The Big Meadow
The month of July began with very poor weather in South Shropshire at the start of the first week, but at least there were plenty of birds around the garden to compensate, especially large numbers of juvenile blue and great tits from our boxes and from the local woodland. The common spotted orchids in the garden meadows were still in flower but they were starting to go over and lose their colour as the seeds set. The big pond was looking wonderful and very natural in terms of the vegetation in and around its banks, but again there were very few dragonflies or damselflies after the mallard invasion of recent years! The resident moorhens were very active with four or five babies running about, accompanying the adults around the garden, and there were several great spotted woodpeckers feeding including a few juveniles. Along with our regular bird species, two linnets were seen in the big meadow feeding on grass seeds. There were very few butterflies seen this week – only one common blue and one meadow brown were noted. On the 7th of the month the weather was briefly sunny and warm and several ringlet butterflies appeared around the meadows.
Linnets feeding in the meadow areas
The second week of the month saw slowly warming weather and soon temperatures were in the high teens and early twenties! The local farmer was cutting his hay fields which provided plenty of food for our swallows and house martins. The four juvenile swallows from the nest in the porch boldly ventured out but were returning every night to the safety of the nest. Meadow brown, ringlet, small tortoiseshell and large skipper butterflies were now quite numerous around the meadows and borders as temperatures increased, and the weather became very sunny and hot. There were still fewer dragonflies and damselflies than we would normally have at this time of year but at least a few species were using the pond. The largest of our meadows began to look amazing with knapweed, meadow vetchling, lady’s bedstraw and meadowsweet in full flower. A smaller meadow area – known as the Geranium meadow, as meadow cranesbill flourishes there, was also in full flower with even more plants than last year. The fact that its seeds are ‘explosive’ does a lot to ensure that it spreads well here! There were few signs of mammals around the garden except for the usual handful of rabbits and plenty of bank voles. Skylarks were singing daily over the garden as the weather improved.
Ringlet butterfly in the Big Meadow
Temperatures continued to rise at the start of the third week of July. Butterfly numbers, especially peacocks, were good and species were roughly the same of as the previous week. The orchids were now over and setting seed but other wildflowers in the meadows continued to provide plenty of colour. Juvenile siskins began to appear on the feeders with two adults and there was still a huge number of young blue tits around. On the 18th a single marsh tit was seen on one of the bird feeders – the first I had seen in the garden since April. My impression was that it was a juvenile bird and this was confirmed by an expert friend as I didn’t trust my own judgment! This same bird continued to be seen daily until the end of the month. The weather remained hot and sunny all week with temperatures rising to the high 20s. The warmer weather meant that butterflies were more plentiful now, with ten species seen around the garden although actual numbers of each species were fairly small with the exception of meadow brown and ringlet which were abundant. The young moorhens were now boldly picking up food from under the bird feeder outside my office and at the end of the week a fox was seen in the garden – not something we see often in spite of our rural location.
Juvenile Marsh Tit
The last week of July continued with warm sunny conditions but on the 28th we had rain which was much needed in the vegetable garden. There were still large numbers of juvenile birds around especially blue tits, but also now a few young goldfinches joined the siskins and a pair of linnets was photographed feeding on seeds in one of the meadows. As the month ended several gatekeeper butterflies appeared in their usual spot on the marjoram in the small meadow at the back of the house and their extraordinary territorial nature saw them chasing off other larger species including a comma! Numbers of bumblebees in the long nectar borders continued to increase as the weather warmed up. On the very last day of the month I was treated to the spectacle of a family of weasels in our little copse of trees – an adult with several youngsters racing about and popping in and out of the various log piles there before exploring the rest of the garden- a brilliant end to the month!