As we moved into November the weather began to turn frosty and cold, making this month yet another good one for birds in my garden in South Shropshire. An influx of pheasants at the very start of the month signalled the beginning of the local pheasant shoot as the oak woodland on my boundary is managed to provide shelter for them and, inadvertently, for lots of our local wildlife too. The pheasants seem to know there is safety in my garden and numbers can build up to fifteen or so, feeding under the bird feeders and the apple trees in the orchard.
Fieldfares and redwings were numerous throughout November with about forty fieldfares and sixteen redwings feeding around the garden at the beginning of the month, although the majority of the redwings moved on as soon as they had devoured all the holly berries. The fieldfares, charismatic and argumentative birds, spent their time between the orchard trees and a large Bramley apple tree at the back of the house, although they also scoured the short grass around the garden for invertebrates from time to time. One bird in particular remained when the flock flew off to feed elsewhere and fought off all-comers of any species in the usual aggressive manner of this large thrush. Elsewhere the bird feeders were extremely busy as goldfinches, chaffinches, tits, nuthatches and woodpeckers took advantage of a regular and reliable food supply. However neither marsh tit nor willow tit was seen at all this month although coal tits were numerous. A single mistle thrush was recorded on the 2nd – the first for many months.
Goldfinch numbers continued to build up as the month progressed with a maximum of sixteen on most days. There were regular visits from the local female sparrowhawk and a surprise male house sparrow, a species last recorded here in early July, fed beneath the feeders outside my office on two days.
A week away from home meant that the garden was almost devoid of birds when I returned, with the exception of those species that rely on natural food – mainly the thrushes and blackbirds but also wrens which are always abundant in the garden. A flock of sixteen long-tailed tits used the fat blocks frequently, and there was a surprise visit from a small flock of starlings, another bird we hardly ever see here, which was a highlight at the end of the month. Red kites soared above the garden in all weathers while our usual buzzards were less obvious.
There were very few sightings of mammals here in November but tracks through longer grass areas showed that a fox was a regular visitor. Grey squirrels were seen daily including one individual with the majority of its tail missing! How the rest of the tail disappeared is anyone’s guess. He is though, easily identifiable, and it will be interesting to see how he uses the garden and where we see him over the next few months.
We are now in the midst of very wintery weather but even in November there were signs of the seasons ahead. Catkins were beginning to fill out on our hedgerow hazels with the promise of spring and better weather to look forward to.