Today I am up early and start the day with a prowl around my garden patch. There is a definite chill to the early morning air, and I tug the sleeves of my fleece down to cover my hands. It feels as if Autumn is already on the breeze, shaking off the scent of summer in a flurry of fallen blossom. Now the scorching days of June seem like a very distant memory.
It isn’t just the temperature that has changed. Through June and July the early morning air was alive with bird song. Now the garden is strangely silent. The swallows are still barrel rolling overhead, clicking and chattering as they go, but other bird life is missing. No chaffinches trilling in the Hawthorn hedge.
No shy woodpecker clinging to the peanut feeder stealing an early breakfast before the humans appear. No Wrens belting out their unmistakeable song from the farmhouse roof. And most noticeable of all, no cheeky chirpy sparrows. A fortnight ago every barn roof overlooking the farmyard had a family of House Sparrows squabbling on the slates. The ivy covering the gable end of the old bull stall would move as if it were alive, as twenty or so little brown birds hopped about under the cover of the leaves. I had watched as Sparrows evicted a House martins couple from their nest, and duly set about making it their own. Each morning the male of this pair would sit on the gutter above the bird feeder, patiently watching my every move as I replenished the seeds. He didn’t make an appearance this morning .I spotted a single male perched on the corrugated roof of the wood shed, where a fortnight ago there had been 5 or 6 greedy little birds posturing and posing over the plates of sunflower hearts.
Where have they all gone? Probably not very far at all. And the silence in the garden isn’t a bad thing either. In fact, it is just as nature intended it.
August sees the end of the breeding season for many garden bird species. Now bird song is no longer ‘needed’ to attract a mate or hold onto a territory, the pleasant chirping and warbling I have become accustomed to will inevitably cease.
This month also sees adult birds beginning their moult. Gradually, over the next few weeks, feathers will be shed and replaced. As the feathers drop out the birds become more vulnerable, and choose to hide themselves away until their downy covering grows anew.
Late Summer also means the crops and wild fruits begin to ripen around the farm. Natures larder is full to bursting, with a veritable cornucopia of seeds and berries tempting the birds out from the garden into the fields, away from the ‘boring’ offerings of the bird table.
Once the harvest is over, and the cool of Autumn truly settles over the farm I suspect my feathered friends will be back. It won’t be long either until the farm’s migrant visitors come to join them. The Starling flocks will arrive in their thousands, covering the Autumnal skeletons of the bare trees with their glossy little bodies, and a new soundtrack, one of mechanical whirs and clicks will echo around the farm yard, from sun-up till sunset when they will leave, as one, to roost.