The first day of October was bright and sunny here in South Shropshire but there were still very few birds around the garden after our holiday in Wales. There was no sign of any siskins at all but nuthatches were still here and taking away and caching large numbers of sunflower hearts. In general though birds at the feeders were quite sparse. Pheasants were released in the field next door for the local shoot but thankfully there were fewer than usual. This field has been sown with winter wheat this year rather than left fallow which means there could be quite different wildlife using it this winter. In the garden the odd butterfly was still around especially red admiral on the Verbena bonariensis in the vegetable garden, although green veined white was also seen feeding there. I had great views of a male blackcap feeding on the berries of alder buckthorn outside my office window on the 4th and a male sparrowhawk visited the garden several times in the first week of this month. Apart from these species birds were rather few, no doubt as a result of two weeks without the bird feeders being topped up. A couple of rabbits were still looking very much at home in the garden although mammals were rather scarce this week except for a wood mouse that was seen a few times and the resident bank voles that live under the patio at the back of the house. However, two very vocal local red kites were making a lot of noise every day!
In the second week of October the local kites continued to be very noisy. The long hedge between our garden and the field next door was carefully cut by a local farmer – this hedge is very meticulously maintained by him and is always thick and dense and full of berries, and the flat top soon attracted a variety of birds, especially jays, of which there were quite a few around. On the 8th a rather special mammal was seen in the garden – a polecat! This is only the second time we have seen one here and they are far too quick and nervous for me to get a photograph. Also this day a little red-legged partridge was seen in the Long Garden – one of my favourite garden visitors. A male sparrowhawk continued to be seen every day and he soon found that it was quite convenient to sit on top of the bird feeder pole outside my office. A few comma and red admiral butterflies were still feeding around the garden, largely on Verbena bonariensis, and a lovely little marsh tit began to visit the feeders daily. Large flocks of wood pigeons, typical of this time of year, flew over and sometimes into the garden – 26 were counted in the meadow one day. On the 13th a snipe visited the garden. Sadly I disturbed it while walking near the pond but it was nevertheless a great view! On the 14th a small flock of redwings arrived. This is one of my favourite autumn and winter visitors and I was pleased to see around 15 alight in the large hawthorns at the far side of my garden. They didn’t stay long but their appearance bodes well for winter thrushes here as the hawthorn crop and the apples in the orchard are abundant this year.
Red Admiral Butterfly feeding on Verbena bonariensis
The third week began with very mild weather and still no rain. A few plants were continuing to flower in the nectar borders including Japanese anemone and the long lasting Verbena bonariensis. On the 16th of the month we had excellent views of a stoat in the garden. This very active mammal was seen three or four times, firstly running across the garden just outside the glass door of my office, then in the back garden and lastly exploring the big meadow. It was fantastic to have such good views of it. Over the next few days the weather cooled and there were misty and damp conditions but no actual rain. The marsh tit continued to visit the feeders daily and pheasants began to come into the garden in some numbers, but thankfully most then left us again for the adjacent field. The single bank vole was seen feeding at the back of the house every day and the occasional redwing was still enjoying the hawthorn berries.
At the beginning of the last week of October I was treated, early one morning, to the sight of two foxes chasing and play fighting in the field next door. The weather became brighter and colder and the numbers of birds using the feeders – especially goldfinches – increased. Redwings continued to return to the garden for the berries in the large hawthorn in the vegetable garden which is a more secluded spot, and soon there was a small flock of these lovely thrushes in the garden every day. On the 27th two red legged partridges arrived in the garden. They didn’t stay for long sadly which was a shame as I do like these little birds even though they are not native. The weather became cooler and more windy as we moved towards the end of the last week of the month, the male sparrowhawk continued to visit us daily and the tall holly bush at the end of the garden was being visited by a male blackbird and a song thrush so the berries were disappearing fast. There was still no sign of any fieldfares though. However the marsh tit continued to come to the bird feeder outside my office every day, continually dashing off with sunflower hearts which were being cached in various locations around the garden. The month ended with mostly cloudy and overcast weather although there were moments of bright cold sunshine. However in spite of the brightness, there was definitely a hint of much cooler weather in the air. Winter – my least favourite season – is approaching!