Silchester Wildlife Diary: August Highlights

Heather on Silchester Common

July and August are the richest months of the whole year in terms of the sheer number and variety of different animals and flowers flourishing in and around Silchester. It’s hard to pick just one or two to focus on but this month I think the Common itself and the bell heather that grows there deserve a special mention.

August is the month when the heather comes into bloom and the Common becomes a sea of pink and purple. A lot of work has been done on the Common in recent times by the Common’s Work Parties as the gorse and the silver birch were beginning to dominate. Hopefully, we will start to see this conservation work paying off this summer with the heather beginning to recolonise to the extent shown in this old photo of Silchester Common.

The majority of the heather on the Common is bell heather. This kind of heather particularly likes acidic, dry, well-drained soils – which is a perfect description of the Common. The dark purple-pink, bell-shaped flowers appear between July and September, carpeting the Common and bringing it to life with the buzzing of nectar-loving bees and insects.

 

Emperor Dragonfly

I think August also deserves a special mention for the many dragonflies that quarter backwards and forwards on the Common and Pamber Forest. These can be quite large and impressive insects. My favourites are:

The Emperor Dragonfly which is the UK’s largest species of dragonfly. The males are blue and the females green and these can often be seen hunting on or around the many ponds that can be found on the Common. They are strong fliers and superb hunters. These dragonflies rarely come to rest and you are lucky to get more than a fleeting glimpse of one as it passes.

 

Broad-Bodied Chaser

My other favourite is the Broad-Bodied Chaser (or Libellulum). Again the males are blue and the females are green. These dragonflies tend to be much closer to ponds and will often repeatedly come back to the same perch to keep a watchful eye for their pray. If ever you get the chance to watch one of these Chasers close up you will see that their broad, flat body gently pulsates, almost like the insect is breathing.

I hope you get a chance to see one of these amazing insects that can stretch their lineage right back to the time of the dinosaurs.