The Wildlife Garden in July

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The weather was variable at the start of July with a very cool and damp feel on the 1st of the month. Luckily the weather grew warmer as the week progressed and the last few days were quite warm! There were lots of young birds around the garden especially tits, with great tits anting under the climbing rose in the back garden. There were several ringlet butterflies around the meadows – certainly more than we have had for several years here, plus meadow browns were also plentiful.  It was so nice to see these meadow species dancing over the long grasses and wildflowers.  Other insects were also plentiful with lots of bumblebees feeding and a couple of scarlet tiger moths around the vegetable patch.  As the week progressed we began to see swifts feeding over the garden and the small field next door.  This is a relatively unusual bird for us to see here but as the week progressed more appeared every day until a maximum of about 50 were counted. They were joined by house martins and swallows and we enjoyed this spectacle every day with swift numbers building up to still further.  Our own swallows continued to feed their young in the nest in the front porch, and our post lady got used to dodging them as she delivered the mail.

The second week of the month still brought variable weather but there were a couple of warm days at the beginning of the week. The pair of red legged partridges were around every day often feeding on the sunflower hearts that fell beneath the feeders. A female mallard also appeared daily – usually at the end of the afternoon to stock up on food and have a swim in the pond and we became suspicious that she may have a nest somewhere. Single butterflies of several species appeared around the garden includingRingletblogjuly comma, small tortoiseshell and peacock in the long borders. A wood pigeon continued to build yet another nest in the hedge in the back garden and the large numbers of swifts continued to feed over the garden with the local swallows and house martins. Towards the end of the week numbers of meadow brown and ringlet butterflies increased considerably and we had the best numbers of these species here for some years.

In the third week of the month our swallows fledged – possibly on the 15th – with 4 or 5 young. The parents were seen fluttering around the porch trying to encourage the youngsters out.  They flew around the garden this week, resting on the overhead wires.  The weather alternated between sunny and warm to cool and windy and there were still masses of young tits feeding – probably from second broods. The orchids in the back garden now going over but were being replaced by lots of the biennial wildflower wild carrot which looked stunning!  There were plenty of butterflies still around in the meadows especially browns, commas, small tortoiseshell and peacock. The bullfinch family was constantly in the copse hooting and feeding on the wild cherries and there were a couple of young robins around the garden at last.

In the last week of July the weather was yet again very variable. The bullfinches were now beginning to use the birdfeeders and our swallows seemed to be out all day, returning in the evening to roost in the nest. There were excellent numbers of butterflies in the wildflower meadows especially ringlet, meadow brown and essex skipper and we also saw a sudden large hatch of hoverflies which were all around the garden feeding on flowers in borders and meadows.  A surprise find was a slow worm in one of thePLblogjuly compost heaps.  This is a very welcome garden resident that we only occasionally see here. Other welcome visitors to the garden this month included the local kestrel and several linnets, the latter feeding on seeds of various small wildflowers in the meadows. Towards the end of the week the inevitable happened – our local wild mallard duck appeared with eleven fluffy ducklings.  We suspected that she might be around after last year’s successful nest here and she proudly paraded them around the garden, only once attempting to attack me when she came across me unexpectedly in the garden. The month ended with more variable weather but the butterflies were fantastic as huge numbers of peacock and painted lady fed all around the garden.

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The Wildlife Garden in June

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At the beginning of June the weather was yet again very variable in South Shropshire, although the rain we had was actually quite welcome. Cooler damper weather was interspersed with sunny periods with a little warmth, and the garden was almost overwhelmed with young blue tits and great tits which all seemed to fledge from our bird boxes within a week. Other young birds though were rather scarce with just a couple of young robins and no juvenile blackbirds at all in spite of nests here. The common spotted orchids in the garden continued to appear and the small ‘orchid meadow’ at the back of the house – once just a patch of lawn – was full of this beautiful species – over 200 were counted in this one spot. These orchids found their own way to this area of lawn, seeding naturally from a few plants in the big meadow where a little seed was sown when we first created the garden.  Clearly this spot with fine leaved grasses right outside our back door is just right for them.  They seem to have found the perfect spot and are spreading year after year.

A single female mallard, most likely one from the brood that bred on the pond here last year, appeared in the garden and seemed fixated on my husband, following him around whenever he was outside! A couple of red-legged partridges also spent a lot of time in the garden and are possibly nesting at the bottom of one of our hedges. Sadly there were no more signs of spotted flycatchers here and butterfly numbers dwindled as torrential rain fell at the end of the week.

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As the month progressed the weather in the second week remained wet, changeable and unseasonal! The damp conditions meant that the wildflower meadows grew rapidly. Numbers of  young birds continued to increase and we were treated to the wonderful sight of a kestrel hunting over the garden as bank voles were plentiful here in June. Kestrel is a bird that we used to see frequently here, especially hovering over the meadows we have created, but is now a more unusual visitor. Young birds continued to flock to the garden feeders and the tits were joined by juvenile woodpeckers, their bright red caps making them very noticeable. Another seed feeder in the garden attracted a pair of local jays – they managed to remove the peanuts with great skill!  A few house sparrows also appeared – a rare bird in the garden here.

The kestrel continued to visit, often sitting on a wire over the back garden, giving us great views of this beautiful bird. The weather became cool and changeable but the many young blue and great tits continued to use the feeders which needed filling up twice a day. The light evenings gave me the opportunity to see what was going on around the garden at dusk and a tawny owl one evening was followed by a barn owl the next! Barn owl has been seen here before but I do wonder how often this lovely bird visits us and we just don’t see it.

The weather warmed up in the last week of June, at least for a short while, and a few butterfly species appeared here in small numbers. Red admiral, holly blue and speckled wood and ringlet joined a few green-veined whites but the real splashes of colour blogringletaround the garden came from the flowering plants especially the common spotted orchids.  Knapweed, meadow cranesbill and lady’s bedstraw came into flower in the big meadow and meadowsweet covered the banks of the big pond and filled the apple orchard beneath the fruit trees.

As the month came to an end the weather was again changeable – it was cool and damp for several days which made me concerned for the young swallows in the nest in our porch, although the parent birds seemed to be returning with food for them even when there was drizzle. However warmer sunny weather returned and large numbers of house martins zipped around the garden in the early evenings, often clinging to the wall of the house but showing no interest in the artificial nest cups thereblogwoodyj which was very frustrating! Siskins were seen most days, usually on the sunflower heart feeders and a few meadow butterflies began to appear – ringlet and meadow brown danced around the meadows, feeding on knapweed and sometimes yellow rattle.  An influx of painted lady butterflies fed from the catmint in the borders around the house and the garden was beautifully colourful with masses of meadow cranesbill in flower – a plant that has spread here vigorously.

In all June was an excellent month for wildlife here, and hopefully the trend will continue into July.

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The Wildlife Garden in May

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The weather always seems to dominate my garden wildlife blog but that is simply because the weather makes a huge different to what I actually see here!  A variable week at the beginning of the month with some bright sunny days interspersed with cold rainy ones, meant that everything in the garden was growing very fast and the garden looked exceptionally green! The small green-winged orchid that appeared on the pond bank last month continued to flourish and the flowers opened, but it didn’t actually get very much bigger.  With no other plant of this species in the area with which to cross pollinate it looks as though it is going to be very lonely unless I can buy seed of green-winged orchid and attempt to grow more.

The cool breezy weather didn’t deter large numbers of bumblebees from feeding around the garden, especially in the fruit garden on the gooseberry flowers. Our apple trees in the back garden seemed to have very little blossom this year after large apple crops last Juvenile Bluetitblogyear but the fruit trees in our small orchard were covered with flowers as usual and looked wonderful. A quick survey of the nest boxes around the garden showed me that all our boxes were occupied by blue tits, with the exception of two – one which had great tits with a successful nest and the other which is occupied by bumblebees. This means that six nest boxes have blue tits breeding which rather makes me think we will be overrun with juvenile blue tits this year! Several robin and dunnock nests were very active and a chiffchaff was seen repeatedly returning to a patch of nettles in the vegetable garden where bullfinches and goldfinches were also nesting in the thick hedges. Chiffchaffs and blackcaps were singing daily all around the garden.

The weather continued to be changeable as we moved into the second week of May and at times temperatures were low for the time of year. The garden however looked lovely, with masses of red campion and yellow archangel in flower in all the hedges and around the garden boundaries. Three swallows racing around the house caused some excitement. It is now ten years since swallows nested in our porch at the front of the house and I am hopeful that two of these might be tempted.  A quick examination of the ledge where they previously nested showed me that part of a nest remains and would only need a little work to make it useable.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

On the 15th a pair of mallard visited the Big Pond – their apparent familiarity with the garden gave me little doubt that they are the pair that nested here last year.  However, they quickly moved over to a pond in the field next door which sees a lot less human disturbance than the pond in my garden. Other birds that seem to have made their home with us this month were a pair of red-legged partridges. I am very fond of this species and hope they stay around for a while. Great-spotted woodpeckers were feeding blogotsfrantically, and the garden seemed very noisy with birds everywhere.  Bank voles were still numerous, so we were not surprised to see a kestrel hovering repeatedly over the meadows.  At the end of this week I was very excited to see a spotted flycatcher in our little copse of trees and later in the vegetable garden. I have my doubts about this species nesting in the garden again though, as nests have been predated in two previous years, but just to see one around was a pleasure. Butterflies continued to be numerous this week especially the orange tip which was still here in exceptional numbers.  They were joined by small white and the occasional scruffy comma. Chiffchaff and blackcap continued to sing and a pair of siskins visited the feeders daily.

As we moved into the last week of the month the weather improved. Warm sunny conditions meant that plenty of birds were singing.  The swallows swooped around the house, twittered on the overhead wires and eventually dived into the porch and took possession of the old nest there. Yellowhammer and whitethroat sang in the vegetable garden and on a sunny morning at the end of the month I heard a familiar song but one I didn’t associate with the garden.  This evocative song brought to mind a nature reserve I often visit in Wales and I realised the bird was a sedge warbler – a new species for the garden! He sang around the big pond and in the hedge, he posed for a photo and then he was gone.  A brilliant end to the month.

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The Wildlife Garden in April

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April began with relatively mild weather and good numbers of birds were feeding around my garden and on the feeders. Species included siskins, which I hope will stay around and breed here this year, and a pair of mallard on the Big Pond where a heron also visited daily.  On one occasion two herons arrived together. Every evenings two or three bats emerged from under the house roof but I still have no idea what species we have here. At the end of the first week a female blackcap was seen in the sheltered garden at the back of the house and as the earliest of the dandelion flowers went over a single linnet arrived to eat the seeds. Other visiting birds included two treecreepers.  These regularly disappeared into a crevice in an old willow tree next door, so I am hoping they will have a successful nest there.

The weather grew warmer at the end of the first week of the month and one of the smaller garden meadows was full of cowslips, their subtle scent filling the air in the evenings.  A pair of red-legged partridges roamed the garden during the second week of April, popping in and out of the hedge bottoms in search of a safe nest site. The weather became a little cooler and some welcome rain refreshed the borders. Several bird species obviously had nests around the hedges, in particular two pairs of blackbirds and several dunnocks. These little birds are regular garden residents and as well as nesting in theAprilblogredstart hedges here they also use the large sedges I grow in the long borders and around the big pond.  On the 14th a male redstart appeared in the garden.  This tends to happen in the second week of April every year and is always a thrill to see.  They are stunning birds and I feel privileged that they stop off in my garden and find food and shelter here for a couple of days before moving on to their nest site.  Another bird that was very active this month in the garden was yellowhammer.  A pair seemed very settled with the male singing from the top of one of our thick hawthorn hedges.  Hopefully they will nest here successfully again this year. At the end of the second week of April a single swallow was seen in our area but none were seen over the garden itself, plus it is sadly some years since we had a nest in the porch.

As we moved into the third week of April the male redstart was still with us although the weather turned cold and windy. Two starlings, quite unusual birds here, visited the bird feeders and also had a bath in one of the small ponds. The next few days were warm and spring like and the first orange tip butterfly appeared around the garden. It was good to see a speckled wood too and as the week progressed many more orange tips were seen making it easily one of the best springs we’ve had for this species for some years.  Other butterflies began to appear in the warmer weather including peacock, small tortoiseshell and a gorgeous female brimstone which was laying eggs on the alder buckthorn on the edge of the big meadow.  In the large pond both common and great crested newts were plentiful and plants around the pond edges started to grow rapidly. The weather was warm and sunny for the whole of the week and as spring seemed to erupt all over the garden it became obvious that this was a ‘vole year’ for us with large numbers of bank voles scuttling about in the long grass, in the borders and even in and out of gaps in the paving around the house! I am especially fond of bank voles and feed them here  – they seem to especially like sunflower hearts.  Queen bumble bees were also plentiful this week and on the 20th two swallows swooped around the house and two chiffchaffs and a black cap were singing here.

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Sadly this warm, spring-like  weather was soon behind us but all the local warblers continued to sing. Other birds, especially robins, were frantically feeding young in nests in the hedgerows and both male and female bullfinches fed on the dandelion seeds in the lawn.  Overnight on the 26th and 27th of the month we had a ferocious storm. It was very wet and windy but thankfully there was no damage around the garden as there had been at roughly the same time last year when one of our old hawthorn trees sadly fell apart.  As we moved through April the weather improved again, and it was warm and sunny until the very end of the month. Chiffchaff,  blackcap, yellowhammer and the local blackbirds sang constantly and the whole garden was alive with butterflies, birds and scuttling bank voles!  As the month drew to a close I was very surprised to find a small green-winged orchid close to the big pond, presumably a single plant that had germinated from seed that may have been in the soil here for many years.  I am hopeful that raking the pond bank later in the year might turn up more seeds of this wonderful plant.

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The Wildlife Garden in March

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March was, in general, a mild month in my Shropshire garden, but at times the wind was blustery and not very spring like! Rain and showers with even a hint of snow made it feel like winter was returning.  There were still masses of birds around the garden though, especially siskins and goldfinches feeding on nyjer seed. The abundance of small birds in the garden meant that the local sparrowhawks were much in evidence and a male bird was seen taking a blackbird from the top of one of my hedges.  A few winter birds such as brambling, fieldfare and lesser redpoll were still around and the wonderful fluty song of a mistle thrush was heard every morning. Two herons and several mallard visited the big pond.

blogcelandineAs we moved into the second week of the month two of my favourite birds appeared in the garden. These were red-legged partridges – birds that have bred in the garden before and they seemed very much at home wandering around the paths and amongst the plants in the borders. The rather wet blustery weather continued but this didn’t stop daffodils, violets and celandines bursting into flower, nor prevent the local blue tits from investigating several of the bird boxes around the garden. Finches were in abundance this week especially siskins, goldfinches and chaffinches and the garden was a rather noisy place with a great deal of twittering bird song.

The third week of March brought snow, rain and fierce winds to my garden so I left the miserable weather of my home county for the milder conditions of South Devon. The garden around my accommodation there was beautiful with huge magnolias in flower and countless house sparrows nesting in the old walls of the buildings there – a real treat for me as house sparrows are a rare sight in my garden.

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At the end of the month on returning home to Shropshire, the weather had improved, chiffchaffs were singing in the wood next door and primroses and violets were in full flower all around the garden. On the last day of the month a chiffchaff ventured into the garden and sang from the top of my small copse of trees. At last I felt that spring had arrived!

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The Wildlife Garden in February

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February was a very variable month in my garden especially where the weather was concerned. Cold and frosty conditions dominated the first week and the garden was full of siskins. There were still lots of fieldfares around too, feeding on the apples in the orchard, and a single lesser redpoll continued to use the feeders daily. As the first week ended the clear cold weather became damp and misty.  A single heron visited the big pond looking strange and almost prehistoric in the swirling mist, and both a male and a female sparrowhawk appeared frequently in the garden.  In spite of the changing weather great tits were singing and one was seen investigating the nest box on my potting shed. Blue tits were also preparing for breeding and the tiny, wobbly nest box on the front of the house, which hardly looks fit for habitation, was soon busy with both birds popping in and out.  This box is the only one in the garden used without fail every year.

The second week of February was milder but with wind and rain. Twenty to thirty siskins fed in the garden daily and the males sang constantly from the trees around the house. A huge group of chaffinches fed under the feeders in the back garden where snowdrops were now in full bloom. On the 13th a perfectly pristine small tortoiseshellBlogstort butterfly flew into the house through an open window.  It was easy to gently catch and put back outside into thick ivy where hopefully it was able to find a suitable sheltered place to spend the colder nights.  The clear weather encouraged several of the local buzzards to spend time soaring and displaying over the garden.

The month continued with more gentle weather. Great tits began to investigate other nest boxes around the garden and a song thrush sang from the woodland next door every morning and evening. On the 15th a stunning male brambling fed Primulablogwith the chaffinches under the feeders and a skylark was heard over the garden on several occasions.  On the morning of the 17th a good quantity of frog spawn had appeared in the small garden pond with several adult frogs in attendance.  The siskins continued to sing and take nyjer seed from the feeders outside the back door, giving me great views of these gorgeous little finches – one of my absolute favourite birds. The last week of February saw a change in the weather with the warmest February temperatures ever recorded in the UK, although here it was probably rather cooler than over in the east of the country. The small daffodil varieties began to flower around the garden and several queen bumblebees were seen zigzagging their way over the grassy areas looking for dandelions to feed on. The month ended with a song thrush singing and the first primroses in flower.  In all February was a delightful month, but all that was about to change as we moved into March’s wilder weather.

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The Wildlife Garden in January

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Throughout January the weather was rather inconsistent here in South Shropshire, ranging between mild spells, very heavy overnight frosts and the occasional windy period. This variable weather meant that the wildlife in the garden was different every day although there were some constants – in particular the numbers of fieldfares feasting on the fallen apples. At the beginning of the month there were usually around twenty of these noisy thrushes here while twittering goldfinches and chirping house sparrows meant that it was pretty busy bird-wise.  Large numbers of chaffinches fed under the feeders and a few greenfinches came to the sunflower hearts daily. Once again a tawny owl flew across the garden at dusk, again perching in our ash tree for some time, and a red kite touched down in the garden one afternoon, apparently to pick up some small item of prey.

The weather became colder and brighter as we moved into the second week of the month with clear skies and very heavy frosts overnight. Siskins – possibly my absolute favourite UK bird (although I say that about several different species!) started to visit the bird feeders in some numbers this week with a count of 20 on the 14th. Their favourite spot to perch and twitter was the tall hazel outside my kitchen door, which is close to a couple of feeders, and the noise siskinblogjanwhen I opened the door in the early mornings was quite extraordinary.   As the weather continued to be cold numbers of other bird species built up, especially finches and thrushes including redwings and a single lesser redpoll – a favourite bird – visited the feeders every day. No mammals were seen in the garden this month with the exception of grey squirrels and the constant evidence of the local moles.

The cold weather persisted and bird numbers continued to rise. A small flock of starlings, quite an unusual bird here, visited the garden on the 21st.  For the next four days I was on Anglesey where the wildlife, as ever, was rather different from my garden in Shropshire.  Red squirrels were very obliging where photography was concerned and birds such as curlew, shelduck, redshank and pintail were highlights.  The local golf course provided a feeding ground for a great many song thrushes and mistle thrushes and both species were at times, singing from the nearby tree tops.

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On returning home numbers of birds in the garden had dropped but snow at the end of the month brought a few beautiful bramblings and I counted 183 fieldfares in the garden one morning!  Siskin numbers continued to rise and could only be estimated – probably between forty and fifty – the males all twittering beautifully in the cold sunshine, and a single redpoll was a regular visitor to the nyjer seed. The weather became a little milder at the end of the month and hopefully this trend will continue into February and we will start to see birds investigating the garden nest boxes as spring arrives.

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The Wildlife Garden in December

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December began as a very wet and windy month here in South Shropshire as the tail end of a westerly storm came through. This weather did bring quite a lot of birds, sheltering from the wind and rain, to the garden feeders,  including twenty six goldfinches. These birds were also feeding on the lavender seeds around the garden as well as on nyger and sunflower hearts in the feeders. Other species were also feeding on the lavender seeds including blue tits, chaffinches and dunnocks.

House sparrows are a rare sight in this garden and it is always good to see them here. A couple feeding at the beginning of the month soon became a small flock of up to sixteen which was lovely to see.  However common they may be in some people’s gardens I amblogsparrows always pleased to see them here. We are fortunate to have some bird species that other people rarely see in their gardens – in particular tree creeper and marsh tit are regular visitors, so I mind a little less that we don’t see some of the commoner garden birds.

The first week of December continued with quite frosty weather at times but there were damp and misty conditions on other days. There were no mammals around except grey squirrels. Strangely we now have at least three grey squirrels with very short tails – perhaps only a quarter or a third as long as ‘normal’ squirrels’ tails. I am still mystified by this and can find no reference to it anywhere!

As the month continued goldfinches still dominated the feeders in wild and windy weather. On several nights foxes were heard courting in the field nexblogbfincht door, an eerie, screaming sound that never fails to make my blood run cold.  Large numbers of fieldfares were soon feeding in the orchard on fallen apples, making a lot of noise with their ‘chacking’ calls. I spent the third week of the month not at home but in the Cotswolds. Here the weather was very cold and frosty and there were enormous flocks of fieldfares around in the countryside, plus redwings and bullfinches were feeding on the berries of Pyracantha in the garden where I was staying.

The fieldfares were mainly feeding on hawthorn berries or finding invertebrates on the local grassy sports field.  Back home in Shropshire all our hawthorn berries had been eaten by the end of November, but there were still plenty to be found in Gloucestershire where these lovely thrushes were finding lots to feed on.  On returning to South Shropshire the garden was rather quiet as all the food in the bird feeders had been eaten. Fieldfares and chaffinches were still in some abundance though as there wasbloggoldie plenty of natural food in the garden for them, especially apples for the fieldfares and a few redwings. Once the bird feeders were restocked, goldfinches were back in abundance along with several siskins – one of my favourite birds. As the weather turned a little milder there seemed to be almost a hint of spring in the air, and a song thrush singing from the woodland next door on the 1st of January , made me remember that spring really wasn’t very far away.

 

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The Wildlife Garden in November

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November’s weather was as expected – cold, clear and frosty especially first thing most mornings. Once again the garden was dominated by the birds using it and rather than the feeders being the main source of interest many of the visiting birds were taking advantage of the natural food here.  We are fortunate to have several large, ancient hawthorns on one of our boundaries and the fieldfares were making a meal of the berries.  This argumentative species is always attracted to our apple orchard, planted when we first arrived here thirteen years ago, but if there is a choice the hawthorn berries will always be taken first while the fallen apples provide food through the winter until February if there has been a good crop. We do of course pick some of the apples for ourselves but with forty trees here, there is plenty for everybody!  Blackbirds were also feeding on the hawthorn berries but being bolder than fieldfares and redwings, they are more inclined to come into the garden at the back of the house where we have more hawthorns and three more apple trees so I am able to get close-up views of them feeding.  As the week continued a couple of siskins, perhaps my absolute favourite winter visitor, came to the nyger feeder and at the end of the week I counted eighty-two wood pigeons eating the hawthorn berries on our garden boundary!  The fieldfares were not prepared to fight for the berries so started work on the fallen apples instead. Temperatures increased a little towards the end of the week and goldfinch numbers in the garden went up to twenty seven as the weather became milder.

The second week of the month continued to be dry and more bird species visited us including four house sparrows, an unusual bird here. A single jay buried acorns in the lawns and we were still seeing our regular treecreeper every day.  With so many blogsparrowhbirds around the garden it was not a surprise to see a female sparrowhawk early on the morning of the 10th, preening and watching the bird activity from the ash tree in the front garden.  Also on that day a female reed bunting was seen on one of our hedges – a lovely bird that we see very rarely here.  A single bank vole, the first small mammal for quite some time, was seen on the 15th .

As the month continued birds dominated all areas of the garden, on the feeders and on natural seeds left in the borders and wilder areas. Lavender is a favourite of many finches especially goldfinches, but dunnock and chaffinch were also taking advantage of these seeds along with those of viper’s bugloss in one of the borders, plus the large seeds of the plant Phlomis fruticosa were also popular.  As the hawthorn berries goldiephlomisdisappeared, the fallen apples became a popular food choice for the fieldfares plus five or six male blackbirds, and a lot of squabbling went on under the apple trees.  Chaffinches too took advantage of the fruit under the trees while tits foraged for small invertebrates in the orchard branches.  The month drew to a close with slightly warmer weather which was at times very windy and damp. On the 25th a single female brambling joined the chaffinches and house sparrows on one of the feeders – a reminder that winter was on its way in spite of the unseasonal mild weather.

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The Wildlife Garden in October

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The month of October is always an interesting one in my garden as there is very much the feeling of change here, especially in terms of the wildlife that is around. Migrant birds are already arriving from the Continent and I look forward to the first fieldfares and redwings squabbling over the apples in my orchard.

Early in the month though, it blogstsquirrelwas warm enough to see a dragonfly hunting for small insects around the garden while a single comma butterfly, several bumblebees and lots of honey bees were also seen on sunny days.

The the local grey squirrels continued their never ending task of burying hazelnuts for the cold weather ahead as temperatures continued to drop. We now have several squirrels around the garden with very short tails – I have yet to find an explanation for this aberration!  A fox visited the garden on several evenings, triggering an outside light as he wandered past the house and as the weather began to feel more autumnal and leaves started to change colour, smaller birds started to flock to the garden feeders for a reliable source of food. Long tailed tits, nuthatches, chaffinches and a single marsh tit were regular visitors to the feeders. Several tawny owls were heard calling as the nights drew in.  The birds began to dominate my ‘garden watching’ as a large mixed flock of tits came through the garden on a daily basis, generally around lunchtime. Amongst them008tw every day was a treecreeper – a lovely species that always seems to find plenty to eat on the bark of the Bramley apple tree right outside my window, giving me lots of opportunities to watch it feeding. Their characteristic behaviour is to fly to the bottom of a branch or tree trunk and then to work their way methodically to the top, returning then to the base of the next branch, thus very effectively covering as much of the bark surface area as possible.

As we moved towards the end of the month the weather cooled considerably and the first redwings and fieldfares arrived – the latter in enormous flocks over the garden. Wood pigeons too were very abundant in the fields round about, almost darkening the sky at times as there were so many, and plenty came into the garden to forage on the short grass between the meadows.  Soon we were having overnight frosts alongside bright days, and one morning a stoat spent some time in the garden, running between flower borders and in and out of mole runs, giving me plenty of opportunity to see it well. As the month ended more than 30 fieldfares were feeding on the apples in the orchard and goldfinch numbers on the nyger seed began to build up. The garden seemed to be alive with birds as many species took advantage of both the natural food here and the reliable source of food in our feeders.

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