Growth is now at its maximum, with foliage still fresh. June and July are good months for looking for wildflowers. Most noticeable this month will be the familiar Ox-eye Daisies, also known by other names such as Dog Daisies, Moon Daisies or Marguerites. These open flowers are very popular with a range of pollinators that can access the abundant pollen including various mining bees, hoverflies & butterflies. Some of the borough’s best meadows can be found on Horsenden Hill, Islip Manor and Yeading Brook.
In recently disturbed ground look out for flowering Poppies including Field, Long-headed and in more urban areas Opium Poppies (various pink/red/purple, sometimes single or blousy double forms too). These are short-lived annuals that spread to the UK as the Neolithic man brought agriculture to northern Europe. The seeds are long-lived and the flowers are very popular with bumblebees.
Though there are not many orchid species in Ealing it’s worth looking for Common-spotted (a good colony at Yeading) and Bee Orchids that can turn up anywhere (sometimes in untreated lawns/verges) including Smith’s Farm.
One of our two native Irises, Yellow Flag, is looking at its best by our ponds and lakes such as Perivale Wetlands and Northala.
June as well as being an excellent month for botanising is also a good one for budding entomologists. Many of the early mining bees will be going over now, though some species have a second generation later in the summer. If you have a bee box, this is a good month to check for Blue or Orange-vented Mason Bees using them as well as Red Mason Bees that peak earlier in the season. The aforementioned Ox-eye Daisies are very popular with Davies’ Colletes, Colletes daviesanus, a small plasterer bee.
Butterfly enthusiasts often talk of the “June dip” as many of the spring species go over and those of high summer haven’t yet emerged. Two that should be seen later in the month are Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites. It will be interesting to see what numbers are like this year as both these browns have larvae that feed on various grasses and it’s possible numbers may be reduced due to last year’s prolonged drought that would have affected the food plants. Both species can be found in any meadows, though the former is more common and have a more extended flight period.
Moth trapping on mild, particularly with cloud cover, nights could result in a high and varied catch, though as I write this many mothers are still getting low rewards. Some of our most glamorous species may be found including Elephant and Eyed Hawkmoths, Blood-vein, Peppered Moth and Buff-tip. Favourable winds may bring migrants from further afield including Silver-Y and Hummingbird Hawkmoth.
At ponds, the first froglets & toadlets should be emerging from the water, particularly on mild, damp evenings. These are vulnerable to predation and only the luckiest will eventually mature. Water bodies on fine days will be magnets for a variety of Damselflies and Dragonflies. The most imposing is our largest species, the Emperor which can be seen at water but also hunting over our meadows. The male has a blue abdomen with a black dorsal stripe and a green thorax. Small garden ponds may also host the feisty and chunky Broad-bodied Chaser, which will often return to the same perch. On bare ground near lakes look for the slimmer and longer Black-tailed Skimmer basking.
The first grasshoppers will now be maturing. Most abundant in meadows is the appropriately named Meadow Grasshopper. Field Grasshoppers are also common, preferring drier habitats and often turning up in gardens.
Virtually all of our migrant birds should have arrived by now with breeding in full swing. Lots of youngsters should now be apparent. Whether noisy gangs of brown juvenile Starlings in our parks or the numerous broods of water birds like Canada and Egyptian Geese, Mallard, Coots and Moorhens. It’s worth scanning the rooftops of industrial units which may have breeding Herring or Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
One bird to look out for is the Swift’s nemesis, the Hobby, a very agile falcon that spends the winter in Africa. They may be seen hawking over water for dragonflies or pursuing young Starlings over rooftops to hunting Swifts & hirundines. A small number of pairs breed in the boroughand often use old crow nests.
Finally, for this month, it’s the time bats give birth, usually to a single pup, though occasionally twins do occur. The bats live in maternity roots which rarely have males. The mother will be catching large numbers of insects to feed herself. Different bat species have different preferences regarding their choice of insect food.