June at Paxton Pits by Peter Hagger

June is the height of the breeding season at Paxton Pits, with some noisy youngsters in the grey heron and cormorant nests until later in the month – watch from the Hayden Hide early in the morning to see them take their first tentative flights. Kingfishers may also be feeding young, so keep an eye open for the flash of blue around the lakes.

Canada geese, greylag geese and mallards, along with great crested grebes, will all have young on the pits in the southern half of the complex, while tufted duck – more numerous than mallards as a breeding species – should have ducklings from the second week of June. Look out, too, for breeding gadwalls, and please let us know of any suspected or confirmed breeding records.

Spring migration is long since over, though spotted flycatchers are often not seen on the reserve until late June or July, perhaps dispersing after breeding in the village? Up to four hobbies can usually be seen on still, warm evenings. They don’t nest on the reserve, but are regularly seen on the river side of Lafarge Redland’s coatings plant and at the northern end of the Heron Trail.

Male nightingales will continue to sing until mid-month, with the eastern side of Washout Pit, Wray House Garden and the Haul Road remaining the best places. Meanwhile, on Sailing Lake islands, around 20 pairs of common tern are incubating – look out for the first young hatching from mid month.

On the flower front, the Meadow Trail should be looking its best: a sea of buttercup yellow. On a sunny day, butterflies such as common blue, brown argus and meadow brown should be on the wing along the path edges; while on the hogweed, clovers and vetches, look for soldier beetles, hoverflies and damselflies. Away from the Meadow, look out for green veined white, large and small white butterflies, especially where plants in the cabbage family grow, while orange tips favour the garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-Hedge as it’s also known.

In the wetter areas of the Meadow, yellow flag puts on a fine display, and common spotted orchids will flower during the month. In the marshy areas around the boardwalk are several species of rush: soft and hard rushes, club rush and jointed rush. Along the Heron Trail, the white flowers of wild strawberry are almost over, but the small, bright red fruits soon take their place. Yellow stonecrop (wall pepper) forms a carpet on the gravel, while a number of geraniums will also flower in June: look for the small, pink flowers of common storksbill, soft cranesbill and cut-leaved cranesbill. On English oaks, look for the spongy oak apple galls – some trees have hundreds of them.

Mammals are particularly active now, with a good chance of seeing muntjac deer, fox, stoat, weasel, mink and rabbits. Muntjac and badger tracks can be found along muddy trails, while weasel and stoat might be glimpsed crossing the gravel paths.

The wildlife garden next to the Visitor Centre is at its best, with campion, cut-leaved cranesbill, hedge cranesbill, dog daisy, yellow iris and burnet. There are plenty of bees, beetles and damselflies on them too. The pond, as well as a range of invertebrates and the broad-leaved pondweed which flowers in June, holds a number of smooth newts – take a close look and see if you can find one!