July sightings

Our local pair of swans have hatched (and so far raised) eight cygnets – they are very attentive parents! Many of the songsters are too busy with offspring to sing much, but song thrush, chiffchaff and blackcap are still about and vocal. Swifts can also be heard (July 20th) but perhaps for not too much longer, as small groups appear to be heading south. In Paradise, there are reports of 3 egrets, in the company of a heron.  Then, in the river above Newnham, a common tern swooped between the swimmers to pick up a fish.

The dominant colours of the flowers in summer and autumn seem to be purple and red. Tufted vetch keeps company with knapweed, great willow herb, mallow, betony, spear and marsh thistle, bittersweet (woody nightshade) and woundwort. Even the white yarrow has taken on a pink colour in places. Much of the grass is yellow now, but the new growth of nettles more than makes up for this. Many of the nettles in Paradise lack stinging hairs. This is generally true of places where grazing animals have not been present for some time and so the stinging properties are unnecessary. Stinging hairs are costly for the plant to produce, so in this situation, there is selection pressure against them.

Among the nettles was a small (~1 cm) snail – one of the Amber snails – whose aperture is longer than the spire. Although there are two very similar species, I think this one was Succinea putris, which frequents wet places.

Spider of the month has to be the garden spider, Araneus diadematus Although most are not yet fully grown, they are actively renewing their webs every morning.

Olwen Williams