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Our top 10 wildlife sightings in August

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Sunday 29th July 2018 by bbowtblog

Wild thyme by Philip Precey, dodder by Bernd Haynold and heather by Rob ApplebyWild thyme by Philip Precey, dodder by Bernd Haynold and heather by Rob Appleby

Despite the dry summer, heathland and chalk grassland is awash with pinks and purples from August's wild flowers. Find out which plant species and other wildlife to look for this month across our nature reserves.

1 Common dodder

common dodder

Common dodder is a strange plant. It has no leaves, only pink thread-like stems and dense heads of white and pink flowers. It grows in long, tangled masses, creeping up and over heathers, gorse, or other members of the pea family. As it has no leaves it can’t produce its own food, instead it is parasitic, using nutrients from the plants it grows around. Look for it at Greenham Common and Inkpen Common where it grows on the heathland, or on the chalky slopes of Hartslock.

2 Gentians


The purple haze of gentians in late summer adds a splash of colour to a brown and parched landscape at this time of year. The first ones were spotted blooming at Dancersend in late July this year. Find out how to tell the difference between Chiltern gentians and the more common autumn gentians with our infographic

3 Gorse


You can find gorse in bloom throughout much of the year, providing valuable nectar (and welcome colour) when few other plants are in flower, but in summer the only seed pods remain. On a sunny day listen for a popping sound coming from gorse bushes – this is the dry pods bursting apart in order to catapult seed away from the parent bush . Look out for Dartford warblers and stonechats perched on top of gorse bushes in heathland reserves such as Greenham Common and Wildmoor Heath.

4 Heather

heather species

There are three species of heather to look out for: heather or ‘ling’, bell heather and cross-leaved heath.
Heather is the classic heathland plant that turns heathland shades of purple and pink in August and September.
Bell heather has vibrant purple bell-shaped flowers and grows on drier parts of heathland.
Cross-leaved heath grows on wetter, boggier areas of heathland, where the soil is more acidic. The greyish-green leaves grow in groups of four, in a cross-shape, up the stem and the pale pink flowers form a cluster at the top of each stem.

5 Wild marjoram

wild marjoram

In summer, chalk grassland is filled with the aroma of wild herbs, including wild marjoram. This is the same species that grows in Mediterranean areas, but our wetter climate gives it a different aroma. It’s an excellent source of nectar and pollen for all sorts of insects including bees and butterflies. Look out for wild basil and thyme too.

6 Large thyme

wild thyme

Large thyme is a low-growing, aromatic plant that often forms large mats on chalk grassland. In summer, the pinky-purple flowers attract a wide variety of insects. 

7 Adonis blue

Adonis blue

Visit chalk grassland reserves, such as Yoesden or Hartslock, during August to spot a flash of electric blue from the male Adonis blue butterfly. These butterflies fly between mid-May and mid-June and again from early August until mid-September as they have two broods each year. The caterpillars have an interesting relationship with ants, which are attracted by a sweet secretion, and even a “Siren’s song” produced by the caterpillar. In return the caterpillar is tended and guarded by the ants helping it evade potential predators . 

8 Bog asphodel

bog asphodel

As the name suggests bog asphodel grows in damp, boggy areas and can be seen at heathland reserves including Inkpen Common and Snelsmore Common. The tall spikes of yellow flowers bloom in summer. 

9 Painted lady butterflies

painted lady butterfly

Painted lady butterflies don’t spend the winter in Britain, instead they migrate here from northern Africa and the southern Europe. In some years they arrive in huge numbers. The adults come here in spring and lay their eggs on plants including nettles, mallows and thistles. The caterpillars grow and pupate, emerging as adults in August and September. They can be seen almost anywhere so look out for them on nectar-rich garden flowers.

The run of warm southerly air might also bring other beautiful migrant butterflies, such as the clouded yellow or even the glorious Quen of Spain fritillary. Look out for these and let us know if you see them! 

10 Gadwall

gadwall pair

Take a close look at ducks which look like female mallards, they might just be gadwalls instead. Gadwalls look quite similar to female mallards but are a little smaller, they have a pure white patch (speculum) near the back of the body, where a mallard would have a blue one, and the males have black rumps and bills. Once common gadwalls are a declining species, look out for them at Hosehill Lake and Thatcham Reedbeds

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this month.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

Going to the coast on holiday? Why not take our coastal wildilfe spotting sheet. Click on the image to download it and print at home.

coastal wildlife spotter sheet

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