I love summer in Britain – but I also I hate it. Our country’s wildlife is at its most varied and most bounteous – but the quandary is that there is simply not enough time to see it all.
May, for example, is the month that refuses to wait. What blooms or sings one week may have gone over or gone silent the next. Blink and you may well miss whatever you wish to see. June’s natural riches, meanwhile, have an insidious side. There is such an abundance of wildlife to absorb that wildlife-watchers risk burning themselves out.
Come July, Britain’s skies are filled with winged wonders: butterflies and dragonflies, hoverflies and moths. It’s also great for lolling in meadows, letting the orchestral strum of crickets and grasshoppers wash over you.
Then there’s August, the month of holidays, which theoretically offers ample time to explore. But it’s also a month of change. A month where summer hints at ceding to autumn.
To make the most of Britain’s natural summer, you could really do with a guide. My new book, A summer of British wildlife: 100 great days out watching wildlife (Bradt Travel Guides, £15.99), aims to serve. Suggesting an itinerary for every day between 15 May and 22 August, let it inspire and inform your #100DaysWild.
To whet your appetite for a summer of natural exploration, here are 10 of Britain’s finest wildlife sights featuring in this most generous of seasons.
EARLY SPIDER ORCHIDS ARE THE FIRST ORCHID TO GRACE OUR SPRING. IN KENT, A REMARKABLE COLONY HAS SPRUNG UP ON SPOIL FROM CHANNEL TUNNEL EXCAVATIONS
IF YOU ONLY THINK OF MOTHS AS DOWDY BROWN INSECTS THAT MUNCH CLOTHES, THINK AGAIN. AMONG MANY SPECTACULAR SPECIES IS THIS STUNNING EMPEROR MOTH, WHICH EVEN LURKS IN SUBURBAN GARDENS
THE SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE IS RIGHTLY FETED. BUT THIS QUINTESSENTIAL SOUND OF THE BRITISH SUMMER IS IN JEOPARDY; NIGHTINGALE POPULATIONS ARE DECLINING
BLUEBELLS ROUTINELY TOP POLLS THAT SEEK TO REVEAL BRITAIN’S FAVOURITE FLOWER. FOR A TWEAK ON THE CLASSIC LILAC-INFUSED WOODLAND WALK, VISIT SKOMER ISLAND (PEMBROKESHIRE) FOR AN ‘OPEN-AIR’ COLONY WITHOUT A TREE IN SIGHT
OUR JOINT-LARGEST BUTTERFLY, THE SWALLOWTAIL, HAS WINGS OF DELICATE LINGERIE. IT FLIES SOLELY IN THE BROADS OF NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK, BUT IS EASILY SEEN ON SUNNY DAYS
EUROPE’S PUFFIN POPULATION IS PROJECTED TO MORE THAN HALVE IN THE NEXT 50 YEARS. OUR MOST CHARISMATIC SEABIRD — REPLETE WITH JAUNTY GAIT AND PARODY OF A BILL — IS IN REAL DANGER OF EXTINCTION. SEE IT (BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!) IN YORKSHIRE OR SHETLAND, PEMBROKESHIRE OR NORTHUMBERLAND
HIGH-OCTANE PREDATORS, DRAGONFLIES HAVE UNRIVALLED POWERS OF FLIGHT AND SIGHT, DEXTERITY AND DETERMINATION. THEIR NAMES EVOKE FLIGHT STYLES: HAWKERS AND SKIMMERS, CHASERS AND DARTERS. THIS IS AN INQUISITIVE SOUTHERN HAWKER, A WINGED JEWEL WITH ALL-SEEING EYES
SUMMER CAN PROVIDE GREAT MAMMAL-WATCHING EXPERIENCES. ENJOY BADGER CUBS CAVORTING AROUND THEIR NATAL SETT, GO FOR A ‘BAT WALK’, OR TRACK DOWN A SLEEPING ROE DEER FAWN, THE REAL CREATURE BEHIND DISNEY’S BAMBI
IN THE MIDST OF A SUMMER CELEBRATING THE SPECTRUM OF BRITISH WILDLIFE, FROM TINY BUMBLEBEES TO GARGANTUAN BASKING SHARKS, I HATE TO CONFESS TO SOMETHING SO OTHERNESS-REJECTING AS AN OBSESSION. BUT IF THERE IS ONE CREATURE THAT ALWAYS GETS MY HEART POUNDING, IT IS THE ADDER. BRITAIN’S SOLE VENOMOUS SNAKE BEWITCHES ME BEYOND ALL ELSE
EVERY AUGUST THERE ARRIVES A MORNING WHEN SUMMER HAS CHANGED. YOU PERCEIVE A CRISPY EDGE TO THE AIR, A TOUCH OF BRONZE IN THE GREEN, A SPARKLE OF DEW ON YOUR LAWN. SUMMER HAS NOT CEASED, BUT — IRREDEEMABLY — THE SEASON HAS TURNED. THIS IS THE TIME TO RISE AT DAWN AND SPOT DEW-ENCASED DAMSELFLIES, SUCH AS THIS GLITTERING SMALL RED-EYED DAMSELFLY
About the photographer:
A Summer of British Wildlife: http://tinyurl.com/100dayswild