Wildlife to look for in August

Look out for these species in your garden, local green spaces and on your walks this month
Chiltern gentian

Gentians

The purple haze of gentians in late summer adds a splash of colour to what can otherwise be a brown and parched landscape at this time of year.

Find out how to tell the difference between Chiltern gentians and the more common autumn gentians with our infographic

Heather

Heather

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.

Great heathland reserves to visit to see swathes of pinks and purples include Greenham CommonSnelsmore Common and Wildmoor Heath.

Adonis blue

Blue butterflies

August is a good month to see many of our blue butterflies flying. Some, like the Adonis blue above, are only found in particular habitats, while others like the holly blue may be seen in your garden. Also look out for common blues and chalkhill blues.

There's still time to take part in the Big Butterfly Count. Simply record the species you see over 15 minutes before Sunday 9 August and add your counts to their website. Butterflies are important indicator species, showing how 'healthy' the environment is so all records are really useful for research.

Swallows

Swallows and martins

Look out for swallows and martins gathering in large flocks this month before they return to Africa for the winter. They'll often perch in large numbers on telegraph wires, which makes a wonderful sight.  

Tell the difference between swifts, swallows and martins

Hazelnuts, sloes, elderberries and hawthorn berries CC

Nuts and berries

As summer progresses the hedgerows are laden with ripening nuts and berries. Look out for hazelnuts, elderberries, sloes, haws and rose hips.

If you do a spot of foraging, remember to leave plenty for the wildlife that relies on these to see them through the autumn and winter.

Devil's bit scabious

Devil's bit scabious by Amy Lewis

Devil's-bit scabious

The pincushion-like, lilac-blue flower heads of Devil's-bit scabious attract a wide variety of butterflies and bees. Look for this pretty plant in damp meadows and marshes, and on riverbanks. 

Its common name arises from the fact that its roots look truncated, as if bitten off, legend has it, by the Devil.

Six-spot burnet moth

Six-spot burnet moth by Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

Six-spot burnet moth

The six-spot burnet moth is a day-flying moth that flies with a slow, fluttering pattern. Look for it alighting on knapweeds and thistles in grassy places. It is glossy black, with six red spots on each forewing. The red spots of burnet moths indicate to predators that they are poisonous: they release hydrogen cyanide when attacked.

Look out for these other day-flying moths.

Migrant hawker

Migrant hawker

The migrant hawker is a dragonfly that may be seen feeding in large groups. It flies late into autumn and can be seen in gardens, grasslands and woodlands. 

During the late summer, large numbers of migrant hawkers arrive from the continent boosting the resident population so keep an eye out for these this month.

What's the difference between dragonflies and damselflies?

Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper butterfly on oxeye daisies by Amy Lewis

Gatekeeper

The gatekeeper butterfly is on the wing in summer. Look out for the large, distinctive eyespot with two 'pupils' on each forewing. 

It is a butterfly of grassland, hedgerows and woodland edges and can be seen feeding on wild marjoram, bramble and ragworts.

Ragwort

Ragwort

Common ragwort is one of the most frequently visited flowers by butterflies in the UK and more than 200 species of invertebrate have been recorded on it. Look out for the yellow and black striped caterpillars of the cinnabar moth caterpillar eating its leaves.

Renowned as a weed of paddocks and pastures, where it can be harmful to livestock, it is not usually such an issue in gardens or on waste ground. Common ragwort is a biennial, flowering in its second year from June to November.

Plants in pots
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