Mid summer is officially on the 21st of June, also known as the summer solstice. By now the countryside is full of colour and activity. Fingers crossed the longest day will be a sunny one.
This is the best month for orchids. Common spotted, heath spotted and pyramidal orchids are the most common, found on road banks and old grasslands. These provide fantastic bursts of colour in the grasslands and are amazingly intricate flowers if you look closely. If you’re really interested in orchids take a trip down to Kenfig National Nature reserve which is home to a wide variety of orchids including the fen orchid. This is a very small and inconspicuous orchid that is classed as an endangered species in Britain, only otherwise found in Norfolk and north Devon, the reserve contains 90% of the UK population.
Dog rose and honeysuckle fill the warm evening air with their delicate scents, attracting moths of all sizes such as the swallowtail, brimstone and the hummingbird hawkmoth. These plants, if they are cut back and trained against a wall, form dense bushes that provide ideal nesting or roosting habitats.
Elder blooms light up the roadsides with their large discs of creamy pungent flowers. All parts of the elder plant are utilised in a variety of different forms. The hollowed out twigs are traditionally used as spiles to tap maple syrup. In Germany, the flowers are batter coated, deep fried and served as a desert or fermented into elder flower champagne. The berries are used to make a variety of drinks from elderberry cordial to the flavouring in the Italian liqueur Sambuca.
If you’re lucky you may see glow worms on hedge banks and along woodland rides, especially in limestone areas. Glow worms are not actually worms they are beetles with bioluminescent patches in their abdomen. The females glow most noticeably in order to attract a mate. The male and the larvae produce only a faint glow. The glow also serves to warn predators of their bad taste and the fact they contain chemicals that induce vomiting. The larvae are predatory and hunt slugs and snails.
If you find leaves in your garden with circles cut out we are quick to jump to blame slugs but it could be a sign of leaf cutter bees which use the leaves to construct the cells in which their larvae grow. They are a solitary bee unlike the more well known social bees.
Butterflies are abundant now; species to look
out for include common blues, meadow browns and large skippers. It is best to look for them early in the morning while they rest with their wings open to warm in the sun, as once they start moving they are difficult to identify. If you enjoy watching butterflies, why not encourage more of them into your garden. There are certain plants you can put in that will attract them, Buddleia in particular is fantastic for butterflies and bees despite being a non-native plant. Other plants that encourage butterflies include; Lavender, Thyme, Runner Beans and Marigolds, basically anything with strong smells and/or bright flowers.
On sea cliffs, young guillemots and kittiwakes jostle for space and gull and tern colonies are loud with hungry youngsters clamouring for food. Further inland, pied wagtails and spotted flycatchers are also busy feeding their families.
Summer is the time when bat activity is high. It is also the time when the bat maternity season starts. It is the perfect opportunity for you to see them flying in the sky. Bats can be spotted in cities, gardens, parks, fields and in woodland. Your best chance to see bats is an hour before sunrise or at sunset.