Birders often say that July is quiet. After the surge of spring migration that often spills into June, and before the long backwash of autumn, the month tends to hold fewer surprises than those that surround it.
But of course what birders mean when they say that July is quiet is that it’s quiet for birders. For birds themselves, it’s a busy month – there are perhaps more of ‘our’ birds – resident or summering – than at any other time of year, with batches of new fledglings in every hedgerow, some the second to have been raised by their parents this season. It isn’t really quiet at all.
And this year in Glynde, Beddingham and Firle, July proved to be amongst the most interesting of months, despite dodgy weather.
Not far to the south of Firle, Matt Eade found two calling Quail at Greenway Bottom as well as a couple of Turtle Doves. This area of the Downs seems to have Quails every summer – making it, after Steep Down, Lancing, perhaps the most regular site in Sussex.
One of my favourite local events is the annual show of Glow-worms. This year, my best count was 15 between Glynde and Firle on the evening of 24th. Not bad, although well shy of the 44 I totted up along the same stretch last year.
After Paul’s Honey Buzzard over Firle Allotments in June, another mid-summer record over Glynde this month was a good follow-up. Seen from Caburn by Mike Unwin on 23rd (per SOS) this one headed towards Brighton. Where’s the nearest pair to Lewes, I wonder?
Surprise of the month (and addition to the Firle species list) goes to the Fulmar, seen drifting along from Tilton towards Lewes. Very much a seabird, and easy to see down on the coast at Newhaven and Seaford, they are pretty unusual inland.
Because July is quiet for birds (see? I can’t help it) attention often turns to insects, and it was an interesting month for them too. The second wave of Painted Ladies, millions of which arrived in the spring, erupted in late July, as the immigrants’ young emerged in vast quantities. The thistles on the escarpment were thick with them, but as in May they could be seen practically everywhere. The day-flying Silver Y moth also seemed to be around in unusually high numbers, and another less numerous migrant, the Clouded Yellow, was seen, along with the usual Marbled Whites, Small Coppers, Gatekeepers and Chalkhill Blues (and, no doubt, rarer species that I missed).
In Firle village, a few notable sightings: on the day of the street party, children found what was I think a Privet Hawk Moth caterpillar; today my first Hornet of the year in the garden.
Back to the birds. Swifts are fairly scarce around Firle, but started to make more regular appearances late in the month – the same time that Sand Martins began to appear. Definite signs of autumn.
And finally, after a lack of records for a couple of weeks, a juvenile Spotted Flycatcher in the centre of Firle village today, fluttering its wings and calling pathetically in an attempt to get the attendant adult to feed it. Is this the offspring from a successful breeding attempt at Firle churchyard, or did the male seen earlier in the spring close to the Ram have a separate, low-key nest?