June 21 is the summer solstice when we have the longest day with the sun rising earliest and setting latest. This is sometimes called mid-summer day though it’s not really the middle of summer at all!
For wildlife watchers this is when insect life is most abundant and the best time to get to know moths, dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, bugs and all our other amazing minibeasts. Summer is also a great time to get to the seashore and if you do then don’t forget to go rockpooling or investigate the strandline to see what wild treasures the tide has washed up. Every August The Wildlife Trusts run National Marine Week, with hundreds of events taking place around the UK - from rockpool rambles to shark spotting!
Small tortoiseshells, red admirals, peacocks, painted ladies, commas, speckled woods, large whites, green-veined whites, and small whites: and these are just the butterflies you may have visiting your garden! Visit other habitats and you will discover some of our rarer butterflies too.
June, July and August are when poppies flower and the sight of a whole field bright red with poppies is one of our great summer spectacles. You will also find common poppies in flower along road verges, field edges and even in towns and cities where building work has disturbed the soil. These flowers are unmistakeable and never fail to warm the heart!
Gorse and heather in flower
Heathland and moorland in August turns purple with heather in full flower: a late summer spectacle and not to be missed. You will also find the yellow flowers of spiny gorse – on hot summer days the flowers smell like coconut and you can hear the gorse seed heads popping.
The fluttering of bats
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? On summer evenings bats are at their most active! Look for them just after sunset in woodlands, parks and larger gardens. It’s difficult to identify different species without using special bat detectors which detect the sounds they make. Pipistrelles are the commonest of the small bats and and brown long-eared the most widely distributed large bat.
The twittering of fledglings!
Many fledglings (young birds) look different from their parents; for example young robins are brown with speckled breasts. Look for fledgling birds in early summer and see if you can recognise them. If you watch carefully from a distance you may see the parent birds feeding them.
Some young birds may leave the nest before they can fly properly – if you find one don’t try to pick it up or even worse take it home as its parents will be nearby! Look on a local lake or river for ducklings, goslings and cygnets. These young birds have to find their own food but their parents stay close and will brood them in cold or wet weather. You may even see young cygnets taking a rest by having a ride on their parent’s back. Great crested grebes also frequently carry their young in this way.
Visit the seashore
Everybody likes a trip to the seaside! Exploring rock pools, beach combing, watching terns fishing, visiting a seal colony, even looking for whales and dolphins: the coast can offer a huge range of wildlife spectacles. All that and if it’s hot you can paddle to cool off!
Join a moth event
Many local Wildlife Trusts run moth trapping events where you can learn about moths. If you can’t get to an event then study the moths in your own garden! You can even try painting a mixture of treacle, sugar and beer onto tree trunks as moths will be attracted to feed on the mixture. Putting a bright torch behind a white sheet at night is another simple way to attract moths. Our downloadable activity sheets below can help!
Learn to identify trees by their leaves
As you must have noticed, every tree has a different leaf shape! Removing single leaves from a tree won’t damage the tree and you can press and label these to keep a record of your finds. Our spotting sheet below will help you to identify trees!
Go pond-dipping and discover underwater life!
Go along to a Wildlife Trust-run family pond-dipping events on reserves where you can learn with an expert. You may find dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, water scorpions, water beetles, leeches and a huge diversity of amazing underwater residents. Ponds will never seem the same when you know how much wildlife depends on them!
Visit a meadow
Did you know thatmore than 95% of traditional flower-rich grassland has been destroyed since 1945? Your local Wildlife Trust may well be protecting some of the meadowland habitat which is left. Try visiting a meadow nature reserve in early summer – June is a great month for meadows – and you may discover amazing orchids, fantastic flowers plus butterflies, grasshoppers and crickets.
From rock-pooling to wildlife gardening, there's so much to try out over summer. Don't miss anything!