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 was 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 them 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.