What to look for in August – Nature’s Calendar
This is the first in a new series of blog articles from Nature Picture Library, highlighting some of the main wildlife and countryside sights to watch out for each month in Britain and Ireland. Along with this, you can browse our extensive new gallery of August wildlife and nature sights.
August is a prime month for admiring heather in full bloom, a great time to see dragonflies, as numbers reach their peak, and the start of the autumn bird migration, with waders especially in evidence. It is also a good month to see whales, dolphins and sharks around the British Isles. Many mammals and birds are busy with their second broods of young, while seabird colonies are still active. Read on to discover more about what to look for in August and to find out where to go see our nature highlights. We’ve also created a new “What to look for in August” prints gallery in our print site, if you wish to order a print gift to celebrate an August birthday or anniversary.
August is a good month to see roe deer rutting and pine marten courtship, while brown hares become easier to spot in bare stubble fields. The sharp-eyed may spot tiny harvest mice in fields and hedgerows and water voles foraging on river and canal banks, while young otters, badgers and foxes keep their parents busy. Britain’s native pony breeds , including Exmoor, Dartmoor and New Forest ponies, now have well-grown foals.
Late summer is a good time to see migrating waders, including ruff, knot and curlew sandpipers. Also for the patient observer, seawatching from headlands may reveal passing petrels and shearwaters. Meanwhile, seabird colonies such as gannetries are still active, shelduck gather to moult in Somerset’s Bridgewater Bay, and swallows are feeding second broods, while it’s the last chance to see swifts before they depart southwards to winter in Africa.
Boat trips from the island of Harris in Scotland’s Western Isles will take you to St Kilda, the only site in the UK which is both a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to globally significant breeding colonies of seabirds, including gannets and puffins. Many other locations around the UK coast offer seabird watching excursions, for example in Yorkshire and Northumberland.
British and Irish waters have important breeding populations of both grey and common seals, while dolphins, porpoises and whales are regular visitors. Prime locations for dolphin-watching are the Moray Firth in Scotland, Cardigan Bay in Wales and the north coast of Cornwall. In fact, the west coast of Scotland and the seas around the Hebrides are hotspots for both minke and killer whales. Other unusual late summer visitors include both basking and blue sharks and sunfish.
Insects and invertebrates
Dragonfly numbers reach their peak in August and “nature’s helicopters” can be observed hawking in areas near to rivers and ponds to catch flying insects. Crickets and grasshoppers are also much in evidence, generally well camouflaged and best located by their call. Migrant butterflies such as painted ladies and clouded yellows are another highlight of late summer. The English Channel coast is one of the places to see them nectaring on late summer wildflowers such as ragwort and thistles. Many other butterflies species are still on the wing, such as meadow browns, small coppers and various species of blue butterfly. The large and rare raft spider is worth looking out for in the Norfolk Broads and in the heathland pools of southern England. Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count continues until 11th August so don’t forget to records your sightings!
August is an excellent month to admire Britain and Ireland’s diverse native heather species in flower, with moorlands and heathlands now colourful in shades of purple and pink. Other wildflower highlights include devil’s bit scabious, sea holly, and various orchids. Hedgerows and waste ground provide good habitat for brambles, and blackberries are welcome late summer food for many mammals and birds, as well as human gatherers to make bramble jelly and delicious pies and crumbles.
One of the main events in August’s nature calendar is Bird Fair 2019 at Rutland Water which runs this year from 16th to 18th August. With 3 days of talks and events, and hundreds of stands to explore, this is one of the key events in the UK birding year. Personalities involved this year include Chris Packham, Mark Carwardine, Stephen Moss and Mike Dilger. You will find books, optics, travel packages, in fact everything for the birder, ornithologist or nature enthusiast!