Though bird song is now dropping down to a minimum, there are still plenty of birds to look out for in July (and help boost your #My200BirdYear tally) They are just too busy doing other things to waste time and energy singing. While most of our breeders will have young families, the first returning juveniles of Arctic-breeding waders will be coming back south and passing through. Seabird colonies will still be busy and there are more than enough birds out there to keep any birder entertained.
Black Guillemot (ABOVE)
Arguably our most beautiful seabird (though Puffins would also have a case, and Razorbills and Gannets are not exactly ugly!). It is just that a combination of jet black plumage, striking white wing ovals and red feet and inner mouth is hard to beat! Black Guillemots don’t nest on cliffs like Guillemots, but among boulders, lower down. They are largely birds of the north and west coasts, with highest numbers on Shetland and Orkney.
In July, Scotland, including the western and northern islands, is the place to look for this most exquisite of waterbirds. The Black-throated Diver may have the more exotic pattern, but the subtle dark red throat contrasting with the soft, smooth matt grey of the head neck, and the filigree of the back of the head and that red eye, give the Red-throated a unique beauty. They breed beside lochs and, even surprisingly small freshwater lochans, and can be seen either there or flying back and forth from the sea to bring fish back for youngsters.
Although there is a tiny breeding population (of fewer than 30 pairs in Scotland), the small, elegant Wood Sandpiper is mainly a (scarce) passage bird in the UK. There is a first wave through in May, and then the first retuning birds start to return in July. Primarily a freshwater species, Wood Sandpipers are often very shy and flighty, revealing the small square rump, pale underwings (compared to the very dark underwings of the somewhat similar, but much more black-and-white and chunky Green Sandpiper).
Great Crested Grebe babies
Great Crested Grebes are ubiquitous resident birds across England and Wales, much of Ireland and southern Scotland (also breeding in north-west Scotland). Their youngsters are among the most delightful of any British bird, having black-and-white stripy heads like little swimming humbugs. This month is a good time to look out for them, though their squeaky begging calls will probably grab your attention first.
One of the latest arriving summer migrants, the increasingly scarce Spotted Flycatcher will have been in the breeding swing for the last month or more, benefiting from the glut of midsummer flying insects. Though hardly the most brightly coloured birds (the adults are not even spotted), they have an elegance and grace that lifts them, especially when performing aerial sallies and snapping up flying insects, before returning to the original perch. Spotted Flycatchers are birds of mature, open woodlands and mature gardens, as well as cemeteries.