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Summer 2005

I'm not inclined to mark the changing seasons by a calendar date as every year is different, and you can be sure on the date designated the first day of summer, the temperature will drop and it will rain all day! For me summer starts some time in May after the cowslips , violets and primroses have been succeeded by a surge of green, as grass romps to knee high and the leaves are fully open.

May and June are frenetic months in the animal kingdom too. Most of our resident birds will have already raised their first broods and all the summer migrants will have arrived, and busily engaged in nesting.

The two sounds that evoke summer for me; are the screaming of Swifts wheeling overhead, and the gentle purring of Turtle Doves from deep in old hedgerows. Unfortunately the latter sound is becoming increasingly rare as these, the most attractive of doves, are in serious decline. Turtle doves used to nest in my own tall and untidy hedge until a few years ago and my hopes were raised this May when I heard one purring, again, but sadly it did not stay. Turtle Doves do still breed in the parish and the old hedge near Barn Farm and some of the thicker thorns down Dunsby Fen are worth a look.

Fortunately Swifts are still common enough and the breeding adults usually arrive in the first few days of May. Swifts do not reach breeding maturity for several years and until they build their first nests in rock crevices, or more commonly under the eves of houses, they do not perch or touch the ground at all. The Swift will eat, mate and even sleep on the wing. The juvenile Swifts follow the same migration as the adults but often do not arrive until later. As I write the air above my cottage is alive with their high pitched screaming as a pack of around 30 rejoice in their aeronautic prowess.

Butterflies have had a mixed season so far but I was very happy to witness the aptly named Brimstone laying eggs on the Alder Buckthorn we planted in the garden some years ago for that very purpose. Another "white", the Orange Tip was also very much in evidence in late April and early May and I have also carefully weeded round its' food plant Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge.

One of its' other favoured food plants is Lady's Smock or Milk Maids which were particularly abundant in Rippingale church yard this spring. The Holly Blue also had a good spring brood with butterflies in evidence from early April to late May and with luck we can expect a second brood later on this summer.

As I write on the longest day, a pristine Red Admiral is finding sustenance among the cultivated flowers in the borders, and several Speckled Woods are active in our tiny orchard. The Speckled Wood is one of few butterflies actually expanding its range in the UK, probably aided by its ability to embrace even only marginally suitable habitats - such as my orchard!

The Common Buzzard also continues its successful colonisation of Lincolnshire and at least 4 pairs have produced young within 5 miles of St Andrew's church. Unfortunately, a pair that took up residence within this parish, appear not to have nested successfully but both adults are still about, so keep an eye on the skies.

Green Woodpeckers have become a regular feature of the village and are commonly seen eating ants on garden lawns. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are more usually confined to trees where they tap away for insects and grubs under the bark and in the wood itself. So, my wife and I were quite surprised to see a Great Spotted Woodpecker, on several occasions during the recent hot spell of weather in June, taking ants on the ground from our lawn and even from the patio. The photos are of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in Pauline Warman's garden feeding it's young, and competing with a Blackbird for bread.

Duckweed in my ponds has been a serious problem this year, but every time I try to clear it with a net I end up with as many frog tadpoles as duck weed plants. If anyone knows a solution I shall be pleased to hear!

Ian Misselbrook
June 2005.


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