Our Patch: The Times They Are a-Changin’

By on Monday, September 23, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanWhat an interesting week it’s been! We’ve experienced torrential rain, very cold evenings, and a weekend of sunshine and warmth. We even managed to squeeze in a barbecue, I imagine the last of the season, but very welcome all the same.

birds_flying_v_shape

It’s been strange to see butterflies back in the garden, hoping to stock up on the last of the nectar before migrating or hibernating when our winter migrants have begun to arrive.

This week on most mornings we’ve heard the honking of geese and swans as they are arriving; sometimes in pairs, other times in large “V” formations, making for their wintering grounds.

We often think of geese purely as waterfowl, but in the winter they can be found in large numbers in agricultural land. It’s a lovely surprise to drive past an apparently barren field to spot a little movement out of the corner of your eye and realise the field is alive with Greylag or Pink Footed Geese. Catchdale Moss Lane will be an excellent place to spot such arrivals in just a few weeks’ time.

Walking along Scott Avenue, Whiston, on Sunday morning, I spotted a Grey Wagtail on a roof, picking off insects. These birds too are usually associated with fast-running water, but have found their way into our garden in harsh winters – I hope this is not an omen of things to come.

helicopters

Whilst we often lament the passing of summer, particularly a beautiful summer such as the one we’ve just enjoyed, all the seasons have their own beauty, and autumn is in some ways the showiest of all.

Walking to school is our time to chat about what we can find in our patch. Whilst missing shoes, cardigans and reading books create a five-minute mad dash, the twenty-or-so minutes we have without the distraction of gadgets and toys are a great opportunity to encourage an interest in nature.

sycamoreAs welcome as the buds of spring are the seed pods of sycamore trees which make excellent helicopters to occupy fingers and distract from the chore of walking.

The children love to spot beautiful and bountiful Rowan trees – mainly in gardens but also “in the wild.” We rarely see anything eating these beautiful berries, presumably the reason they are so abundant. These attractive trees herald the yellows, browns and reds which will soon adorn all of our deciduous trees.

berries

Birdsong has returned to our gardens – the warblers have moved on, and returned are the robins and blackbirds in their shiny new plumage, singing to warn off their rivals and establish their patches within our own.

The most familiar visitors to our gardens are occasionally the most easily overlooked, and we can sometimes miss a hidden gem. The male blackbird has the most jet-black plumage. with a bright yellow bill and eye ring to finish his smart look. The female is all brown, but there are subtle variations between the head, breast and tail, and her bright eye shines in contrast to the matte of her feathers.

Around this time, as the buddleia starts to go to seed, we get flocks of the most amazing little bird, stripping seeds from dead heads. The Long Tailed Tit is very glamorous, and one of our girls’ favourites.

It’s a tiny bird, whose tail is longer than its body. The bobbing, undulating flight gives them the appearance of flying tadpoles or musical notes swimming through the sky.

I’ve never seen Long Tailed Tits on their own – they seem to arrive en masse and stay for only a few minutes before moving on. We encourage all sorts of wildlife into our garden, but these miniscule pink, black and white minstrels are elusive, coming only for seeds which have occurred naturally, and so their appearance is all too short-lived.

I would love to be able to forage myself and I think it is a marvellous skill for children to learn, but as yet it’s still in the “to do” pile.

blackberriesThe one thing I definitely can identify, and know the children will love to pick for themselves, are blackberries. At their absolute best in the late summer, every walk this week has included a delve into the undergrowth to gather a small handful of these delicious brambleberries.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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