The first week of June brought plenty of juvenile birds to the garden and one particular blue tit, nesting in a hole in the old hawthorn behind the pond, was seen catching damselflies and taking them back to the chicks! A blue tit was also seen feeding chicks in the bird box on the end of my potting shed – a box that hasn’t been used for a while. A whitethroat – the first seen or heard this year – sang from the top of the tall trees in the copse and was very visible and lovely to hear, and both song thrush and blackbird were also singing daily – the blackbird in the early morning on top of the house roof which became slightly annoying as he woke me at about 4.30 every morning! The moorhens, having lost their first brood to crows, were on a second less accessible nest at the back of the pond and had five or six eggs. Several birds were again attempting to take the eggs but the female was managing to see them off in a rather ferocious way. The weather this week was initially warm and sunny but then cloud and rain became the norm. The whitethroat was singing again at the end of the week though and was also seen briefly on the wires over the back garden. Blackcap and chiffchaff were still singing daily and a few butterflies were seen around the garden including holly blue and a single comma.
The second week of June was variable weather-wise. There was a little sun but the skies were also very overcast at times. However all the wildflower meadows in the garden were looking amazing with an excellent selection of meadow plant species including meadow cranesbill and yellow rattle – both in profusion. A single brimstone was seen along with a few other butterfly species. Less positive was the sighting of baby rabbit in the vegetable garden which is technically fenced to keep rabbits out, so extra protection was needed! The little rabbit (which was very cute) thankfully ran out while the fencing work was going on. However rabbits were the least of my problems as it seems to be an extraordinary year for slugs and I suspect the worst for growing vegetables that I have ever known. However a beautiful slow worm was found in the garden on the 10th so at least something was benefitting from the slugs! As the week went on the garden seemed to be slowly filling up with young blue tits and great tits as the fledglings left the nest boxes. A further nest was noticed in a small box in the fruit garden which hasn’t been used before, which meant that at least four boxes around the garden were being used and several others which are inaccessible to us at this time of year also seemed to be occupied. The biggest success in the garden this year however was the proliferation of the common spotted orchids which were everywhere – over 400 were counted in just one small meadow area close to the house and there were many others all around the garden. Oxeye daisies were also flowering in abundance and bird’s foot trefoil was also flowering profusely. Butterflies though were rather sparse this week with just a few small tortoiseshells and one painted lady seen on the 14th.
The third week of the month saw the meadow areas continuing to flourish with common spotted orchids everywhere and many were much larger than they have been in previous years. They were popping up everywhere including in some of the flower borders and even in pots with other plants. More good news was that swallows nesting in our porch clearly had eggs and one bird was constantly on the nest, only flying out to feed or to avoid shopping deliveries! A pair of pied wagtails was seen frequently on the house roof and around the garden and a single large toad was found on the 16th. The moorhens now clearly now had chicks in the nest and the adults were very aggressive towards any passing visitor of any size, including other birds and people. Several larger dragonflies were seen around the pond but not in the numbers we were used to before the local mallard moved in – this year the moorhens won the battle for occupation of the pond and the aquatic invertebrates seem to be more abundant as a result. Common blue damselfly in particular was seen in some numbers. House martins continued to feed over the garden every evening and on one occasion several flew up to the eaves of the house and clung there for a while, but there is still no sign of them using the nest cups we have provided.
During the fourth week of June the weather was still rather variable here in South Shropshire and at times actually quite cold! There were however still plenty of young birds around the garden, especially tits from the boxes, and many were learning to use the bird feeders. The young birds also included siskins which have clearly bred locally again and possibly in the garden. There were also plenty of young robins, as usual sheltering under the car while waiting to be fed! There were still very few butterflies for the time of year but meadow browns and a single male brimstone were notable this week. Blackcap and chiffchaff continued to sing and the meadows were full of oxeye daisies, common spotted orchids and meadowsweet. The bank voles that live around our patio area were seen every day and a single tiny youngster accompanied one of the larger voles on several days. Towards the end of the week the weather improved and a few ringlets joined the meadow brown butterflies. Common knapweed and meadow cranesbill were both in full flower and white clover in the shorter meadow areas attracted plenty of bumblebees. On the last day of the month a juvenile redstart appeared on the garden gate – last year this happened four days later. There is clearly something about our gate that they like! It was only seen once but hopefully there might be more sightings next month.