over the wildflower meadows or sitting on the electricity cables over the nectar garden at the back of the house, and a male sparrowhawk also found a convenient perch on one of our garden seats. Bumblebees were plentiful all around the borders and butterflies continued to survive in spite of sometimes wet and windy conditions. A single hummingbird hawkmoth was seen feeding on the Buddleia on the 9th and the moth trap attracted a good range of species including one of my favourites, the antler moth.
The wild mallard duck and her ducklings continued to feed here but we were able to encourage them out of our garden this week and into the large neglected field next door. This field has a big natural pond where the ducklings will be able to find plenty of food plus a bigger pond will provide them shelter from any predators that might be around. They seemed very settled and we could hear them splashing about in their new home!
On the 13th a juvenile siskin was seen on the feeders. I was thrilled to see this gorgeous little bird – after having so many in the garden over the winter I was hopeful that they would be breeding in the area and this visitor possibly confirmed that, and later this week two more siskins appeared – an adult male and female. Very bad weather on the 14th left the garden windswept and wet and on the morning of the 15th a male blackcap was seen in the hawthorn outside the back door looking fluffed up and very damp. The variable wetter weather continued and these conditions brought yet more young birds to the garden feeders. Plenty of large dragonflies were seen around the big pond in sunnier spells including brown hawker, but on the 17th the female mallard abandoned her ducklings on the pond next door and returned to our pond! The following day all the ducklings had also returned having somehow climbed over or though the fence that surrounds the garden!
As we moved through the month the weather remained unsettled – it was often cool for the time of year and also still very windy. The ducks continued to commute between our garden and the pond next door and young birds were seen in good numbers all around especially in the orchard and on the feeders. Blue tits and goldfinches in particular were seen in very good numbers. A family of greenfinches also used the feeders daily. There were however fewer butterflies towards the end of the month, although a single wall brown was seen feeding on lavender on the 26th, and basking on the house wall, but dragonfly numbers were still very good, especially for the larger species such as migrant and southern hawker and I was pleased that our wildlife pond was continuing to provide a good habitat for them in spite of the large number of mallard making use of a pond that was far too small for them! The moth trap continued to bring in exceptional numbers of the commoner species.
The month ended with lower temperatures here and a family of wrens was roosting every evening in a small open fronted bird box in the tangled Clematis orientalis that grows over the potting shed, a sure sign that summer is just about over. With all the wildflower meadows now cut, the garden looked rather empty and wild but the bird feeders were simply buzzing with tits and finches. Bank voles were still around in large numbers and a single common shrew was also seen, but it was the huge flocks of young goldfinches, often fifty or more, that we were seeing daily, that indicated that summer was just about over.