Brightening Up November

November can be a difficult month, with dank and dreary days and the daylight petering out not so very long after lunch.

It has also been very wet and windy and this trail camera tells that story:

This wooden swing seat is extremely heavy yet has been blown over by the gales:

I am envious of people who get themselves away to some sunshine at this time of year. My sister-in-law is spending November in Australia and has been seeing sights such as this:

Australia is such a long way away and I’m sure I will never get there now, but how I would love to see koala bears and kangaroos in their natural habitat.

It feels like a good time to take stock and remind myself of the many reasons there are to be joyful this week.

We haven’t had a frost yet and many of the pots in the garden are looking better now than they have done all summer:

It is lovely to dive into the greenhouse out of the wind and the rain. It’s like you are entering a microcosm of warmth and sanctuary, where tender plants are steadfastly sitting out the winter

I have been taking my tiny grandson out for walks in the countryside around the appealing village of Wye which sits at the bottom of the North Downs. He and I have been enjoying ourselves and, more importantly, his mother has been able to get a bit of sleep in the afternoon because she currently isn’t getting much at night.

The River Stour flows through Wye and is looking pretty swollen and angry at the moment:

The hedgerow larder is well stocked with berries to feed the birds through the winter:

Berries on Hawthorn – these are clearly delicious and are always the first to go
Ivy Berries are less popular and are often left until last
This may be an ivy berry in the blackbird’s beak – it looks a bit small to be a sloe

We built this insect hotel in the paddock as a winter project last year and I hope that there are many invertebrates cosily tucked away and hibernating in there now:

We have a few winter projects planned for this year, the most interesting of which is to build a bigger and more natural pond in the wood with the hope of encouraging in palmate newts and other woodland amphibians and reptiles.

The mahonia up by the bins is just fabulous in November. Have-a-go-hero buff-tailed bumblebees attempt a winter generation here and this plant is a big attraction for them.

In the background of the photo above you can see the Bolette – a Fred Olsen Line cruise ship that was here for several days. She gave us quite a shock when she first arrived and we were concerned that she had lots of passengers on board who were being forced to spend several days boringly anchored alongside us.

But, looking up her schedule, I see that her next cruise is a White Christmas in Norway, a thirteen night voyage departing on 21st December. Well, that does sound tempting right now, but how could I be away on Christmas Day and miss the excitement of seeing if the hyacinths come into flower for the big day?

These forced hyacinth bulbs are already poking their noses above the soil. Apparently they need to be brought into the house on 4th December for them to flower for Christmas Day. It feels unlikely that I will have got it exactly right but let us see.

My Christmas cacti never get it right and always flower in November, but actually November is in need of a bit of brightening:

The glorious colours of autumn are at their best this month:

A walk in a wood near Maidenhead this week

Once again this week, the trail cameras are mostly fogged up and have not provided me with many photos, but I do like these of our two badgers in the meadows.

The meadow badgers have had a bad couple of years. In 2021 there were no cubs and, this year, all three cubs died once they had been weaned. I presume this was because they were unable to get at earthworms in the hard ground of the drought. As a result there are only two badgers left here now. In late summer 2020, however, we were treated to sights such as this which is quite a sad contrast:

Photo from 2020

I can no longer deny to myself that the One-eyed Vixen seems to have mange yet again. This will be the fourth or fifth time – I’m losing count:

I have once more started her on a course of mange treatment. It has always worked in the past, so let’s hope it does again.

This little dog, without any associated human, spent some time in the meadow yesterday.

It even went under the fence onto the cliff path which is usually the preserve of the wild animals:

Five minutes later, the fox with the down-tipped tail did extensive sniffing in the same place. This handsome fox is the mate of the One-eyed Vixen and strangely he has never caught her mange even though they spend a lot of time together:

This gate often has interesting stuff going on and the camera is sheltered by a hedgerow and still working well:

A blackbird bathing very enthusiastically:

Over in the wood, I don’t always look at the camera at the badger sett and this photo of the polecat (or polecat-ferret hybrid) was probably taken a fortnight ago when this animal also appeared on some other cameras:

This squirrel is collecting leaves for its nest. I suspect it is filling up the nearby tawny owl box again:

Less than a month now until the winter solstice when the days start getting longer. For us here on a windblown and soggy east coast of Kent, the knowledge that the tipping point will soon be passed brings us some comfort.

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