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Three month round-up

Three month round-up

Firstly can I say it's been a whole three months since I last blogged on here about the wildlife in Glastonbury Abbey – time certainly does fly. I'll start this blog with a quick round up what has been happening in the grounds in the last few months. April ended on a high with warm, dry weather and an early peak in the spring species that are to be found in the Abbey. Orange tip butterflies were the main species of lepidoptera to be found with good numbers of both females and males being sighted daily. Their flying season is now over for the year but it seems that they have done reasonably well in 2017 compared to recent years. Cow parsley was the dominant plant at the time and the wildlife area was awash with this early umbellifer and it supported and provided a valuable source of pollen for the insects that emerge in April, mostly solitary bees, a few bumblebee species, a few early species of hoverfly and of course butterflies. Most of our breeding birds were still on eggs or had young in the nest at the end of this month with only robin, wren and blue and great tit fledglings to be seen mostly in the wildlife area skulking in the undergrowth.

May saw a dramatic change in weather with a succession of depressions sweeping across us from the west bringing unseasonably cold and wet conditions which no doubt would have had an effect on our wildlife. Indeed during May our butterfly numbers dropped off dramatically both in terms of species and volume of individuals. Any birds with youngsters still in the nest must have suffered as well, as the caterpillar numbers diminished there would certainly have been a shortage of available food for the chicks. On a brighter note May saw the annual return of swallows, house martins and swifts which can all be seen hunting insects in and over the Abbey grounds.

June was all change again with us having our hottest temperatures for this month since 1976... A bit unbearable for some (myself included) but the insects love it. Dragonflies and damselflies started to emerge enmasse with all four of our “common” species of damsel being seen, that is to say the blue-tailed, common blue, azure and variable. Broad-bodied and four-spot chaser were the first dragonflies to be recorded in and around the duck pond, usually seen flying up from a favoured perch to chase or investigate what could be the next possible meal. We had both green and great-spotted woodpecker nesting in the orchard this year and I am pleased to inform that the chicks managed to survive the hot temperatures and have both now fledged successfully. Bats were visible to the late evening visitors with species probably including: common pipistrelle, lesser and greater horseshoe and daubenton's. The heat wave came to a crashing end mid-month with an amazing lightening show and torrential downpours with brought some welcome moisture to the plants in the grounds, even though this was short-lived the plants and especially the grasses did look a lot greener the next morning.

This month so far has seen more dragonflies to be seen in the grounds including: southern hawker, brown hawker and emperor (our largest dragonfly species!). Damsels remain the same species as they will for the rest of the summer. Butterfly numbers have recovered well with it now being the height of the season for the volume and number of species to be seen. At the time of writing this, I have not long returned from a mooch around the grounds and have recorded.... peacock, red admiral, meadow brown (lots), speckled wood, large white, holly blue, small tortoiseshell, ringlet and my first ever sighting of marbled white in the Abbey!! I was lucky enough to get a photo of this one... (Note: always bring your camera to the Abbey!) Other species on the wing at the moment are common blue, small white, green-veined white and the first gatekeepers of the year.

I think that covers it for now, so enjoy your time until next time.

Mark Huntington.

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Added: 15th July 2017