Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Autumn arrives ...

Grass was frosted as we set the ringing nets on Sunday; trousers sodden until the sun warmed the mid-morning air. Overhead, jets silently screamed north, trails littering the blue sky. Tree sparrow, blue and great tits, wren, chaffinch, greenfinch caught, ringed and released near the small pond. Mistle thrushes rattling their presence from berry-laden rowans induced us to put a net within a small copse. Mistle thrushes were too wily but a jay was caught. It's latin name Garrulus means noisy or chattering, and glandarius is "of acorns". Jays have been noisily collecting acorns in the garden for a couple of weeks: round-winged, white-rumped. They collect far more than they can immediately consume, 'caching' in readiness for winter. I have read that a single bird may store 11,000 acorns during the autumn.

Moles busy tunnelling in the Woodland Garden and beneath The Limes. Subterranean tube lines undermining paths and grass. Today the characteristic mole hills have appeared. Volcanoes in the grass.

I have replenished wood chip mulch along the length of the Birch Border. The mulch suppresses weeds, retains moisture in the soil - and provides a home for invertebrates. In the mulch, hardy cyclamen hederifolium have been waving flower flags of white through to deepest pink. Tubers planted in late spring have pushed out small pairs of leaves, characteristically heart-shaped and beautifully pattered with white lines on glossy green. The birch that give this part of the garden its' name are mature. Some have died but still stand, providing rich homes for fungi and specialist invertebrates. The trunks are a colander of holes from tiny to great spotted woodpecker size. The vacated woodpecker holes may be used by other birds, bats, wasps or bees. Standing deadwood is one of the least-abundant but most-valuable habitats for wildlife. 

Eurasian Jay - Garullus glandarius
We counted a 'charm' of around one hundred goldfinches as dusk arrived today. Yesterday was the first day when the feeders were mobbed. A couple of greenfinches asserted their rights among the squabbling goldies.

A wood pigeon sits on her late season raft of twigs, sailing above us in the thinning elder foliage. If her young can evade the magpies and carrion crows we'll hope to ring them. One of the previously ringed wood pigeons is especially confident. Ringo, Bingo, Bongo - or Paul? There is no way of telling our ringed pigeons apart.

A slender hen pheasant comes peeping to the terrace on most days. Not only is she especially slight, her eye markings allow us to tell her apart from her sisters. Jill feeds her with corn. Two pheasant poults have outlived their unsuccessful siblings, survived the summer and now are almost equal in size to their mother. Frequently heard but only occasionally seen.

In spite of our feeding regime, hedgehogs have not been seen for several weeks. They have possibly found a better food supply. Most nights I take a torch out to search.

With two mewing young, a buzzard circles above on afternoon hill-top thermals.

George's Pond has filled following recent rains but is home to an invasive ornamental pond plant called Parrots Feather. This inadvertantly escaped from the rain barrels through which rain travels from our roof on its' way to the pond. It is invasive and, as such, 'it is an offence to plant or otherwise allow this species to grow in the wild'. A man and his waders will be seen shortly, pulling out the offending vegetation. This must be done around every six weeks during the growing season.

I have begun mowing the meadow. On the outer edges of the meadow there are islands of long grass around which mown paths weave. These I cut each year and will transplant some of the abundant cowslip seedlings from the orchard. The exposed ground will provide an excellent seedbed for the seeds of native wildflowers I will sow. Small mammals need a thick sward to protect them from predators and so other parts of the meadow are managed to provide this cover and to support overwintering invertebrates as well as providing seed for finches. A fat vole escapes ahead of me as I complete today's scything.



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