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September 16th- garden insects and wren singing

Much cooler air today on a breeze straight off the North Sea. A lot of cloud cover too meant there were precious few insects on the wing. I made some sketches of a few insects in the garden yesterday; plenty of tortoiseshells were swarming around the buddleia, Sedum spectabile, rudbeckias and Verbena bonariensis. I enjoyed sketching some buff tailed bumble bees which preferred to nectar on our Cephalaria gigantica. All these plants are superb nectar sources for autumn butterflies and other insects. Watermint and purple loosetrife are also great and our native ivy should be left to flower and can swarm with insects through to October. These late sources of nectar are very important for butterflies that hibernate over the winter. With the temperature peaking at around 26C yesterday I suppose it is unlikely we shall see this degree of warmth again before next May.

A wren was very active around the garden and singing with great gusto by my studio. I was amazed also to hear a blackbird singing yesterday afternoon. Not quite the volume of spring and summer song but certainly much louder and more complete than I have heard before at this time of year.

There was a notable absence from the garden soundtrack today. Most house martins left the area on Monday, leaving behind the straggling breeders. In fact our pair feeding their young seem to be alone today. It is lovely to have them still and I hope for reasonably warm weather into October to give them a chance to raise their three chicks successfully. But with the near constant calls of house martins now gone I am very aware of the change to autumn. Very soon we shall be hearing the ‘tic’ calls of migrant song thrushes as they arrive from Scandinavia, followed closely by redwings and fieldfares.

I look forward to autumn and winter immensely. I love painting winter landscapes and birds in colder weather. Sketching in cold weather is both challenging and satisfying. Autumn skies, especially late in the afternoon can be spectacular. Winter wildfowl and waders are a favourite subject. I love to observe and sketch flocks of lapwings, which contain a seemingly endless variety of plumage, as they hunker down. I begin to yearn for the chance to paint in a snow covered landscape again. There is so much to look forward to as the days become darker and colder.

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