The Wildlife Garden in October

Cornus Autumn Colours

The beginning of October was typically cool and damp at the beginning of the week – quite unlike other Octobers here in South Shropshire which are sometimes warm and sunny!  One of the local red kites flew back and forth low over garden a few of times and a female sparrowhawk was also seen in the garden this week. Our regular small garden birds were starting to return, especially tits and finches, and there were several long-tailed tits feeding around the garden shrubs and trees. A few large dragonflies continued to hawk around the big pond but butterflies were absent. Several blackbirds, all males, were feasting on the fallen apples in the back garden but there was a distinct lack of females! No greenfinches were recorded at all but a few juvenile goldfinches appeared and were happily feeding in the garden on teasel seeds.  On the 7th of the month we had rain – the first we had seen for several weeks – but not really enough be useful. The weather was dramatic though and again we experienced stormy skies and huge clouds over the surrounding hills.  Autumn had not really made an impact yet though and there was very little leaf colour apart from a beautiful Cornus shrub, as the weather still very mild.

A regular nuthatch

The weather in the second week of the month was still good – being both mild and sunny at times.  There were fewer birds feeding around the garden but the goldfinches were present in good numbers with many feeding on the teasel seedheads. No mammals were seen but there was evidence of a visiting fox with regular scats around the meadow and in the long garden from time to time.   The single moorhen was still with us on the big pond but no wild mallard appeared which is unusual at this time of year.  On the 13th we had a beautiful warm sunny day with lovely misty views over the adjacent field.  The weather became more windy and cool towards the end of the week but it was still bright and the garden began to glow with autumn colours.  There was no sign yet of migrant redwings although they were being seen elsewhere in Shropshire. Other bird numbers began to increase including the long tailed tits which were now using the feeders, but in general bird numbers were low.  There were no butterflies around the garden now but a single bank vole continued to pick up sunflower hearts from under the feeders. On the 14th a handsome female sparrowhawk visited the bird feeders but left without a catch.

Knapweed still in flower

The third week of October saw more mild and quite sunny weather but there was very little rain and very little leaf fall so far this autumn.  Most of the trees in the garden were still fully clothed with green leaves and very little colour change. The oaks and hawthorns were starting to colour up slightly but in general everything was still green and lush. A few large dragonflies were hawking around the big pond and over the pond in the field next door but with no real rain for some time, pond water levels were exceptionally low for the time of year. Just a few late butterflies were seen this week but only one red admiral noted. A few common knapweed were still well in flower around the garden, which added a little colour to the wildflower meadows. The 18th   was a lovely bright sunny day and a small flock of redwings was noted in front of our little patch of woodland, plus the first marsh tit for ages was seen feeding in the front garden. A single green veined white butterfly was also recorded.  The 20th was dank and cool but there was still no rain.  Huge numbers of redwings flew over the garden from the east along with a good number of starlings – a bird rarely seen here. The weather became cool and windy as we moved through the week and leaves were starting to show signs of colouring up, especially on the oaks and hawthorns in and around the garden, plus the hazel hedges were glowing with yellow and orange.

Starlings in the Mist

At the end of the last week of September the first fieldfares arrived and immediately the ripe berries in the big hawthorns began to disappear. However no redwings or fieldfares were yet eating our holly berries and apart from a relatively small number of winter thrushes it was quite quiet in the garden.  The month ended with the usual tits and finches here but few other birds apart from regular nuthatches and a coal tits.  A single mistle thrush perched on the overhead wires in the back garden on the 27th and more redwings and fieldfares over but there was a distinct lack of mammals here.  The month ended with bright and breezy weather and hopefully the promise of some autumn colour in the trees around us.   

Red Admiral Butterfly


About Dinchope Diary

I am a plant ecologist, specialising in wildlife gardening for more than 30 years, writing books and teaching. My blog is about the two acre wildlife garden I have created in South Shropshire.
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