Thursday, 11 July 2019

Summer Meadows

Well as I mentioned in my last post, the small herd of cattle that we have on the reserve this summer, have been fighting a losing battle to reduce the height of the grass and other vegetation. But while that was a problem in the early breeding season because long, wet grass, not only conceals plover chicks from being counted and can keep them wet and cold, at the moment the grazing meadows look quite lovely.
Over the last couple of weeks of very warm and sunny weather, the meadows, with their grass seed heads all swaying gently in the breeze, have been a joy to see. That weather has also brought about a moderate hatch of Meadow Brown butterflies and they form so much a part of the meadow scene as they flutter across the grass tops. In the last couple of days Gatekeeper and Small Skipper butterflies have also begun to join them. Hot and dry conditions on the reserve are now starting to tighten their grip, the dirt tracks are dry and dusty and ditch levels are dropping fast.
This view across one of the grazing meadows shows the uniform, near thigh high grass levels. In mid winter these fields would be short grazed, wet and muddy.

As a result of the reduced grazing it is turning out to be a great year for wild flowers on the reserve, a few are shown below. I will post a larger selection next week.

This is Weld.

Scentless Mayweed

Great Lettuce. It grows to about four foot high and is almost identical to Prickly Lettuce, just missing the prickly stems.


Lesser Reedmace. A small, slimmer seed-head than the normal bullrush.

My annual favourite, the appearance of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars feeding on Ragwort. This year has seen the best hatch of the caterpillars for years.


  1. The ragwort would upset my dear friend who lost both her donkeys to ragwort poisoning but I believe it is the cinnabar caterpillar's only food.

  2. It is their only food Pat and the reserve has large amounts of it. That said, over 32 years of being a Vol. Warden there, not one animal has died from it. I could also show you a couple of horse paddocks here on Sheppey, that contain both ragwort and horses.

  3. Ragwort is a noxious weed here in New Zealand.

  4. I know ragwort is poisonous but it and the cinnabar caterpillars are one of my favourites too. I can understand it being eradicated from grazing land but elsewhere it does little harm.