September 2014 - End of Summer

Red admiral butterfly on ragwort

It is mid August and already there are the signs that summer is coming to a close. Wheat and barley fields have been harvested, many wild flowers have disappeared, mushrooms and toadstools are starting to push their way through the ground, and finches and tits are coming together in mixed flocks.

Walking by the hedgerows and meadows of Bawburgh, there are plentiful supplies of various fruits and nuts including blackberries, sloes, hazelnuts, elder berries and crab apples, providing welcome food for hungry birds and insects.

There are still many wild flowers around providing nectar and food to various insects. Ragwort is one such wild flower which can be found everywhere around Bawburgh. Although poisonous to livestock resulting in its control in areas where livestock feed, it is a unique food source for at least 30 species of insect including the cinnabar moth caterpillars (a declining species) and is a major nectar source for many passing insects, including moths, butterflies, flies and hoverflies. In fact it is reported that ragwort is an exclusive food source for ten rare or threatened insect species. Although there is a Government Code of Practice (2003) for the control of ragwort where it is a threat to health and welfare of animals this code does not seek to eradicate ragwort from the countryside, and there is no legal obligation for landowners to control the plant on their land.

Other wild flowers still in evidence include common mallow, its deep pink flowers especially attractive to bees; white campion with its heady scent given off at night, attracting moths; water mint attracting many insects including many species of nectar loving flies; rose bay willow herb with its tall, pink flower stems crowding together in thick stands in open spaces; the large white flowers of bindweed, and the smaller pink and white flowers of lesser bindweed providing spectacular displays in hedgerows; black nightshade with its white flowers and black berries, a common sight on waste land; knapweed (hard heads), their large purple heads attracting many species of butterfly; wild angelica commonly growing by the side of the river, a large member of the carrot family attracting a whole range of insects. 

This year has been a good year for butterflies and currently red admirals, meadow browns and speckled woods are plentiful. One particularly common and beautiful moth to look out for is the angle shades. 

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