What to Look for in Summer


Our Ayrshire woodlands are resplendent in early summer bloom with the extensive dappled shade of the majestic horse
chestnut with its large brown sticky buds. Look for the horseshoe like markings on the branches, which gives the tree
its name. The shades of green of the many evergreen and mature broadleaved trees provide a contrast to the wealth of
colourful wildflowers such as speedwell, red campion, bugle and common dog violet. Woodland edges, clearings and meadows
are wonderful places for butterflies, with the beautifully marked peacock, red admiral, common blue and tortoiseshell,
as well as the delicate orange tip, with its small white body with bright orange tips to the wings.

Common dog-violet                     Red Campion


The light summer evenings are wonderful to explore and experience our evening wildlife. From woodlands resplendent with
the beautiful music of song thrush, mistle thrush, robin and blackbird, to our quiet moorland roads, which are surprisingly
full of life, especially around dusk. Moorland roads around Muirkirk, Barr and Dalmellington can all be especially rich in
the sights and sounds of wildlife. The melancholy calls of the curlew with its long curved bill, the eerie, whirring sound of
snipe drumming, short-eared owls quartering their territories and the piercing calls of long-eared owl chicks as they
venture towards the edge of plantations and new discoveries. Some unusual folklore believed that the long-eared owl would
wring its own neck if you were to walk round and round the bird!

A summer walk through woodland can lead to the senses being lifted by the dappled shade and shimmering light upon vast
areas of wood sorrel, covering the woodland floor like a vast green carpet. Wood sorrel is one of the plants that indicate
ancient woodland and some folk consider it the true shamrock. The delicate pinky white flowers appear in spring, which
gave rise to other names such as cuckoo-meat and cuckoo-sorrel, like many other species that flowered around the time
the first cuckoo was heard. The leaves are edible, if a little sour, resembling the taste of grape skin, the plant also
known as 'poor man's lettuce'.

Curlew (Numenius aquata)


A stroll along our country lanes and in our woodlands offers different assaults on the senses. From sweet summer birdsong
to colourful verges and the smells and textures that our found within.

The creamy coloured flowers of the tall meadowsweet are abundant around hedgerows, streams and wet areas. The plant,
which grows to a height of between 2 and 4 feet, was once referred to as mead sweet, referring to its use, together with
honey, in the making of wine and beer.

The flower heads were once scattered on the floors of churches, allowing the wonderfully rich scent to permeate the building,
a fitting aroma for a traditional summer wedding. This practice also gave rise to the name bridewort. It was once used in
relieving children's diarrhoea and to sooth and clear the eys. Meadowsweet is one of 50 ingredients of the drink 'save',
mentioned in Chaucer's 'A Knight's Tale'.