This past summer I was fortunate to have many sunny days, something not as usual in Denmark. It was a bit dry though and not as good for nature but I have taken advantage of this unusual summer by getting out with my camera as much as the time permitted. These unusual weather periods seem to be more and more prevalent, all over the world, which makes me worry even more knowing all the warnings that scientist is trying to give us related to the global warming effects. Researching about animals or just looking at other peoples work I find, almost daily, new things that I can make or consider to reduce my negative impact on the planet and in that way making sure that it’s preserved for further generations. In the future I will want to also talk about those tips and tricks, maybe in this articles or maybe in separate ones, not sure yet, but for not let me tell you what the summer days revealed to me.
In the summer my focus is mostly on insects, reptiles, and amphibians but this is also the time when some of the mammals breed and may be easier to spot or see some of the summer birds that leave the place in the winter time. One thing that struck me even from the first summer spent in Denmark is how few days you can hear the crickets singing compared to Romania where you can enjoy them all summer long. Because it was warmer and dryer this summer they have been around more than before and I’ve also managed to take some pictures of them. For example this member of the Short-horned Grasshoppers and Locusts (Superfamily Acridoidea) allowed me to get close with my phone and macro lens for a more detailed look but even so, I wasn’t able to identify it to the species level. Their short antenna is one of the families main characteristic, another one being the tympana situated on the side of the first abdominal segment. The grasshoppers singing is called stridulating and it is produced by rubbing a row of pegs on the hind legs against the edges of the forewings. Most grasshopper species have wings but they do not fly on long distances mostly using them to glide or short distance flying.
In this period of the year, the amphibians are present mostly hiding during the day and jumping away when you get to close to them. I have just once seen another species than the two most common here in Denmark: the European Toad (Bufo bufo) and European Common Frog (Rana temporaria). These two species are similar in appearance for an untrained eye but they can be told apart by the form of the snout which is less rounded for R.temporalis and it also has smoother skin and moves by leaping.
I have found lots of young toads through the woods, hiding in the leaf litter. Check out the first photo to see if you can spot it, they have a great camouflage many times appearing to the eye only when jumping away. The European Toad defends itself against the predators by secretions produced by its parotoid glands and other glands on the skin which contains a toxin called bufagin. In some cases, this is enough to deter the predator although the grass snakes seem to be unaffected and the crows were seen to puncture the toads’ skin with the beak and remove the liver, thus avoiding the toxin.
I had the surprise to find quite many European Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) in my small planted garden and I suspect that is because I constantly water the plants and in the dry summer the frogs were attracted by the humidity. Anyway, I have enjoyed their presence since I love having a garden that is as biodiverse as possible. The one in the picture was scared by me and jumped on the rocks where I’ve taken the pictures but then I took it and put it in shade from the powerful sun. R. temporalis are semiaquatic frogs which hatch as tadpole being completely herbivorous feeding on algae and plant and become fully carnivorous as soon as their legs develop, feeding on insects, slugs, and worms. The common frog is susceptible to one of the biggest if not the biggest threat that amphibians ever facet, the parasitic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which are implicated in the extinction of many species around the world. The only hope until now is the discovery of some species that were found to adapt to this fungus after a die-off but the number of this species is very low compared to the ones that are totally susceptible.
One mammal that changes his behavior during the summer months, in the fact that becomes easier to see in broad daylight, is the Brown or European Hare (Lepus europaeus). They sometimes can be seen striking one another with their paws, habit called ‘’boxing’’, which takes place between a male and a female when the female is trying to let the male know that she is not ready for mating or just tests his determination. I personally did not see this behavior but I sure do want too, the one in the picture had also a partner and I have seen them in more than one occasion. Although it is hunted across Europe, with more than five million shot each year, and it has many natural predators, it still manages to keep the number stable by the high rate of reproduction. A female here is known to have three or four young’s in a litter and up to three litters a year.
I cannot think of summer without thinking of butterflies, these creatures that seem to emerge straight from fantasy stories and come to delight us with their beautiful shapes and colors and delicate movements. Although not brightly colored, the Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus) is still a beautiful butterfly which is common through Europe. The newly emerged ringlet is almost black with a white fringe to the wings than it becomes brown and more faded as it ages. The number and size of the eyespots are variable both underside or on the topper wing. It lives in the forest clearings and bushes and can be often found at the woodland edge ad blackberry bushes.
For the end of this article, I’ve saved a species that I have photographed at a pond and that is highly overlooked by people but very important for the ecosystem. The Water measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum) is a species of aquatic bug found across Europe that grows approximately 13mm. It has a long head and body, three pairs of legs and two long antennae that look like the fourth pair of legs. As an adult, it prays on mosquito larvae and water fleas but it also serves as pray for many other critters.
Here are some other species that I’ve photographed in the summer days: Great Tit (Parus major), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella).
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.