November started with quite windy and wet weather at times with successive storms coming through Shropshire from the west. However actual temperatures were quite mild even if the wind seemed to be freezing cold at times! It was a very bird oriented month with redwings still visiting the hawthorn trees on my garden boundary but all the holly berries now gone. Most days there were at least two bullfinches in the orchard with a single male often very visible. This week a house mouse was found in my office cupboard, having eaten a large portion of a cork! It was caught the next evening in a live trap and released in the greenhouse, although I suspect it will soon find its way back into the house. A female sparrowhawk came though the garden daily and a male was also seen on the 4th which was a bright sunny day although there had been an overnight frost – the first of the season – which made the garden sparkle! On the 5th twenty fieldfares were counted feeding in the orchard and the big hawthorns, plus a goldcrest was seen in the hedge at the front of the house – a bird that is rarely seen here.
The second week of November began with more very autumnal weather although temperatures were mild but there were plenty of wet and windy spells here in South Shropshire. There continued to be lots of my favourite finches feeding in the garden especially chaffinches and goldfinches in large numbers. A beautiful pair of bramblings showed up on the 8th and it was a pleasure to see and photograph them over the next few days. Fieldfares and redwings continued to visit but in low sporadic numbers rather than the large flocks we often get in the orchard here, and the male bullfinch was frequently around in the orchard with them. On the 14th another favourite finch – a lesser redpoll – appeared on the feeders but only stayed with us for a short time. No small mammals, including bank voles, appeared in the garden at all but we continued to catch several more house mice in the basement! The continuing appearance of these little mammals prompted us to release them a little further away but they seem to be finding their way back with ease! Later in the week the local pair of kites began to display over the adjacent field and the bramblings re-appeared together with a couple of siskins, giving us a total of 7 finch species in the garden this week. The week ended with wild and windy weather but continuing mild temperatures.
The very wet and windy continued and there were stormy conditions all around the country. There was no sign of the bramblings on the 15th but lots of other finches continued to feed in the garden plus tits of all the usual species including marsh. Only a handful of winter thrushes now remained in the garden, the numbers being very well below what we normally see here. At least three rabbits were still here, two of them being quite large, but no other mammals were seen at all except the house mice in the basement. The lack of foxes visiting the garden has been very noticeable over the last few months and none have been seen in the neighbouring fields for some time. The bramblings returned on the 16th and goldfinch and chaffinch numbers were very high but no greenfinches were seen this week which is quite unusual here. The single male bullfinch continued to find food in the orchard while fieldfare numbers dipped with only one individual in the garden this week. On the 18th the weather became very wet and windy but temperatures were still mild. The 19th brought lots of smaller birds to the feeders but a very cold wind kept me inside! Redwing and fieldfare numbers dropped again but there were lots of smaller birds, especially tits and finches feeding on and under the bird feeders.
The last week of the month continued with changeable weather but at times was mild and dry with a little sunshine! A large flock of goldfinches fed daily in the garden with a couple of female siskins at last. Several greenfinches enjoyed the sunshine at the end of the month but there was no sign of the large numbers of siskins we have had in previous years. Several pheasants took up residence in the garden, the males displaying and squabbling, and the female sparrowhawk came through the garden almost daily. The month ended with more mild weather and even a little sunshine at times, with the garden full of birds every day but almost devoid of mammals. However there were tawny owls hooting at night, the garden was aglow with autumn colours and the winter flowering Viburnum outside my office scented the air.