Nature Now - August

Nature Now

The schools are out and summer holidays here, giving us more time to get out and about to enjoy the nature on our doorstep – check out The Living Coast’s online ‘Explore’ map for information/inspiration on what’s around us.

The night skies this month play host to the largest meteor shower of the year in the form of the Perseids which reach a peak after midnight on the night of 12-13th August. There’s also a total solar eclipse occurring on 21st August, although you’ll have to be in the US to witness it!

The activity of both wildlife and farmers is now at its height, as animals feast on the abundant wild food and tractors are busy out in the fields. August is the month of harvest for most crops such as wheat and barley, leaving the characteristic round straw bales (used for livestock) lying on the stubble, which is swiftly ploughed back in to prepare the ground for the next autumn-sown crop.

Although the fields may now look bare and dry where crops have been grown, chalk downland continues to host a colourful display of wild flowers such as the Round-headed Rampion, known as the ‘Pride of Sussex’ with its delicate purple low-growing flowers nodding in the breeze. Less popular with landowners is the common yellow Ragwort ‘weed’, as it is poisonous to livestock but is highly attractive to the black and orange striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth – whose warning colours advise of its own toxic nature!

The Downs are also the place to go to find some of our characteristic rare blue butterflies such as the pastel-coloured Chalkhill Blue. Areas of long grass are also great places to lie back and listen to the chirping of Grasshoppers and Crickets, that ‘stridulate’ by rubbing their leg to produce their inimitable sound.

Meanwhile in hedgerows, and along roadsides and any rough ground, you can forage for wild food including abundant crops of ripe Blackberries, as well as Elderberries too.

The place to go on a hot day to cool down is of course the beach. Why not venture beyond the well-known shingle beaches of Brighton & Hove to go rock-pooling on the chalk reef that runs east of Brighton Marina along the Undercliff – an area designated as a national ‘Marine Conservation Zone’? There you can find hidden amongst the crevices Goby fish, Crabs, Sea Anemones, Snails and shellfish.

Over our heads meanwhile you will start to see flocks of birds gathering to migrate back south for the winter, now that the breeding season is at an end. Swifts, Swallows and House Martins will be tumbling across the sky feeding up before their long journey, with the Swift being the first to leave. Roving gangs of juvenile Starlings congregate over farmland and woodland searching for food. Bats too are still very active at this time of year, feeding on the abundant insect life on the wing including ‘undesirables’ such as midges and mosquitoes.
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