Header photo by Gilly Cowan


It’s time to look at the moths of the month! A good suggestion from Springwatch recently was to put out a white sheet, either hung up or on the ground, and shine a light at it to lure moths over (as actual moth traps are expensive). You need to be patient as they won’t come straight away, but it’s something to try on a warmer night.

The privet hawk moth is the UK’s largest resident moth with a wing span of up to 12cm! The pink on their abdomen isn’t always bright, but it’s a good way to identify them. They come out at night - you might spot them resting vertically on fence posts and trees.

The striking elephant hawk moth actually gets its name from the caterpillar which has a long, trunk-like head. They come out at dusk but newly emerged adults can sometimes be seen during the day.

Privet hawk and elephant moth (Credit to Martin Rogers)

Privet hawk and elephant moth (Credit to Martin Rogers)

Peppered moths are famous for being an example of natural selection in action (hence the nickname Dawin’s moth). There are light and dark variants - before the industrial revolution, the light variant was well camouflaged on the ‘cleaner’ trees but during the industrial revolution, the air pollution and dust meant that it was easier for the dark variant to camouflage and it became more prevalent. When the air pollution reduced, the population of the light variant grew again - the darker ones are declining in recent years. You could be mistaken for just thinking they’re very pretty moths but they’re obviously so much more than that!

The marbled white butterflies are finally out! You can’t mistake them - they are very distinctive with their beautiful black and white pattern and often head straight for purple flowers (like thistles and field scabious). You normally spot them in grasslands but you may well see them in your garden, if you’re lucky.

Peppered moth (Credit to Martin Rogers) and marbled white butterfly

Peppered moth (Credit to Martin Rogers) and marble white butterfly

You’ll see newly hatched mullein moth caterpillars (see our header photo) munching their way through mullein (verbascum) and buddleia in your garden - their adult counterparts are well camouflaged and rarely seen, but you can’t miss these guys with their bright colouring. (Depending on whether you’re an avid gardener or an avid wildlife lover, your opinion of whether they’re a pest or not will vary!)

We've had a rare sighting of a clouded yellow butterfly (this is some old footage), which is uncommon in the Millennium Country Park - there's only ever been one or two recorded sightings. 


Excitingly we have common terns breeding on the Pillinge, in the Wetlands Nature Reserve. The video below is put together from clips from a few years ago - first of breeding adults with their young and secondly angry adults, warning Bob to back off!

You might see what feels like a lot of sparrows around but the house sparrow population has actually declined by approx. 71% since the late 70s - we need to do all we can to encourage them to breed. The video below is footage of a nesting box on a house - they’re relatively cheap and easy to install (the RSPB has a great tutorial for building a sparrow street) and could make a huge difference.

We actually have some tree sparrow boxes up in the Park from HLS some funding a few years back but we haven’t had any success so far. But we do have some good news on the swift side of things - this weekend we saw 3 swifts screaming around the Forest Centre, which potentially means they were scoping out our swift boxes for nesting, either now or next year. Watch this space!


We’ve had some more common orchid sightings in the Park (thanks to Fran Baylis for the photo below) which is great news (keep sending them in if you see them!) This is the time of year we’d be doing wildflower walks, but for obvious reasons we can’t at the moment, so instead we’ve got lots for you to look out for…

Hedge bindweed is the pretty white flower you’ll see on hedgerows with heart shaped leaves, that slowly smothers the other plants with its twining stems. Their roots can go up to 5m below ground and they can regenerate from the tiniest section of root, so they’re hard to get rid of (if you’re so inclined).

Common orchid (Credit to Fran Baylis) and hedge bindweed

Common orchid (Credit to Fran Baylis) and hedge bindweed

Bramble is obviously the pre-cursor to blackberries later in autumn, but in the meantime is a great pollinator and bird nesting habitat. We have a lot of it over on our callow mounds, next to Stewartby Lake.

Black medick is a yellow flowered plant, closely related to clover (which is also out in force at the moment, attracting lots of bees). Interestingly they often pop up in soil that has low nitrogen, but as they fix the deficiency they improve the quality of soil over time.

Borage isn’t native but has become naturalised in the UK as it grows so easily. You’ll spot it’s bright, blue flowers amongst many vegetable patches as many believe it’s a great companion plant (google gives strong arguments on both sides for this - I’m not an expert gardener so I won’t get involved!)

Bramble, black medick and borage

Bramble, black medick and borage

Yellow wort and common centaury are similar flowers, albeit different colours. They’re all over grasslands at this time of year (and sand dunes, if you happen to be near any of them anytime soon... which most of us won’t!) The flowers of both plants close up in the afternoon - you can also spot both of these plants over on our callow mounds.

common centaury and yellow wort

Common centaury and yellow wort (Credit to Michelle Newstead)

Sainfoin is not only very pretty but also resistant to lots of common pests and diseases; boosts nitrogen in soil and is drought tolerant due to its deep roots. A triple threat! White campion - our last pick of the week - is an interesting one as it’s not only perennial but it blooms at night - meaning lots of our favourite moths are attracted to it’s scent when they’re out and about.

White campion and sainfoin

White campion and sainfoin

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All bird videos credit to Bob Hook