Posted on 1st August 2014
It can be a bit of a shock in August, when summer feels as if it has only just begun, to realise that the autumn migration of some birds has already started. Numbers of birds heading south increase substantially and the Trust’s Rutland Water Nature Reserve in particular is a magnet for many waders. There is also always a chance to see birds of prey such as the Marsh Harrier and other species. Migrating birds can also regularly be seen at Cossington Meadows, Wanlip Meadows, Kelham Bridge and, sometimes, other nature reserves.
Few people visit the woodland nature reserves in late summer, but they can have their rewards. Cloud Wood, for example, has a large population of the Broad-leaved Helleborine, a tall orchid. The Violet Helleborine has been recorded in the past, but the best location for this plant in Leicestershire and Rutland is the Trust’s Great Merrible Wood. It can be a bit of an ordeal trying to get down to and around the reserve at this time of year though! The beautiful, but elusive, Purple Hairstreak butterfly is on the wing in August and occurs at several woodland reserves, for example Launde Big Wood, Cloud Wood and Prior’s Coppice.
The heathland at Charnwood Lodge National Nature Reserve is a wonderful place in August, but then it is at any time of year. Late summer is when the Heather flowers, families of Buzzards, Kestrels and Ravens are in the air and dragonflies hunt around the pools.
For further details on the nature reserves mentioned go the Nature Reserves section of the website or check your Nature Reserves Guide.
Species of the month: Whinchat
The whinchat is a small, plump and short-tailed perching bird that has a prominent white stripe above the eye. It is streaky brown above and warm orange-buff on the breast. The female is paler than the male.
A summer visitor to this country, it is best looked for in rough pastureland, tussocky grassland, water meadows and on bracken-covered slopes. It can also be seen at coastal migration watch points during April and September on passage from and to its wintering grounds in Africa.
Sadly it no longer breeds here but can be seen in Leicestershire and Rutland as a passage migrant. Most easily spotted on the top of low bushes, whinchats feed on insects and some seeds.
The Whinchat Saxicola rubetra is a member of the Turdidae chats and thrushes family. Whinchat numbers in Britain more than halved between 1995 and 2008, the cause(s) being unknown, and now has 'amber status'.
Photograph: Whinchat (c. Bob Coyle, Nature Snaps)