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Butterflies on the windfalls

Here at Church Farm in south Devon, the morning queue is not for the bathroom but the bird table. Blue and great tits gather in nearby bushes for their breakfast. They have us well trained. Summer last longer in the south west of England.  Autumn arrives late. Windfalls still litter the orchard well into November, a seasonal surplus we are happy to leave for the birds. Our first fieldfares and redwings only arrived this week and the orchard is a favourite place to find them.  They are not alone. Large juicy apples soften as they ripen on the ground.  The sun is weaker this time of the year but still strong enough to warm south facing ground. Something that late flying red admiral butterflies take advantage of.  Sipping cider also makes them slower to take to fly, so it is an ideal time to get some close up photographs before these butterflies hibernate. Darkness is now descending earlier, so the badgers do not have to wait so long for their evening peanut snack.  After they have returned to the wood, our resident robin takes advantage of any bits left behind, until spooked by a dashing wood mouse doing the same. Longer nights offer less foraging time for creatures active between dawn and dusk, but more time for nocturnal hunters. The tawny owl is the most vocal wildlife at this time of the year and they know where to wait. Throughout the day bickering birds scatter seeds and nuts around their table.  After dark the owl food arrives - mice and voles. No wonder they are in a hurry to find food! Andrew Cooper