Recording wildlife through the summer

Lorienne Whittle, 14/06/2020

COVID-19 update

As lockdown restrictions have eased in some areas and more of you are starting to get outside and enjoy the countryside again, we would be happy to see you recording on Nature's Calendar, if you feel able. Though we would of course encourage you to follow the devolved government’s guidelines on travel and social distancing for any journeys you take. We would urge careful consideration to anyone that falls into a high risk group in terms of personal health or age, as defined by the government and/or have responsibility for the care of someone in that high risk group. If you have been told that you are vulnerable please ensure that you follow the advice you have been given via the government website or directly from the NHS. Recording on Nature's Calendar is an optional activity that should take part within your daily routine, please do not put yourself at any level of additional risk in order to capture any recordings. The Woodland Trust and its partners are, as ever, grateful for your support. 

Meanwhile a little bit of spring has come indoors over the last few weeks too, and I for one have enjoyed watching this year's BBC Springwatch. We were pleased that phenology was featured quite a bit in the shows and some Nature's Calendar records and research was even used. 

Read our blue tit blog on the BBC Springwatch website for a look at how our feathered friends have fared this year.  

Here we highlight a few of our less recorded plants and animals of late spring. I hope that some of the wonderful photos, sent in by recorders, will inspire you to look out for these events next year!


Grasses - unsung heroes of the wayside

You may not think of grasses as flowering but, like other plants, they flower in order to reproduce. Grass flowers, called florets, produce pollen which is dispersed by the wind. Nature's Calendar records were used to investigate how grass pollen is associated with asthma and hay fever.  

You can record the first flowering of four different grass species with Nature's Calendar: Cocksfoot; yorkshire fogmeadow foxtail and timothy. Being able to tell different grasses apart can be tricky. See our guide to identifying different UK grasses for some top tips. 

Flowering cocksfoot (Photo: Mary Kerby)

Yorkshire fog has clusters of tiny flowers (Photo: Andy Willis)

The very first flower on a meadow foxtail (Photo: Julie Laver)

A clump of flowering timothy (Photo: Patricia New)

If you have a lawn you can also record the first and last time you cut it in a year, or indeed if you mow your lawn all through the year. This may seem like an odd thing to track but it has led to some interesting insight into the grass growing season. A Nature's Calendar article in British Wildlife highlights what we've discovered from your grass mowing records. 

The data may of course also our changing gardening behaviour, as we increasingly see people leaving their lawns uncut for longer to encourage the flowering of plants such as dandelions, daises and buttercups, all of which are an excellent source of nectar for pollinators such as bees, moths and butterflies. 

Recording the phenology of shrubs

There's a range of shrubs you can record throughout the year with Nature's Calendar. Shrubs woody plants that are generally considered to be smaller than trees, often having multiple stems. Elder and dog rose both commonly found brightening up our hedgerows with their late spring flowers.   

If you still have flowering elder near you I'd recommend you make the most of this time in Nature's Calendar and make some wonderfully fragrant elderflower cordial - a taste that always reminds me that summer is nearly here. Remember to harvest sustainably by leaving some flowers, as each one turns into a small, sour black berry. Elderberries are eaten by birds and small mammals when they ripen in late summer. You can also record first ripe fruit and amount of fruit with Nature's Calendar.  

Elder has clusters of tiny cream-white flowers (Photo: Charlotte Matthews)

Record first flowering elder when the first individual flower opens up (Photo: Mary Kerby)

Record first flowering dog rose when the petals open up enough to see inside the flower(Photo: Mary Kerby)

Pretty dog roses brighten up the hedgerows through late spring and early summer (Photo: Ed Dolphin)

You can also record the first ripe fruit and amount of fruit you find on a dog rose later in the year. From August to October red oval shaped hips can be seen in small clusters. Each rosehip is 1-2cm and contains many hairy seeds. These bright red rose hips provide food for mammals and birds and are also collected by people to make rosehip syrup. 

Learn more about the identification, meaning, myth and medicinal uses of dog roses.

What to look out for next

Although there is less to record on Nature's Calendar through the summer keep an eye out over the next few months for the following key wildlife events:

It may seem like they have only just arrived, but swifts will begin to migrate back to Africa as early as mid July (Photo: David Tipling)

A favourite to record (and eat!), in mid summer, brambles produce ripe blackberries (Photo: Ben Lee)

Rowan berries are usually the 'first ripe fruit' on trees to be recorded (Photo: Ben Lee)

The distinctive fruiting body of the fly agaric can be seen from late summer to early winter (Photo: Ben Lee)

Check out our phenology calendar for an easy reference to what is going on throughout the year. 

Peacock butterfly

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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