Summer wildlife on the Long Mynd at Carding Mill Valley

Golden ringed dragonfly up close on a branch

Summer is one of the best times of year to head to the top of the Long Mynd, with the heather in flower and the whinberries ready to eat. There're also lots of butterflies, birds and dragonflies to look out for.

Summer in bloom

July is when the whinberry crop starts to appear and in August the hilltop becomes a purple carpet of flowering heather, which gives the air a wonderful heady scent.
 
In the wet boggy areas, look out for the distinctive tufts of cotton on the cotton grass as well as the pink flowers of bog pimpernel, the yellow bog asphodel and also the two insect-eating plants, butterwort and sundew.
 
The former was used to curdle butter, presumably because it is one of the few plants to contain fat. Throughout the summer the stream sides are lined with lemon-scented fern and delicate lady fern.
 
 

Bird spotting

Most of the birds are summer visitors, arriving between mid March and early May. They leave again in or around August and September. 
 
Later in the summer, large flocks of mistle thrush move up the valleys, feeding on bilberry, but otherwise this a quiet time for birds and few are seen or heard.
 
Most are preparing for their migration, either to the lowlands and coasts or to Iberia and Africa. The adults moult and the newly-fledged young feed, hidden in the dense foliage, to build up the resources for their forthcoming ordeal.
 
 

Insects

This is the time of year when insects are most active. On warm days in early summer, common heath moths fly in good numbers amongst the heather.
 
In the evenings, fox moths and oak eggars can be seen flying rapidly over the heath. Walking through the bracken disturbs brown silver-line moths, and stripy broom moth caterpillars can be seen feeding on the fronds.
 
 

Spreading their wings

Many butterflies (including small heaths, graylings, green-veined whites and maybe even dark-green fritillaries) can be seen along the track sides, dry grassy areas and in wet flushes.
 
In August the second brood of small coppers emerge and robust tachanid flies can be seen searching for large caterpillars, such as those of the emperor moth, to parasitise.
 
On warm days throughout the summer, pools are alive with the whirring of dragonfly wings including large numbers of black darters and common hawkers.
 
Delicate brown china mark moths are often disturbed around the pools, while golden-ringed dragonflies fly lazily up and down the streams.