The weather in Shropshire became more autumnal in the first week of the October with berries now showing up well in the hedges and big hawthorn trees around my garden. There were still a few butterflies about including a single green-veined white in the ‘wild carrot meadow’ on the first of the month. Conditions became more wet and windy through the first week though, with just the odd bit of welcome sunshine. There were still plenty of tits all around the garden and on the feeders, especially blue tits, and the marsh tits were still caching food frantically. Only a single bank vole was seen but there was evidence of their runs all over the garden through the grassy areas, and on the 3rd of the month a chiff chaff was seen on the rotary washing line, drinking the water droplets that hung there, and bathing in the ‘mini-pond’ at the back of the house. Verbena bonariensis was still flowering beautifully in the vegetable garden and a single red admiral was seen feeding on it on the 5th. On the 7th there was a small flock of 30 or so redwings – our first winter thrushes this year – low over the garden with five stopping off briefly in the apple orchard.
The second week of the month began with a sparrowhawk kill outside my office – a wood pigeon – although the kill was abandoned. Two buzzards took great interest in it on the 8th but weren’t quite brave enough to come down so close to my office windows. On the same day a single red kite also checked it out but again didn’t quite land. Other birds in the garden included a few chaffinches which I hadn’t seen for a while, but there were very few goldfinches – just a handful on the feeders. A female sparrowhawk came through daily and a male was also seen on the 16th – both coming regularly to sit on the feeders outside my office. In the vegetable garden nasturtiums and calendula were both well in flower but only attracting a few flies. In the evenings a skein of geese flew over the garden on several days, heading towards the Long Mynd.
As we moved into the third week of the month a more autumnal feeling prevailed. At least two grey squirrels were burying hazel nuts around the garden while jays continued to bury acorns. On the 17th, eight redwings were seen in the big hawthorns on our garden boundary and they joined several male blackbirds to eat the hawthorn berries there and in the vegetable garden hedge. Two female bullfinches and a male blackcap were also feeding in the hawthorns. A migrant hawker dragonfly flew around the big pond and a ruddy darter rested on the edge of the compost bin in the vegetable garden, soaking up the autumn sunshine. A single red admiral fed on the Verbena this week and two sunbathed on one of our south facing hedges. Twelve long-tailed tits were using the feeders daily and a male blackcap was seen eating the berries on our large alder buckthorn. A few greenfinches returned to the feeders.
In the last week of the month a treecreeper was seen feeding on one of our big apple trees outside the back door. This is a regular species here in the autumn and winter and always entertaining to watch. A male fox was heard calling one evening in the field next door at the beginning of the week – an eerie sound in the damp misty weather. A small flock of redwings continued to feed in the hawthorns most days while two marsh tits carried on with their task of caching sunflower hearts. The 24th was a beautiful bright sunny day after the cloud had lifted, but the weather turned cold and wet on the 24th and 25th – and we received some much needed rain. A small flock of fieldfares visited the hawthorns daily, chacking and squabbling noisily and they were joined by several blackbirds. Two tawny owls were heard several times in the late evenings giving us hope for a breeding pair in the area next spring. On the 25th a male sparrowhawk spent some time sitting on the bird feeders outside my office and a female kestrel hovered over the garden almost every day – she was seen to catch a bank vole on two occasions. Torrential rain fell overnight on the 25th/26th, completely flooding the garden and the surrounding fields from which the garden has yet to recover! Thankfully the house remained dry. The month ended with frosty weather with large numbers of finches and thrushes around the garden. Siskins have yet to appear but I shall be looking out for this favourite bird over the next few weeks.