This Month on the Emmbrook
What to look for if you are out and about in

AUGUST

General

August is the month when high summer turns to late summer. In the hedgerows the Blackberries have already started to ripen, going from green to red then finally black and delicious.

Birds

By mid-August Swifts have already left for Africa, although Swallows and House Martins linger a little bit longer, gathering in flocks before embarking on their long migration.Their short stay in Britain reminds us just how fleeting summer can be. It's harder to spot some of our shy all-year-round residents, such as the Dunnock and Wren, hidden in hedges and thickets. If you keep a bird bath well topped up with water, you'll tempt them out for early morning bathing as well as provide much-needed drinking water in dry weather. It's a good idea to raise your birdbath off the ground, and place it in the open, giving birds a clear view of danger.

Where do all the garden birds go in August?

During spring, the birds certainly put on a good show. At first we enjoy the cacophony of bird song surrounding us during the breeding season. Then we can spend time watching busy parents flying back and forth to their hungry chicks from dawn Ďtil dusk. Finally, thereís the joy of seeing fluffy little fledglings taking their first flight into the world. By the summer we have got used to regularly seeing birds on our feeders and in hedgerows and then they suddenly disappear! Have they migrated? Have they all been eaten? Has a disease wiped them all out? No, nothing quite so dramatic has happened. The birds are still around, theyíre just hiding whilst they spruce themselves up ready for winter. Feathers arenít indestructible. They get damaged, discoloured and weakened during a birdís busy year. So after a while worn out feathers need to be replaced. This is a natural process called moulting. August is prime time for bird moulting. Replacing all your feathers is an extremely energy draining experience so birds save it for when they are less stressed Ė after breeding and before migration. August is also very warm, so the birds donít get too cold and there is still plenty of protein-rich food about. The feathers donít all fall out at once. This would leave birds unable to fly and very, very cold! Instead, each feather is gradually replaced one by one. During the moult, birds have less energy and itís much harder for them to fly. This makes them very vulnerable to predators, so they spend most of their time hidden in vegetation trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Most garden birds take about 6 to 8 weeks to completely moult and then they are out and about again, fattening themselves up for winter.

Insects

Hot days also bring the restful sound of Grasshoppers calling ('stridulating') from the long grass, advertising their territories. They are difficult to spot due to their green or brown colour, but soon hop to reveal themselves if disturbed, only to disappear again. Along the Emm brook the species most likely to be spotted are the Common Green, Common Field and the Meadow Grasshopper.

Butterflies

: Gatekeeper

Butterflies on the wing this month include the Meadow Brown, Small Skipper butterflies and Large Whites. Gatekeepers are particularly attractive orange and brown butterflies and can usually be found near hedgerows.

Other Wildlife

Early in the month Grey Squirrels are impatient and insist on cracking open the pale green Hazel nuts, even though there is little reward inside. They can be heard chattering and squealing at one another. Aggressive confrontations can lead to tree top chases.

Plants & Trees

The grasslands adjacent to the Forest Road contain Ragwort and Creeping Thistle. at this time of year . Ragwort is poisonous to livestock but supports approx 30 species of insect including the Cinnabar moth (the adult is black and red) feeds on this species at its caterpillar stage. The caterpillars are black and orange to ward off predators who may view them as a tasty snack. The caterpillar stores alkaloids from the plant which means that birds do indeed find them nasty to eat.