Lovely Mistle Thrushes, larger than Song Thrushes and standing more upright, with blotchier chests, greyer-brown backs. and longer tails, have been eating the berries from our Rowan Joseph Rock, as they do most years.(The BTO do a good comparison of Missile and Song Thrush if the differences confuse you). They are named after their habit of eating Mistletoe berries, though they will eat Holly, Yew and Rowan and you may know they are in your garden or park from their distinctive, rattling call, at any time of year. Mistle Thrushes are one of the species which ‘resource-guard’, where they will aggressively defend a source of berries from all-comers.Studies show that birds which do this have
Mistle Thrush, Rowan, Joseph Rock
Mistle Thrush, Rowan, Joseph Rock
Mistle Thrush, eating berries, Joseph Rock Rowan
than those who don’t ‘resource-guard’. Conditions: Mild, still and sunny. Temperature: Max 12 Min 7C.
While the drought caused a “false fall” for some of our trees which therefore lost their leaves early, the summer sun, extending into late autumn has led many trees to hold onto their leaves longer than usual, as has the relative lack of high winds and rain. Leaf senescence (leaf-drop), results from a complex set of relationships between climate, genes and chemicals, but whenever it happens, it is a result of the deciduous plant or tree redirecting its nutrients and chemicals away from leaves, from the tree-tops initially, shutting down fluids and corking over the leaf-ends so they fall. The autumn colours on some plants are a result of chlorophyll being broken down, the green fading and revealing the carotenoids and flavonoids, which glow red, orange, yellow etc. This year our garden colours, seen here,
Cotinus Golden Spirit, usually this far north it remains yellow in autumn but not this year
Fallen leaves of Rowan Joseph Rock
Rowan Joesph Rock and Cotinus Grace, and the Oak still full of leaf
are enhanced by the sugars built up from so much sunshine this summer and autumn. Conditions: Mild and cloudy. Temperature: Max 13 Min 5C.
There is nothing more beautiful visiting out garden, year round but resplendent in their new plumage right now, than male Bullfinches. Apparently, we are in the lucky 10% of people who have these normally shy birds coming to our garden feeders. Having declined by 36% since 1967, these stocky finches need all the help they can get and they come, characteristically for Bullfinches, in their loose family flocks, most of the year, to feed on our RSPB feeder-mix. We have three males and two females at present, one, as you can see, still just coming out of it’s moult. They used to be caged and astonishingly, some people played a special flute to them in an attempt to get them copy the tunes. Their soft, low whistle is beautiful enough for me. Conditions: Milder and greyer spell. Still very little rain.Temperature: Max 12 Min 7C.
Male Bullfinches, one just finishing moulting
Rowan Berries– this has certainly been an atypical year in many ways. We have never kept the berries on our native Rowan this late in the year. Probably due to the proliferation of fruits and berries in the wild, the Blackbirds have only just started eating them, as the cooler weather comes in. The yellow berries on our Rowan ‘Joseph Rock’ are varying in colour from nearly white to rosy red- again, a first since it was planted about 15 years ago, and probably due to extra sugars from this year’s excessive dry heat. The stunning autumn colours of the Joseph Rock leaves are, however, beginning to glow as usual. Conditions: Cool, drizzle clearing to sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 9 Min 2C.
Male Blackbird eating Joseph Rock Rowan berries
Blackbird on Joseph Rock Rowan
Female Blackbird eating native Rowan berries
Hawthorn- there is a bumper crop of Haws, Hawthorn Berries, this year as the photo’s show. These berries have been used as herbal remedies since at least the ancient Greeks, and probably far longer. They are high in anti-oxidants and are still used by some to treat stomach-aches, stress and sleep-problems. Hawthorn has long mythic associations, and our Celtic ancestors believed the trees to be protected and inhabited by Faery Folk, representing
places where time passes differently to our own. Isolated trees were not cut down, for fear of invoking the wrath of the Faery Queen. The site of Westminster Abbey was once called Thorne Island after the stand of sacred Hawthorn trees there. The berries can be made into jellies, and I have just seen a recipe, on Countryfile’s website, for Hawthorn Gin. We might give it a go. Makes a change from Sloe Gin. Conditions: Grey and drizzly. Temperature: Max 10 Min 9C.
Harlequin Ladybirds- you may already have experienced the latest inundation of Harlequin Ladybirds. Thought to have benefitted from this hot summer, the populations are increased at this time of year by thousands drifting in on mild winds, from Asia. The most invasive species we have at present, this ‘invader’ first appeared in the UK in 2004- in ten years it has spread to areas which it took Grey Squirrels a hundred years to inhabit. Harlequin Ladybirds, on average larger than our 46 native species, and in a variety of patterns and colours and spot-numbers, have brown legs, and as such are distinguishable from the black-legged native species. They also reduce native Ladybirds, by out-competing for their aphid-food and by eating their eggs. Hibernating inside, unlike native Ladybirds, they give out a pheromone as the cooler weather arrives, which helps them detect other Harlequins, and gather in numbers inside our houses, and outbuildings. They do little harm though they may stain furniture and can deliver a small bite, which is harmless to all except a few who may have an allergic reaction. Conditions: Rain and strong winds arriving through the day. Temperature: Max 18 Min 17 C.
On a nature photography note, autumn mornings, when the sun-light strikes from a low angle, is an exciting time to try photo’s. Here are a few from this week, back-lit, that is pointing the camera towards the low sun. If you find the photographs are too bright, just limit the light coming in, either by shooting at a higher speed or by shooting with a smaller aperture (higher aperture number = smaller aperture), or both, until you get the contrast you are looking for. Or set your camera on ‘bracketing’ and take a few shots and choose the one you like best. If you don’t ‘do’ speed and aperture, or you just point and shoot on automatic, then point towards the brightest thing in the
Back-lit Dandelion Clock
Back-lit Dandelion Clock with morning dew
Back-lit, morning light on spider’s web
Back-lit Spider’s Web, morning light
photo, half press the shutter button and keep it pressed down while moving the camera to the composition you want. This should help reduce the glare of light in the photo. Conditions: A warm, sunny day after a cool, wet one. Temperature: Max 17 Min 11 C.