|Thundry Meadows in Surrey, taken last June... honestly|
Gavin Haig over at Not Quite Scilly has recently posted about the month of June and what it means for gull watchers. Plagiarism is really a form of flattery, so, not one to mind stealing another's good idea, I thought that I'd do something along the same lines...
JUNE AND THE ALL-ROUND NATURALIST
Spring migration has finished hasn't it? No more falls, sea-passage has gone dead, so it's time to get around to reading all seven volumes of the Game of Thrones saga? Think again pal! This is the period to expect the unexpected. A day's birding might comprise 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler, but the fifth bird is just as likely to be a Bee-eater or a Woodchat Shrike as it is a Cuckoo. Observatory log books are full of June days that were very low on quantity but bursting with quality. This is no time to have another cup of tea as opposed to bashing the bushes or staring into the sky - what do you think the birders at Spurn were doing today? They are now bathing in the glory of a Pacific Swift by saying no to lolling around dreaming about the coming autumn. Also, if you call yourself a real patch watcher then there's the little matter of checking on the breeding success of your resident species. Autumn migration has already started - waders that have failed to breed start to turn up and will include some sought after species. And we mustn't forget those weather induced movements of swifts, the spectacle of several thousand Commons moving ahead of a front is worth the admission price alone. I could cross reference Spurn again at this point.
It's all kicked off big time. Even in a late spring (such as this), species start to catch up and a profusion of flower will be there for the naturalist to enjoy. But beware... there are going to be a lot of confusion groups ready to trip us up. Crucifers, grasses, sedges - I could go on - will test the best of us. A good tip is to learn one or two of the obvious ones. Try Quaking-grass or Wood Melick from the grasses, both distinct with few confusion species. When in the presence of a non-botanist use every opportunity to show them these species and they will assume that you must be an expert in this field. This is also the month when birders become botanists but they are usually only interested in orchids - honorary birds if ever there were.
This year is a bit of a damp squib for moths, but with an increase in the number of species on the wing things should pick up. If you are new to the game then you have made your first error - start looking at moths in February or March when there is less to sort through and fewer species to trip you up. Peering into a full trap in June will only cause you panic. But if that is what you have to contend with then just ignore anything small or brown - learn the pretty ones and slowly build up to things like pugs.
Where to begin? I could suggest not to start at all, but that would be defeatest. Just remember that most of what you will find would tax an expert in possession of a microscope and a set of German keys, so the beginner, or, like me, the bluffer, needs to be aware that the chances of positive identification are low. However, some are do-able and even those that are not a fascinating to observe. A garden full of hoverflies are a delight even if you cannot name them.
Try not to get too depressed when you realise that it starts to get darker earlier from June 21st. Embrace the biting midge and stinging wasp. Getting your feet and trousers soaked with early morning dew is a minor inconvenience and it will all soon dry off when the sun gets up. Goosegrass balls, Burdock burrs and grass seeds are a pain in the proverbials to remove from clothing, but they are only doing their job. And if it all gets a bit slow, then remind yourself that autumn isn't far away...