The month of July 2023 will go down in the history of the village as probably the wettest month ever. I have been keeping weather records in the village or at Rowton since 1972, and with almost 200mm or 8inches of rain, it is the highest I’ve recorded. To put it another way, it was almost half the years rainfall in a month from the annual total recorded in the 1970’s. We no longer have to worry about the water level at the Pit, as our annual rainfall in the past 6years is three times as much as that in the 1970’s. It’s hard to realise now, that The Pit at Littleheath was empty of water in 1976, following a severe drought. A reminder that the only source of water for the Pit is rainwater or from a storm drain on Littleheath Road.
Having written about the wet month above, you would probably expect it to have been a poor month for butterflies. The opposite is the case, and I’ve logged well over 250 sightings on my butterfly app. The most exciting record was my first photograph of a purple hairstreak butterfly. Initially it was identified as a white-letter hairstreak, but on close examination of several images it is probably a purple hairstreak. These diminutive butterflies live at the top of the canopy of oak trees, and are rarely seen at ground level. This specimen was feeding on hemp-agrimony, a bushy pink flower which grows in marshy areas. The only other hairstreak photographed in this area was a green hairstreak, spotted by a CPS pupil Jonathan Cannon at the Roman Bridges. The best spot to see green hairstreaks these days is at Bickerton. We spotted a small green grasshopper earlier in the month, again a minute creature compared to the giant green grasshopper we saw at Minsmere in 2022.
This has been a good year for butterflies as I’ve reported earlier, and currently small and large whites, comma, speckled, wood, small tortoishell, peacock and red admirals are very visible. Red Admirals are having an amazing year with huge numbers being seen all over the country. I’m recording them every day, especially on purple buddleia plants. I’ve also recorded a female brimstone, a small copper and lots of holly blues.
Dragon and damselflies are also seen in good numbers, especially brown and southern hawkers. Both are likely to come quite close, as if inspecting you, flying up and down footpaths and hedgerows. These two species are quite large and are golden brown, or bright blue if you see them. The Emperor dragonflies on the Pit have probably laid their eggs and died now, but I did see one in Birch Heath lane late in July. We saw a black tailed skimmer, and several 4 spotted chasers at Tatton Park recently, and several pairs of red eyed blue damselflies were spotted at Walk Mill Lake. The pair of mute swans can still be seen on the lake as they are in moult although I guess still missing their five predated cygnets. There were at least 50 young mallards on the lake this last week, and the dabchick youngster we saw last month was still happily diving and feeding itself. Buzzards and kestrels both seem to have produced young, and are very visible in the skies or on prominent posts. There are very few swallows and house martins about, and I’m sure have had a very poor breeding season, but I was delighted to see a flight of twenty-plus swifts screaming and flying low over the houses of Woodfields earlier this week. The season is over for orchids in the Legion Meadow this year, but I’m publishing some of the best specimens this season in this article, together with a picture of some of the wild flowers planted at the end of Quarry Lane. The policy of Cheshire West and Chester and local Parish Councils of planting up areas of grassland with wildflowers is paying off and there have been some excellent displays all over the city.
David Cummings' Wildlife Watch for August 2023
Read by Richard Nicholson