The Wildlife Garden in October

The weather in South Shropshire during the first week of October was, as expected, very autumnal, with overnight rain and cool mornings, but often lovely bright, sunny afternoons.  Our local brown hares were seen several times in a nearby field during the first week of the month, and lots of finches were constantly feeding around the garden, including four or five greenfinches and a few chaffinches – numbers of these two finches seem to be increasing here at the moment which is good news! Other common garden birds were around in good numbers and a great spotted woodpecker, absent from the garden for some time, visited daily. A single male was seen several times this week and a green woodpecker was also heard calling twice – a bird that was a regular visitor to my garden in Oxfordshire and sorely missed here!  A male blackbird began to feast on the good crop of hawthorn berries in the back garden hedge, chasing off all rivals in order to keep this food source for himself, and a single marsh tit returned to the feeders outside my office window from time to time.  No butterflies were seen at all this week as the weather cooled, but a few plants were still flowering in the borders, especially Geranium himalayense, adding a welcome splash of bright blue to the garden, and there were a few other welcome flowers too, including the herb marjoram.  A couple of rabbits were still with us plus the garden temporarily became home to several pheasants from the local shoot.

The second week of the month was bright at first with a lovely sunny morning on the 8th when a red admiral was seen in the long borders, and later in the day, a peacock butterfly appeared when the sun was shining.  There were now two moorhens permanently using the Big Pond and on the morning of the 12th, a misty and miserable, damp morning, there were around 40 redwings feeding in the hawthorns on our garden boundary.  They soon discovered the berries of Cornus in the hedge too, and those of guelder rose in the copse, and later that day they were feeding on invertebrates in the cut meadows where they were wonderfully visible from my office window. They continued to visit us for the next few days but in lower numbers, still feeding on berries and drinking from the shady pond and they returned again on the 14th.  A pair of bullfinches was seen in the garden on the 14th too, and also a jay that day, burying acorns.  Lots of tits were using the feeders including the single marsh tit that was still with us, but no siskins at all much to my disappointment! Also that day fox droppings were found in the garden – the first we have seen here for some weeks.

During the third week of October very good numbers of the smaller bird species were now coming to the feeders, especially tits and finches.  Up to 12 goldfinches were using the nyjer feeder as well as feeding from the lavender seed heads outside the back door, but there was still no sign of siskins!  On the 16th the weather was wet and cool but a few sunny spells brightened the garden and showed off the autumn colours that were developing rapidly.  Other bird species around the garden in good numbers included dunnocks, feeding from a small tray on the patio table, and the single marsh tit returned from time to time.  The two large rabbits were still in the garden in spite of the visiting fox, and they were joined by a smaller one, but no other mammals were seen this week.  The redwings continued to feed although numbers were much lower, plus the local bullfinches were seen and heard every day.  However, yet again no small mammals were seen at all this week. The moorhens now had the pond to themselves and seemed very settled, feeding on the grass on the pond banks and sometimes eating fallen apples in the orchard.  A few grey squirrels were collecting acorns but appeared to be uninterested in the feeders, suggesting that natural food is plentiful just now. On the 15th I had an excellent view of a barn owl over the long borders at dusk and later that evening several tawnies were very vocal in the woodland next door.  The weather continued to be cool but sunny as we moved through the second half of the month, and four mallard returned briefly to the pond – the males now looking very handsome in adult plumage.  By the end of the week the redwings had discovered the holly berries in the fruit garden but still not a single fieldfare was seen. The weather was cloudy, wet and cool with the odd sunny spell which was very welcome.  The mallard returned to spend their nights on the pond but the moorhens were clearly now resident!

The end of the month seemed very autumnal with gusty winds and occasional rain, making the garden feel quite damp and cold. The redwings continued to visit in smaller numbers as did a flock of around 25 goldfinches, some of them still taking advantage of the lavender seeds around the garden or making use of the the nyjer feeders. Weather conditions continued to be cold and damp but a southern hawker dragonfly was seen basking in the cool sunshine in the vegetable garden on the 23rd.  As we neared the end of the month my focus turned a little towards an invasion of house mice!  These elegant little mammals were caught one by one in a live trap and relocated to the shelter of the potting shed, although I suspect we will be seeing some of them again!  The month ended with cooler conditions and the local blackbirds, males in particular, were spending a lot of time protecting the hawthorn berries in the back garden hedge from all comers.  Sunshine and showers, mild temperatures and windy nights continued, but we had no frosts at all in October.

About Dinchope Diary

I am a plant ecologist specialising in wildlife gardening for more than 20 years, writing books and teaching. I have created a two acre wildlife garden in South Shropshire.
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