Bird Watching (UK)

Garden birding

Clare Howcutt-Kelly loves the autumn for its golden colour and the visitors it brings to her garden

- CLARE HOWCUTTKEL­LY

Regular readers will know that I spend a lot of time chatting to my neighbours – as a relative newcomer to the village, they teach me so much about the area and the wildlife that inhabits it. Starting a conversati­on with someone passing my gate often results in surprising discoverie­s and so I potter about the front garden as often as I can. I do so love a distractio­n!

Last month, I told you about the Swallows who’ve been filling the sky with their shapes and this month, they’ve taken to lining up on the telegraph wires, which would make a pretty picture, but I never seem to get there in time. I mentioned this to the man who lives in the cottage with the cutest name and he said how much he loved seeing them, too, but it also made him a little sad as it signalled the end of summer. I am not sad about the end of summer, I am glad. I am glad because autumn is the season of abundance – there’s berries, windfall apples and nuts – all of which are great news for birds. And squirrels.

The squirrel has been stealing hazelnuts from the tree and burying them all over the lawn. He does this in plain sight of Rocket and Rebel, my garden-dwelling bunnies, and this must really get on their nerves, because they’d love the opportunit­y to dig up the grass and destroy my veg patch. I don’t begrudge the squirrel taking a few nuts. It’s not like I’ve got enough to make my own version of Nutella, and the suggestion of toasting them for my granola sounds like a faff.

Autumn brings with it golden light, papery, russet leaves, and a nip that makes me want to reach for a tartan blanket and my tweed coat. I’m so country these days…

It might be a time when the days seem shorter, but it makes the hours of daylight all the more delicious and worth getting up early for. I’ve spoken before about my own mental health struggles and how nature has always been a healing force for me, as I know it is for so many of you. Mindfulnes­s seems to be the word of the moment, but I’d argue that those of us who spend time in the company of birds have been mindful for years! Watching our winged companions makes us slow our pace, we wait patiently to see what they will do next, we observe the changes in their behaviour, immerse ourselves in their song and focus on the details of their plumage. We must be slow, treading carefully not to

disturb them. Yes, that’s mindful, alright.

Just the other day, I spent a good 10 minutes watching a juvenile Goldfinch feeding on the front lawn – just a suggestion of colour peeking through its brown feathers. He was joined by a gang of House Sparrows and a whole troupe of young Starlings. The Blackbirds are everpresen­t and kick up the leaves and the woodchip, but I still adore them. I must admit that they give me quite a fright when they sunbathe – with wings spread, it’s only their eyes that move. I often think they are injured.

I think you know me well enough now to realise that I am quite emotional, and finding a young pigeon soaking wet under a bush really affected me. Thank goodness for Facebook, and all the support there is, out there, for nature lovers who are there to support each other. The pigeon was still alive, but only just. I did what I could and tried to keep him going, but I was too late to help and he slipped away wrapped up in a crochet blanket in the shed. Of course, there are always debates about how much or how little we should intervene to help wildlife, but

I truly believe that we must do what we feel is right. I am not ashamed to say that I cried.

I hope this month is a good one for you and that, rather than mourning summer, you’re as excited as me to welcome autumn and all the new life and colour it brings to your garden.

 ??  ?? Squirrels are gathering hazelnuts in Clare’s garden
Squirrels are gathering hazelnuts in Clare’s garden
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 ??  ?? Juvenile Goldfinche­s show the colourful wing flashes of adult birds
Juvenile Goldfinche­s show the colourful wing flashes of adult birds
 ??  ?? Swallows gathering on a telephone wire – a classic herald of autumn
Swallows gathering on a telephone wire – a classic herald of autumn

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