Downs diary

June

One of the highlights of this month is the peregrine chicks leaving the nest. Around this time of the year you can witness their acrobatics in the air as they get to know their wings, with food passes from their parents and eventually successfully catching prey by themselves. Sometimes juvenile peregrines can be seen practising by stooping towards crows and rooks on the grass near Seawalls. This month is definitely the best time of the year to witness these beautiful birds in action. The Bristol Ornithological Club are running a peregrine watch weekend on 22nd and 23rd June. Pop along to the Peregrine Watch Point (just off Circular Road on the Downs) to take a look.

The 6-spot burnet moth is a day flying moth that is often mistaken for a butterfly due to its bright red spots and under wings. The forewings are dark metallic green with six vivid red spots (sometimes the spots are merged causing possible confusion with other species such as the 5-spot burnet). These moths can be found feeding on flowers like scabious or knapweed and are incredibly fast flyers. When walking through the meadows you might see other moths fly away that chose the grass as their resting place during the day. Butterflies you’ll see in June include the gatekeeper, common blue, marbled white and meadow brown.

 

The other highlight this month will be our glorious meadows with their wide variety of wildflowers, butterflies and other invertebrates. These limestone grassland meadows are packed full of wildflowers, including white-petalled, dazzling oxeye daisies, vanilla-scented dropwort and delicate fairy flax. Yellow flowers include dandelion-like goat’s-beard, buttercup, yellow rattle, cats-ear and the yellow and red-petalled bird’s-foot-trefoil.  Betony, red clover, and common centaury add a splash of pink. The bird’s-foot-trefoil has inspired people so much that it has collected over 70 nicknames, one of the most popular one being ‘eggs and bacon’. It is an important foodplant for common blue butterfly and 6-spot burnet moth caterpillars. Nothing is better than a long stroll through the meadows on a warm, sunny day enjoying all the wonderful flora and fauna this site offers.

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Photographs © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project, Denice Stout, Emma Davis.