This will be a very short monthly report, perhaps the shortest of the entire year - if only because other than all the great stuff we saw in our wonderful wild week in West Wales (see parts 1 and 2 on this website), I've been quite hard at work so not seen that much recently - coupled with the fact that quite often August is a very quiet month, wildlife-wise, or it certainly seems that way after everything has pretty-well finished breeding, the autumn feeding glut and movements hasn't really begun at all and of course the swifts have all pretty-well gone by now.
So... if you want to fill your boots with lots of August wildlife sightings, please do click on the links above (click on the numbers 1 and 2 in the paragraph above)... and for the rest of this monthly report, I'll briefly describe other comings and goings during the past fortnight or so.
First things first (and I'll not dwell on this, as it will NOT be news to you), July's prolonged heatwave dominated the month of August too. So much so in fact that we're all pretty sure now that the summer of 2022 will be this generation's 1976 summer. Well... that is of course unless climate change has already really taken hold and ALL summers from now on are like 2022 and 1976.
Most grass was burned off during August (I've not mowed our lawns since May - not needed to) and even the poor trees (many of them) started to shed a LOT of leaves by mid August around here, so stressed were they by the lack of water in the soil. Our garden black poplars (for example) would normally drop a leaf or two in the final week of September and then spend all October dumping them so by November, they'd be bare. It happens like this every year. A full set of leaves (pretty-well) on the 1st October and NONE by Hallowe'en.
Not this year though. I'm writing this blog on the last day of August (another warm, sunny day) and even though I haven't yet, I could have raked a very large pile of leaves up off the back garden and put them on our compost heap - that's perhaps 6 weeks early, or certainly 4 or 5 anyway.
Regarding the weather, the rains finally came in earnest on the morning of 24th August. By then of course, the pond had virtually dried up (got to about 25% full I think) and I'd exhausted all five of my emergency water butts, which were all full of rainwater for years. Just one morning of pretty heavy (at times) rain on the 24th August not only filled the pond again but also filled three emergency rain water butts, just in case we got another two months of no rain! Strange though... I hear we may be due some rain tomorrow (a little), but since that morning of rain on the 24th - we've had nothing again. Nothing at all to have ponds like the (deep, dangerous (normally - hence the lifebuoy!)) pond by the 12th green of a golf course I regularly play at even start to become ponds again (see the photo below taken AFTER the rains of the 24th!).
OK. Enough of the weather - you know all about that anyway (I expect you, like me, look like you've been sunning yourself in Greece all summer, even if, like me, you've not been further south than Cardiff!).
As the heat built over the country, hedgehog activity in our garden dropped off a cliff. In fact we had a couple of nights in mid August when for the first time in months, we had no hedgehog visitors at all to the feeding station. I did see our female (I think we have only one female) get pretty molested again by one of our males (we have several) so I'm half-expecting her to be made pregnant again and give birth to a late, 2nd litter. We'll see. All I know right now is that multiple hedgehogs (and all males I think) are back feeding with us... so that's good.
On the 18th of the month Ben and I saw (and heard) two ravens cronking over the Oxfordshire countryside as we played golf beneath them and a couple of swallows too... although as many people will know, swallows will be here for a good few weeks yet, having two broods each year if they can.
On the 22nd, we had our HUGE (50 foot high and 50 foot wide) leylandii tree properly seen to. Cut in half in fact. Out came a couple of well-established squirrels' dreys and pigeons nests. But back, thankfully came a pair of goldcrests the very next day. (We have goldcrests most of the year in our spruce trees - always singing to themselves (and me!) even in winter!).
On the 23rd I decided to put a lot of the dropped spruce leaves (dropped when tree was cut in half the day before) into the compost heap. Two wheelbarrows of leaves in fact. Which immediately resulted in me getting my second-ever wasp sting as I angered a common (not German) wasp guarding its nest below the compost heap - a nest I hadn't seen this year as I've not USED the compost heap, having not even had the need to cut the grass and put the clippings in the compost heap all year!
After the rains of the 24th, we were visited by an always-welcome young green woodpecker. Hopping around the newly (but briefly) dampened garden, looking for ants and other creepy crawlies.
And that, grapple fans, other than a family of very tame bank voles that crossed my path on another golf course on the 29th of the month, is pretty-well that for wildlife in August. At least for me.
No I've not forgotten.
The last swift of the year? For me (this may change of course - I HAVE seen one pass over this house south in the first week of September before) the final swift of 2022 danced across the sky south as Ben and I got out of a car having just played a local round of golf in the afternoon of Tuesday 16th August. We got out of the car at around 17:30 and my heart leaped when I saw it. I don't think I'd seen one in the previous ten days and I don't think I've seen one since.
I wish all the swifts nothing but good luck during their migration south and their winter sojourn in their proper home continent, Africa.... and as is traditional now, I play them my swift song (below) which I play each time they leave and each time they return (the lucky ones that is).
Please do also listen to it too - and think of these wonderful wee chocolate brown birds, arrowing back to the Congo like tiny bows and arrows right now, in their hundreds and thousands.
Be safe you beautiful swifts - and roll on May 2023.