July began with cool, cloudy weather and it was wet at times – most un-summer like! The only thing that brightened my week was a stoat in the garden – very good views were had as it ran in and out of the mole runs in the Long Garden. Good news was that the meadows were looking wonderful and knapweed, meadowsweet and lady’s bedstraw were in full flower. White clover was also flowering well in the paths and shorter grass areas which meant that bumblebees were feeding well, although there were fewer than is usual at this time of year. Plenty of young birds, especially tits and finches continued to use the feeders and a pair of siskins was seen most days. The pond continued to be used by the wild mallard and her brood (now down to 7) and they constantly foraged around the garden for food. The moorhens too were still with us. On the 4th of the month a juvenile redstart appeared on the garden gate. It continued to use the garden all week, usually at the front of the house but also once feeding on an area of recently cut meadow grass where presumably there were plenty of insects for this wonderful bird.
The second week of July saw continuing cool weather here in South Shropshire, plus it was often wet and windy. A small house mouse took up residence in my downstairs office and had to be coaxed into a live trap with a chocolate biscuit. It was relocated to an outside shed. Bird-wise the garden was lively with all the usual species plus two male siskins in bright, breeding plumage. Large numbers of young swallows perched on the wires over the field next door on the 11th and an unexpected warm sunny day saw huge numbers of large and green-veined whites in the garden feeding mainly on the flowering knapweed – 75 were counted before I gave up! The young redstart continued to visit to different areas around the garden and two chiffchaffs fed on the insects in the large Buddleia at the back of the house.
After a warm weekend the weather became cool and windy again with only the occasional sunny spell. There were still plenty of young tits and finches around plus the mallard ducklings, which were growing quickly, continued to roam all areas of the garden searching for food. During sunny periods, a lovely sulphur yellow male brimstone butterfly was feeding around the borders, and the occasional dragonfly was seen although numbers are very low this year. The local greenfinches continued to visit the feeders with juveniles in tow and a female blackcap fed daily from the berries of the alder buckthorn shrub outside my office window. Later this week she was seen with two juvenile blackcaps in tow, feeding them frequently and giving me great opportunities to photograph them. Sunnier weather at the end of the week saw red admiral, comma, peacock, meadow brown and small tortoiseshell on the Buddleia although the weather became cool and windy once again.
The last week of the July saw no improvement in the weather here in South Shropshire although a few warmer periods between the colder, windy times made it bearable! The young blackcaps were seen frequently as were the juvenile greenfinches which was pleasing as this species has declined in my area over the last few years. Goldfinches, including juveniles were taking advantage of the knapweed seeds in the meadows and a female sparrowhawk swooped through the garden regularly. The month ended with the emergence of gatekeeper butterflies in the Big Meadow and a pair of common blues were seen mating on birds foot trefoil, their caterpillar food plant. In all the month was dominated by poor weather, but the good numbers of butterflies and young birds around made up for it!