Unusual Autumn

Young Swallows at Perriswood on The Gower in August

This morning, in GU46 (that’s in Hampshire) I walked the dog in a snow flurry!! We’re still in October for goodness sake!!!

Between, or in fact sometimes because of, the journeys to and from college in Oxfordshire, I’ve been trying to keep track of some of my autumn sightings this year, and it’s been unusual.

The most noticeable oddity of the autumn for me was the Swallows and House Martins. They left for their migration to Africa incredibly late this year with my last sightings being

  • Farley Mount near Winchester on 6th Oct
  • Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire on 8th Oct
  • Blackbushe, Yateley on 9th Oct

All of which is noticably later than the date I recorded last year of 21st September!

But apparently that wasn’t the half of it, as the BTO reported migration to be late, with their e-news talking about some Swallow chicks still on the nest in early October, and  Going Birding Hants still showing Swallows leaving the coast on 24th October!!

The dragonflies also flew late this autumn. The last one I spotted at college was on 15th October, and the following day the last one here in my favourite field near Yateley, where it rose from the damp grass into the sunlight a bit like Tinkerbell after she was poisoned!

Buckthorn berries

The Spindle trees at Farley Mount started the autumn colour, which given the damp weather bringing the leaves down whilst still partly green, may be all over before we return after half-term. The little black beauties we found on 20th October initially had me completely puzzled, probably because it’s years since I’ve seen any.

Sadly the autumn colours going over the Ridgeway to college have been somewhat dulled by the misty weather. However, I’ve a trip to the New Forest to look forward to late next week, so shouldn’t go completely without the golden autumn palette I love.

The Red Kites still regularly delight me on the way to college, even in the mist. It’s been particularly interesting to watch their behaviour: swooping low over the road, presumably looking for carrion, or following the plough on it’s autumn rounds, in groups of up to a dozen. On one occasion I spotted three sat in a fresh ploughed field, presumably feeding on the worms, whilst others circled overhead.

Still no decent photo’s of them though! The best views are in the car when I’m driving, or as I dash into college with no time to spare, and no camera to hand.

This garden visitor doesn’t make the dog bark! Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Exhaustion overcame amazement when we received repeated visits from a local vagrant. One night the dog repeatedly, and energetically (to the point of hysteria) barked in our kitchen/diner on and off throughout the night. Irritated, on the second night I visited her distracted activity with vengeance in my heart, but happened to peak through the curtains of the french window; to find a fox standing less than 3m away, feeding its face on… fallen Conference pears!!!!

So, I can confirm foxes are not totally carnivorous, and can easily bank a 5′ fence to gain entry and exit to a tasty morsel. I can also confirm that we are now very careful to pick up all fallen pears as soon as we see them, and that as a result, we’ve all slept better the last few nights 😉

I’m not great at fungi identification but at least they are static organisms that can’t run or fly away (like the fox did) when you try and photograph them!

Porcelain fungus (Dudemansiella mucida)

Thanks to the ‘Fungi Name Trail’ guide from the wonderful Field Studies Council, I have discovered this week that the glistening fungi we found on a Beech tree in Farley Mount is called the Porcelain Fungus. I suspect we will photograph other such beauties in the New Forest if the weather is clear – being married to a micro-biologist tends to mean we stop at every new specimen.

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About ramtopsrac

Church of England Priest, child of God, daughter of the New Forest, wife and mother.
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