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August ramblings

5th September 2023 @ 10:10am – by Henbury Webteam
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August 2023

Again a gloomy start to the month.

Geese appeared on the small-flood-field behind William's Way, taking up residence, sometimes accompanied by a heron (which was presumably looking for frogs).

Fresh vehicle tracks appeared over the grazing fields and Dot the Dog and I thought the cattle would soon be going because the fields looked pretty grazed-out. The cattle however looked quite content – now on nodding acquaintance with DtD.

Storm Antoni arrived. The flood opposite the entrance to Mount Farm on Anderton's Lane had reached the width of the roadway by 9.15am and was overflowing down their drive. Dot the Dog took an executive decision when we reached Moss Cottage/Mossways and headed for home, head and ears down. A good shake on sneaking into the utility room necessitated much wiping down of the walls and doors!

The geese flew the small flood-field. Ominously a scattering of feathers suggested that the appearance of the fox might have prompted their departure. A few (wet) days later, they returned and then moved to the larger flood. By mid-month they were joined by a number of ducks, and finally a few gulls. A fox spraint appeared on the path.

Autumn looked likely to be making an early appearance. As well as dopey wasps we heard the tawny owl hooting in the late evening, and the first crane fly ("Daddy-Long-Legs") teetered inelegantly about the utility room floor. The horse chestnut tree beside the gate into the little top field began to show its early autumn colour.

The patch of thistles I commented on recently lost its pinkish-mauve flowering colour and became more white than pink as the thistle down appeared and floated in the breeze (especially when we caught the fringes of storm Betty).

Dot the Dog and I met a very bold partial albino crow. There are several about but this one stood out because it had six symmetrically placed (three each side) white patches on its back – Lewis Carroll would probably have cast it as the Six of Spades if the colours had been reversed. When I was at a small state grammar school (150 boys) in Suffolk in the late fifties our headmaster on one occasion told us he read the "Alice" books once every year because they were easier to understand than a school full of boys...

In the garden we had an unusual visitation by long-tailed tits – normally only winter visitors in harsh weather. However there are several obvious juveniles being taught the feeding rounds for later, so presumably they have bred nearby. We have juvenile nuthatches (and parents) and woodpigeons too.

The first autumn ladybird appeared starting to look for somewhere to overwinter. We hadn't seen the starlings for several weeks but suddenly a mass of them raided the bird table – a good dozen at least, so a successful breeding season! Three collar doves came too – a couple of adults and an obvious juvenile learning the ropes. Unfortunately the sparrow hawks seem to think they have a free source of food too – a hapless goldfinch had been plucked on the top of the compost heap...

One strange thing about this summer has been the absence of greenfly and blackfly – perhaps that's why so many birds are coming to the feeders. Usually our sweet peas are covered in greenfly but this year – none. We have but a single rose bush and every year when the blackfly appear I squirt it with the foam from our Eco washing up liquid – not necessary this time round.

In the fields the crows were again strutting confidently about in numbers – a phalanx moved off across the big field, accompanied by a few gulls from the flood. I had more or less forgotten that the collective name for a group of crows is a "murder" ("O" level English 1962 – their deep black colour and ability to imitate human voice sounds made them harbingers of death and damnation in mediaeval superstition)!

Blank Holiday Saturday came. My day was made by seeing half a dozen swifts swooping and diving and flying a foot or two above the ground catching insects. I supposed they were fattening up ready to migrate. I pointed them out to some passers-by but I don't think they knew what a swift is... Lots more info here. A typical Blank Holiday Sunday followed – cool, wet and horrible! DtD and I abandoned our morning walk about two-thirds of the way round. On getting home she did an excellent shake – another good but monochrome Jackson Pollock job on the utility room walls (and washing machine and cupboards)!

The Monday wasn't much better. However we noticed that a huge rowan tree in a neighbour's garden that had been full of red berries a few days before the BHW had been stripped by the Monday evening. Our bird feeders are plundered daily but the culprits will soon go off into the fields to moult.

The torrential rain left the fields wet with standing water everywhere. Where the cattle had wandered there were hoofprints several inches deep – if the ground ever dries out it will be an ankle-wrenching walk!

In the hedgerows the haws began to colour, some already bright red, and the untrimmed blackberries had small but deliciously sharp fruits.

An early autumn marched on. Our laburnum tree showed its first yellowing leaves (not normally seen until mid-September).

Last day of summer (at least on the calendar). Dot the Dog and I were out five-ish in the evening. We saw 20 or perhaps even 30 swallows and swifts criss-crossing the field opposite Mount Farm as we left Andertons Lane to head for Moss Cottage/Mossways. A bit further along were some of the birds perched on the wires strung between the poles. I don't know whether they were local birds getting ready to migrate, or birds from further north already in transit and taking a break on their long flight south.

As ever

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