Not sure about my dreams but these are certainly the colours here at Greenhillock in early Autumn. Glorious red of the turning Field Maple leaves and mass of Rowan berries in the hedge-lines, this week attracting our first winter thrush arrivals – a small group of Redwing. Glowing gold of the recently harvested barley fields in the evening sun. Vibrant green of the meadow grass pitches which continue to look good even after well over 1,000 camping and glamping guests have enjoyed them.
Pink-footed Geese at the Greenhillock Pond
The sense of changing seasons is emphasised by the arrival from the Arctic of our first skeins of wintering Pink-footed Geese, whilst the late Swallows continue to feed up for their long migration south to Africa. We have more bees and butterflies than ever with lovely Red Admiral and Peacock varieties flitting busily about the meadows.
Grey Dagger Moth caterpillar found on our Hawthorn hedge (photo Kate Latham)
Life continues to emerge, despite the shortening days, and we are seeing some very interesting caterpillars feeding on the flowers and grasses. A couple of days ago, our neighbour Mary found a lovely red-spotted Frog Hopper, an adult emergent from the summer ‘cuckoo spit’ clusters that stick to the meadow grass stems. Autumn fruiting fungi are abundant just now, with Fly Agaric the most colourful and photogenic.
Fly Agaric fungi by the Wildlife Pond
Finally, Beth recently found another Great Wood Wasp (really a type of Sawfly) but this time a male – smaller, more brown than yellow and lacking that impressive ovipositor. We are now wondering whether these rarely-seen insects have come in with the tonne bags of softwood logs which we buy in for campfires.
After a week cycling along the Northumbrian and North Yorkshire coast, where we enjoyed good weather and many lovely stretches of unspoilt countryside, I was excited to see how things had been progressing at Greenhillock in my absence. My walk this morning found the meadows at their best – a multi-coloured panorama of grasses and wildflowers including masses of both types of wild Orchid. The Wild Roses have also come out in the hedgerows, filling the warm air with their lovely scent.
Islay, our Border Collie, enjoying a walk in the North Paddock meadow
Bee numbers are still low, although I saw some honey bees, Buff-tailed and Red-tailed Bumblebees and Common Carder Bees – easily identified by being Scotland’s only all-brown bee. Lots of mini-bugs were feeding on the grass seed heads but butterflies are still playing hard to get. Greenhillock Guide Beth tells me that she saw Damselflies at the Wildlife Pond over the weekend giving their characteristic display of iridescent turquoise and scarlet as they flit between food sources.
A Carder Bee feeding on Yellow Rattle, a popular nectar source
Talking of food sources, we have many interesting fungi just now and all are well nibbled by the Wood Mice and Short-tailed Voles that live in the meadow sward.
Tiny fungi like this provide food for Wood Mice and Voles
All of our normal summer visiting birds have now arrived and can be heard singing tunefully in the trees and hedges around the site. I was asked recently about Cuckoos, which occasionally visit, but have to say we haven’t heard or seen them in the last couple of years. A rare flying visitor a few days ago came in the form of a beautiful Jay – lovely to look at if you’re not an egg or fledgling of another species!
This week’s flying visitor – a striking adult Jay
Hopefully we’ll see you on site sometime, when we can chat further.