Silver-washed fritillaries danced in sunlight in the Dartmoor woodland. Their golden colouring (contrary to their name) beautifully matched the river nearby, where water flowed gently over golden brown pebbles.
Large corn stooks sprawled in lines across the Devon field. I suspect these will be used for thatching, an active local trade as there are many traditional thatched cottages in the area.
One chocolate brown Dartmoor pony grazed on a small triangle of grass at the approach to the woodland. In the trees below, another stood beside a stream, almost merging into the shadows. The two greys were on a sunny slope beneath a tree, noisily pulling down branches and crunching up the leaves.
The four ponies are usually closer together as they go about their business in the woodland, their grazing helping to keep the growth under control.
Bryn, my young Border collie, knew there was something there in the Dartmoor woodland. I peered into the shadowy edge of a copse and spotted the perfect shape of a small roebuck, a youngster with just pricket antlers. He stood so still, and so perfectly blended in with the shadows, that I could easily have passed by without noticing him.
A cluster of soft grey feathers was scattered across my back lawn. Here and there were a couple of white ones, and one solitary black one. I fear a regular bird visitor has met an unpleasant end, but I’m not sure which. The most likely victim is one of the pigeon babies, but I’m concerned that it might be one of the blackbirds.
I thought at first the marauder was a cat, but the attack took place in direct line with the electronic cat deterrent. And I know this works, as I’ve seen approaching cats detour around the perimeter of its range. So the most likely perpetrator is yet again a magpie, especially as their machine-gun-like clatter is again constantly audible during the day.
Billie, the adult male blackbird, was sunning himself on my front garden path. His wings were spread, his beak was open, his eyes were glazed, and for an instant he seemed a little dazed when I pushed open the front gate. Only for an instant, then he was gone.
I’m constantly startled by frogs leaping out of the leaf litter as I cut back plants in the garden. They always seem to be yellow frogs, almost perfectly matching the leaves they scurry back into further away from my activities.
The large blackbird baby in my front garden has obviously learned his lessons well. He collected a slug from the bed where I’d been clearing up, and spent some time pecking at it until at last he was able to swallow his meal.
Both adult blackbirds and their two surviving babies have gradually reappeared in my back garden. The babies are larger than their parents, one has a tail and increasing adult plumage, the other is still very speckled and only has the early stages of his tail. Both keep a wary eye on my collie as he lies on the doorstep watching them feed.
One of the wood pigeons spent a long time perched on the roof, carefully surveying my back garden. A few minutes later I spotted him clambering ponderously into the golden fir at the side of my garden. There’s a cave-like opening half way up, where the pigeons have a favourite nesting site. He was only out of sight for a short time, before emerging and flying away again. I did recently find a broken pigeon eggshell at the bottom of the garden, so if he does have youngsters hidden away there, it must be his fourth brood this year.
Holly blue butterflies have been flying around the cypresses in my garden, perhaps a late emergence as there were several earlier in the year.
Soft chucking heralded the presence in my back garden of Bertie, the male blackbird. He comes frequently to feed here again, summoning his youngsters when there is a good spread of mealworms. There are now three fully fledged babies, and neither he, nor Bella the female, allow the youngsters to approach them when they’re feeding themselves. But baby habits die hard for some – one of the older youngsters still flutters his wings hopefully if a parent is nearby.
Feeding up for the winter has already started. Judging from the litter of split hazelnuts on the ground in the Hampshire woodland, the squirrels’ feasting has been good.
The youngest blackbird baby in the back garden now has an almost full adult tail. Out of all this brood he is the one who has learned to use the training his forebears gave me.
He hovers nearby when he hears me, waiting to catch my eye. And he feeds within a foot of my chair, or working position in the garden.
The other youngsters haven’t learnt to prompt the feeding. And if I’m outside at tea or gardening, they’re wary of my presence, especially if I move.
At least one of the adult robins is still feeding babies as he’s collecting mealworms and taking them away. The parent is looking very worn, ruffled greying feathers on his head and disordered red ones on his breast.
The frogs are out and about in my back garden, startling me by leaping out of the ground cover as I go down the path. If it’s not frogs popping up, it’s baby blackbirds rustling through the bushes or flying out in front of me.
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