As Robin reported in a previous blog, it has been a strange summer. July and August were unusually cool and damp; September temperatures are unusually high. Even some birds seem confused, especially one pair of collared doves that have claimed our garden as their territory. Last year we gave an overgrown bay tree a fairly severe prune. The doves had nested in it at least once before but I didn't feel too guilty because there are plenty of alternative sites in our area. Their beaks must have been out of joint more than I thought, however, as, a few weeks ago, I noticed one of them flying in and out of our phoenix palm. The palm must be about thirty years old and dominates that end of the garden - right next to the bay tree.
Sure enough, a scrappy collection of twigs was visible on one frond, but in a precarious position nearly overhanging the pool (subsequent droppings missed the water by a couple of feet!), and fairly exposed to the elements as well as to predators, I thought. Haven't they heard the mantra: Location, location, location? Perhaps they've had earlier broods elsewhere this summer, but isn't September rather late for starting again?
The female has nevertheless been determinedly sitting through thick and thin, including a violent hailstorm a couple of weeks ago.
She's keeping a
beady eye on me!
For a while I wasn't sure if she was really on eggs or undergoing a kind of phantom pregnancy. But first thing this morning, before dawn, I spotted a broken eggshell on the patio beneath the palm. One of my dogs got to it before I could, and appeared to gulp down the remains of something - doubtless along with a mouthful of tiny ants that were swarming all over it. I suspect it fell out during last night's strong southerly wind. Unless it had gone bad and the mother pushed it out? A bit later on a couple of jays were taking an interest in the garden as well. And now the nest appears deserted. I can see up through the frond and through the collection of twigs - no sign of any more eggs. Better luck next year, but I do hope they choose a more sensible spot!
After the excitement of lammergeiers earlier in the year I had another 'first' about a month ago, though at the opposite end of the scale: a glowworm. All on its own, shining brightly - green as a jewel - in the verge one night.
And talking of nights, for weeks now a couple of tawny owls have been very active and noisy - to the point of raucous at times! - around our little estate. I was lucky enough to look up from my computer at dusk one evening when they were tuning up.
Something that always surprises me is that while most other birds have long fallen silent apart from an occasional chirp or alarm call, now the wood larks strike up again. Every autumn it's the same. Their song isn't as haunting as the skylark's, but it's pretty nonetheless. It makes me think of spring, which I find uplifting, even though some leaves are turning, acorns are well formed, grapes are being harvested and there's a slight but distinct change in the air first thing in the morning and last thing at night. September is often a glorious month here; this one is proving no exception despite being punctuated by some extreme weather.