Nature Notes – June 2017

This has been the noisiest May for Cuckoos that I can ever remember. They have been reported from both Sweffling and Rendham, at various points along the valley. I say ‘they’, although the male cuckoo has a large territory and it can be hard to say how many there are. Certainly we have heard at least two, and some folk I have spoken to reckon more. Our first was calling on April 11th, and I have heard it every day since then, right through May. Cuckoos are in serious decline in our countryside. Many areas have lost them, and so it is always a pleasure and a relief to hear them back. However, this year even this ardent fan has reservations. The call can start as early as 4:30am, still a small price to pay. But this year our local bird, close to the house and very loud indeed, has taken to singing through the night. It did this first by starting at 2am, and carrying on until after four! This was repeated on several nights. At this time of night it is almost deafening, and I literally took to using ear plugs. Why it does this I can’t explain. It is small comfort to know that it is very rare behaviour indeed, and that the author of the book on The Cuckoo has never heard it.

As promised, the Swifts returned in early May, arriving in Rendham on the 7th. They are a typical part of the summer village scene, screaming in little gangs over the houses and along the street. By June, all our migrants should be here. Listen out for the Turtle Doves (now sadly very scarce) with their quiet purring call from hedgerow trees.

June has a good variety of taller summer flowers in our roadside verges. I have been looking at some of the Campions, well known wildflowers which are members of the Carnation family. There is the Red Campion, the dark pink species found in woods and hedges, and the White Campion, found in fields and open country. These two can both be found on roadside verges, and where they occur together they commonly hybridise as a pale pink form. In Sweffling at least, there is a less common species, in Suffolk found mainly on the sandy soil of the Sandlings and the Brecklands. This is the Bladder Campion, a medium height plant with white flowers. Behind the petals, surrounding the fruit, the sepals are inflated into the bladder-like structure which gives the plant its name.

With the early summer weather, there were a good number of damselflies around the pond. (These are the small slender dragonflies which hold their wings together over their bodies at rest.) First is usually the common red one, called the Large Red Damselfly. Now there are also some of the common bright blue species, already joined up in pair for mating and laying eggs. Commonest around small ponds is a particularly bright blue one called the Azure Damselfly. The pond got alarmingly low with the very dry spring, but the mid-May rain has topped it up nicely. June will see some of the true dragonflies, much larger insects which hold their wings outwards at rest. Dragonflies have been given dramatic names, like Hawkers and Darters. Among the earliest are the Chasers, with broad, rather short bodies. Most striking is the Broad Bodied Chaser, whose males are a lovely powder blue. The Four-spotted Chaser is much duller, brown but with four prominent extra spots on the wings.

Geoffrey Abbott