MAIN MENU (leading to individual articles):
AMPHIBIANS   |   BIRDS  |  BUTTERFLIIES  |  MOTHS  | DRAGONFLIES  |  OTHER INSECTS
MAMMALS   |  PLANTS  |  ORCHIDS   |  LICHENS  |  FUNGI
 |  WHAT TO SEE MONTH BY MONTH  
FURNESS  |  BIRKRIGG COMMON  |  CONTACT DETAILS  |  HOME


AUGUST IN CUMBRIA

As the bird breeding season draws to a close, now is the time to catch sight of many species as they gather together again in small flocks. The two broods of Tree Sparrow stay together as tight knit groups into the autumn, whilst several families of Goldfinch join together as a "charm" in search of thistle patches. Family parties of Linnets also gather to roam farmland in quite large flocks.

With the arrival of August birds of the moors and dales leave for the coast - Dunlin, Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plover. The constant calling between young and adult can be heard at this time on a warm still night. This can be a good time to spot game birds, often with young. The native Grey Partridge has a scattered distribution around the county and the more gaudy but introduced Red-legged Partridge (photo) is increasingly reported. Towards the end of the month, Kingfisher move downstream and are often spotted around the Leven and Kent estuaries and the lower Eden Valley. Similarly Merlin move to the saltmarshes and August into September is the time for seeing them here. Late July sees the start of autumn migration of many species including Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Greenshank, Godwits and Little Ringed Plover, principally turning up along the coast but sometimes at inland water. On the other hand Swifts will have gathered and left the region, probably by mid-August. As we progress towards September mixed flocks of sparrows and finches gather to feed in safety of numbers.

In butterflies, Arnside Knott and Smardale are the places to find thousands of Scotch Argus during August. Usually around the second week of the month the Holly Blue has its second Graylingappearance of the year. Around the coast, especially between Walney and Ravenglass, the dry stony shores are home to Grayling; the limestone around Whitbarrow also suits this species well. It's worth watching our for its its graceful courtship display. After much opening and closing of wings, the male bows before the female and clasps her antennae between his wings, drawing them over his scent glands and making her receptive to mating. This is about the only time one can get a good look at the gorgeous upperside of the wings, as at all other times both male and female immediately fold their wings on alighting. This is a species that has declined markedly but where it still occurs (such as on sand dunes and old slag banks) its numbers may be quite high. In the garden the appearance of flowers on buddleia at the end of July and throughout August attracts specimens of freshly emerged species like Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock, and Red Admiral, and occasional visits from other species depending on the nature of the surrounding habitat of the garden. By mid-month Gatekeepers will be coming to an end. By September, however, Red Admirals will have started their southwards movement (see "Red Admiral" on the Insects menu).

An interesting moth activity this month would be to search for signs of Puss Moth larvae on new suckers of Goat Willow (see "Kitten" on the Moths menu) and for Elephant Hawk-moth larvae on Willowherb.

Around reed beds look out for the Water Ladybird (see "Ladybirds" on the Insects menu), and please report any sightings.

August is the best month for Hawker dragonflies (see "Dragonflies" on the Insects menu). The current popularity of garden ponds means that these turn up regularly in gardens, especially the inquisitive Southern Hawker (one of which put in an appearance in my greenhouse on one occasion). Migrant Hawker emerges at the beginning of August if it has bred in the county. Around boggy moorland the Black Darter will be present throughout August and into September. Newly emerged males are likely to appear yellow, however.

As summer comes to an end, many flowers have a late second flush, but some specialities of the area are at their best in August. On Arnside Knott the southern slope is covered in a good year with gentians. The more common Felwort or Autumn Gentian is usually pale in colour (pink/lilac), but the scarcer and declining Field Gentian is typically deeper and more blue in colour - to distinguish the two species check the calyx, which on Field Gentian is divided into two large outer lobes overlapping two smaller inner lobes. Felwort occurs quite widely in Cumbria around the head of Morecambe bay and on the limestone and sandstone of the Pennines; Field Gentian is much less common and restricted to short limestone turf and one or two dune systems. In amongst the tall herbs of any fens by tarns and rivers look out for Gypsywort - but be warned its sap will stain your fingers black. Another "wort", this time of the saltmarshes of the Solway and Morecambe Bay, "flowers" this month. Glasswort has little more than a reddish tinge when flowering, with tiny yellow stamens poking out of hollows along the stem. On Walney, and around Ravensglass and Maryport, two members of the borage family (both scarce in the county) are worth seeking out during August. Hound's-tongue and Viper's Bugloss were once used respectively to treat bites from mad dogs and snakes, but neither is recommended now!