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What To Look Out For - July 2017

  • Thu 22nd Jun, 2017

By the time you read this, the mid-summer solstice will have passed and days will be shortening! Despite this, July is a very busy month for wildlife. Some of our migrant birds finish their breeding cycle and start fattening up ready for their long journeys whilst many insects are on the verge of their busiest season as they emerge into the summer sunshine. This month YCN’s Richard Baines explores the contrasting fortunes of shorebird bird migration on the coast with balmy day’s further inland in search of two of the most iconic butterflies in Yorkshire.

Golden Plover © Dan Lombard Golden Plover © Dan Lombard

By the middle of July most of our nesting shorebirds will have finished breeding. Look out for the first gathering flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing as the young birds follow the adults to pasture and open fields in search of water and insect food. Close by on the coast some of our nesting birds may be mingling with the first returning arctic birds such as Bar-tailed Godwit and Black-tailed Godwits. One of the great thrills of late July is seeing the numbers of wading birds increasing on the whole stretch of the Yorkshire coast from the Jurassic rocky shores in the north to the vast muddy Humber to the south.

Bar-tailed Godwit © Dan LombardBar-tailed Godwit © Dan Lombard

Turnstones are one of our most familiar birds on the coast. They are brave and hardy souls, regularly found feeding in seaside harbours such as Whitby and Scarborough. Not shy to dodge sun seekers sandals in search of a scrap of food, they are one of the few shorebirds which can be found here in June. The small numbers in mid-summer will be non-breeding birds which have not returned to the Arctic. July brings the first returning adults back to our shores after their short and busy breeding season. In north-western Europe, Spitsbergen has some of the highest densities of nesting birds, especially around the western fjords close to the coast; if this population winters on our shores their journey would be approximately 3,000km. What a contrast if you’re a Turnstone wintering in Australasia… A geo-locator fitted to a bird in Australia in 2009 showed an initial non-stop flight of around 7,600 km to Taiwan in six days. After re-fuelling they flew north to the Yellow Sea coast of China. A final flight of over 5,000 km then took place to their breeding grounds in northern Siberia by the first week of June.

Turnstone ©  Dan Lombard Turnstone © Dan Lombard

Turnstone ©  Dan Lombard Turnstone © Dan Lombard

A few kilometres inland, nestled amongst the grasslands and forests of North and East Yorkshire two very different butterflies are on the wing in July. The Marbled White has got to be one of the easiest insects to identify in the UK. Their stunning black and white checkerboard pattern, strong flight and decent size make them easy to spot. Look out for them in chalk and limestone grasslands, and they can just as easily be found on the coast as further inland. Some of the biggest numbers are found in the Yorkshire Wolds. The females can sometime be seen egg-laying and surprisingly they don’t lay them carefully on a leaf or stem like other species, they drop the eggs out of their abdomen as they fly or whilst perched on a grass stem.

Marbled White © Dan Lombard Marbled White © Dan Lombard

Marbled White © Dan Lombard Marbled White © Dan Lombard

From one of the easiest butterflies to spot to one of the hardest, the White-letter Hairstreak. The larvae of these small and delicate insects mainly feed on the flowers of Elm. They perch with their wings closed and spend most of their short four week adult life feeding on aphid honeydew in the canopy of an Elm tree! These habits defiantly make it a challenge to find one. However they are often tempted down from the canopy by the lure of bramble, thistle or other tempting flowers under an elm. A great example is this photo taken by local naturalist Allan Roddha in 2013 near Scarborough showing a Hairstreak feeding on Thistle flowers. So keep your eyes peeled for these beautiful butterflies in July, if you find any please report your sightings to the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation by clicking here.  

White-letter Hairstreak © Allan Rodda   White-letter Hairstreak © Allan Rodda


Richard Baines YCN