Nature Notes May 2020

Total Monthly rainfall: 11.5 mm. Maximum daily rainfall: 4.5 mm (2nd May)

There was a totally inadequate rainfall during the month, resulting in low pondwater levels and very dry soils. There were only 9 days with 100% cloud cover for at least part of the day. Maximum temperature on the warmest day was 26°C on the 26th May. On the coldest day it was 11°C on the 11th May. There were 16 days when the temperature was 20°C or more. The most noticeable effects of this climate change are a large increase in the area of water lilies across the lake, and a similar increase in the number of goat willow saplings around the bank.


This month we found 12 additional species of wildflowers in bloom, bringing our total to 38 for the year so far. On the 2nd we spotted the first yellow water-lilies out on the lake, with yellow iris following round the edge on the 5th. Ox-eye daisy flowered on the roadside verge on the 8th, together with bird’s-foot trefoil in the wildflower meadow. On the 12th we discovered lesser stitchwort and red clover in the same meadow, followed next day by sheep’s sorrel. Common vetch on the 15th was followed on the 21st by the white water-lily on the lake and foxglove in the wood.  A week later, on the 28th, tufted vetch in the wildflower meadow and marsh bedstraw beside the lake completed our sightings for the month.

Flowering shrubs also appeared during the month, including elder flowers on the 1st, dog rose on the 15th, and woodland honeysuckle on the 19th. Last to flower was holly on the 23rd.

On May 2nd, our first butterfly of the month, the small white, appeared, followed by the large white on the 9th. We found a small heath butterfly in a flower meadow on the 17th, as was the common blue on the 20th.  A small copper butterfly on the 26th was quickly followed by our first meadow brown among the grass on the 27th. Our last butterfly of the month was a large skipper on the 29th. The seven new butterfly species seen this month bring our total to 15 so far. There was also a comma caterpillar on nettle (May 26th).

May produced 10 species of moth-related sightings, the first being a caterpillar of the common swift moth on the 2nd. Our old regular, the lackey moth caterpillar, turned up on waterside rushes on the 8th, and on the 17th we spotted our first burnet companion moth in a wildflower meadow. We saw a

Mother skipton moth in the same meadow on the 20th, followed closely by a Silver Y among lakeside rushes on the 21st, a Vapourer moth caterpillar on a rose bush on the 22nd, and about 30 longhorn moths in 4 small groups around hazel and hornbeam on the 24th. A rare and fortuitous sighting of a pristine Light emerald moth appeared among a patch of grass in our woodland early on the 25th, and a female Muslin moth landed in front of us on short grass in the flower meadow the next day. Last moth of the month was a blood-vein moth among lakeside rushes on May 28th. Our running total for the year so far is 15 species.

This month’s dragonfly count brings our total to 10 species. Every year Gill Brook has periodically checked our dragonfly exuviae, and this year has discovered that two azure damselflies have emerged from their exuviae without us seeing the damselflies themselves, on April 27th. On May 3rd our first white-legged damselflies emerged, followed on the 6th by a four-spotted chaser. We saw our first hairy dragonfly on the 8th, but no exuvia was found. Similarly we saw an emperor dragonfly

on May 25th and our first black-tailed skimmer and banded demoiselle on the 26th.

Although we were aware of no new migratory bird species this month, seven goslings on May 2nd, but these there was plenty of activity among the familiar bird species. The canada geese hatched were quickly whittled down to three by 5 crows attacking in unison – a tactic also adopted on the mallard chicks with the same result.

Other miscellaneous sightings during the month were as follows:

A spotted crane-fly was first seen on the 9th, three baby slow-worms were found under a reptile shelter on the 23rd, and a hedgehog on our gravel drive after dark on the 24th.