HANNAH FINCH: Birds making a meal in borders
SOON after skies emptied of house martins, I spotted a newcomer in the garden. As sure as bees cloud around the late-flowering ivy, so come the gold finches to the teasels and sunflowers that are loosening their grip on the seed within.
I love seeing these birds making a meal in the borders.
And yet, despite their exotic appearance with bright yellow wings and scarlet faces it is not the flash of colour that first betrays them.
It is the twitchy movement of stems and leaves that no breeze can create and then you see them, hanging from the seedheads and finding morsels from little crannies.
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I creep outside with a camera to snap the action, but even my softest footsteps are too loud and they scatter.
What I find are half-eaten sunflower heads.
The hungry birds are welcome to them.
I don't know if you have ever read Four Hedges by the artist Claire Leighton?
In it, she talks about how fall is so much more apt a name than autumn to describe this time of year.
Spring, she says, is a time for upward growth but now is the downward pull of leaves from trees, seeds from their cases, fruit and nuts.
I have been picking walnuts from the ground.
I am fascinated how they fall from the trees. Their velvet lined verdant cases split open to spill the hard shelled seed within.
They have a distinctive astringent smell and a black webbing that stains fingers.
My neighbour, who has two mature trees, says they smell in some way medicinal.
Other plants will often not grow under walnut trees because the fallen leaves and husks contain juglone, a chemical which acts as a natural herbicide.
And the husks have been known to have insecticidal properties.
What a treat they are when eaten ultra fresh, there is a butteriness to them lacking in older specimens.
While there is so much to harvest now, I have been tidying the borders of crops that have finished for the year like the sweetcorn and sprouts which despite all efforts, were too wholly feasted upon by caterpillars and slugs.
I have planted out the small cavolo nero seedlings, applying a thick layer of mulch around them and securely netting them against foes.
It is a waiting game now, watching for the first signs of frosts that will send me to the vegetable garden with a blanket of fleece in hand.