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 birds 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 disappeared, 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.