I caught the train to Barry Docks last Friday, hoping to get a good look at an uncommon bird (a Great northern diver) that had been making itself at home there for the previous week or so.
Unfortunately, the bird spent most of the two hours I was there happily swimming and diving several hundred yards away on the other side of the dock, but it was a gloriously sunny day and I did find lots of lovely wildflowers still in bloom around the edge of the docks so I was happy.
There is so much to love about autumn: it’s as if Nature is an award-winning play, and all the trees are her actors. She’s coming to the end of another successful season, it’s the last grand finale, the players are dressed in magnificent richly coloured costumes ready to take their final bows before a rapturous audience amidst great critical acclaim … and then the curtain comes down for another year.
Officially, in Britain, the resident true thrushes are the Ring ouzel, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song thrush, Mistle thrush and Redwing, while other thrush species are occasional, sometimes rare visitors.
The thrushes I’ve been noticing most in recent weeks have been the Song thrush, Mistle thrush and Redwing, partly due to their seasonal migration southwards to our ever so slightly milder south Wales climate and partly due to this being prime berry-eating time.
Song thrushes (Turdus philomelos) are resident here all year round, though there is some movement through Britain from Scandinavian birds heading south for the winter.
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish Song from Mistle thrushes (Turdus viscivorus), though the Mistles have a tendency to perch high in the tree tops (or, I discovered, on TV aerials, in urban areas!) and to stand with heads held high when foraging on the ground, and their football-rattle song is unmistakeable. I saw my first Mistle thrushes of the season on 9 October and there are now quite large numbers in local parks and reserves.
Redwings (Turdus iliacus) were reported locally in early October but it was the 30th before I caught up with a small flock at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff, and I’ve since spent several hours following them around the berry trees at Cosmeston, trying to get close enough for photos. They’re easily spooked though so my shots so far have not been that great – I’ll keep trying, and I’ll need to try to find Ring ouzels and Fieldfare as well.
Winter is coming!
The squirrels know it; the jays know it; and they and many other small critters are busy storing food away for the cold lean days to come. The nut is one such food, the acorn a particular favourite of many.
Creatures create two different types of winter food supply. Some have just the one larder where they hide away all their precious finds of nuts and seeds, but the Grey squirrel is a scatter hoarder, secreting food in many different places. You’ve probably seen them dashing madly about the ground, burying nuts in seemingly random locations. Other creatures, like wood mice, coal tits, nuthatches and jays are also scatter hoarders, stashing their winter stores in a variety of different caches. But, I wonder, do they always remember where they’ve put their secret stashes? Somehow I doubt it.