Wildlife this month - July
Many birds have produced their first broods and the innocence of young birds can allow us a close-up view of some species that will be much harder to see, once they have realised the dangers of the big, wide world.
On farmland and open areas, yellowhammers are among the birds that continue to sing, apparently for the sheer pleasure of it. Young swifts, swallows and martins will now be joining the flocks of adults chasing insects around livestock farms and other favourable areas, building up their strength ready for migration
Chalk and limestone grassland flowers continue to provide an impressive display in July. Thyme, marjoram, harebells (or ‘bluebells’ if you are in Scotland), knapweed and scabious are all in flower.
Many of the grassland species of wild orchid were at their best in June but it should still be possible to find a few examples of common spotted, fragrant, pyramidal and bee orchids in traditionally managed grasslands.
The end of June and early July is a good time to see the rare Lizard Orchid, whose flowers are said to resemble small reptiles – hence the name. Although permanent colonies are restricted to only a few locations in southern England (notably in the southeast), this is a species that turns up every now and again in places it has not been seen before. It is a striking plant that grows to a foot or more in height but has a surprising ability to ‘hide’ in long grass. The flowers smell strongly of ‘goat’ – once inhaled, never forgotten! Limestone slopes, golf courses, fixed dunes and even roadside verges seem to be preferred habitat.
July is a good month for many species of butterflies. Look out for marbled white butterflies, which can occur in good numbers in their traditional sites, preferring grassy slopes with plenty of wild flowers. Silver-washed fritillaries are another very attractive species, favouring bramble patches close to flower-rich meadows.