Nature Diary June

The combination of warmth and water in June is perfect for plant growth, and so the countryside looks lusher and greener now than at any other time of the year.

June means orchids. This is THE month for this popular family of flowers. The wide range of colours, sizes and forms make them ideal photographic subjects. While some varieties are spread nation-wide others are restricted to particular areas. Here is a selection of locations around the British Isles where orchids can be usually be found:

  • Culbin Forest in Morayshire (NH997615) Map and Glenmore Forest Park near Aviemore (NH977097), postcode PH22 1QU for pinewood orchids and creeping ladys'-tresses
  • Ythan Estuary (NK006252)postcodeAB41 6BW for orchids among the dunes, and don't forget the large group of breeding eiders on the water
  • Hawthorne Dene in Durham (NZ433457) Map for early purple, frog, bee and bird's nest orchids
  • Wye in Kent (TR077455) postcode TN25 5HX for North Down's, fragrant, pyramidal, bee and late spider orchids
  • Warburg Reserve in Oxfordshire (SU720880) postcode RG9 6BL for fourteen different species of orchid.

And while you are searching out orchids don't forget the ubiquitous grasses, there are over one hundred species in the British Isles. A grass in flower can make an excellent photographic study.

Wild goats aren't exactly the cutest of creatures but I find their expressions to be most engaging. At this time of the year they will generally have young with them, which increases their photographic potential. Getting close can be difficult and stalking them requires patience (you will know when you aren't too far away by the smell). Living wild these hardy animals can be found in North Wales, on the Cheviots, around the Lake District fells and throughout many mountainous areas in Scotland (try the Findhorn valley near Inverness). You will need to travel light to photograph these, as carrying a heavy camera outfit across a mountainside is not for the faint hearted.

This month is the peak birthing time for common seals. Despite their name they are actually much harder to find in UK waters than the grey seal. These seals seem to have their favoured spots where they congregate. Pups are born on land but are graced with the ability to swim immediately. They can usually be found around Scotland's west coast and also at the Wash in eastern England. It is the short snouts and more rounded faces that distinguish common seals from grey seals.

By keeping your eyes open it may be possible to spot nuthatch nest sites. They will use nest boxes or holes in trees and modify the entrance with mud. By building up small pieces of mud the hole size is reduced to the absolute minimum that will allow the female to enter. If you find a site, first watch from a distance and see how the female approaches. By carefully positioning a hide you should get some good photographs.

Also look out for young blue and great tits. This is the peak month for fledging, most young birds will leave their nest first thing in the morning, so it pays to set the alarm clock and get up early. There will, of course be other fledglings, around. Look for the classic telltale signs of scraps of down still visible on their pale adult feathers and remnants of a yellow gape. These young birds are far from streetwise and can sometime be very approachable. This is an ideal opportunity to build up a set of photographs that tell a life-cycle story.

Woodlands are bursting with life. Photographic subjects can be found from the top of the tree canopy down to the tree roots. Taking a macro lens and looking carefully under leaves and general detritus a multitude of insects can be found. In fact this is the top month for finding shield bugs, a group of insects that I find particularly interesting to photograph.

Twilight and plenty of insects bring spiders out from their daytime shelter. Look out for the long-legged orb spider. Try and capture it spinning a web between stems or leaves against the afterglow in the sky. It's best to look on low vegetation and in damp places.

Warm summer evenings mean moths are often active at dusk; many end up on windowsills or inside lit porches. Look early in the morning where outside lights are on all night, especially on nearby walls, tree trunks and leaf surfaces. Keep a lookout for the caterpillar's food plants, which vary between species, and you may find the adult moths nearby. Here are common examples: grey dagger, widespread in woods, resting on tree trunks; angle shades, widespread in woods, parks and gardens; burnished brass, widespread in fields, gardens and waste places.

June is the month when many butterfly species reach the peak of activity, as this is when, for many species, the first new generation takes to the wing. The actual flight period does vary from year to year. This variability is exaggerated by the oft-unpredictable June weather, but the following species should be flying somewhere at sometime during this month: dingy skipper, grizzled skipper, green hairstreak, wood white, small blue, brown argus, northern brown argus, holly blue, common blue, adonis blue, chalkhill blue, orange tip, purple emperor, pearl-bordered fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary, dark green fritillary, wall brown, large heath, brimstone, swallowtail, and don't forget the more common summer species such as peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell.

Adders can be found on dry areas of heath or moorland and can be obliging subjects to photograph. They won't hear you approaching but are hypersensitive to vibrations and smells, so tread softly and approach gently. The best places to look are on south facing slopes where they can bask in morning sunshine. Remember that they are poisonous, so use a long lens to avoid being bitten.

May  Index  July

The Locations: Where grid references are given they are based on the Ordnance Survey Landranger Grid.
You can use these references at to view a map showing the exact location.