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September 11th- chiffchaffs, house martins and small tortoiseshells

Chiffchaffs are passing through in big numbers now. The repetitive song of a chiffchaff is a fitting end to the season of summer migrants. So often the first summer migrant heard in spring is a chiffchaff. On my run through Gilling Woods this morning the beeches echoed with the sound of chiffchaff song. For a while I really could fool myself that spring and summer was all to come. The species is a regular sight in gardens at this time of year. They seem to have an insuppressible desire to chase other small species of birds. They particularly seem to go for blue tits which means they can easily find themselves close to or even on bird tables and feeders at the end of a chase. Why, I am not sure, but I have seen similar behaviour in blackbirds that often chase collared doves in autumn.

The house martins with chicks are very busy now and fortunately the weather has been kind being largely dry and quite warm for a good part of the day. They are landing on the nest box and feeding the young by tilting in to the entrance; an indicator that the chicks are growing well. It is a delight to see them coming and going to the front of the house. Meanwhile a non breeding pair of house martins continues to occupy a nest box on the back of the house, coming into roost soon after 7pm each evening and leaving each morning at around 7.30am. Good numbers remain above the village, probably a mix of migrant and local birds. As I write their ‘raspberry’ calls fill the air contrasting with the incessant begging calls of young goldfinches; two species still feeding young.

It has been a spectacular late summer for small tortoiseshell butterflies here. We have frequently seen 40 or so on the buddleia and more still on verbena, mint and sedum. This peaked with a maximum of 59 on August 26th. Numbers are now dropping as some are predated or have entered hibernation. It is so good to see the species doing well. Sitting by the buddleia with my coffee this morning I was reminded of days of my childhood when buddleias swarmed with common species of butterflies. however even then I am not sure numbers of small tortoiseshells matched those seen in our garden this year.

A SMALL PLUG! SHOP

My online shop has been expanded recently and more sketches will be added in coming days and weeks. To view cards, prints and originals please click here.

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