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finds small mammals like voles and shrews at peak numbers. Barn owls take advantage, hunting tirelessly to feed themselves and their growing chicks. They find their prey in rough grassland and these days rely heavily on roadside verges: as a result many are killed by vehicles. Tollesbury Wick or Blue House Farm are good places to see them.

Generally, this is a quiet month for birds. Summer visitors are preparing to fly south to their wintering grounds, feasting on the wealth of insects or on berries on rowan or elder trees. Before they leave they moult, replacing worn-out feathers with a new set fit for the long journey ahead. For safety while they are flightless, swans and ducks congregate on large water bodies such as Abberton and Hanningfield Reservoirs.

The blackberry harvest feeds small mammals and foxes as well as birds, while leaking juice attracts peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell butterflies.

On uncut grasslands, burnet moths emerge from their papery cocoons. Their bright colours are a warning that they are poisonous, so they can fly safely by day. Large numbers of bumblebees collect nectar from flowers like knapweed, the young queens that will found new colonies next year mixing with the workers that helped to raise them this year. Young bush-crickets are reaching maturity. They are larger than grasshoppers and predominantly nocturnal, so their calls are lower-pitched and continue through the night. Try Langdon, Maldon Wick or Stow Maries Halt for an insect spectacular.

Essex has lost most of its heathland, but the fragments that remain – for example in the Backwarden or Heather Hills – are a sea of colour this month, as heathers and gorse come into flower.

Photo © David Harrison

On the saltmarsh, as at Abbotts Hall, glasswort – also known as marsh samphire – comes into flower.

Later in the month the first fungi appear, showing that autumn is only just around the corner. What we see above ground is in fact only the fruiting part of the organism. Most of it, known as the mycelium, consists of slender threads underground or in rotting material such as wood or leaves. Puff-balls, stinkhorns and parasol mushrooms are usually among the first to appear.