Time and Tides - August, 2021
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
In August most people head for the coast, so I’d head inland and wander through heaths, moors and meadows to find wildlife buzzing with bumblebees, damselflies, butterflies, amphibians and reptiles.
Whether in your garden, by the sea, or in the woods, there’s one plant you can’t avoid this month: the stinging nettle. Far from just stingers, they have a score of functions. Nettle fibres can be made into textiles, their roots and leaves providing a yellow and green dye, and when cooked they taste like spinach. Used in folk medicine for centuries, scientists are still studying the common nettle’s curative properties. It’s also food for butterflies such as the peacock and the small tortoiseshell. If you have to mow them down (boo!), add the shearings to your compost heap, so their mineral content can help accelerate the growth of other plants.
September is a quiet month as waders, flycatchers and warblers have already started migrating for Africa, though whitethroat and blackcap are still foraging in brambles before their flight south. The comma, red admiral and speckled wood butterfly visit gardens, while children head off in search of conkers. Aside from traditional games you can paint conkers, use them to teach basic arithmetic, spoonrace them, make jewellery or a puppet family. And if you place conkers around the house on windowsills, they’re thought to fend off September’s spiders.
Positive Ecological News
Sea eagles spied over Loch Lomond Extinct in the UK a century ago, two sea eagles were seen seeking a nest at Loch Lomond nature reserve in early March.
Two Javan Rhino calves spotted
Indonesia has announced sightings of two new Javan Rhino calves in Ujung Kulon National Park, the main habitat of this critically endangered species, bringing the total number worldwide to 73.
The world’s fastest bird breeds near Copenhagen
Peregrine falcons can nosedive after prey at speeds of over 300 km/h. Rare in Denmark, there was excitement when, for the first time in a century, a pair of chicks hatched – on top of a chimney at the incineration plant of Vestforbrænding in Glostrup.
Dwarf pansy reappears in the Scillies
The dwarf pansy (viola kitaibeliana), smaller than the top of a pencil, has reappeared in the Scilly Isles after a long absence. Other endangered endemic species found in the nurturing climate of the Scillies include the lesser whitetoothed shrew, orange birds-foot and gilt-edged lichen.
Get out the telescope on 2 August when Saturn approaches Earth, fully illuminated by the sun, as you can observe its rings and moons throughout the night. On 12 August the Perseid meteor shower produces 60 meteors an hour – look about 40 degrees NE at midnight; the shower continues next night too. There’ll be a Blue Moon on 22 August, which occurs once every three years, (hence the saying, “once in a blue moon”). On 14 September the blue planet Neptune will be at its closest to Earth and visible all night via telescope. The annual Harvest Moon on 20 September occurs closest to the equinox, bringing equal daylight throughout the world. It marks the first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.