Eight things to spot in a summer meadow
Our meadows are home to a rich tapestry of wildlife. But as a nation, we’ve lost 97 per cent of wildflower meadows since the 1930s. Our specialist butterfly volunteer and former nature expert, Matthew Oates, shares eight wonderful things to look out for in a meadow. We've also got a guide to help you identify wild flowers.
1. A courting couple
Every year is a new summer of love for Britain’s insects. One quintessential meadowland discovery to spot is two mating insects perched on a leaf and locked together in a long embrace.
2. Common spotted orchid
This delicate wild flower spreads in drifts across meadowland. Common spotted orchids are usually no more than 15 cm high. The most common colours are whites and pinks. Crouch down and take a closer look at their beautiful ‘blotchy’ leaves.
3. Marbled White butterfly
This relatively common butterfly is unmistakable. Its striking black and white mosaic patterned wings clearly distinguish it from other species. It can be found in quite large colonies across western Britain.
4. Meadow Brown butterfly
This is the archetypal meadowland butterfly and is often seen in large groups. Its wings are a dull, orangey brown colour with a black ‘eyespot’ on the wingtips. Interestingly, it even flies on gloomier days when other butterflies don’t.
5. Meadow Grasshopper and Common Green Grasshopper
A walk through English grasslands on a warm day is often accompanied by the chirrup of a grasshopper. Follow the sound and you might find a Meadow Grasshopper hanging from a stalk. But you’ll need to look more carefully for its silent cousin, the Common Green. Both come in various colours.
6. Burnet moths
You can find several different species of these day-flying moths in our meadows. They are all a vivid red and black colour with narrow wings and fat bodies.
7. Greater Knapweed
A slightly rarer cousin of the Common Knapweed. It has even taller, purple-pink flowers. Also very popular with many species of butterfly.
8. Common Knapweed
This common meadowland plant has an almost thistle-like, purple-pink flower. It is a favourite of many different butterflies including the Marbled White and Meadow Brown.