I recently returned from an expedition to the other side of the planet and found that Derbyshire’s natural world wasn’t in the same state that I left it at the end of May. One of the first things I look forward to doing when I arrive home after these trips is getting out and placing my finger back on nature’s pulse. And while the beat is still there, it’s certainly a lot slower than it was when I left. The pounding beat of spring was deafening – those cacophonous dawn choruses, parent birds racing around collecting food for nestlings and plants everywhere erupting into verdant buds and vibrant flowers. Now, the dawn remains silent but for the odd defiant burst of song, the young birds of the spring have fledged to begin their independence and the plants are turning their attention to the seeds and fruits of autumn. The pulse is slowing, but there’s still plenty of excitement out there to be discovered if you know where to look. It’s a great time to look for butterflies as they enter their final flurry of activity before the onset of the colder months. There are many different species recorded in Derbyshire and these souls of summer can be found in almost any kind of habitat. “Butterflying” is growing in popularity and many people record the species they see before sharing this valuable data to measure population trends. Go and find them dancing on paper wings in the late summer sunshine of meadows and woodland glades throughout the county. Although the birds might be a lot quieter at this time of year, many of them will be undergoing one of the biggest challenges they have to face as they start to migrate south.
The storms of screaming swifts have already left by now, blazing a path down to Africa that millions of birds will follow over the next few weeks. Bird numbers have been swelled by all the youngsters raised over the spring and if you can find a good spot, you may well be treated to a birdwatching bonanza. Now is the time to keep a keen eye on your local patch. It’s a great time of year for finding unusual species that you would never normally see as they pass through southwards. I always look forward to looking for the redstarts, stonechats and tree pipits that wouldn’t look twice at my patch in the breeding season, but are reliably seen each year on migration.
So while it may seem as if not much is going on as the lazy days of late summer plod along, there’s still plenty out there to see. Autumn will be along soon, defibrillating nature’s pulse into pandemonium as animals and plants have one last bout of revelry before winter’s return. For the minute though, enjoy this more relaxed pace. Although this may be the time of the year when nature’s beat is at its slowest, it’s still a long way from flat lining.