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AUTUMN

It’s that time of year when our summer visitors have gone and most of the winter ones have still not checked in, so it seems fairly quiet on the wildlife front.  But 15th October is sunny and warm and we have loads of bees and a small tortoiseshell on the cosmos.  We even had a couple of bees looking into the holes in the bug hotel.  A buzzard is calling from somewhere up high.  It’s so warm, we’re having lunch outside.  

Hoverfly on cosmos

It’s also that time of year when I clean out my nest boxes and find which ones have been used.  Funnily enough, two of the tit boxes are completely empty save for the odd earwig.  How strange?  Usually they’re all occupied.  A close-up inspection of the tawny owl box condemned it so my friend, Steve, and I knocked up a smart new replacement which they’ll, hopefully, be moving into come early next year.

I had my trailcam on the owl’s tree stump last night.  Not only did they turn up for their supper but he returned at 1am just in case I’d left out an extra treat.  He stared into the hole at the top of the stump as if staring would make another chick appear.  It didn’t and he looked a little disappointed.

Tawny owl

I caught a mouse and left it on the lawn for the magpie.  Like most gardens, we have a whole rabble of magpies but we have one who tends to come alone and who we tolerate.  He spotted the mouse from a distance, hopped closer to check it out, then launched himself at it in attack mode.  I fancy he thought it might be alive and needed the element of surprise.  Having been dead for a few hours, the mouse gave in without a struggle and the magpie carried it off to a safe place.

Sparrow hawk

The sparrow hawk also paid a visit today.  He was so quick that the goldfinches were taken completely off guard but somehow they all escaped to the safety of the bushes.  When the sparrow hawk is about, the garden suddenly goes dead.  Not a sound and not a movement until he’s moved on to another patch and life returns to normal.

Holes are appearing in the lawn.  A squirrel finding nuts stashed away in a time of plenty.  He’s also dug up the bulbs from my wild flower patch.  How did he know they were there?  I’m surprised he bothers since he’s become so adept at hanging on to the bird feeder and stealing the energy rich sunflower hearts that are available all year round.

The ancient apple trees haven’t done well this year and I suspect April’s frost took the blossom.  I kicked the few fallen and bruised Bramleys into a pile near my compost heaps and then, as an afterthought, set my trailcam to record any animal activity during the night.  A beautiful red fox passed by, climbed the wall and exited the garden in the bottom corner. He and the badgers don’t respect boundaries.  They’re both climbers and make easy work of gates and dry stone walls.

Friends are asking if I saw the geese.  You can hear them before you see them.  They’re flying high in formation heading from the north to their winter homes to escape the arctic weather.  Pink footed, I guess.  It reminded me of our trips to Florida which is full of humans who do the same.  ‘Snowbirds’ making their annual trip south, flying or driving from northern states to escape the cold and snow and enjoy the beaches and blue skies of the sunshine state.  Meanwhile, Mary and Midge have stopped eating, a sure sign that our old tortoises are getting ready for bed.  An empty stomach is a pre-requisite for a safe hibernation.  They’ll sleep until April and then emerge refreshed for another summer enjoying the garden.  Not a bad idea, I think.

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