The hedges also provide a home to several climbing plants. Quite common are the berries of woody nightshade. This is not deadly nightshade which is a completely different plant. Woody nightshade is a member of the potato and tomato family which can clearly be seen if you compare the flowers of the two plants. The berries are toxic but rarely fatal. It is said that they taste extremely bitter and hence it's other name of bittersweet. I don't recommend that you try to verify this fact! The leaves have a distinctive shapewhich distinguishes it from other climbing plants such as black bryony. Another climber is hopswhich seem to have grown well this year. Those of you that brew your own beer might like to find a plant and give it a try! Hops have had many uses in herbal medicine for instance in cases of insomnia (especially I should imagine if the hops were taken in the form of your home brew!)Thank you to those of you who have got back to me with your comments and sightings. A nuthatch has been making frequent visits to a garden the sighting of which was followed a few days later with a mention in a newspaper that this had been happening more frequently this year.
The nuthatch is unique in being able to move down a tree with its head facing the ground as quickly as it can go the other way. A hobby has also been spotted. A falcon it is slightly smaller than a kestrel with distinctive white cheeks and throat. They are never seen hovering and in flight resemble a large swift with their speed and agility. I saw a large flock of long-tailed tits, maybe twenty, moving along the hedgerow keeping up a constant twittering. These have always been one of my favourite birds. Less welcome is the sighting of a mink which was reported after the loss of fish from a pond. I was concerned a couple of months ago that one might be around as the disappearance of the moorhen chicks coincided with the loss of fish from a neighbours pond. However having seen no sign of it I hoped that this was not the case. Its presence might also explain why I saw no pheasant chicks this year.Recently I have only seen one adult moorhen so it seems the rest have been lost. The mink in this country are American mink, the European mink is a different species and never existed here. They were first recorded in 1948 and confirmed as breeding in the wild in 1956, the result of escapes from mink farms or deliberate releases. Although a beautiful looking creature they are "an indiscriminate killer of birds, fish and small mammals that decimate ground-nesting birds and tackle fish as large as themselves". Hopefully it is a lone mink that will move on in search of a mate or when its food supply becomes scarce. I watched, for several minutes, a pair of kites and a pair of buzzards engaged in a battle for air supremacy. The power of the buzzards was matched by the agility of the kites. The buzzards were victorious and circled around calling repeatedly as the kites flew off. I have had a report of fifteen kites being seen on the ground, their numbers seem to be increasing rapidly.