I’m ambiguous about August. The excitement of it being the warmer part of the year – flowers! insects! – has mostly dissipated, the weather is either too hot or somewhat disappointing, and we’re moving too close to the start of the new academic year for it to be a truly relaxing time for those of us who work in the education sector. Birds are mostly midway through moult and keeping a low profile, refusing to sing. Many wildflowers have gone to seed.

On the other hand, there’s still a lot of stuff out there. I passed a thoroughly enjoyable lunch-break yesterday wandering around the wilder parts of Whiteknights Campus, focussing mainly on the meadows either side of the main lake. Most have been cut for hay already, but one still stands and is festooned with blooming wild carrot, a wonderful expanse of sneezewort, and some clumps of fleabane*. The fringes of the other meadows have been left ragged and also harbour wild carrot along with some hogweed remaining in flower. The umbellifers were jumping with common red solider beetles, also known by the less ‘family friendly’ name ‘hogweed bonking beetle’. Well, it’s usually an accurate description! The smaller meadow flowers hosted good numbers of the beetle Oedemera lurida. Many of them had what to my eye was an unusually reddish tinge on the elytra, but I couldn’t turn them into anything else.

Like our back garden, parts of the grassland near the lake seem to be suffering an invasion of white poplar saplings. From one of them I picked up a couple of iridescent Chrysolemids (leaf beetles: one a fabulous deep pink, the other dark green), a smart if gawky looking green weevil, and a leafhopper which pending further checking was I think Idiocerus ustulatus. Beetle identification to follow in an idle moment later this week.

August is not as bad as I think, really. Given the right conditions many plants will come round and flower again, even if in smaller numbers, many species of insect will remain active for as long as it’s warm, and some birds are very much on the move – this is a great time of year to catch up with migrant waders. There are plenty of species for which this is the best or only time of year to search, too: I should for example be looking for my first ever brown hairstreaks. I just have to try and remain free of late-summer malaise for long enough to get out there and enjoy it.

*Many of the plants in this particular meadow were probably introduced with seed mixes, though that doesn’t stop them being really rather nice! I’ll have to chat to one of our tame botanists to determine exactly what is ‘native’ to campus.


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