There was a decidedly coldish start to the month of November here in South Shropshire, and we experienced the first frost of the winter on the third of the month. Good numbers of redwings were seen in the vegetable garden in the big hawthorn there, but there was no sign of fieldfares which seem to be late everywhere this year. There were no bramblings either although they seem to be abundant in other places. We had a bright, cold day on the 3rd of the month and the resident marsh tit was still visiting the bird feeder outside my office window every day from about 3pm onwards and caching sunflower hearts in the nearby hedge. On the 5th a flock of around 200 redwings appeared in the garden and were soon feeding in the hawthorns in my little woodland area on the garden boundary. Large numbers of chaffinches were cleaning up the dropped berries on the grassy path below. On the afternoon of the 7th twenty six fieldfares were seen in the garden mostly in the copse, with just one feeding on the Ellisons Orange apples in the orchard. There were still at least two rabbits in the garden – thankfully not in the vegetable garden though!
Goldfinch feeding on Lavender seed
At the start of the second week there were no fieldfares around at all but lots of redwings were still here, now feeding on the berries on the big holly tree at the far end of the garden. A single male blackbird was eating all the hawthorn berries in the large tree in the back garden and aggressively defending ‘his’ cache from allcomers, plus a few goldfinches were feeding on groundsel seeds in the long garden meadow. The weather was quite overcast and cloudy but now not so cold. There were very misty conditions on the 10th and the local red kites were very active with two flying low over the garden on the 13th. Goldfinches began to eat the lavender seeds in the back garden and on the 13th a single fieldfare returned and was sunning itself on the long hedge for some time. More fieldfares returned to the orchard the next day but so far not as many as in previous years, and redwings were still in the holly every day. Bank voles were feeding daily on the patio at the back of the house and several field mice were caught on the camera trap one night. Birds regularly using the feeders were rather sparse and there was no sign of the marsh tit for a couple of days.
The third week of November began with a cold, dank day on the 15th. No redwings were seen at all and a walk to the end of the garden revealed that all the holly berries have gone! There were still very few fieldfares – at times just one in the orchard. A queen bumblebee was seen in the bottom of one of our hedges on the 18th – not that surprising as the weather was overcast but still very mild. All around the garden the autumn colours were fantastic with lots of yellow and orange leaves especially in the field maples and hazels. On the 18th I had a great view of a stoat in the garden. Blackbirds – all males – began fighting over the remaining hawthorn berries in the tree outside my kitchen window and twice a song thrush was seen attempting to grab a few berries but the blackbirds frightened it off. A single long tailed tit was around for a few days – a bird we haven’t seen here for a while. The weather became clear and bright but quite cold but on the 24th a red admiral butterfly was seen – maybe disturbed from its hibernation spot. Large numbers of pheasants began to appear in the garden from the local shoot, sometimes as many as twenty at a time which was frustrating as they eat the small invertebrates in the meadow grass and the discarded sunflower hearts under the feeders. By the 24th of the month all the redwings had left us and just one fieldfare remained in the orchard. This happens every autumn and it is tempting to believe that it is this same bird that spends the winter here every year! The song thrush returned briefly as on the 26th the weather became very cold and was able to find food in the form of Viburnum berries which the blackbirds were ignoring in favour of hawthorn. At the end of the week the gale force winds of storm Arwen arrived overnight and we were left without power for many hours but luckily there was little damage in the garden although friends reported fallen trees locally. As the month came to a conclusion, cold damp conditions prevailed with snow on the Long Mynd on the 29th and cold drizzly rain until the 30th. The usual birds continued to feed with us, and the bank voles appeared every day on the patio for their sunflower hearts. A sparrowhawk visited briefly, the kites continued to display over the garden and my thoughts were very much on next month and the approaching equinox. I am looking forward to hearing the wonderful songs of mistle thrush and song thrush here at the beginning of the new year.
Snow on the Long Mynd