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Summer 2021

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One of the coldest April's on record with frosts every day, was followed by what some of the tabloids dubbed "Miserable May". The cool, wet weather led to a shortage of insect life which was not good news for our birds, especially newly arrived migrants. I can normally rely on Swifts arriving to nest in our village during the first few days in May but even by the 12th there were only odd birds. My suspicion was confirmed by a visit to RSPB Frampton Marsh on that day when I witnessed literally hundreds of Swifts feeding on insects over the marsh and reedbeds along with Swallows and Martins. There were no insects in the villages, so the birds sought out the habitats that would supply them with vital food.


Birds are certainly experiencing mixed fortunes at the moment. Dramatic increases in Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Little Egrets and Red Kites on the one hand, whilst on the other, once familiar species are in serious decline.

Although the Nightingale probably never sang in Berkeley Square, thirty years ago it was not uncommon in the southern half of England. Some of the woods here in Lincolnshire held more than a dozen pairs in each, but now there are probably less than six singing Nightingales in the whole of the county. I was fortunate to find a few in SW Lincolnshire and several more across the borders into Rutland and Cambridgeshire in early May.

Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatchers seem to be going the same way. Last year a pair nested in our garden, but the fact that they only raised one youngster to fledging illustrates the problem. This year I have only found one Spotted Flycatcher locally. I think that a large part of the cause of their decline and that of many other species is a lack of insects. This in part, may be due to climate change, but I am sure that the use of pesticides in agriculture and our gardens plays a role too.

Turtle Dove

One of the other species on the brink of local extinction is the Turtle Dove. I am participating in a national survey of this charming summer visitor, but although the results won't be published until after the summer it is already clear that most of the survey squares that were occupied only a couple of years ago are now vacant. However, I was fortunate in that two pairs are nesting just outside of my survey square.

Bittern ringing

On a happier note Bitterns are booming! Not just the booming call but their numbers are responding to the creation and management of their reedbed habitats. Back in May I was privileged to be invited to see young Bitterns being ringed at a newly discovered reedbed site. The photograph of the young Bittern was taken under a schedule 1 licence.

Broad Bodied Chaser

As usual during summer, once the birds are settled and raising families, my attention is diverted to insects and plants. My butterfly identification is not too bad, but my ability to identify dragonflies and damselflies is somewhat lacking. So, I was very pleased to meet one of my fellow voluntary wardens at the site of nesting Cranes; one Trisha Thompson who is a dragonfly expert. Trisha soon had me sorting out the similar looking blue damselflies and fired up my enthusiasm to watch and learn more about these beautiful creatures. I also learnt that, in common with birds and most other types of wildlife, habitat preference is very important and that the rarer species are generally those with the strictest habitat preferences. Although all dragonflies spend most of their lives in water as nymphs, the adults will often venture far from the ponds from which they emerged. Some such as the Four Spotted Chaser favours wetland habitats whereas the similar Broad Bodied Chaser hunts in woodland rides. It seems that climate change is favouring dragonflies and damselflies with more European species turning up each year, of which many stay to breed.

Purple Emperor

Butterflies are having mixed fortunes this year. The poor spring caused me to miss some of the specialities of that season, but as we progress with summer, later emerging species seem to be doing well. Silver-washed Fritillaries are becoming quite numerous in local woodlands and only this week,

Silver-washed Fritillary
I was delighted to find two spectacular Purple Emperors in a wood only three miles from my home.

Ian Misselbrook
July 2021


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