July Wildlife: What to look out for in nature this month
The last week of June was absolutely scorching here in the Scottish Borders. The Birdhouse, my little studio, was swelterama so I retreated indoors to work. I’ve been keeping the top half of the stable door in the kitchen open so I can watch the constant too-ing and fro-ing of the swallows to their nest in the back porch. There are 4 chicks in the nest. I’ve been worrying about them in this heat. There’s definitely plenty of insects around, though, so I’m sure they will be fine. In fact, there were several flies buzzing round my head while I was walking Buddy dog this morning. It might be a compliment from a fly, but it probably means I should take a shower.
The field in which we were walking has long grass taller than me now. It tickles my shoulders as I walk. I love all the different textures and colours of the grass seedheads – rough, chunky, smooth, delicate – and they have some fabulous names. Some of my favourites are: Sheep’s-Fescue, Squirrel-tale Fescue, Rough Meadow-grass, Floating Sweet-grass, Cock’s Foot, Quaking Grass, Crested Dog’s-Tail, Hairy-brome, Wavy Hair-grass, Yorkshire-fog. And in amongst the grasses are wildflowers. I wish I were better at knowing the names for the wildflowers. I think it should be my mid-year resolution.
One wildflower that everyone can name is the foxglove. Their tall, dramatic spikes join the rosebay willow herb in colouring the verges pink, gently waving at you as you drive by, like a crowd gathered to watch a parade pass by. You might even be lucky enough to spot the pink of the rare pyramid orchid growing lower to the ground.
The trees are now heavy with leaves, their architecture completed hidden by foliage. Under the cool canopies and within the bulging hedgerows there are many secrets hidden. The abundance of summertime provides layers of protection for the busy goings-on of our mammals. Sometimes I see little routes to the water on riverbanks or sense movement beneath the undergrowth and wonder about the lives that are being lived between the grasses. The grasshoppers and crickets are at full volume in July. Such noisy little creatures but so hard to spot. I once had a grasshopper in my bedroom. I couldn’t work out what the noise could be – my radio malfunctioning, or the radiator humming? – until I spotted the little guy on the window.
The flirting of spring and early summer has subsided, so the birds are quieter now, although many are still busy feeding youngsters. When I fill up the fat-ball feeder it is empty within an hour at the moment. In Morebattle it is the swifts in the evenings that are giving the loudest performance as the screech around the rooftops like affable boy racers. Our bathroom window has a glorious view over to the Eildon Hills. Around 10pm at the moment there are spectacular pink and coral sunsets behind the Eildons. For me, July is synonymous with swifts and bathroom-sunsets. It’s strange to think that by the end of the month the first of the summer migrants will be preparing to leave. Cuckoos are the first to go. Their young follow a little later, finding their way to the African wintering grounds all on their own. That fact blows my mind.
In my June blog, I wondered whether summer would meet her early promise, and so far she really has. That’s the Scottish schools out on their holidays now. It’s the perfect time to head to the coast to do some exploring in rockpools. I hope that when I write the August blog I’ll be full of praise for the sunny July days we saw.