With the longest day of the year behind us, we have reached the height of summer. The long days of June combined with the exceptionally hot weather over the last few weeks, means many farms are now well on their way to securing their quota of silage and hay, leaving the countryside a patchwork or different coloured fields.
June is often when many of our traditional-managed hay meadows are at their best, that is, if they haven’t been cut during the good weather. Closed to livestock to allow the sward to grow up sometime in the spring, hay meadows often have a great diversity of grass and wildflower species, giving a fantastic display of colour throughout the spring and summer. Early flowers such as cowslips and cuckoo flower start the show off, giving over to species such as oxeye daisies, bird’s foot trefoil, yellow rattle, buttercups and orchids as spring turns to summer. Then slowly the purple shades of knapweed along with devils-bit and field scabious begin to creep through meadow, giving a new, more mellow look to the sward.
The surrounding hedgerows too, are becoming more colourful. Dog rose’s light pink flowers and the yellow of honey suckle both add to the complexity of the hedgerow as they wind up from the woody plants to emerge through the sides and top of the hedge.
Such meadows are alive with wildlife, the flowers and grasses feed a huge diversity animals and insects, who in turn fuel the growth of young birds and mammals, forming complex and lengthy food chains.
By this time of the year bird song has already begun to diminish as the breeding season hits its peak. Adult birds are now less concerned with defending their territory through song, preoccupied with feeding the mass of hungry chick that follow them everywhere. However, our finch species are still singing well. The gold finch provides a twinkling song as they fly over in groups or perch at the tops of trees. Also listen for the beautiful bubbling song of the green finch, often unceremoniously interrupted by its own harsh rasping call.