Season of mellow fruitfulness - and biting midges

Autumn is with us again, the fungi appear like magic and the biting midges are out with a vengeance

A slug enjoying a mushroomIn the Cotswold woodland that we visit, the scene is changing and quickly becoming autumnal. Now that the cover of the undergrowth is starting to collapse and die back, more can be seen. With the dampness of autumn, fungi have popped up overnight, making meals for various types of wildlife. Mammals eat fungi and clumps can be found which have been partially consumed, only the stems remaining. Why did they not eat all of it, one wonders. Slugs are also partial to fungi and I found this one making a quiet meal on its own. 

Elsewhere badgers show their presence in the form of the pathways they’ve made in the grass. Their routes never seem to vary, even if a log is laid across them, and the paths are well trodden. Another sign of badgers is the shallow latrines they dig at particular points along their territory boundaries. Badgers are cleanly creatures, but these are a rather unpleasant thing to come across, generally being full of sloppy droppings which are coloured according to what has been eaten. 

Badger bedding being airedThe presence of an active badger sett can also be seen when the badgers air their bedding, pulling it out of the sett and spreading it around. The bedding I was lucky enough to come across was primarily made up of dried grass and animal hair, which would make quite a soft and comfortable bed. I’ve yet to see a badger gathering bedding for myself but have seen video showing them dragging balls of grass backwards towards the sett, much as a dog would do with bedding. 

At home, the robin still visits us several times a day, alighting on logs in the open-fronted woodshed and then making short hops from one perch to another before flying into the garage for its treat of mealworms. The two blackbirds which had also been visiting disappeared suddenly and we suspected they had not been predated, but had gone off to the hedgerows to feast on the abundance of berries available there. They returned today and have gone straight back to their usual routine of speed-eating as many mealworms as possible. The robin, in comparison, is a positively genteel, taking only a few worms at one sitting and allowing a few moments between each one. 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ it may have been to the poet John Keats, but I suspect he didn’t do much gardening. Autumn is certainly beautiful, but to me it also means the emergence of biting midges and a return to using insect repellent. This autumn has been especially midgy and working under shrubs found me tormented by these creatures and itching for days until I searched out the repellent I’d mislaid, Stupidly Simple Midge Repel. It contains pine tar and has a faint smoky odour, but it works and I’ve never been happier to smell of an old bonfire. 

Please note: the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS

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