Occasional Notes from a Dog Walker
A strange autumn. Dot the Dog and I had not yet seen the usual festoons of webs of immature spiders, recently hatched, covering the hedgerows and picked out by dew and morning sun (there had occasionally been some sunshine!).
A gloomy morning at the beginning of the month. DtD and I had to be out and about unusually early (much to her annoyance – she was very comfortable in her bed) and a buzzard flew low and lazily over the garden, presumably in search of breakfast.
The following morning as we walked home we heard a cacophony of geese behind us coming from the north west. We stopped and waited for them to fly over. There were at least a hundred, many more probably, in four skeins and it was fascinating to watch them interweaving and interchanging, making amazing patterns in the sky. Meanwhile our smaller "local" flock seemed to have taken up residence on the large field flood. They went off (presumably to feed) in the mornings and by late afternoon were contentedly floating around again.
Wonderfully delicate autumn wild-type cyclamen were in flower in the garden – but the most lovely sight was a group of wild arum plants under the hedge on the path from Moss Cottage/Mossways to Henbury Rise with full scarlet fruiting heads. Another clump appeared a few days later, but I thought they might be a garden escape because they had variegated leaves (the albopictum variety).
Mid-month DtD and I were out earlier than usual again one morning. A skein of four geese came over and splashed down on the flood. We thought that was it – but a few minutes later we realised they must have been an advance party because a another fifty or so came in loudly.
Fungi appeared – on the track to the cottages and in the field by the school. I think I mentioned them this time last year. They were small, a few centimetres high with shallow conical tops (if you are not pc think "coolie hats"). A few days later more appeared in the big flood field.
The second weekend of the month came with sharp frosts. Goldfinches and tits thronged the feeders – and the sparrow hawk got its tea... It went off to sit atop our compost heap to pluck its victim as it usually does. Fortunately it doesn't always score a hit but its speed and accuracy are amazing – we only see a brownish blur and a bit of a flutter as it seizes its target.
S and I watched a pigeon feasting on berries in a hedge – it was so busy gorging the fruit it hardly noticed us, even though we must have been only a couple of feet away.
After storm Archie, storm Babet moved in. Torrential rain brought standing water over the dog-fields (and on our back lawn). The gusty wind made us (DtD and me) very wary of walking near tall old oak and sycamore trees – they have a habit of shedding branches or even falling over in a strong wind. I drove to Broken Cross and while stationary at the traffic lights watched a pigeon trying to perch on overhead wires – it eventually got a grip but was almost immediately blown off – flying skills to be commended!
S heard a barn owl screeching in the early hours one morning – and the sparrow hawk returned, but went hungry.
Geese continued to come and go – loudly – around dusk and daybreak, although a small contingent seemed to have become semipermanent residents on the big flood. They had an accompaniment of a sizeable flotilla of ducks.
A late-month morning brought fog – dense. It appeared from nowhere on a bright morning as I looked out of the landing window about nine o'clock and it formed in the space of a few moments. By early afternoon it had finally burned off and Dot the Dog and I walked in bright sunshine (me in shirt sleeves).
Next day was drizzle, but the local squirrels didn't seem to mind – they are feasting on the fallen sweet chestnuts from the tree at the corner of Moss Cottage's garden.
There was more activity on the paddock opposite Mount Farm. A digger and dumper truck appeared (much to DtD's annoyance). It looked like the surface was being stripped. The new owner apparently has ambitions to plant an orchard... It would be lovely – but how much nicer to have a horse or two. I bet very few people in Henbury now remember "Bluey", the rather grumpy grey pony who lived there when we arrived in 1978.
End of the month. Storm Ciaran arrived with torrential rain. Dot the Dog needed hosing down after her walks, much to her disgust.
Mrs Sparrow-Hawk began to make breakfast and dinner calls to our bird feeders...
Horrid of Henbury