Summer (May-July)

SUMMER (May-July)

Here is a season by season guide to spotting different nature & wildlife on your farm.

It is just a start, we need your help to build it up – please send in your ideas and help us create a rich calendar for what is on the farm and practical notes on how to enhance it: info@farmingfornature.ie

 

View and download the Summer Guides May  June July

NOTICING NATURE – AND SOME WAYS TO HELP IT! ADDITIONAL PRACTICAL NOTES
  INTRO As the farming year unfolds, are you keeping your eye out for what wildlife appears on your farm?

What flower or bird brings you joy as the seasons change?

What can you look forward to appearing this month?

What wildlife might be on your land?

What more can you do to encourage it and enhance it?

Here is a month by month guide to help you farm for nature!

This is just a start – please help us create a rich calendar to celebrate and support farming for nature!

What have we forgotten?

Do you have any useful ‘nature hacks’ to share?
Let us know on info@farmingfornature.ie

If you have any queries why not put it in our Forum on the website and allow other farmers to answer.  See here.

MAY Hedges Crab-apple, Spindle, Guelder rose and Rowan may be flowering in hedgerows around now, but this is the month in which the Whitethorn transforms the countryside with its frothy exuberance! The flowers of the ‘sceach gheal’ (white thorn) have white a ‘musky’ fragrance. The small red berries (haws) are an important food source for wildlife: in hungrier times both leaves and haws were eaten, referred to as ‘bread and butter’. Protected by the fairies, it is said to be bad luck to damage whitethorns!
  Woods For early risers, the dawn chorus, nature’s very own orchestra, will be in full, glorious flow these mornings. At its best, the dawn chorus is surely one of the greatest things to enjoy on a nice early summer’s morning.  Birds are busy finding mates, building nests and some will already be feeding young.
  Pasture

Hedges

Bogs

Cuckoo calling is in full tilt during May ‘The Cuckoo comes in April, she sings her song in May, in June she changes her tune, and in July she flies away’. One of our most distinctive and fascinating birds, its call – declining in some areas – is a connection to what generations before us would have experienced in the countryside.
  Fields and field margins This month is a great time to see a variety of flowers emerge. Early purple orchids, twayblades or some bitter vetches may appear in the shade of a hedgerow, yellow rattle, milkworts and speedwells begin to show in unimproved grasslands, and any number of so called ‘weeds’ flower everywhere. Research is ongoing to establish the linkages between the above – and below – ground biodiversity and the positive impact on nutrient access for plants (and grassland productivity and resilience). Consider leaving areas of pasture un-topped so that the thistle, yarrow, self- heal, plantains and others can be a source of nectar and then later seeds for some bird species such as the finches. Most flowers/weeds are really great indicators of site management and soil health, such as soil compaction or soil acidity.  Weeds such as dandelion, as well as being great for pollinators, have tap roots to break up compaction and absorb nutrients from below.
  Buildings Swifts are returning to nest in old buildings, especially roof spaces. Make sure to seek advice before you undertake any changes/renovations to old buildings. Avoid renovations during the nesting season.
  Wet Ground Look out for Yellow flags (Irises), butterworts, early marsh orchids and native hogweed. Pollinators love hogweed while the beautiful butterwort is an insectivorous plant (eats insects!). Cherish your farm’s wetlands, they are amazing!
  Garden Sow Nasturtiums as a decoy for white butterflies. These colourful flowers are also edible in salads.
  Bogs The fluffy cotton grass (bog cotton) is in ‘flower’ as is the strikingly beautiful bogbean. The ‘flowers’ are in fact hairy fruits that follow the earlier brown clusters of flowers. Bogbean’s hairy petals are coloured white but tinged with pink. Its intense bitterness led to its use for brewing beer (a substitute for hops) and was also once used for curing rheumatism, coughs and colds.
  Hedges The Willow warbler, Chiff-chaff and Blackcap are back and letting everyone know about it, filling the field boundaries with noisy life. These birds that winter in Africa come back to our hedgerow trees as they flower. Lets look after them while they visit!
  Pastures

Hedges

Moths and butterflies, Bees and hoverflies will be busily abundant in any habitats with a diverse mix of species. A greater diversity of habitats, and a greater diversity of species therein, will host a richer fauna. Even the soft rush provides the food plant of day-flying moth species.
  Tillage A really nature-rich farmed habitat can be created by sowing say a hectare of wild bird cover around now. Agri-environment schemes will usually help with the costs. The crop is left un-harvested over winter providing seed sources for the birds.
  Ditches

Streams

Rivers

Listen out for Reed Buntings calling (a short “ziu”) especially along stream margins and other wet vegetation. These wetland birds have over recent years spread into farmland. Sparrow-sized, the male has a black head, white collar and a drooping moustache.
  Pasture Early varieties of Red clover are flowering. Clovers are the cornerstone of organic farming and the engine that drives productivity. In contrast to white clover, red clover has an upright growth habit and a strong deep root.  All kinds of bumblebees love their nectar, if they are allowed to flower.
  Pasture First cuts of silage are being taken Consider if you can leave a 100m by 4m uncut strip along a field margin? Or can some fields be managed for later cuts or hay? This can help provide bees and other pollinators with the continuous supply of flowers they require to forage.
  Tillage Can you spot Sparrows, Blue Tits etc. eating aphids off the crops? There are many natural predators of the ‘pests’ out there. Before spraying, see if nature is doing her job in helping you grow your crops. The common wasp is a predator of aphids; Ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs are among others that do the job as well.
  Hill Gorse (furze, whins) is in flower…. …and love is in the air (well, it flowers most of the year!). One of the most beautiful perfumes of the countryside, gorse is of great importance to spiders and songbirds and can provide shelter for stock as well as young oaks and ash. A nitrogen-fixer, it was once harvested and crushed, used to feed livestock.

JUNE Pond June is a lively time around ponds with frogs, damselflies and dragonflies emerging, in turn attracting other animals to predate them. Keep an eye out for herons visiting your pond, one of their favourite foods is the frog! Bats are also on the wing, with hedgerows and ponds favourite feeding areas.
  Bog Look out for the pin-points of colour that appear in our bogs around now – the beautiful bogbean, the fascinating sundew, the ragged robin. Bogbean leaves resemble those of the broad bean. It has stunning star-shaped, pink/white flowers fringed inside with long white hairs.  It was used to flavour beer, known by some as the ‘bog hop’!
  Pond Any sign of Pond skaters or Water boatman in your water bodies? Pond skaters ‘skate’ around on the surface of the water in ponds, lakes, ditches and slow-flowing rivers, feeding on smaller insects which they stab with their sharp mouthparts or ‘beaks’.
  Hedges The Honeysuckle or ‘woodbine’ begins to flower. You’ll often smell it before you see it! Honeysuckle is a rich source of nectar for many insects, which will keep the bird populations healthy. The elephant hawkmoth loves its nectar. Just before flowering is a good time to take cuttings and try to propagate new plants for transplanting around the farm.
  Pasture The Meadow Thistle – or bog thistle -will begin flowering now in wetter grasslands. Ireland hosts 25% of the world’s population of this elegant, non-prickly thistle which is a favourite of the larvae of the painted lady butterfly. Light grazing in early summer followed by heavier grazing in late summer will help this plant.
  Garden Leave a sunlit patch of Nettles for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Nettles are a food plant for lots of butterfly larvae (e.g. Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and more).  On farmland they provide important early cover for birds like the corncrake. Great for making soup and fertiliser too!
  Hedges As the summer rolls on, can you see Foxgloves in your hedgerows? Foxgloves – also known as ladies’ fingers – only flower every other year (biennial). Although poisonous, foxglove is important in the treatment of heart conditions.
  Hill The Skylark is best heard in early summer making its distinctive call lasting up to half an hour. The song is usually given while the bird is flying 50 to 100 metres overhead. Although hill ground is a favourite, the skylark also likes tillage fields and pastures. The nest can be destroyed by topping or mowing if not careful.
  Blanket

Bog

Our uplands are popular with walkers this time of year but suitable grazing regimes are key to their health. Too much and you expose the peat and lose carbon, as the risk of fire increases greatly. Overgrazing, poaching and erosion can reduce the ability of the hill or peatland to support wildlife – and livestock. Stocking levels may be as low as one sheep per hectare but the farmer is the best judge based on his/her experience. If feeding rings are present, move often to prevent poaching and nutrient enrichment.
  All habitats When we hear the term invasive species we tend to think of Japanese knotweed, Rhododendron and Himalayan balsam, in flower now. But there are many others… Established alien invasive species also include cotoneaster, buddleia (butterfly bush), clematis, montbretia and snowberry – find out more at www.invasivespeciesireland.ie
  Pastures and meadows This is a great month for flowering grasses and herbs in our pastures and meadows. Depending on your perspective, flowers in the grassland can be viewed as weeds or as welcome displays of biodiversity. Yellow rattle is one such plant – a semi-parasite, it weakens grasses and thus allows more space for less-competitive herbs to take hold. Less grass more flowers anyone?

JUL Hedge The fruit of Crab AppleSloe, and the different Rose species are gradually maturing at this time. Hedgerows are a hive of activity in mid-summer, from buzzing bees to darting bats to furtive field mice. The natural bounty of our hedgerows is a testament to our pollinators having done their job in spring. With so much countryside activity around now, these hedges also act as a safe space for our wildlife to shelter, travel and eat.
  Pasture In more diverse grasslands, the bluish-purple (and occasionally white) flowers of the Devil’s-Bit Scabious appear now. The story goes that Devil’s Bit Scabious received its name because the plant contained so many cures that it angered the Devil and he cut the roots short (they look blunt as if bitten off). They are also the larval foodplant of the marsh fritillary butterfly.
  Meadows Its hay cutting season for some; deciding when to cut is to strike a balance between the condition of the crop, the availability of help, the weather forecast and, ideally, nature’s needs! Delaying the cropping of hay until late July or August can make a huge difference to plant-species diversity as more plants get a chance to flower, seed and to enhance the soil seedbank.
  Wetlands Manage your wet grasslands carefully: Light grazing from here on may be worthwhile if underfoot conditions allow. While some poaching of the ground is inevitable, take care not to overdo it. Wet grasslands are important for lots of biodiversity including charismatic breeding ‘wading birds’ such as lapwing, snipe and curlew. Where drains have been used in the past, it will really help if these can be blocked or maybe even if sections could be expanded out to form linear ponds.
  Pasture Meadowsweet begins to flower in late summer near streams or in wet grasslands. Its creamy flowers look like feathers in the wind. It has a distinct strong sweet smell which attracts insects (it smells of almonds!).
  Hills Heathers are becoming increasingly prominent on hillsides as the summer progresses, to the delight of many beekeepers. On closer inspection its usually possible to distinguish different types of heather – from ‘ling’ to ‘bell heather’ to ‘cross-leaved heath’. Often growing together, these can form a spectrum of pinkish-purple colour with occasional flashes of white.
  Pastures

Woods

Another damp-loving, sweet-smelling plant that starts flowering in July is Wild Angelica. Look for its umbrella-like clusters of pink-tinged white flowers in wet grasslands and woods. A cousin of Fennel, it was used to flavour liqueurs.
  Pastures

Woods

Gardens

Summer evenings are the best time to come across Hedgehogs. Snuffling and grunting like a pig (its young are called hoglets!), the hedgehog is out and about looking for food. They can travel 1 to 2 km each night in search of food – their diet includes earthworms, beetles, spiders and slugs.
  Pastures It’s a great time to go orchid-hunting. Look out for the fragrant orchid, the pyramidal orchid, the frog orchid and helleborines such as the ‘common’ and the ‘dark-red’. While orchids aren’t known for their scent, the pyramidal orchid is said to have a faint ‘foxy’ smell and the fragrant orchid has a wonderful smell resembling that of cloves.
  Walls Have a closer look and see what your stone walls are growing – ferns like Hart’s Tongue, Wall rue or Maidenhair spleenwort, the pink flowers of Herb Robert, mosses and lichens. Walls can also provide homes for bird nests, cavity-nesting bees and our only native lizard, the Common Lizard.
  Pastures Ragwort is beginning to flower. This noxious weed (it contains alkaloids which can cause liver damage to cattle and horses) shouldn’t be mistaken with ‘Goldenrod’. The Latin name for Goldenrod is Solidago which means ‘to make whole’ and this plant was used on the skin to heal wounds.
  Pasture Keep your ears open for the shy, secretive (but noisy!) Corncrake in any old-fashioned hay meadows. Once common, this is a really rare bird now. It is hanging on in a few places (e.g. Mayo) with some farmers really working hard to give it a better future.

 

See more information here on Spring Autumn & Winter

Farming For Nature Offers Best Practice Guidelines and Actions to take on different land types here.


To investigate what native species you have or could encourage on your land
t
here are plenty of sources to help:

  • For native flowers – you can search by flowering month, colour or habitat go here
  • For native trees see here – it will give you advice on different trees go here
  • For native birds see here
  • For native butterflies see here
  • For a complete breakdown of all Irish species, the National Biodiversity Data Centre is the key source. See here.
  • Join the NBDC Farmers Wildlife Calendar Climate Tracker by recording and submitting your farmland species here.
Everywhere! Care for your soil. It is the basis of everything for your farming produce and productivity. Among the many benefits are:

Improved soil aggregate stability

Better infiltration

Crop and grassland resilience (to drought/flood)

Reduced weed pressure

Adherence to Statutory Management Requirements

Avoidance of pollution issues

 

Do not leave soil exposed or susceptible to erosion.

Avoid poaching, pinch-points, trafficking and rutting.

Nurture the soil and build humus – give back (healthy) nutrients.

Minimise tillage.

Add species diversity to your sward.

This is body of work is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine, and National Parks & Wildlife Service.

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