September began with some sunny spells at the start of the month but temperatures in South Shropshire were low. A few of the young mallard ducks that bred on our wildlife pond were still with us, but trying out their wings and doing a lot of flapping without actually going anywhere! Two rabbits appeared in the garden but as most of the vegetables are finished now there is little damage that they can do. There were good numbers of tits and finches around including the occasional adult siskin and several greenfinches which were really nice to see. However there had been no great-spotted woodpeckers for several weeks which was unusual here – this species is usually a daily visitor. Our young swallows were last seen in the porch on the 1st of the month and quite quickly there were no swallows or martins around the garden at all. On the 4th a new duck appeared bringing the total on the wildlife pond to 8! The weather continued to be quite cold and damp with just the usual wildlife around and there were very few butterflies about. The ducks continued to stretch their wings and all but one were flying by the end of the week, but they were still using the garden ponds with no sign of leaving. The two rabbits continued to appear in the garden every evening and by the end of the week the weather improved – the brighter, sunny weather was very welcome.
As we moved into the second week of September the rabbits and mallard were still with us, but some of the ducks were now flying well and leaving the garden at dusk to roost elsewhere. The wildflower meadows continued to be cut and raked but some areas were left long to provide a refuge for overwintering invertebrates. To my delight, two juvenile siskins, a favourite species, appeared on the 9th, feeding on a small tray outside my window, giving me great views of this beautiful little finch, plus a favourite mammal – a stoat – was seen in the garden on the 14th. There were a few more butterflies around in sunnier weather including speckled wood, red admiral, peacock and a few whites, all mostly feeing on wild marjoram and Verbena bonariensis. The first speckled woods of the autumn were also around, especially in the garden ‘corners’ where there is the dappled shade that they prefer. Red admirals and small tortoiseshells were also seen in the vegetable garden where a single large plant of Verbena bonariensis has self-seeded in a sunny spot. Towards the end of the week the weather became more autumnal with misty, damp mornings and there were lots of sparkling spiders webs all around, especially in the longer grass in the orchard and uncut meadows. Warm days with a slight breeze continued and many birds were using one of the mini ponds close to the house, to drink and bathe especially wrens, tits, nuthatches and finches. Overnight on the 16th the moth trap produced lots of colourful autumnal species including centre-barred sallow, pink barred sallow and September thorn.
Slightly warmer weather continued and there were two or three of the mallard around every day – one of which was a very inexpert flyer. A female blackcap was seen in the back garden in the Buddleia on the 16th and a few butterflies were still feeding on warmer days, especially small tortoiseshell and speckled wood. A large flock of linnets flew over the garden on several occasions and a heron was also seen flying over the garden, but not visiting the pond. There were both buzzards and red kites around frequently plus on the 20th – a warm sunny day – a large number of house martins and swallows fed over the garden, especially over the big pond. The weather continued to be warm and sunny towards the end of the week but it was quieter in the garden with the exception of increasing numbers of birds now visiting the feeders, and a few large dragonflies still around the pond, including several southern hawkers.
The weather changed yet again at the beginning of the last week of September, becoming cooler, damper and a lot windier! A single jay seen on the 23rd burying acorns in the grassy areas, but this was yet another month without a single great spotted woodpecker in the garden, and numbers of birds around the feeders seemed slightly lower than usual. By the end of the month the mallard ducks were down to just three, two of which regularly left the garden in the late afternoon to spend the night elsewhere, leaving behind only the one that doesn’t yet fly well. Southern hawker dragonflies were still abundant, hunting around the garden on good days, and all around our boundaries the mature hawthorns were displaying their wonderful fruits, the bright red of the haws showing up well against the still dark green leaves. Other garden trees displaying their berries included the rowans but the berries on those – a favourite food of several local bird species – disappeared within a few days, especially into the beaks of visiting blackbirds. Nuthatches were still plentiful after an excellent breeding year here and tits were returning to the feeders as the weather cooled. The very small rabbit that had been seen in the garden copse earlier was found dead ()and partially eaten at the very end of the month, most likely by a fox, although the sighting of the stoat earlier in the month did lead me to wonder if this little mammal was still visiting the garden.
Towards the end of the month the weather was bright, even though we were moving towards more autumnal conditions, and a single butterfly – a small white – was still visiting a few flowers in the border. As October approaches I am hoping that the cooler temperatures bring redpolls and more siskins to our feeders, plus the first redwings and fieldfares would be very welcome!