The first day of August was hot and sunny here in my wildlife garden in Shropshire and the swallows that were nesting in our front porch were very active and preparing for their second brood. The garden was full of butterflies of several species, many of which were feeding on the smaller of our two Buddleias in the Long Garden, which has now grown to a good height and was flowering well. Small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral and comma were abundant and other species feeding included gatekeepers and a beautiful wall brown. The juvenile marsh tit continued to visit the bird feeder outside my office window at the start of the week, together with lots of young nuthatches. Two bullfinches were feeding on the seeds of Herb Robert around the garden and I also had a fantastic view of a stoat in the meadow early in the week. There seemed to be fewer rabbits around the next day but it might have been my imagination! A buzzard sat around in our little area of woodland and a brown hawker dragonfly was seen flying around the pond with the more common species. There were still very good numbers of butterflies of several species feeding all around the garden at the end of the week.
Peacock Butterfly feeding on Echinops
In the second week of August large numbers of peacock butterflies were dominating the buddleias but the weather quickly cooled and became rather variable – it was at times quite cold and wet. However plenty of gatekeepers continued to feed around the borders and in the Big Meadow, especially on the wild marjoram, plus a few second brood brimstones, including a lovely male, were feeding on purple loosestrife around the marshy pond. There were also still lots of red admirals and peacock butterflies feeding on the Echinops in the long borders but fewer meadow browns and ringlets were seen. Goldfinches were taking advantage of the seeds of knapweed but the small flock was also feeding on meadowsweet seeds which I hadn’t seen here before. A chiffchaff was seen searching for insects on the largest of our Buddleias in the nectar garden several times and a few commas were also around plus several silver Y moths. On the 11th there was a single wall brown again in the meadow grass by the big pond and at least three chiffchaffs were feeding in the biggest of our plum trees in the orchard.
Chiffchaff feeding on invertebrates in the Buddleia
The third week of August began with dry but cool and windy weather – most unlike mid-summer! Six siskins continued to feed around the garden and several chiffchaffs were now finding food amongst the Buddleia flowers. Large numbers of house martins and swallows began to feed over the big pond and the juvenile moorhens wandered around the garden several times every day, often picking up food from under the bird feeders or spending time sitting under the car in the drive! They seemed quite at home wandering about and were rarely seen on the pond. Only one bank vole was noted daily and there were fewer rabbits in the garden than of late. The cutting of our wildflower meadows started this week – a big job involving a lot of raking of hay piles after cutting. The piles were then removed to various compost heaps around the garden. This week the commonest butterfly around was the gatekeeper, with good numbers feeding on marjoram in the borders and the meadows. A wall brown butterfly was seen again on the 19th , this time feeding on scabious in one of the borders. Purple loosestrife was still well in flower and attracting several brimstones, but towards the end of the week the knapweed was pretty much over with only a few goldfinches now feeding on the seeds. The weather became very overcast and quite cold but moving the hay from the meadows kept me warm! A few bank voles and a single large frog were found amongst the hay piles but no smaller frogs which is very unusual.
A Wandering Juvenile Moorhen
The last week of the month began with yet more cool, overcast weather with just a little sunshine in the afternoon of the 22nd. Squirrels were seen collecting and carrying off hazelnuts, and there seems to be a good crop for them this year. On the 23rd a fox was seen very well in the fruit garden which might explain why the rabbit population appears to be reducing. The fox was later seen in our small woodland area and judging by the noise was clearly being mobbed by jays. The next few days were warmer and I counted ten red admiral butterflies feeding on the big buddleia again and quite a lot of peacock butterflies too. On the same day a meadow pipit was seen on one of the wires over the back garden – only the second time this bird has appeared here. The weather then cooled again for the last week of the month, but many house martins and swallows were feeding over the pond and meadow daily and collecting on the house roof and overhead wires, already planning their departure. There were fewer butterflies around now and the month ended with cool and overcast conditions but I am hoping there is a burst of late summer sunshine on it’s way!