The rhododendron is pretty spectacular at this time of year along with the yellow azaelias which flower along the lake path. The flag iris is turning the marsh from green to gold. Summer flowers are at their best this month. Heath and common spotted orchids will soon be out in profusion along with bugle, tormentil, red campion, foxgloves, honeysuckle and ragged robin.
June is the month when thousands of tits fledge countrywide. The bushes and trees around the Park are full of young tits, nuthatches and wrens which will stay in their family groups. Swallow and house martin young hatch this month and the first of the young sand martins on the River Teign are due to fledge from their colonial burrows. Some of the older birds will manage to go on to rear a further two broods. The first swift was recorded on 14th June. Keep an eye out for nightjars in the evenings which arrive from Africa during the first half of May. Spotted flycatchers also migrate and come from central Africa in May. They can be seen sitting on a perch from which they watch for flying insects, periodically darting out to catch them. The great-spotted woodpeckers have been filling Stover with the sound of their drumming. The young have now hatched out and can be heard calling to the adults. Song thrush chicks and chiffchaff chicks have already fledged. Regular sightings of bullfinch and stock doves occurred during last month. The stock doves can be seen at the aerial walkway and are slightly smaller than wood pigeons, lacking their white neck and wing markings. Stock Doves are shy birds and usually are not found where humans habituate. Keep an eye out for hobbies feeding over the lake and marsh. They spend the winter in Africa, arriving in Britain in late April and May to breed. A garden warbler was heard singing on 2nd May, with a cuckoo calling on 9th May; stopping off at the Country Park on its way to the moor.
Fewer wildfowl will be on the wing this month because now is the time that they replace all their old flight feathers. For most breeding ducks, geese and swans this moult happens when they are rearing their flightless chicks. Some ducks, coots and moorhens are still sitting on eggs. Several broods of ducklings, coot and moorhen can be seen on the lake – the first broods are now nearly fully grown. The swans’ eggs hatched on 12th May with a record 9 cygnets; one unfortunately was predated two days later however the remaining eight are growing fast. A garganey was recorded on 5th may with a pair of gadwall on the 21st. There were no sightings of common sandpipers during May which was unusual. Their long bills are used for probing in the mud beside water for worms, insects and frogs.
Bats are active at this time of year and can be seen on most evenings skimming over the lake feeding on moths and midges. They will give birth to their single young this month. Young hedgehogs are born in early June with badger and fox cubs starting to wander further afield. Roe deer young are born this month and lie hidden in the undergrowth. The summer months (May to August) is the peak time for the birth of otter cubs and the females are kept busy caring for their young families. The works to remove vegetation at the outlet bridge and request for bird food not to be put down on the ground seems to be having the desired effect in dispersing our abnormally high rat population. The buzzard at the aerial walkway has become very efficient at catching them and has given many of our wildlife photographers lovely close-up shots. Please continue to be mindful of the impact of putting substantial amounts of food around the lake whilst we are heading in the right direction in redressing the balance.
Keep an eye out for the young frogs and toads which will begin to leave the ponds and ditches in June. Newts will also be returning to land to feed after they have bred. They spend much of the day amongst the damp vegetation and under logs and stones. The red-eared and yellow-bellied terrapin were seen frequently throughout May on the log by the island. It is illegal to release terrapins into the wild as they eat ducklings, dragonfly nymphs and other native fauna.
The elder trees are just starting to flower – the flowers provide landing pads for hoverflies, wasps and beetles. Stag beetles are just one of the many types of beetle that emerge in June. Keep an eye out for glow-worms which will light up at dusk in rough grass. They tend to prefer areas where there are plenty of small snails, as this is what their larvae feed on.
Many butterflies and dragonflies are now on the wing enjoying the sunny weather. The cold wet weather during May affected many species, especially the butterflies, and some will take several years to recover. On the butterfly front the first small white and common blue were seen on 31st May. Brimstones were busy laying eggs on the alder buckthorn at the end of last month. Speckled woods should now be onto their second generation of the year.
The dragonflies are getting more noticeable. Joining the large red damselflies, the only species seen in April, are common blue, azure, and blue-tailed damselflies; and hairy, downy emerald, broad-bodied chaser, and four-spotted chaser.
School groups are now starting to book in for Ranger-led visits and it’s fantastic to be able to welcome the children back with a few adjustments to accommodate Covid restrictions. Guided walks and family events have been trialled successfully so keep an eye out for our summer events programme.