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September Ramblings

5th October 2023 @ 5:05pm – by Henbury Webteam
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dot the dog

Occasional Notes from a Dog Walker September 2023

Autumn began officially (although it seemed unofficially to have begun a couple of weeks before). The trees noticeably started to adopt their autumn colours and the lawns were dew-laden in the mornings rather than wet from rain. North-facing windows had a coat of condensation on the outside first thing. However the autumn flowering cyclamen (hederifolium) on the rockery came into flower and we still had sweet peas to cut that perfumed the whole house. I never grow fancy and showy sweet peas – they have little or no scent so old-fashioned, small flowered, randomly pollinated ones are my thing.

A complete contrast to the BHWE (Bank Holiday Weekend) – warm – indeed hot – mornings. As Dot the Dog and I wandered over the fields we saw the moon in the sky as well as the sun. My paternal grandfather (a seafarer) always held with the sailors' superstition that this portended fine weather – it did!

One hot and sunny morning DtD and I walked with the sun on our backs and were confronted with a kaleidoscope of colours. There had been a heavy dew and the drops of water on the long grass refracted the light into a whole spectrum, constantly changing as we moved.

At home our little pool marsh marigold came into bloom a second time, having flowered in the spring, and the water lily also sprang back into bloom. A strange year. I met a juvenile frog whilst strimming the lawn edge – it got away unscathed.

The large horse chestnut by the gate into the top field definitely showed autumn colouration, although I gathered the full autumn show would be delayed this year because of the wonderful weather. The crop of conkers looked very light.

The hot weather eventually disappeared – as did the cattle. However the humidity remained in the shape of torrential rain and the cattle were replaced by a similar number of gulls on the (rapidly re-expanding) big flood.

After plundering the feeders for several weeks, the garden birds more or less disappeared too – presumably off to the hedgerows to moult. A few jackdaws and magpies still came to the bird table.

Geese were on the move. At daybreak one mid-month morning two skeins of some size flew over, honking loudly – and for several subsequent days.

The tail end of Hurricane Lee finally hit, having swept the US East Coast and made its way across the Atlantic as far as Henbury. Torrential rain refilled the field-floods, but between squalls and longer spells of rain the sun was remarkably warm and the (brisk and gusty) breeze was warm too. The latter got under Dot the Dog's tail and made her very frisky. A rather damp and bedraggled kestrel flew up from the ground one afternoon, having obviously caught its dinner, and went off to drier quarters to eat.

Soon after the equinox the garden birds reappeared – presumably the moult having been accomplished. Feeding began again greedily – goldfinches, tits of various sorts (including longtails again) and others including the pair of nuthatches. S saw swallows and maybe martins reeling over the garden, presumably feeding on their way south for the winter.

The tail of Hurricane Nigel came in – more rain and a brisk wind that got Dot the Dog quite excited. To my surprise there were some sizeable conkers on the ground seeing my previous comment. When I was a boy in Suffolk there was much discussion about conkers. Some boys baked them (but the conkers tended to shatter), others pickled them in vinegar (but they were a bit soft and couldn't break anything harder). Most of us used them in the natural state – but then the length of the string came into play – a harder swipe with a longer string, but the risk of a tangle and a free go for your opponent.

On the way up the newly reopened Andertons Lane, DtD was fascinated by a hole in the bank an inch or two in diameter. I thought it was a wild bee nest, getting ready for winter – there were ten or a dozen insects hovering about and going in by turns and coming out to admit the next in the queue (very democratic) but I couldn't identify the species. DtD insisting on getting on with her walk. A bit of research suggested the insects were actually tree wasps – they nest under the roots of trees as well as under lower branches and there was a large tree just above.

There were still a few butterflies about, probably looking for places to overwinter. They like to hide under outside window sills and suchlike. If you see them don't disturb them – otherwise there won't be any next spring! Spiders were beginning to come in too – I don't know quite how they infiltrate the house but they will go out again as the days lengthen.

End of the month – warm sunny days came after Storm Agnes arrived and then went rather like a (literally) damp squib. In the breeze a buzzard soared up, not needing thermal currents to wheel around and climb. I imagined it was enjoying the lift as it spread its wings and was taken effortlessly upward.

Dot the Dog and I walked in almost summery conditions – me in shirtsleeves (everyone else seemed in winter togs almost ready for a snowstorm but S says that I am "warm-blooded" – or foolish). On our morning walk we saw a pair of lovely red admiral butterflies soaking up the warmth on a neighbour's sedum spectabile plant. In the afternoon a couple of skeins of geese honked their way down to the big field-flood presumably to rest overnight heading south. We saw our first cock pheasant in splendid plumage – it was in the bottom of a hedge and was fortunately the far side of some stock fencing because it had difficulty getting out and its first inclination as always was to run rather than fly. Had there been no stockwire DtD would have had it! Nearly time to hear the volleys of shots at weekends as shooting begins...

As ever

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