Close up of the pink flowers of heather

Nature's Calendar: August

House martins, hobbies and heather - take a look at just some of the wildlife you could see this August!

Three house martins gathering on a telephone line, ready to migrate

House martin

During the breeding season, each pair of house martins may have up to three broods, which remain close to the nest site after fledging. These juveniles will remain close to the nest site after taking flight, where they often continue to roost in the nest for several weeks. August is a great time to watch these wonderful birds as they gather into pre-migratory groups and prepare to follow their parents back to their wintering grounds.

A hobby, taking flight from a leafy branch into a bright blue sky

Hobby

Fast and fleeting, these kestrel-sized birds are reminiscent of a giant swift with their long, pointed wings. They are mostly easily seen over heathland and woodland where insects, one of their preferred sources of food, are most abundant. Hobbies are well known for their aerial talents and can even catch dragonflies in-flight. So far, these impressive birds have been spotted at RSPB reserves such as Arne, The Lodge, Minsmere and Lakenheath Fen.

Green woodpecker among long grass and wildflowers

Green woodpecker

The green woodpecker is the UK’s largest woodpecker, and is easy to tell apart from our two other native species thanks to its striking green colouring. They are largely ground feeders, looking for bugs and grubs to eat – they are particularly fond of ants and use their bill to break into their colonies. Look out for them in short grassland habitats, parks and gardens, and listen out for their unique ‘yaffle’ flight call.

A close up of the pink flowers of heather

Heather

Heather’s tiny flowers will begin to appear in mid-to-late August, turning bogs, heathlands and moorlands into a beautiful sea of colour. As well as being pretty, it’s also incredibly beneficial for our native wildlife. It provides a safe space for ground-nesting birds throughout the breeding season, as well as an important source of nectar for insects when it comes into bloom.

Top 5 reserves to visit this month...

Want to see heather in bloom? Why not make a trip to one of the nature reserves below this August.

And don't forget the rest of our nature reserves! 

View of the heather at Arne as the sun sets behind the horizon
Smooth snake scales

Meet the reptiles

How well do you know your snakes?

 

The UK has three native species of snake that you may encounter this summer.

The largest, and most common, is the grass snake. Grass snakes can grow up to 150cm in length with dark markings down their sides, a yellow and black ‘collar’, and are generally greenish in colour. They are can be found in a variety of habitats, but are most common in wetlands and grasslands, as well as gardens – they may even lay their eggs in garden compost heaps.

Adders, our only venomous species, are smaller in size at around 70-80cm in length. Their most distinct features are the zig-zag pattern that runs along their back and red eyes with narrow pupils, which help separate them from grass snakes. Males are generally grey in colour, whilst females tend to be a paler reddish-brown.

Smooth snakes are our smallest and rarest species of snake, and are generally only found in heathland habitats. They can look similar to adders, but their makings are usually less well-defined, and their pupils are rounded.

Grass snake basking on top of some corrugated metal
Grass snake basking in the sun
A picture of the collar and pale patches on the grass snake's neck
Grass snake with distinct collar markings
An adder snake curled up on the floor
Adder showing red eye and narrow pupil
The back of an adder snake, clearly showing its zigzag patterning
Female adder with distinct zigzag pattern
Smooth snake looking directly at the camera
Smooth snake showing round pupil
A smooth snake curled up on the ground, looking away from the camera
Smooth snake

The rest of the reptiles

 

As well as snakes, the UK has three other native species of reptile. Slow worms may look like snakes, but are actually legless lizards who can shed their tails and even blink with their eyelids! Up to 50cm in length, they are also much smaller than our native snakes, and are golden-grey all over. They can also be found in a variety of habitats, from mature gardens and grasslands to heathland and woodland edges.

The UK is also home to common lizards and sand lizards. Common lizards are the most abundant of the two, and can be found in heathlands, moorlands, woodlands and grasslands – so look out for them basking on a sunny rock or tree stump! Sand lizards are unfortunately restricted to heathlands and sandy habitats in the South of England, Wales and Lancashire.

 

Did you know? All six of our native reptiles can be seen at our Arne nature reserve.

A slow worm sticking its tongue out
Slow worm
A common lizard perched on a tree
Common lizard
A sand lizard sitting on a sand dune
Sand lizard