The first frosts of the winter meant that November began with rather cold conditions in my wildlife garden, but we then had warmer, drier weather for the rest of the week. All the trees around the garden started to lose their leaves, especially the hawthorns on our southern boundary and the ash in the front garden, but our beech clung on to its leaves, the huge tree creating a wonderful golden dome with just a scattering of leaves on the grass beneath it in the back garden and the vegetable garden. There were plenty of fieldfares and redwings around our area with a few of each of these lovely thrush species visiting the garden every day. Most of the local hawthorn berries, their favourite food at the moment, had pretty much been eaten but a few were remaining in the garden trees. A single yellowhammer sat on the top of the now naked ash one morning and a female kestrel hunted over the garden and the field next door every day. On a couple of evenings a yellow-necked mouse visited the small bird feeding tray outside the back door, unaware of us watching it aided by an outside light. A single bank vole fed on the spilled bird food on the patio. Great views were had of a hare in an adjacent field in exactly the spot where I have seen hares before. I later observed this same individual in a neighbouring field and was able to get some photos of this beautiful mammal.
As the month progressed all the usual bird species were seen in the garden. Large flocks of fieldfares and redwings continued to fly over, and were eventually brave enough to come into the garden. About 40 redwings spent time in the large holly at the end of the garden and fieldfares, having now eaten all the hawthorn berries on our boundary trees, resorted to the apple orchard where we have good crops this year, which will hopefully last them for a while.
The next few days were spent in the Peak District in Derbyshire where I was able to observe and record the wildlife in a very different garden to my own. I was most excited to see large numbers of house sparrows – rarely seen in my garden – plus an adjacent churchyard, overflowing with yew trees with a great crop of berries, provided feeding opportunities for mistle and song thrush, blackbird and the occasional redwing. Tits used the garden bird feeders there and other notable bird species seen this week were raven and several goldcrests.
On my return to South Shropshire it was no surprise to see that our huge crop of holly berries had gone completely! The garden was exceptionally wet and all the usual bird species quickly returned as the feeders were replenished. Marsh tits and coal tits continued to cache food avidly. On the 22nd of the month I counted 55 fieldfares in the orchard along with tits and finches of several species. Grey squirrels were frantically collecting hazelnuts and a single bank vole was seen under one of the sunflower heart feeders, collecting up and carrying off any seeds that had fallen. Most interesting at this time was the nocturnal activity from our local tawny owls which were very vocal – at least two were heard calling from the wood next door on several evenings.
The last week of the November was much like the rest of the month – cold and very, very wet, as was much of the country. Winter thrushes, especially a flock of 50 – 60 fieldfares, continued to visit us and the feeders hosted plenty of tits, finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers. A single treecreeper was seen on the 27th and bank voles and squirrels tidied up the bird food under the feeders. Incessant rain meant that the garden was totally sodden to the point where my downstairs office was in danger of flooding! On the 25th two tawny owls were heard calling in the garden and in spite of the cold conditions several moths were seen around the outside light, including several December moths. Less rain over the next few days did little to dry the garden out but at least my office was safe! At the very end of the month a single grey wagtail visited the wildlife ponds on two occasions, so the wet conditions did have one positive effect!