So autumn is here and, in case you weren’t convinced, you only have to look at the birds, insects and other wildlife to see their response to shorter days, colder nights and a ripe harvest.
About a month ago my early morning wander around the garden started to become a sticky affair. Large, taut spiral webs were being strung across every path and doorway. I can’t count the number of times I walked into the greenhouse and straight into a web. Most of these daily (unless I manage to avoid them) constructions are made by the Garden spider, Araneus diadematus. Garden spiders are easily identified by the white cruciform markings on their back. Females are frequently seen suspended in the centre of the webs and can be quite large (up to 13mm cf. 8mm for the male) particularly at this time of year when they are likely full of eggs. Sadly, after laying their eggs the spider will die, leaving an egg sac attached to some sturdy branch, fence or shed to weather the winter.
In the back garden I’ve been watching various fruits fall to the ground in increasing numbers. I use as much as I can, but the crop is heavy and there is definitely a limit to how much jam/jelly/gin I can usefully make. So the damson trees are chock-full of wood pigeons eating as many as they can! My dog, Sadie, is a hoover for the fallen fruit, so her visits outside are strictly monitored. She is a big fan of apples too and being part labrador she has no OFF switch. This can be problematic when I lose her in the set-aside copses for long periods of time.
Apples are the main crop of choice with the birds and insects too. All that lovely sugar I suppose. The blackbirds are especially fond of them, but wasps and butterflies (Red Admirals largely) can often be found sampling them once they’ve been pecked open. Interestingly, the local rooks, who usually hang out in the sheep field behind us, seem to have recently become keen on apples too, which I’ve not seen before.
It wouldn’t be autumn without squirrels bouncing around the gardening eating the nuts (I have walnuts and hazel nuts) and making holes in the lawn as they bury others. The black squirrels are back, but I only managed a photo of a normal grey one. I am not sure whether they partake of the apples too, but there are tooth marks consistent with small mammals (could be rats of course!).
Robins are more visible in the garden. Well, they are bright red, so may be I mean more present rather than visible.
As well as felling the fruit, the winds recently have been whipping everyone’s hair/feathers into a mess!
I don’t know whether the winds have been a contributing factor, but there has been a sorry lack of butterflies this autumn. Fortunately, asters can still work their magic on the ones that remain, so it is well worth having these in the borders.
It is always fun to be in the garden when the tit flock swoops in. They are very inclusive and fill the trees and bushes all around you, so that you feel part of their crazy party. Their tribe usually consists of long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits and coal tits, but you can often see other participants caught up in the frenzy, such as the goldcrests.
Last time they blew in, they had swept up this timid visitor. I couldn’t really make out what it was. I think that last time I saw it I though it was a garden warbler.
Happily, my waiting game with the camera paid off, because I was able to get a clear view when the rock fountain proved too much temptation. I now believe him to be a common chiffchaff. The responses to the ID on the iSpot website have agreed with this assessment so far.
We are seeing quite a lot of woodpecker activity in the garden again. The Great Spotted woodpeckers are usually to be seen hopping up the damson trees, but this fresh-looking fellow was experimenting with the potted olives and then the water fountain.
The juvenile green woodpecker is still a regular visitor, but he is usually on the ground, pecking for insects and grubs. He is looking particularly scruffy as his plumage changes.
I’ve mentioned the ripe harvest of fruit and nuts, but seeds play a big role in attracting wildlife too. Sunflowers are one of the most obvious seed supplies and are especially loved by greenfinches, but I always grow some teasel in the garden for the goldfinches too.
Gardening at a National Trust property like Wimpole allows planting on a large scale, which is part of the fun of course. Here is their stand of teasel for instance (above).
Last week I was wheeling weeds to the bund passed this large stand when the whole area erupted with squawked alarm calls as birds flew for the surrounding trees. Sure enough the birds were goldfinches. I’d estimate that there were probably 40-50 birds in the stand. This photo show just some of them in the nearest tree.
Are you seeing changes in your wildlife visitors as autumn settles in??
I am linking up to Tina’s monthly Wildlife Wednesday. I know that I am bit late, but I am hoping that she won’t mind a tardy entry. 🙂