Blackwater Valley Countryside

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June in the Valley

June is the month when everything is happening: flowers blooming, trees in leaf, insects on the wing, young being born and fed… it’s as if mother nature has pressed the rush hour button and it’s full steam ahead! June starts one of the busiest periods of the year for wildlife watchers when butterflies, dragonflies and flowers are all at their best.

Hedgerows will be laden with white, sweet-smelling Elder flowers. The flower heads are a great attraction to hoverflies, beetles and wasps; spend some time just watching all the activity. Also just coming into flower is the Guelder Rose, Viburnum opulus. Although they have little scent take a close look at the flower heads which has small central flowers surrounded by larger sterile florets designed to make the plant more alluring and to attract pollinators.

Common Blue There are many different butterflies on the wing this month. Look out for the Common Blue (pictured), Speckled Wood and Silver-studded Blue. Also look for the moth-like Dingy Skipper and the black and scarlet flashed wings of the Cinnabar, a day-flying moths.

It’s the ideal time to go pond watching at one of the Valley’s many smaller water bodies. Although there are a large number of lakes in the Valley the small ponds provide a subtly different habitat as the shallow, well-vegetated water can support many species that find the larger deep lakes unsuitable. Dragonflies in particular often prefer these smaller ponds for laying eggs.

Look out for the Broad Bodied Chaser (pictured), Broad Bodied Chaser male which prefers newly created and ephemeral ponds. The male (pictured) is easily recognisable by its broad but flatish pale blue body with a line of yellow dots along each side. The all-yellow female will only lay her eggs in small ponds and carefully places each individual egg onto the surface of the water with her abdomen. Another June dragonfly to look out for is the Four Spotted Chaser, an all-brown species with two dark spots on each wing (yes dragonflies do have four wings making eight spots in all but…). It’s present throughout the Valley and found in a variety of habitats including bogs, heathland ponds, canals ponds and lakes.

This month deer will be leaving their young hiding in dense undergrowth. As deer can be found all along the Valley please keep your dog on a lead and leave fawns well alone as their mother will be nearby.

Fox cubs should have been weaned off their mother’ milk and hedgehogs will be busy trying to find a mate. Young hedgehogs will be born in the middle of this month, with bats towards the end of the month, you can see the adults flying at dusk. Grey squirrels will be having a second litter as will blackbirds and thrushes.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerAt this time of year use your ears as well as your eyes, many of our resident birds, as well as the summer migrants, are often more easily heard than seen. In woodland areas listen out for the Great Spotted Woodpecker (pictured) as it drums on tree branches with its bill. The small warblers are extremely well camouflaged but the males sing loudly. Rowhill Nature Reserve is a good place to hear the distinctive notes of the Chiffchaff. The songs of other warblers need an expert to separate. The Blackcaps and Whitethroats may be identified if you catch a glimpse of them in the bushes.

Young ducklings can be seen on the lakes and river. Mallard and Tufted Duck are the most common breeding ducks in the Valley, but look out for others.

Grass VetchlingAround this time of year do look out for an interesting flower that does particularly well in the Valley, Grass Vetchling (pictured). The leaves are practically indistinguishable from grass, but in the middle of June it drops its disguise and
produces the most elegant of pinky-red pea-like flowers. Look for it at places like Lakeside Nature Reserve, Hollybush Hill and Hawley Meadows

  

Common Spotted Orchid

 Common Spotted Orchid

 
Wildflowers


Meadow flowers are at their best this month and Hollybush, Hollybush Hill, Lakeside Nature Reserve, Hawley Meadow and Shepherd Meadows are all well worth a visit.

 

Among the most spectacular are orchids, like the Common-spotted Orchid and Green-veined Orchid. More easily seen are Foxgloves and Ragged Robin – the latter can be found in damp woodland and meadows  – and drifts of Ox-eye Daisy, (also known as Moon Daisy or Marguerite) which can be seen everywhere as you drive along the Blackwater Valley road.

 


Did you know...?


You can use the bright starry red flowers of the Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallies
arvensis
(pictured above) to tell the time?

 

Depending on temperature
and humidity, the red flowers open around 8am and close when the sun goes in, or if it starts to rain, although they always close for the day at about 3pm, rain or shine.

 

This unique feature has resulted in the plant being regarded for centuries as a combined weatherglass and clock and is often referred to as ‘change of the weather’, ‘poor man’s weatherglasss’
and ‘shepherd’s sundial’.

 

The sprawling, many branched plant bears shiny oval leaves with pointed tips, and grows no more than 30cm tall. The long slender flower stalks are upright when in flower but
 drop when in fruit.

 

Although the flowers are usually scarlet, they can also be pink, white, lilac or even blue, in fact plants bearing both red and blue flowers are sometimes found. They contain no nectar or scent and are visited by few insects.

 

Scarlet Pimpernel was once valued for its supposed medicinal qualities and was thought to cure madness and dispel melancholy, hence its Somerset name of ‘laughter bringer’.