As predicted in the Spring News, the white flowers on the blackthorn bushes have turned into plump sloes, but are not yet ready for picking. When we do start picking, each sloe will need to be pricked before being immersed in either gin or whisky and sugar, given a good shake, then left to mature in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This provides a very warming winter drink with plenty of Vitamin C!
All would seem quiet on the ponds at the moment, but this is rarely the case. It’s just that some new visitors are perhaps more secretive than others. We recently disturbed a beautiful Snipe. These shy birds only come to our valley in the autumn and winter to feed from the shallow, muddy waters around our ponds and waterway edges. Herons also make a return to take some newts which are still swimming around in the warmer shallows of the pond.
During a recent visit to Slapton Ley we were fortunate to see the first starling murmuration of the winter. They are gathering in smallish numbers (perhaps 1,000 at a time), but within a few weeks this will grow to around 120,000. Always a wonderful and thrilling sight, we encourage visitors to Dittiscombe to make a trip to the reedbeds at Slapton before sunset to watch this wildlife spectacle.
Autumn jobs include thinning and clearing and just a small amount of necessary hedging. We endeavour to keep plenty of berries and bugs in the hedgerows for the birds throughout a difficult feeding time.
Berries abound this year, with the Mountain Ash being particularly noticable. And the tall teasles are still shedding small seeds, perfect for the finches. Our small flock of Goldfinches get particularly excited when feeding together.
On a recent walk to East Prawle we spotted some beautiful rare breed sheep, the name of which we don’t know, but they had curly coats and were very sturdy. If they are to thrive out at East Prawle during the westerly gales they will need plenty of cover!