It's high summer and huge oaks, ashes and beeches in full leaf are supporting hundreds of insects and birds; these ‘natural cathedrals’ are looking magnificent. Have a wander through a wildflower meadow too.
White carpets of cotton-grass on the boggy fell plateaux, heavy with soft white seed heads, will be a glorious sight; the fluffy ‘flower’ heads look like cotton wool balls blowing in the warm breeze. This sedge’s soft fibres were once used for stuffing mattresses and pillows, and in the First World War it was harvested with sphagnum moss to make wound dressings. Look out for it growing on the moor tops in wet, peaty, blanket bog conditions. Blakey Ridge between Hutton le Hole and the Lion Inn is a good place, looking west toward Farndale.
At the National Trust managed Bridestones, stroll through the wildflower meadows at Dovedale along the route of the Bridestones Trail and you’ll also see a fine example of an ancient Sessile Oak wood. Alternatively pay a visit to Duncombe Park National Nature Reserve, near Helmsley, home to many gnarled trunks of ancient and veteran trees. It includes the most important northerly lowland pasture oak woodland in England. Find a giant specimen and give it a hug!
Also look out for:
- Badgers and go badger watching in Cropton Forest at a purpose built hide, as the families go foraging and the cubs play boisterously. Join the organised watch from mid-May until mid-August. Please call 01723 367864 for more information.
- The heady rich scent of lavender which will be filling the air now at lavender farms, along with bees and butterflies, hungry for nectar supplied by the beautiful flowers. As harvesting gets underway towards the end of the month, see Wolds Way Lavender’s wood fired distillery, the only one in the country.
- Dragonflies, damselflies, skimmers, and hawkers will be really active during the warm sunny hours. Look out for them skimming fast over peatland bogs, lakes, and watercourses as they seek out partners to mate with. You'll find Common and Southern Hawkers; Emerald, Common Blue and Large Red damselflies at Goathland Tarn while Banded Demoiselle damselflies with their coloured wings can be seen on a stroll along the river Rye and Derwent in the Howardian Hills.
- Kingfishers! One of the most brilliantly-coloured birds in Britain. You may be fortunate to see a flash of brilliant-blue when you walk by a river or lake as a kingfisher dashes across water, or it makes a shallow dive to catch small fish. A good place to try is at the pond-dipping pond at Guisborough Forest and Walkway.
Walk of the month
July is a perfect time for a butterfly walk. Butterflies on the wing to look out for this month include ringlet, comma, meadow brown, common blue, small tortoiseshells, small pearl-bordered fritillary, large heath and dark green fritillary. Caukleys Bank near Nunnington (pdf) is a good area for spotting a variety of species and the views into the Howardian Hills AONB and across the Vale of Pickering to the North York Moors make the perfect backdrop.
Yorkshire Coast Nature tips
July is a fabulous month for insects as the warm weather encourages more and more species to emerge. Everyone loves grasshoppers and many of us will remember trying to catch them when we were children, but have you ever seen a pink one?
The meadow grasshopper and common field grasshopper can both have pink colour forms such as the one below which I found in a meadow in Yorkshire in early July 2012. The colour form is more common in the juvenile phase. Pink coloured adults may be nothing more than juveniles that didn't lose the colour as they matured. The pink is thought to be caused by a genetic mutation in their reproductive cycle. A rarer purple form has also been found!
Look out for these pink grasshoppers amongst our two common species, meadow grasshopper and common field grasshopper which can be found in many places, the common field grasshopper can even be found in your garden.
The best way to tell these two species apart is the presence of sharp zig-zags behind the head of the field grasshopper which also has wings which extend beyond the end of the body. The meadow grasshopper has straight lines behind the head with shorter wings.
In the forests of the North York Moors National Park, look-out for mottled grasshoppers basking in woodland clearings. They love sunny hot spots so benefit from areas of cleared trees. They are much darker than our other two common species with a strong mottled colour and zig zags behind the head.
Go beetle crazy this month look-out for them anywhere from under stones to on a leaf. One of the most striking small beetles to look-out for is the red-headed cardinal beetle. This scarlet red insect is common in many places from gardens to open glades in woodlands. They are predators feeding on smaller insects such as flies but they don’t harm the plants which you find them on so they are a great insect for gardeners!
Dragonflies are very popular insects especially with photographers and July is a great month for these spectacular insects. We are lucky in the north in having a wide range of habitats suitable for many species. One of the best species to photograph is the broad-bodied chaser due to the male’s habit of often returning to the same perch from which to watch for prey and hold its feeding territory. Both sexes have a distinctive broad body called the abdomen and the male is a beautiful pale blue colour whilst the female is yellow, becoming darker towards the tip. These dragonflies can be seen almost anywhere there is a wetland, for the best opportunity try Jugger Howe Hawk and Owl Trust reserve or the Fen Bog Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve.
Britain’s biggest dragonfly, the female has the longest abdomen, is the golden-ringed dragonfly. These beautiful insects can also be found at Fen Bog too as they prefer acid heathland but you can look out for them almost anywhere in the National Park. Watch them as they hunt many insects such as bees, wasps, flies and even other dragonflies!
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