It’s July, and for many bird species, the breeding season is over by the end of June and 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, hopefully including young from a successful breeding season on some of the more open Pits, such as Diddington Pit. Many species are still tending to their families, so expect to see broods of tufted duck, great crested grebe and mute swans throughout the month – and don’t forget to report all confirmed breeding records to the website.
Nightingales are quiet now, with some adults doubtless already starting their migration to Africa by the month’s end, but other summer migrants will be here for a while yet, and warm evenings should see adult and juvenile swallows, house martins and sand martins on the wing, with hopefully a hobby or two among them.
By early July, we expect to see small numbers of waders on southward passage: birds which have failed in their breeding attempts in the Arctic or those which bred early in the season. Common sandpiper, ruff, curlew, green sandpiper and greenshank are all possible, with the outside chance of something even rarer.
July is the peak month for 17 of the 18 species of dragonfly and damselfly at the Pits – only hairy hawker has already finished its season. By the month’s end, the first migrant hawkers should be on the wing. It’s an active month for butterflies, too: 22 of the 25 regularly occurring species should be visible during July, including meadow brown, gatekeeper, common blue and Essex skipper. Visit 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 yellow carpets of 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…