June was the wettest month of the year so far, with unseasonal rainfall causing the Gowy to burst its banks twice. At one stage the water from the Gowy was entering the Hockenhull reserve from the south and when it reached the far end of the wet meadow completely flooded the meadow and nearby field and then rushed into the main stream again with such force that it flowed into the new lake, forcing the fence to bend with the weight of floating vegetation. Walk Mill lake was also completely flooded by water from the Gowy and the footpaths around it were flooded to a great depth for several weeks.
During the rain lots of damage was done to some of the dragon and damselfly eggs and larvae, and numbers seen in the following days were minimal. However when the hot sun re-appeared a number of these insects seem to have had a successful breeding season. Amongst the best were common blue damselflies, and southern hawker dragonflies. There are fewer banded agrion damselflies than usual, but they bring real colour to the riverbank. Amongst the butterflies, brimstone, red admiral, comma, gatekeeper, small skipper were the most common, but the surprise of the season in this area, is the regular appearance of the ringlet. These dark brown/black butterflies appear at the margins of the lake and river and have distinctive brown rings on their upper wing, but even more pronounced on the underside.
Another surprise visitor to the village has been the Painted Lady butterfly. This is an extraordinary migratory butterfly, which depends on conditions being right to make one of the longest journeys a butterfly will make to the UK. We saw the first this year on one of my wildlife walks on a path in “Woodfields” and subsequently they have appeared all over the Parish. These colourful insects breed in Morocco in the autumn, and after emergence fly across the straits of Gibraltar, then across Spain and France, to possibly breed again before the next hatchings emerge and fly across the channel to the UK. They don’t appear every year, but sometimes come in extraordinary numbers, and in 2009 it was estimated that 31million crossed the channel, but what was equally surprising was that 11 million flew back across the channel. This was just one of the most amazing facts to emerge from new ways of recording the flights of these tiny insects. It is a strong flying butterfly, but is a really beautiful butterfly to watch as it nectars in our gardens. The sad thing is that it is not able to survive our winters. One interesting fact is that it is a relatively easy butterfly to hatch, and many people will have purchased “butterfly kits” from the Natural History Museum and children are able to watch these insects grow and fly. Amelie our granddaughter managed to help 5 painted ladies emerge and released them into her garden.
The other surprise fact about this extraordinary wet and warm spell of weather is that we have seen the tallest growth of vegetation I can ever remember, so much so that I have been unable to get onto the reserve at Hockenhull and walk about without chest waders, and that fungi have appeared in greater numbers and size far earlier than would be expected. Field mushrooms the size of a dinner plate, have been seen along the Littleton- Christleton footpath, and several more clusters have been found along the hedgerows. I’m also pleased to report that the red Valerian, a wild plant that appears in the village and churchyard throughout the summer, is now in full flower and looking magnificent, as is the pink amphibious bistort growing on the water at The Pit.
I’m also pleased to report that the Walk Mill swans continue to grow, and the five healthy cygnets looked really well last time I saw them.