The morning began with mist and fog but the forecast was for sunshine, so I headed off to Oxford Island on Lough Neagh where I was to meet up with some members of my local wildlife group.
Underfoot the ground was very wet but being properly outdoors for the first time in weeks was a joy. In all there were seven of us and we easily maintained two metres distance between each other.
Some miles away we could hear the pop-pop of guns firing off; wildfowlers! As a result there weren’t too many bird species to be spotted. Even so, the fresh air and the sunshine obviously saw everyone in good spirits. With very little wind and the calm waters of the lough, the visual environment was one to capture and store in my mind.
A small group of Mute Swans were feeding just off shore and as I chatted to a colleague, what we believed to be an Egret flew passed us, unfortunately it disappeared behind some trees before either of us could get our binoculars or cameras out! Isn’t that always the way! Suffice to say that a Great White Egret was spotted later and identified by others not so far away.
Before we left this part of the shore I spotted some wild swimmers; they seemed very happy to be in the water as there was lots of bubbly chatter!
Surely the water was bitterly cold! However, I did read recently that regular cold water swimming is a very healthy activity! Anyone for a cold shower? Brrr! 🙂
On my walk this morning it was noticeable how many leaves and twigs were strewn along the lane. The last few days have turned distinctly chilly and whilst it has been dry, the wind has become stronger. In the sky the birds appear to be racing or maybe they are simply enjoying the change of tempo that comes at this time.
Late autumn --
The rooks flight
Driven by the wind.
When I return home I’d better move those tall pots to a more sheltered area of the garden. I suppose in a way I will also appear to be racing to prepare for the change of season!
I sweep between the pots of geraniums, clearing leaves from the patio. In next door’s garden, blocking the northern sky, an old oak tree raises and lowers its branches as a gust of wind passes through.
Oak tree leaves
Carried on October winds --
I gather up the leaves onto the shovel, just as a couple of Coal Tits skim over the hedge and land on the seed feeder. Already they are preparing for the change of season, something that I am thinking about too. The air is damp after days of rain.
We have a very small garden, more like a back yard, so earlier this year I did a short survey to discover how good our garden was at attracting pollinators. The results informed me that our garden was really only as good as a window-box! I couldn’t believe it and so made a great effort to add pollinator friendly plants into the two existing borders and many more into pots. Foxglove, Scabious, Hebe, Hardy Geranium and Verbena to name a few.
Now here we are in Autumn and lots of pollinators have been visiting.
A windless day —
On top of every flower,
Small Tortoiseshell on Verbena bonariensis
It worked! Also, because of the pandemic I thought it would be wise to plant some vegetables in pots and containers. Salad leaves and radish have been a success, they are so easy to grow, but I experimented with beans, turnips and carrots. Some successes, but the turnips have had all their leaves eaten by a huge army of caterpillars.
The butterflies we’ve seen are Small Tortoiseshell, Large White, Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Small White and Speckled Wood. Seven different species is probably still a low number but it is an urban garden, but if I can find a few more spaces to plant some more pollinator friendly plants, then next year might be even better. More pots too! On one particular afternoon I counted at least 15 butterflies. It was such a joy to see them and a blessing to have them fluttering all around us whilst we sipped afternoon tea.
Of course, there are lots of other pollinators like bees and hoverflies visiting the garden but I don’t know many of their names.
Are you trying to encourage nature into your garden?
Along with the butterfly in this photograph, a Speckled Wood, there are lots of bumblebees on the Hebe. They are all harvesting what they can for the winter season to come.
The days are shorter but still they are warm. In the background, I can hear a Wood Pigeon calling, also Swallows and House Martins chittering above me as they search for food. A solitary Buzzard whistles as it circles on the thermals high, high above and the bamboo wind chimes on the fence, rattle lazily.
I haven’t been able to write much, so far this month, as I have been busy in the garden. So, as the sun is still shining, I’m able to sit between chores and absorb the sights and sounds of the afternoon. In one of those moments this ‘sound-bite’ came to me. The wording in my verse may be a little odd but it works for me, if it is said slowly.
As I opened the study window, there was a freshness in the air, a definite change. A different scent.
Cool morning air
Pours through the open window,
As a wood pigeon calls,
And a bumblebee hums.
Sun, lights up the sky,
Streaming into the room –
The first days of autumn.
It was a dry morning, for a change. A chance to take a walk along the towpath which lies a few miles from our home. Breakfast first, then off we go! By the time we left home, the day was warming up. Here are the pictures I took:
And finally, we arrive at Moneypenney’s Lock, where, with a group of friends, we once toiled in the bee garden. I think this last photo is my idea of heaven.
Today is all about air!
For a long time, I have struggled with an idea; a wish to write something about the wind which this year seems to have been constantly rushing across this island. So many times I have been in the garden and found myself thinking that I live by the coast! I wish! What I’m hearing are the oak trees in neighbouring gardens, their green boughs rising and falling as the air moves through them. Then, when the wind drops, the only sounds are a mixture of birdsongs, mostly Blackbird and the cooing of Woodpigeon.
Aerial displays –
High in the sky!
Looking up, the sky is streaked with long, thin trails of cloud that are being pushed up from the south-west. It is there, high in the sky that the Swallows are feeding. Their view of the world, I almost said “our” world, but of course, it is not, it is their world too, must be so different from ours! How thrilling it must be to have that amount of power and energy in the muscles of one’s body! I suppose the closest we could get to their physical gyrations would be as a pilot in the Red Arrows!
Around the oak trees –
House Martins feeding!
As the wind drops, the movement of Atlantic air slows to a gentler pace, and I watch the House Martins circling and criss-crossing around and under the oak trees. A very different display! I think of how we take for granted the air that we breathe, it is only in our lungs for a short time and yet it gives us life.
Vital for our lungs,
Enabling us to breathe!
It dances all around us.
Air, we cannot own,
Without, we cannot exist!
Air! The greatest gift!
I’m reading Jim Crumley’s latest book The Nature of Summer and he has just quoted something that John Muir wrote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”.
I took these photographs of a woodland near Crossgar almost exactly a year ago. It was once part of the Great Wood of Dufferin that lay between Downpatrick to the south and Bangor to the north. This remnant is just over 14 acres and is a haven for birds and butterflies. The trees are mainly oak and ash with willow and alder in the wetter areas.
Today whilst the gales are blowing in from the south-west I can only dream of this lovely woodland and hope that it won’t be too long before I can return there.