After all, I’ve been sitting out here a lot just lately! We were still busily filling the bird feeders each day, but they were getting repeatedly swamped by young birds that I’m sure really ought to be learning how to fend for themselves rather than just cashing in on the fat chunks and sunflower seeds we put out, so with a slightly heavy heart I’ve decided to take it out of action for a week or so. It seems to have worked, in that there are still plenty of young blue tits about, but they’re now doing what they’re supposed to do, hunting along the branches of the oak tree behind us for the hoards of little creatures there are there, which frankly are easy pickings just now.
It is sad to watch a tree slowly die. I mentioned our elm last time. It still has some green leaves, but slowly but surely the fungus is spreading, with new branches succumbing all the time. Leaves fall as they die in the autumn, because the tree makes them fall when it no longer needs them, by sealing off the leaf stem. The tree still needs these dying leaves, so even the ones that are completely brown and withered are still there hanging on the branches, which really just makes the whole scene look so much worse.
Tree bumble bees are a new species to the UK, first recorded in 2001. We’ve had loads on the white flowers of our strongly scented thornless rambling rose - this is the first time I’ve identified them. Our rose has a distinct flowering season which is over, so the bees have moved on too. They’re not large, and they have a fluffy ginger thorax, a black abdomen and a white or grey tail, quite distinctive. They often nest in bird boxes (wasps and other bees will also do this). At a time when bees are under pressure, it’s good that this new species is spreading well. We need the bees!
Anyone who thinks we’re not made of the same stuff as the animals has only to listen to young blackbirds chasing after their parents for food. They have a particular call which has exactly the same wheedling cadence as kids mithering mum or dad for an ice-cream on the way back from school. The hard cherries on our earliest blossoming cherry are tiny and certainly not for human consumption, but blackbirds love them. Dad refused to listen to his kid’s wheedling, and flew off, leaving junior to make quite a decent fist at tearing off ripe berries and gobbling them down. So obviously he had been watching and learning.
Swifts arrived a bit late this year I think, but they may well leave early, as we have had some quite prolonged sunny spells and that means good hunting for swifts. They don’t linger here - they’ve come to raise a family and once they’ve done that, they go. So swifts leave earlier in a good summer than in a bad one, the opposite way round from what you might think. They leave a lot earlier than most other species, but even so it’s a reminder that for migrant birds August really is the first month of autumn, rather than the height of summer. Birds are already on the move!