Notes from a riverside garden – October 2021
We have a mature white willow beside the lake on the Island. It is a rather splendid tree, which over the years has had tree surgery carried out to remove a few potentially hazardous dead branches but we try to leave some in safer positions for the starlings that nest in the holes abandoned by woodpeckers. We have seen common treecreepers hunting for food in the bark of the trunk. At the moment a section of the trunk, where the branch above has been removed, is sporting a most fabulous display of egg yellow Chicken of the Woods. It grows in large, overlapping thick, fleshy masses; it is a bracket fungus. Chicken of the Woods supports a host of wildlife. There are some specialist beetles which only feed on bracket fungi. It is also eaten by deer. It grows on dead or dying trees, both deciduous and conifers.
Most evenings the “tu-wit tu-woo” of the Tawny Owl eerily resonates around the garden. It obviously has excellent eyesight but its real strength is its exceptional hearing. I have read that the Tawny owl can hear the rustle of a mouse, even the movement of a worm beneath the surface, from a considerable distance. A Tawny owl will remain in a territory all of its life and the pair bond for life too. The Tawny owl is particularly vocal in the autumn and spring. I have to confess to having been terrified by the song of the Tawny owl as a small child. There seemed to be so many of them hooting away around the farm buildings. One evening, as we were driving home, my father stopped the car and pointed to this rather fabulous looking bird sitting on a fence post, and explained that it made the sound that so frightened me. I was no longer afraid of the “tu-wit tu-woo” from that day on!
There is a plentiful supply of wood mice, also known as the long-tailed field mouse, in our garden. They are fascinating to watch (we have a thermal imaging device for wildlife watching) when they emerge after dark. They resemble miniature kangaroos as they tend to jump about on their large hind feet with their front feet tucked up. They are common prey of owls.
A Blueberry ‘Liberty’ that we planted in a large container has this year finally rewarded us with a good crop of blueberries to enjoy on our breakfast cereal. It has taken a couple of years to bear fruit. This has prompted us to buy three more plants, Blueberry ‘Aurora’, ‘Bluecrop’ and ‘Draper’ in the hope that we can extend the season. Three large containers have been purchased in order to plant in the ericaceous soil they prefer. The leaves of the Blueberry ‘Liberty’ are now turning a wonderful red and orange providing a splash of autumn colour in the vegetable garden.
The clump of Nerine bowdenii nestled against a wall in our front garden are providing a burst of vivid, candy floss pink flowers akin to the finale of a firework display. The final burst of colour before the autumn takes hold in the borders. SB