The beginning of September saw our female mallard and all the young ducklings happily living in our garden once again in spite of our attempts to encourage them to use the bigger pond next door. On the first of the month we had excellent views of a hobby in a clear blue sky, chasing the swallows over the garden – the day our second brood of young swallows fledged! None were seen to be caught but I certainly had conflicted loyalties – the swallows continued to be very active around the nest in the mornings and evenings and none seemed to be missing! There was a huge amount of swallow activity all around the house for several sunny days – possibly the first brood siblings with parents and the second brood plus other local birds. Large numbers of young goldfinches were using the garden, especially feeding on the seeds of the knapweed and thistles on the pond bank, and they soon learned to use the feeders and find water in the small ponds. Towards the end of the week the weather became very cool but birds were still abundant in the garden and some butterflies too, especially red admiral, small tortoiseshell and painted lady which were very active on sunny days.
At the beginning of the second week the weather was a little warmer but sadly the better conditions didn’t last long. However, when the sun shone there were still plenty of butterflies around and the Verbena bonariensis in the vegetable garden was covered with whites, red admirals and painted ladies. On the 9th a hare was seen well in the field next door, a rarity around us here and wonderful to watch. The weather began to feel more autumnal this week but our swallows were still with us roosting in the porch nests overnight, but by the 12th they appeared to have gone. Large numbers of passing martins and swallows swooped and fed over the big pond every day, creating quite a spectacle. By the end of the second week all the meadow cutting was finished and the task of raking up all the hay was a time consuming job as usual!
The third week of September was spent away from home on the South Wales coast. The Gower Peninsula is a very beautiful area that I have visited in the past and I was keen to return to this picturesque coast which is teaming with wildlife. The weather was stunning for most of the week and it was brilliant to walk every morning along the cliff tops to Worm’s Head. My main objective was to see choughs and indeed we saw them every day, both on the cliffs and on the Rhossili Downs which frame and shelter the amazing beach there. Other birds seen frequently this week were wheatear and stonechat plus there were large flocks of linnets and goldfinches taking advantage of the seeds in a huge field of sunflowers growing in the area. A single peregrine falcon was also a highlight of our coastal walks as were several views of wall brown butterfly and a single small adder.
The last week of the month saw me back in my Shropshire garden and the week began with sunny but cool and windy conditions, although we did have some much needed rain on a couple of days which filled the ponds and refreshed the borders. Large numbers of blue tits and great tits were still using the feeders and there were daily visits from the mallard ducklings – now fully grown – as they continued to commute between our garden and the pond next door. Kites and buzzards soared overhead and some birds, the local marsh tits in particular, began caching food especially sunflower hearts. In spite of the lack of an ‘Indian Summer’ there were still red admirals around the garden feeding on Verbena, which was still well in flower, and on the fallen apples and plums in the orchard. The month ended with cool wet weather and on the 30th several swallows were seen flying over the garden – no doubt the last we will see here until next April.