Friday 4th July – Wales – Driving down to Southwest Wales via the “Wells”. The steep hills towards Welshpool are a mixture of Oaks, Beeches, Larches and the magnificent deep red of Copper Beeches. Often high above these woods floats a circling Common Buzzard. The road from Newtown through Llandrindod Wells, Builth Wells onto Llandovery winds its way through Powys mountains. Being summer it is full of tourists and thus rather too slow for my liking.
Saturday 5th July – Dale, Dyfed – A short walk along the beach finds very few birds. The tiny Shelduck offspring of a few weeks ago are now the size of their parents – and many have survived.
Sunday 6th July – St Brides – The party from the night before has left me rather comatose, so it is late afternoon before we all head off to St Brides. The tiny inlet is being rapidly filled by the tide. We find shrimps, blennies and crabs in the rock pools. Transparent jellyfish float in the sea. On closer examination, they reveal small purple parts – organs of some kind? Dill the Dog and Buster have great fun swimming after their frisbee. From the cliffs we can see Lesser Black–backed Gulls rising off the fields and heading back to Skomer Island.
Monday 7th July – Westfield Pill, Nyeland – A short walk down the riverside track at Westfield Pil Nature Reserve. We find a few wild strawberries. The Mallard drakes are all in eclipse. A Common Buzzard swoops over a Grey Heron sitting at the top of a tree. The heron screams angrily and on the second swoop stabs its beak towards the Buzzard and then flies up to chase it off.
Saturday 12th July – Hallam Moors – Moorland to the west of Sheffield. I park next to the Redmires reservoirs and then walk up onto some grassy knolls. Here are a gaggle of birders all watching for a Montagu’s Harrier that has been reported on the lines. But it had not been seen for over half an hour and does not emerge during the time I wait. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sing and parachute from the sky. A flock of eleven Crossbills passes over towards the conifers around the reservoir. A Merlin flashes low over the hillside and disappears.
Tuesday 15th July – Barnsley Canal – Down the canal and across the little concrete walkway. The canal is choked with reeds and many other water plants. Common Pond Skaters zip across the surface. At the bottom some Perch are feeding. Across the meadow I can hear a Grasshopper Warbler calling but I have to go to work before I have the chance to search it out.
Huddersfield – Later in the afternoon I wander down a path at Crosland Moor. Beyond the bank beside the path is a massive quarry. Lesser Rosebay Willowherb and Ragwort are growing on the bank. There are the black and yellow striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth on the latter. A loud engine revs up and I am surprised to see a Cesna taking off from a strip running beside the road.
Sunday 20th July – Willowbank – My walks are currently severely limited by bronchitis. A gentle stroll along Willowbank in bright late afternoon sunshine. The Greater Rosebay Willowherb is over five–foot high. The Ragwort has considerable numbers of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. Himalayan Balsam is growing in a shady area under a long ridge of Hawthorns. There are few birds around, just the odd chirp and cheep from the undergrowth.
Tuesday 22nd July – Wombwell Ings – A cloudy but dazzling morning. Swallows sit on the fence wires and launch off low across the near ripe wheat. They are watched by Magpies. Here there are no Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on the abundant Ragwort. The sewage transfer ditch looks oily and lifeless. I find the damaged remains of a Giant Puffball, still enough remains to take home. This is the first one I have found for some twenty years. From the hide I can see a number of juvenile Yellow Wagtails feeding voraciously on insects on the mud by the Ings. A single Golden Plover in summer plumage stands with a flock of Lapwings. A family of Mute Swans, the young still grey and downy, rest further along the edge and when they move off I notice a sleeping Common Tern behind them (a Black–headed Gull helpfully awakens it briefly allowing me to see the black tip to its bill confirming its identity). Suddenly every thing is spooked as a large female Sparrowhawk wheels lazily overhead, ignoring the attentions of a Carrion Crow. A quick scan over Broomhill Flash reveals three Green Sandpiper, clear signs that the migration season is well underway.
Saturday 26th July – Wombwell Ings – A wet morning. A small flock of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Linnets feed on grass seeds on the freshly mown recreation ground. The track between the dyke and the sewage transfer ditch is bright yellow with Ragwort. A screaming Common Tern is flying around the area with what looks like a small fish in its beak. I find another, smaller Giant Puffball buried in the grass on the dyke.
Sunday 27th July – Dove Trail – At last some sunshine. Dill the Dog and I wander along the disused railway between Worsbrough and Penistone. The bird life is mainly confined to tics, weeeps and churrs from deep inside the hedgerows. St John’s Wort is growing in profusion on the old track bed, along with various thistles, ranging in colour from pale purple to rich mauve-reds. Greater and Lesser Rosebay Willowherbs, Ox-eye Daisies, the pale pink of Mallows, tall spikes of Weld (or Dyer’s Rocket) and on the field edges, Common Poppies are also present There are also good numbers of butterflies around. A Comma feeds on a thistle flower, Large, Small and Cabbage Whites, Small Tortoiseshells and a single Small Skipper. At Wigfield Farm there are some dark brown lambs with tiny horns, part of the rare species collection.