As autumn draws to a close, Pembrokeshire usually experiences one of its wettest months of the year. A typical range in West Wales at this time of year would be around 11-18 C. A ‘blocked’ month, according to the Met Office!
In the field the winter corn’s green shoots grew strong as the grass around the margins stopped growing and the hedgerows become more raggedy, with only Old Man’s Beard offering some flowery heads. The farmer cut back the hedges mid-month, leaving a brutal rough border to the field. By contrast, the trees were in their full autumn glory and the skies full of starlings. The trees at the top of fields are one of the favoured roosting places for starlings so you can get to enjoy some spectacular murmurations at dawn and dusk.
Cwtch the Collie spent the first couple of weeks rooted to the spot in terror every ten minutes, as the bird-scarer ‘gunshots’ went off. Unlike the starlings and rooks who were only slightly distracted by the noise and barely stopped munching the sprouting seedlings. Luckily, Cwtch has become accustomed to the blasts and the scarer has at last been moved further away. Occasional shooting can be heard across the valley and the clucking of pheasant as they gather and scatter.
November brings other birds to the field. Along with redwings, thrushes and fieldfare, and a robin accompanies us as the sun comes up – hopping a few feet ahead along the hedge and stile. North Pembrokeshire also seems to support a large number of wrens and we have been lucky enough to see a lesser-spotted woodpecker visit every morning.
At the start of the month craneflies were spotted and, perhaps surprisingly, there were even some adult butterflies still around on sunny days; by the month end these were more frequently to be seen indoors – according to the Butterfly Conservation site, they come in seeking some warmth.
In the neighbouring fields, work continues with muck-spreading, drilling and ploughing. Sheep have been moved to lower slopes and cattle-feed now includes straw to supplement the slower growing grass. Every day the view changes and the colours shift in the changing light – from clear frosty mornings to dusklit afternoons with the earlier sundown now around 4.30pm and contrasting foggy daybreaks and afternoons with leaden dull skies. Every shade of gold, brown, green and yellow has featured.
For local farmers, the shortening days have been busy and perhaps they are reflecting on this year of lower yields and growing uncertainties in agriculture. Spending time getting to know this field and its surrounds has certainly given me a new perspective on their relentless work in preparation for the winter ahead.