For most bird species, the breeding season is over by early August, though a few great crested grebes and tufted ducks may have a late attempt, especially if they failed earlier in the season. Broods of both, plus mute swans can be seen throughout the first few weeks. Warm evenings should see adult and juvenile swallows, house martins and sand martins on the wing, with hopefully a hobby or two among them.
High summer is marked by the sight and sound of flocks of juvenile rooks, terns and cormorants around the Pits. Flocks of lapwings will be gathering.
Small numbers of waders should have started to pass through on southward passage during July and quantities should increase during August. Common sandpiper, ruff, curlew, green sandpiper and greenshank are all likely, with the outside chance of something rarer.
Many of the 19 species of dragonfly and damselfly at the Pits remain on the wing into August, with the season over for only three species. It’s the peak month for butterflies: orange tip is the only one of the common, regularly occurring species that has finished. The second hatches of brimstones and peacocks add to the other species, including meadow brown, gatekeeper, common blue and Essex skipper. Click on our insects page to find out which butterflies and dragonflies you should expect to see.
The spectacular evening primrose and rose-bay willowherb are in flower, and look for the last of the yellow wall pepper, especially near the Hayden Hide. Common centaury thrives on the bare, sandy areas – the flowers are usually pink, but the reserve has large numbers of the white form. Water dock and water plantain proliferate along the edges of ponds and lakes, and look out for sticky groundsel (named for its sticky leaves) and common broomrape, which parasitises clover.
Even when the birds are thinking about autumn, there’s still plenty of summer left at Paxton Pits…