Parish Nature Notes for July - John Wright


The first half of July maintained the wet weather we have come to expect in recent months, but after the jet-stream moved further north, the second half of July gave us some respite with warmer sunny days which enabled at least some butterflies and dragonflies to put in an appearance.

Whatever the weather, flowering plants usually manage to come into bloom at the allotted time and in July, another 170 species were logged in my notebook. One little plant, hairy birds-foot trefoil, is fairly similar to common birds-foot trefoil but with smaller orange flowers and very noticeably hairy leaves and stems. In fact this plant is nationally scarce and last year I only found a single patch, yet this year, it has appeared at numerous locations, including the Holton Heath Industrial Estate.Is this because of the current wet season or because last year was hot and it set more seed?

Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil

Hairy Birds-foot Trefoil

Photograph: John Wright

On a short walk through the southern part of Morden Bog on the 4th July, I was alerted by a carrion crow calling from a tree and then realised that a peregrine falcon was flying over, following a direct purposeful flight-path on powerful wingbeats.Having occupied suitable territories on the cliffs around Purbeck, breeding pairs are now using inland pylons and it is not unusual to see birds in Morden Bog.

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Another walk around Holton Heath Industrial Estate on the 8th July produced many more flowers, including a number in the pea family. One which apears on roadside verges here and elswhere within the parish at this time of year is common restharrow. This attractive plant with pink flowers can survive mowing because of its prostrate growth habit and is so-called because it has thick roots which were strong enough to bring a horse-drawn harrow to a sudden halt!

Common Restharrow

Common Restharrow

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Holton Lee has plenty to offer the naturalist because of the heathland, woodland, grassland and proximity to Lytchett Bay and the Wareham Channel. There are a wide variety of both plants and birds to be seen but my visit on 13th also produced a summer generation comma butterfly on the bramble bushes. With ragged edges to the wings, these butterflies can easily be mistaken for a decaying leaf once their wings are closed. Strange to think that a century ago, this butterfly was almost extinct in this country yet now it can be found throughout England and Wales and into southern Scotland.

Comma

Comma

Photograph: John Wright

On the 15th I walked up to Kings Bridge, at the northern limit of the parish on the A351, where the Sherford River is flowing east towards Lytchett Bay. Indian Balsam, also called Himalayan Balsam or policeman's helmet grows in profusion just north of the parish, but I noticed that it has now spread onto the south bank of the river. Often standing 6-8 feet tall and hated by many for the way in which it forms a monoculture on river-banks and smothers the native plants it is, nevertheless, quite an attractive introduction. It colonises new areas by explosively firing its seeds which are then spread downstream by the current. Honey bees are attracted to the flowers and I am told that they produce good honey from Indian Balsam.

Indian Balsam

Indian Balsam

Photograph: John Wright  

On the 21st July, my walk round Wareham Forest and Morden Bog was quite a contrast to the previous two weeks when it had been raining and birds were scarce. One arable field just east of Wareham Forest had impressive patches of corn marigolds in full flower and there were more butterflies about including both large and small skippers, gatekeepers, several marbled whites, a red admiral and a male silver-washed fritillary on bramble. This is our largest fritillary and can be seen in small numbers on the wing in July and August. The sun also brought out small numbers of silver-studded blue butterflies on Great Ovens Heath and Morden Bog.

Silver-washed Fritillary

Silver-washed Fritillary

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

A few days later I had a look at the pond on Sandford Heath where common darter dragonflies and emerald damselflies were easy to spot. Eventually I also found a pair of small red damselflies, a much less common species which is typical of such shallow bog ponds in southern England and west Wales.

Small Red Damselfly

Small Red Damselfly

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

The next day, a walk through the southern half of Morden Bog with the sun shining produced a newly emerged bright yellow male brimstone butterfly and a sighting of the more cryptically coloured grayling butterfly. As the temperature rose dragonflies started hunting and amongst them were several powder-blue coloured keeled skimmers, a black darter and a superb golden-ringed dragonfly. This species takes five years for the larva to grow to full size in a gravelly stream before the adult is ready to emerge.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Photograph: John Wright

My walk round Wareham Forest and Morden Bog on the last Saturday of the month was also pleasantly warm and I heard a total of five dartford warblers singing. At Morden Park Lake the Great Crested Grebe's nest was deserted and there was no sign of the adults. However, just south of the lake a small flock of four crossbills announced their presence with very strident 'kik kik' calls and later, in Morden Bog I was amused to have a black darter dragonfly land on my open notebook as I was writing some notes.

Common Crossbill

Common Crossbill

Photograph: Aidan Brown

And finally, another visit to Holton Lee produced not only some new flowering plants for the year including brookweed and strawberry clover on the salty grassland overlooking Lytchett Bay but one or two migrant waders such as green sandpiper and a lone lapwing.

Lapwing

Lapwing

Photograph: Ken Dolbear