This July has been great for wildlife watching and we have been really busy talking about where to go to see various spectacles as well as the usual July gull fledging shenanigans. Earlier this month my colleague and I went up to Scotland to deliver some training to our teams in Scotland, we managed to fit in a trip to Fowlsheugh before the long trip back. This was a good call, the cliffs were jampacked with kittiwakes, many feeding young as well as razorbills, guillemots and fulmar. We spotted a few 'jumplings' (this years young that have grown to a stage where they are ready to leap into the unknown to continue their development at sea) in the sea far below with their parents in close attendance, ever wary of the patrolling gulls. We also managed to spot some puffins as well, you can't help but smile whilst watching this clown of the sea! If you are up in the Aberdeen area please pop along to the reserve and also drop in and say hi to the staff at our Dolphin date with nature at the Torry Battery by Aberdeen harbour, you get some great views of these awesome creatures as well as some seabirds such as sandwich terns, eider ducks and shags.
We also came across this busy yellowhammer doing it's best to feed it's young tucked away nearby in a gorse thicket...
...which brings me on to another frequent line of inquiry we have had this July, insects, especially butterflies and moths. These chicks were eating well with plenty of fat green caterpillars heading their way, given the proper summer weather over the last few weeks it has been much easier to spot some of our other winged wildlife, what have you noticed this summer? If you can spare some time over the next few weeks, make a note of the butterflies you see and record them as part of Butterfly Conservations Big Butterfly Count. I was lucky enough to spot some white admirals recently as well as loads of the more common species like meadow brown, gatekeeper and ringlet.
The storms have eased concerns for many about the impact of the heatwave on wildlife. Our advice is to make sure that a shallow bowl of water is made available to give birds and other wildlife somewhere to drink and bathe when necessary if the hot conditions continue.
I hope you have all been able to get outside and enjoy this proper summer weather most of us are having! If not it looks like you have still got time as the sun looks like its staying with us for a while yet!
July is a time for sitting back and enjoying what is around you, many flowering plants are at their peak blooming period, the trees and shrubs are dense and green and fruit and berries are starting to form. With all the natural food available it is also peak time for insect and minibeast activity, regardless of the garden space you have a quick look around should be able to find bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles and spiders.
Most people with lawns want to keep at least some of them short so that they can be used for recreation, i'm the same, I want a nice neat lawn as well in somes areas. However, whilst short lawns can be great for some creatures, they don't tick all of the boxes for our garden wildlife. For example, many creatures like grasshoppers, harvestmen, moths and butterflies need patches of long grass to complete their life-cycles. It is also important for birds like starlings and house sparrows that feed their young on invertebrates, this simple step can increase the natural food available. So, your mission should you choose to accept it is to help manage a healthy garden food chain by creating a patch of long grass to add to the benefits of short grass.
Now how you do this is pretty flexible, you could pick a small area in the middle of a lawn, leave some long grass in swathes around the edges of the lawn where you have shrubby borders or best practice is to create a patch (or patches) with curved edges. All you need to do is to stop mowing this patch from now until the following spring. If you give it a go and want to share your success then please post on our Greenfingers forum.
Just a couple of tips for the garden during the hot spell, don't be tempted to over cut your short grass, leaving it a touch longer will help it retain moisture. If it does go brown, don't reach for your hose, your lawn will bounce back when we get a shower. Birds will be looking to cool off so make sure you provide them with a shallow tray of water.