Protracted summer good news for cygnets


The summer of 2014 seems to be unwilling to give in, as yet another lovely weekend was enjoyed – only the night-time temperatures dipping to near freezing – the only indicator to the time of year.

As a result, the moth count in my weekly trapping sessions is beginning to fall, as cold nights and moths do not go together well.

Last Saturday, I set off early to have a walk round Hare Moss nature reserve between Selkirk and Ashkirk and it was an absolute joy in the morning sunshine.

The air was filled with a veritable blizzard of fluffy willowherb seeds blowing around in the stiff breeze. On the lochan a motley crew of mallards in various stages of moulting were joined by a dumpy pair of little grebes, whose amazing call echoed round the spruce-enclosed water – a tremendous din for such a small bird.

I was delighted to see that the resident pair of mute swans still had five cygnets – now as big as their parents. They should survive now, as they are past the danger period, when they can fall prey to all kinds of predators such as fox and mink. For many years a pair of swans has nested here, but until recently, the cygnets seldom survived to maturity. I don’t know what has changed, but whatever it is, it is good news for the swans.

The Michaelmas daisies in my garden are at their best just now and are absolutely covered in bumble bees and hoverflies. Butterflies, too, are visiting, but nearly always the same species – the red admiral – surely one of our most attractive late summer butterflies.

This butterfly is primarily a migrant to our shores, although sightings of individuals and immature stages in the first few months of the year, especially in the south of England, mean that this butterfly is now considered resident.

This resident population is considered to only be a small fraction of the population seen in the British Isles, which gets topped up every year with migrants arriving in May and June that originate in central Europe. Unfortunately, most individuals are unable to survive our winter, especially in the cooler regions of the British Isles.

The number of adults seen in any one year is therefore dependent on the number of migrants reaching the British Isles and numbers fluctuate as a result. In some years this butterfly can be widespread and common, in others rather local and scarce. This is widespread species and can be found anywhere in the British Isles. The distinctive red-orange band across the wing of the red admiral makes this butterfly easy to distinguish from other species. The common name Red Admiral compares this band to the chevrons on a naval uniform.