I co-ordinate the village bird survey each year, on behalf of the Environment Group, so I am naturally interested in birds, their habitats and the events which influence their numbers.
I am writing this on Sunday 29 October, clock change day. It is the one day of the year that I never look forward to as it signals the onset of winter. However, today has been glorious, sunny all day and temperatures of 18 degrees C, warm enough to sit in the garden for lunch. This is rounding off what will probably be the warmest October on record. This warmer weather does have consequences. A national survey for the British Trust for Ornithology, which I am involved with locally is counting the numbers of wintering Lapwings and Golden Plovers. The first count in mid October produced nothing, whereas one would expect to see at least a few Lapwings by that time. Because of the warmer weather I have yet to see any winter thrushes (Fieldfare and Redwings).
This year there has been an abundance of all fruits, berries and nuts. Just one old Bramley apple tree in the village has, I estimate, yielded 450kg (1/2 ton) of fruit. This abundance is a result of a generally mild winter last year, some very cold winter days and a frost free spring blossom period, but is not necessarily the sign of a hard winter to come.
Birds have been noticeably absent from my garden lately. Several flocks of mixed species Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits, Goldcrests, and warblers have passed through, but on the whole birds have been thin on the ground, because of the abundance of food everywhere else, I think.
A cautionary note on bird feeding - a viral disease causing death is affecting some birds, mainly finches, so it is important to wash bird tables and feeders and to change the water in bird baths regularly. This helps to reduce the spread of infection.
On 26 October, I watched 15 Red Admiral butterflies feeding on ivy blossom. I have a love hate relationship with ivy. As a gardener itís hate, as a naturalist itís love. Ivy is flowering now and is an important food source for insects and bees when nectar rich flowers are in short supply. Ivy fruits in about March when most berries have finished, providing a vital food source for many birds. So, to end on an environmental friendly note, please donít remove all your ivy!