This is the view from my backdoor now, at the beginning of November. We have had a glorious summer, and an extended autumn, and the colours in the trees have been the best I can remember for many years. But now the sun is hidden, the day is grey … and it’s raining. Everything looks so drab, doesn’t it?

But look closely …


Those sunflowers that were so magnificent in September are now faded and dying, but they are feeding the birds.


Exotic birds, at that! These parakeets have been slowly colonising the local parks. I’m familiar with them from various locations in London, so I immediately recognised their call as they arrived in the garden. They made the most, not only of the sunflowers but also of the apples both on the ground and still on the tree (it’s been an amazing year for apples). Chaffinch too have been feeding on the sunflower seeds on the seedheads too small to support the parakeet. And ground feeding birds (and hens) are taking advantage of the seeds that drop to the ground in the process.

See that black plastic seed tray on the path at the bottom of the picture? Many of the birds, including our hens, are using it as a drinking trough – I’ve not yet seen any taking a bath, but perhaps it’s a little too close to the house. We had a bird bath, but that was rarely used and was damaged in a recent storm. So we keep the trough clean and let it fill with rainwater … and the cats drink in passing, too. It’s become the garden watering hole.

You can just see the gooseberry bush on the left hand side of the picture … the leaves are falling now, and it needs pruning, but this morning a wren was hopping around from branch to branch, apparently feeding on something tiny. I watched for a while unseen (wrens are shy birds) as the wren dropped down onto the logs that surround the now drooping rhubarb, and began searching through the bark, before moving on to the courgette patch on the other side of the patch. It was confident enough to sit on top of one of the fence posts for a while, though not long enough for me to get a photograph (which are never as good through glass, and in this case, a window I had just splashed with washing up water!).

At the far end of the garden, birds of all varieties are making the best of the windfall apples (I really don’t need any more, my freezer is stuffed full of prepared apple enough for pies and crumbles to last well beyond the next harvest), and hiding in the clematis that has strangled the cherry tree (no cherries this year). The figs are over now … but the hens made good use of the supply while it lasted. I hear blackbirds rustling through the dry leaves leaves (well, I did until the rain came) and calling in alarm each time a cat appears; and great tits getting ready for the mating season with their strident calls that sound like a broken spring in an armchair. The robin sings all year round, but other birds stay silent until the cold weather turns their thoughts to building a nest and finding a mate. We’ll know the season is in full swing when the tiny wren begins to sing the loudest song in the garden.

We live in a built up urban area, and are fortunate to have a garden at all … but where there is green, open space, however small, the wildlife will come. The colour may be gone, but life is still thriving.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see:
O thou who changest not, abide with me!

from Abide with me by Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847)