July and August are typically the months we spend most time in the garden. You'd think that would make it a great time for birdwatching. However, when you're sitting out in the garden soaking up some sun, you may find yourself wondering- where have all the birds gone?
From mid-summer onwards, most bird species undergo their annual moult. With the breeding season behind them, they'll be putting all their energy into growing in their new feathers so they are fully equipped for the colder weather come autumn. This process takes an enormous amount of energy, which means they are less active as a result. Many birds that would normally be pretty active will instead be found lurking at the bottom of bushes and hedgerows, saving up their energy. Summertime also means that soil is generally harder and drier, so species who feed on worms won't visit your garden so often.
But while garden birdwatching may be off the agenda in July, it's a great time to get out into the countryside- and not just because of the nice weather. With crops ripe for harvesting and berries growing plump, lots of bird species will head for rural areas.
Turnstones are a common site on rocky beaches in winter months, before they depart for the Arctic in spring to breed. They start returning to our shores around July- but not as you might know them! While winter turnstones typically look a bit washed-out, they still have their breeding plumage when they make it back to Britain. This is a lot more colourful, with rich orange-brown markings along their backs and a bright white crown. As coastal birds, they're naturally only found around the shoreline- so keep an eye out for one next time you're at the beach!
It's hard to miss the bullfinch, as males have a brilliant pinkish-orange breast. In flight, their white rump is probably the most noticeable thing about them. They're found pretty much all over Britain, and since their breeding season is a little later than many other species, are still active in July. They are usually found in woodland, although they are sometimes found around scrubland and even in gardens if there is enough vegetation for them to nest away snugly in. While they are fairly shy birds, the good news is that they're found all over the UK- so there's no excuse not to get them ticked off your birding list this month!
Okay, strictly speaking, this isn't a bird. However, it takes its name from not just one, but two of them- and it's the closest you'll get to seeing a hummingbird in the wild here in the UK. Hummingbird hawk-moths migrate to the UK from Mediterranean countries each summer. The precise number varies by quite a large amount each year. Sometimes there are lots, and sometimes there are very few. In previous years, they've been spotted all across Britain, even making it as far north as the Scottish islands, but again, their location in any given year depends on just how many make it over here.