Goodbye July - a funny old month for Norfolk nature
- Credit: Neal Trafankowski
Sometimes a rather stupid statement can, on reflection, be rather profound and thought provoking, says reserves officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Robert Morgan.
As it was when a colleague declared to me that July, "was a funny old month." "What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, it's neither June nor August," came the reply.
And he is absolutely right it isn’t June or August. June is the frantic month of nest building and chick raising, of swallowtail butterflies, of blooming verges and long green grass.
August is parched ground, beach holidays, the long school break and ears of wheat and barley tanned beige and ready for harvest. So what is July?
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Even our schools have difficulty knowing what to do with July.
Exams are over with by mid-June and, teachers are marking time until their well-deserved rest in August, filling the end of the school year with excursions, plays and sports days.
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It’s a funny old month for nature too.
The yellowing hand which gives us the beauty of the autumn landscape has not yet put in an appearance, everything still seems lush and bright. There is, however, a touch of tiredness and decay.
Closer inspection shows the trees are already growing weary, turning their now leathery leaves, sticky with honey-dew, away from the sun.
Fungi are already pushing up their weirdly shaped fruiting bodies and bird migration is picking up pace, waders such as green, wood and curlew sandpipers are re-fuelling along the cracked edges of sun shrunk pools, before carrying on to the Camargue and other exotic locations.
Away from the thump of busy roads and the drum of towns, the countryside is restored for a brief spell into quietness, a taste of our lost heritage of near-silence.
Birds rarely sing in the heat of July, farm machinery is no doubt being oiled and repaired in readiness for harvest, and the holiday-makers are yet to break-out into Norfolk, still at home packing their trunks no doubt.
There is something different about the sunny days of July, the frenzied sounds of June, insistent and continuous, are muted so that the gentle hum of insects fill the air. Lying down among the turf of a meadow the hum is magnified; young, more adequate ears, can pick out each of the stridulating grasshoppers.
If a spell of continental weather insists on hanging over us, and a hot dry July has followed a similar June, we can reach into a drought.
Ponds will dry, nettles wither and a lawn’s parched brown crust will crack apart.
Gentle twists of warm air along country lanes raises clouds of sandy dust, irritating the eyes of those in the hope of a shady walk, and if the dry weather touches St Swithin’s Day then we could be in real trouble, another 40 days of arid conditions are sure to follow! Although, during most years late summer lightening is followed by a heavy downpour proving the adage wrong.
July sees the white and yellow of ox-eye daisy giving way to the purple of thistle, knapweed and heather, our heathlands being magnificently transformed by its flowers.
It is the month of butterflies, with fritillaries, skippers and ringlets all prospering from nectar rich meadows and the bramble flowers of dappled woodland glades.
Ragwort is stripped bare by voracious yellow and black cinnabar moth caterpillar and darter dragonflies emerge from lukewarm ponds, leaving behind the husk of its exuvia still clinging tightly to a reed stem.
July may bridge the gap between the frenzied activity of June and the lazy days of August, but for me July is truly summer.
For more information on Norfolk Wildlife Trust, see www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk