Wildlife Watch with Kate Humble

Swift in flight
Swift in flight

The recent hot, dry weather proved what an asset water butts can be - you can never have too many around the garden. My vegetables, bedding and herbaceous plants certainly needed a lot to drink, and I also try to use water from the kitchen sink bowl to help. You could use bath water too – just make sure it’s been well diluted.

As birds start to near the end of the breeding season this month, and seem to engage their cloaking devices, colourful insects come to the forefront and July is a great month for all sorts of other flying creatures. Gatekeeper and small tortoiseshell are just two of the butterfly species you might see, and there is more chance of spotting some of our migrant butterflies and moths such as Clouded yellow and Hummingbird hawkmoths from now too. The tiny, colourful, hummingbird-like insect is fond of gathering nectar from garden plants such as Red valerian and Buddleia. You might think you won’t recognise one but I suspect you will, they are quite large!

This is also the time when most of our dragonflies can be seen. Those of you with a pond can expect to see Common darters, Southern hawker, Emperor and Four spotted chaser to name a few. You don’t need a big pond to see lots of different colours, shapes and sizes. Don’t forget to look out for the different kinds of bumble bee and hoverfly visiting your borders as well. They’ll be gathering nectar from any flowering plants you’ve managed to grow there.

You may have seen swifts flying at breakneck speed, low around the rooftops or swooping into crevices in buildings in the last few weeks, if not around your own garden perhaps out and about, particularly when in an old part of town or near any old buildings.

These incredible birds spend their life almost entirely on the wing and even feed, sleep and mate in flight. They feed exclusively on insects and only come to land when nesting. Sadly, more and more, when they do come to nest their nest sites have been destroyed, often by building maintenance or repairs on the old buildings they favour.

If you need to do work on your house, like replacing soffits or fascias, make new nest holes and fit internal nest boxes for swifts and house sparrows. Check before doing any work that birds are not already nesting there. The RSPB is really keen to find out more about where they are nesting so please help these master airmen by reporting where you see them at www.rspb.org.uk/helpswifts

I hope you enjoy some nice sunny days in your garden this month and reap the rewards of your wildlife gardening!

Kate