Now that we've passed the autumnal equinox, the superb (if you enjoy dry, warm weather) summer of 2013 is officially over and we are now into autumn proper.
So wat gwan at the moment then? Anything of note?
You'll be hard pressed not to notice the abundance of berries and soft fruit adorning our hedges and bushes this autumn. The brambles, firethorn and rowan have gone mennnal (just to name three). Last winter was an excellent "waxwing year" in the UK - we had many of these great little birds flock over from the continent as the berry crop had failed there (same with jays actually, as the continental oaks had not done that well either). The strange thing is last year, the UK berry and acorns had a bad year - so the waxwings and jays had to fight for their scran even here. If the continental acorns and berries fail again this autumn and the waxwings and jays all come here en masse - they'll have a veritable feast laid out for them!
I've started running again (against the quack's orders but hey...) and on my runs I'm constantly passing people plucking blackberries from country roadside hedges and dropping them into ice cream boxes. The hedges are indeed dripping with fruit at the moment.
Get them soon though.... before the devil pisses on them. (NB. some say its the 10th October when Old Nick urinates on the brambles, but I would be pretty choosy after Michaelmas mesel, as agreed by most (that's 29th September or in 2 days after writing this post!)
Wat (else) gwan?
Well. The swifts have all gawn orf, but there are still swallows and martins about. They're on the move though. I see the odd one flying high and hard south over southeast Berks at present but many thousands are heading south and west before the big push across the Channel and Med.
I hope I still have up to two weeks before the hirundines have gone - and by that time (the second week of October) if I listen really carefully after dark, I'll probably hear my first thin "tseep" of the arriving winter thrushes - the redwings (and later the fieldfares). Last year I heard redwings and saw swallows on the same day in Berkshire.
Talking of birds, we have had the first autumnal visitors in the garden - three chiffchaffs today (three together) and a young goldfinch without its striking head colours yet. There is talk of red-backed shrike and ruff at local "birdwatching sites" and as I've told you, ospreys are well and truly off now.
But wat (ELSE) gwan?
I've dead-headed the invasive goldenrod (great for the bees but so vigorous) now that the flowers have died. In fact in our garden there is a distinct lack of floral colour now. I've mown the grass for the last time this year? (maybe?) but the daisies have pretty-well gone, as has the clover and wild flowers in my "meadow". The white valerian has finally joined the foxgloves in "droopsville" and even the last water lily flower isn't opening properly on the pond's still surface.
That all said, the ivy (and we have a LOT of ivy) has flowered now - but although I check it as often as possible, the ivy bees haven't quite found it yet. Ivy bees are generally confined to the south of England at present, but they're moving north (they've been seen in Reading, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire this year) so I am hopeful that maybe this year these stunning wee bees check out our garden to refuel.
More guff on insects - I found my first 22-spot ladybird in the garden this week. I say first, I mean first of the garden -22-spots have always been my favourite ladybird. Why? I have no idea. I just likem!
The first of the autumn moffs have been appearing in numbers also - lunar underwing and large ranunculus to name but two.
The biggest insects numbers this year seem to be provided by the crane flies (if you want to be all grown up about it) or daddy-long-legs if you (like me) don't. They're EVERYWHERE this year,aren't they?! I get into the shower each morning and three drunken floaty things dance over my nose. I go downstairs and open the pantry (its a cupboard really, but you know... what the hell) for the morning porridge and two more dance out - trailing legs as they laboriously try to work out how to fly properly. I let the hens out of their run and they spend the next few minutes rushing across the lawn picking off the helpless DLLs. They are everywhere...
The leaves are still on the trees although they're turning QUICKLY now and falling more and more. Unlike last year we're not expecting a riot of autumnal colour this year - the summer was too hot and dry for that. Our apple crop (in the garden) looks good, although we really need some rain now - to swell the fruit, or even the winter thrushes might pass them over.
I am making final winter arrangements in the garden right now. I've found a brilliant double berth swift box to put up in the winter (to weather before next spring). I've covered the large compost heap, just in case a grass snake or two decides to overwinter with us and I've created the beginnings of a huge chicken-proof leaf pile for all kinds of wee critters (but frogs mainly).
Now to go blackberrying. You know. Before the devil does his stuff.....