The cold, dull, wet spring and early summer has turned into a heatwave and drought, but on the whole the wildlife is coping.
Insects of course generally love this weather. On a visit to the orchard this morning, one of my first sights was a comma butterfly sunning itself on a hedge. Although adult butterflies love sunny weather there has been some worry that there will not be much in the way of food plants for their caterpillars to eat when the eggs hatch out, and a whole generation will disappear, although plants like birdsfoot trefoil, which is a food plant for many blue butterflies, are able to put up with dry weather. The orchard is also hosting quite a lot of wasps drawn to the fallen and rotting apples, which also attract Red Admiral butterflies in particular. Wasps aren’t everyone’s favourite insect, but I have a nest in my garden and having seen a wasp catching a fly and one munching on a caterpillar I am inclined to live and let live.
The pollinator bed has coped pretty well with the vagaries of the weather. In the spring, we sowed some annual cornfield wildflower seeds. These like disturbed soil, and corn marigold, cornflowers, poppies and corncockle have all flowered and are now setting seed. We also have some perennials wildflowers, with meadow cranesbill, wild basil and St John’s wort adding variety. Hopefully we shall put in more next year.
Our pond has been topped up with tap water which is not ideal as it can encourage algae, but has enabled us to keep the water at a reasonable level. Most of the adult frogs and newts will have left the pond some time ago and be hiding out at the bottom of hedges and other sheltered places. All of the pond plants are doing well and the flower spires of the purple loosestrife are looking particularly good this year. It would be nice to see more of this native along our riverbanks rather than the invasive and non native Himalayan Balsam which grows so vigorously that it leaves no room for anything else.
It’s fairly quiet on the bird front (apart from Herring Gulls!) as most birds have brought up their young and are moulting. With their feathers not in the best state, they feel vulnerable to predators and tend to skulk out of sight in hedges.With their usual food of worms, slugs and snails in very short supply because of the dry weather, blackbirds and thrushes will also be glad of our fallen apples.
When and if! it rains we may well get a second flush of wildflowers in the late summer and early autumn. Meanwhile we can enjoy seeing bees and butterflies enjoying the sunshine.
(Thanks to Gill Massey)