Last year, one of the things that gave me hope during lockdown was the discovery of a clutch of 8 baby coots – cootlets, I’m told they are called – being shepherded around a pond by their parents. We all love seeing ducklings, but last year the lockdown gave me more time at home and I was able to watch them regularly, and follow their progress as they grew to adulthood. On each visit I counted carefully, checking to see all were still doing well. Born with bright red heads, which seemed to me to make them more likely to fall victim to predators, I watched as it gradually faded to grey, and they took on a more teenage plumage, before finally becoming adults. I am pleased to say a new clutch has just been seen, so the whole cycle will repeat this year. I will be there with my binoculars.

Coots appear to be very careful with their young, keeping them together, feeding them when they are very small, and making loud aggressive noises to any other waterfowl that come near. There is also a clutch of tufted ducklings to observe this year. And of course, the ubiquitous Canada geese are there. They seem to share parenting, so that a large gang of young geese are overseen by a  few adults, while the other adults take a break. Unlike the ducks, they also leave more of a mess on the grass.

July is also a good time to view butterflies and moths, and some plants, particularly buddleia, tend to attract them and so are good places to watch for them. It takes patience and stillness to get a good photo!

Like the ducklings, the calves, out now grazing fields with their mothers, will grow. Our mob grazing cattle are now part of a research project, so as you are out walking, you may see some livestock grazing as a mob, moving onto longer fresh grass each day, and alongside them, others enjoying a larger area, without the area being subdivided into smaller grazing areas. The researchers aim to compare mob grazing with traditional grazing, and in particular discover what is happening to the soil (eg worm counts), the biodiversity of the grassland, as well as how the livestock fare on each type of grazing (eg weight gain).

Towards the end of July farmers will be looking carefully at the matured crops, and the weather forecast, and trying to decide when to harvest.  Oil seed rape and barley are first. Oats or winter wheat follow. Most harvesting is done in August.

Frances Harris