A mouse and a mouse-like bird.. best month ever for hoverflies.. we seek him here, we seek him there – but we didn’t find him!
Dry, 16C – 20C with some sun on the first three Wildwatch Wednesdays.. rain on the 26th.
Our summer visitors were recorded every Wednesday in July. At least six Blackcaps were seen or heard on the 12th with slightly fewer numbers on the other days. Chiffchaffs were seen or heard every Wednesday, with juveniles being seen on the 19th and 26th. The solitary Whitethroat was also recorded each Wednesday, but mainly heard, rather than seen.
Song Thrushes were very vocal in the first three weeks, with at least two on the 19th. Bullfinches were present, but fairly quiet; three were seen / heard on the 19th. The Long-tailed Tit flocks were very active, with about 20 by Osbaldwick Beck on the 12th and 14 on the 26th near the Butterfly Path. Wren song diminished during the month, but five were heard on the 19th. Goldfinches were also fairly quiet, but seven were seen on the 12th near the Sluice Bridge.
A good sighting on the 5th was a Treecreeper near Ladybird Corner (very much a mouse-like bird!) and a rather sad sighting was a solitary (lost?) Mallard duckling from the Kingfisher Culvert on the same day.
Overhead was a Swallow on the 5th, a Swift on the 19th and, on the 26th a sighting of a scarce visitor, Grey Heron.
The month’s record count of 20 species of hoverfly bring the year’s sightings so far to 33 species of these attractive and valuable pollinators, and St Nicks total to almost 50. Eight of these, seen between April and July this year, are new records for St Nicks. Still some way to go though – there are 280 species on the British list! New this month to St Nicks was Eupeodes corollae seen on 12th and 19th July. The year has been notable for the large numbers of Marmalade hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus. This species is a partial migrant so numbers are boosted in a good migration year. Last year they were particularly scarce on the reserve; this year they seem to be everywhere, queuing up to get inside the white Bindweed trumpet flowers and gathering to drink nectar several at a time on composite flower heads.
While July was not so warm and sunny as June, June’s butterfly total of 10 species was surpassed, with 14 species seen. Small Skipper (July 5th) and Gatekeeper (July 8th) appeared for the first time this year, bringing the year’s total to 17 species. It is disappointing that we haven’t yet found a Painted Lady on the reserve (see Spotlight on the Painted Lady recently posted on these blog pages) – maybe the immigrant numbers have been smaller this year.
Day-flying moths continue to be seen, with Cinnabar, Mother-of-Pearl, Nettle Tap, Pale Straw Pearl, grass moth Agriphila straminella, Garden Grass Veneer Chrysoteuchia culmella and Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba added to the year’s total. The last three named are new records for St Nicks.
Azure, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Large Red damselflies were seen, both around the environment centre pond and out on the reserve, plus Common Darter and Southern Hawker dragonflies. Attractive Lacewings Chrysopa perla continued to be found.
Fewer True Bugs were seen during July, with shieldbugs being particularly scarce. The overwintering spring breeders have died off, and we expect to see the year’s new adults appearing soon. Only Common Green and Gorse Shieldbugs were seen in July. A few mirid bugs of the commoner species were seen, including the attractive little orange-red bug Deraeocoris ruber (pictured), wearing its yellow heart motif. This species also comes in black!
Common Red Soldier Beetles Rhagonycha fulva appeared this month and were soon very visibly abundant on umbellifer and other plants. Another arrival this month was the small darkling beetle species Lagria hirta, frequently seen round the reserve and looking like a miniature kiwi fruit (pictured). Harlequin Ladybirds, with their many colour forms and spot patterns, considerably outnumber all the other ladybird species rolled together.
Many trees and large shrubs were beginning their fruiting season, with only Buddleia in flower throughout July.
Early to midsummer herbaceous plants also started to run to seed, though a fall-off in species counts (43 at the lowest) was as much to do with conditions and personnel as what was actually out there. A range of particularly colourful species reached or maintained their peak – in particular Silverweed, Meadowsweet, Meadow Crane’s-bill, Yarrow, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Tufted Vetch, the Clovers and Ribbed Melilot. The latter gave a spectacular display along the main path, with a rich honey scent on warm days.
Coming into flower in July or very late June were Soapwort, Great Willow-herb, Red Bartsia, Field Scabious, Teasel, Blue Sow-thistle, Enchanter’s Nightshade and Weld, which seems less abundant this year. More of the recently seeded patches flowered, giving new displays of Common Poppy, Common Chamomile and Wild Carrot. One such area gave a new reserve record – three or four very fine specimens of Bristly Ox-tongue. However we have searched in vain for last year’s Scarlet Pimpernel. This attractive little plant is normally an annual, so depends on favourable conditions to seed itself for the following year. At St Nicks it hasn’t yet managed it, but watch this space.
Meanwhile a grass ID course held at the beginning of July confirmed previous records of Perennial Rye-grass, Crested Dog’s-tail, Tufted Hair-Grass, Red Fescue, Tall Fescue, False Oat-grass and Cock’s-foot, but left several of us tearing our hair as we attempted to apply our new knowledge independently.
A little early in the season for fungi, but the regular Earthstar species (right above) made an appearance in the usual location, and fine specimens of Pleated Inkcap were found (left above)
A juvenile Long-tailed Mouse (aka Wood Mouse) was an unusual find on the 19th, on a path passing near the Dragon Stones. This rodent is normally nocturnal, so maybe it had got a bit lost. It seemed healthy enough. Grey Squirrels were seen on the 5th and 19th and Rabbits (including juveniles) on the 5th and 26th.
All photos were taken at St Nicks during July 2017.