This is a quieter time in the countryside; the cuckoos have gone, swifts are just leaving, while native birds are skulking in the undergrowth, and harder to see. But you may watch a family of warblers; whitethroats or reed warbler, flitting through the bushes as they pick up insects. Other birds that have come to the end of their breeding season are starting to flock. Lapwings are gathering in numbers on the scrapes, and starlings are beginning to appear in rows on the rooftops and telegraph wires.
Insects, flowers and fungi
With many wild flowers blooming, it is a good time to watch butterflies, hover flies and bees feeding on the flower heads of thistle and burdock. Red Admiral, Brimstone, and Peacock butterflies feed on the numerous blooms. Meadow and Hedge Brown (or Gatekeeper) butterflies may be seen. Flowering wild clematis tumbles across the hedgerows, or climbs the woodland trees where it can. 2011 is another heavy berry year, elder, rowan, blackberry and sloe are now rapidly ripening in profusion. Boletus mushrooms are a large family of fungi now emerging in the woodlands. Among these, Boletus edulis, commonly known as penny bun, porcino or cep, may be found, and can grow up to a foot across under ideal conditions.
A visit to Westhay Moor Nature Reserve
The Trust reserve at Westhay is well worth a visit, (take care on the narrow bumpy road to the car park). Westhay is one of the best places on the levels to spot an otter, given patience. You will also see little grebes (or dabchicks) feeding around the edge of the reedbeds diving for fish. They have an extraordinary call; a loud trill, which rises and falls, and is unique, more often heard then seen. With luck a water rail will appear, like a small moorhen with a striped front, they also have a strange call, a loud shriek of alarm whenever anything threatening comes close.
Cormorants are also feeding on the abundant fish, diving and remaining underwater for long periods. Kingfishers dart across the water, just a flash of colour, sparkling vibrant blue and orange. Hobbies and marsh harriers hunt over the reeds. Families of swans find a peaceful refuge here. Both Little and Great White Egrets can be seen, and if you are lucky you may spot a bittern feeding at the reed bed edge or flying across the lagoon. Bitterns are not the most elegant birds in flight, and crash land with their huge yellow feet outstretched.
For more information about Westhay Moor, including directions click here.
Elderberries © Chris Chappell
Hedge Brown or Gatekeeper © Scott Petreck
Starling sculpture at Westhay Moor © Chris Chappell