The weather during the first week of August was again variable here in South Shropshire, but cold and windy seemed to be the norm! In spite of the poor weather there was plenty going on around the garden, especially in terms of the house martins and swallows that we frequently see feeding here, over the big meadow and the pond. Both species were frequent visitors in large numbers – sometimes between thirty and forty house martins were swooping around the garden. Other bird species were much in evidence, especially greenfinches and the occasional bullfinch, and a female bullfinch, feeding regularly from the bird feeder outside my office window, was a welcome sight. Mammals were few and far between with only bank voles seen frequently, although a small rabbit took up residence in the back garden. It was caught in a live trap, unable to resist the huge pile of lettuce to encourage him in, and was relocated to the grassy field next door. The common redstart that we have been seeing on several occasions was still around and the swallows in the porch were now feeding their second brood. Butterfly numbers of many species were high, and the carder bee nest which we found in the garden a couple of weeks ago was very active and continued to grow quickly as they added dried grass to the structure on a daily basis. As the knapweed continued to set seed, goldfinch numbers increased, especially juveniles, which learned quickly how to extract the seeds.
At the start of the second week of August the weather was delightfully warm and sunny! Some of the smaller wildflower meadows were cut as flowers went over and seeds were shed. This activity brought many swallows and house martins to feed on the insects emerging from the long grass. Some of the house martins rested on the house roof and over 40 were counted on one occasion. On the 10th of the month a spotted flycatcher was seen feeding from the hawthorn trees on our boundary – as this is one of my absolute favourite birds, I was rather pleased! As the weather warmed up, huge thunderous clouds gathered over the garden and this brought more swallows and martins to feed. The first speckled wood butterflies appeared this week, and gatekeeper butterflies were abundant. We then began to experience huge lightning storms in the skies all around us, but thankfully they were centred a little further to the west and rain was minimal. However the weather continued to be hot and very humid but a breeze made the temperature acceptable.
The third week of the month was once again dominated by the weather which alternated between heavy rain, thunderstorms, high winds and the odd glimpse of sunshine. This didn’t deter the local birds from visiting the garden and a total of 22 species was recorded in the garden. This was higher than the previous week but the actual numbers of birds was lower, and it did seem quieter. There were fewer butterflies around too in the windy weather, but a good number of different species were seen, especially feeding on the Buddleias and the Japanese anemones. We continued to cut some of the smaller meadows when the wind wasn’t blowing too much, but flowery areas around the ponds where purple loosestrife and meadowsweet were still in flower, were left and these plants were swarming with bees of many species. Careful cutting of the meadows also revealed several large frogs sheltering the in long grass and these were carefully moved to safety. Bumblebees especially were plentiful at this time and the carder bee nest in the ‘wild carrot’ meadow in the back garden grew daily! As the week progressed sunny spells became fewer but dunnocks, finches and tits continued to bathe and drink from the barrel pond outside my window. A single male siskin was seen on the bird feeders on the 21st but in general birds began to be scarcer than of late as they went into moult.
As we moved towards the end of the month the second brood of swallows fledged from the nest in the porch. The weather was in general rather wet and windy this week but the young swallows seemed to cope with the adverse conditions and were soon flying expertly around the house and feeding themselves, although frequently returning to the covered porch for shelter. Flocks of goldfinches and greenfinches, together with the odd chaffinch, fed on the ground under the feeders, and elsewhere around the garden other young birds were plentiful. Overnight on the 25th/26th a very fierce storm swept through the west of the UK – named as Storm Francis. Thankfully, there was no damage to our mature trees but the garden was littered with twigs and branches as a result of the high winds. There were very few butterflies about after this wild weather but as we moved towards the end of the month numbers of young goldfinches feeding increased again, much to the interest of the local female sparrowhawk. The month ended with slightly better weather, but with the garden still dominated by the young mallards which have yet to discover that they can fly, and there were blackcaps feeding in the hedges and shrubs, especially on the alder buckthorn berries. In all August was not a very summery month, but the numbers of birds and butterflies in the garden made up for the poor weather.