You know it's autumn when blackberries gleam in the hedgerows. What better symbol is there of harvest and times of plenty in the countryside? Around The Lodge, blackberries are eagerly awaited by creatures of all shapes and sizes...
Birds are perhaps the most obvious consumers of brambles. Thrushes and warblers love them, the sugars in the berries being easily converted to fat which will fuel their migration. You might see them gobbling up fruit, or perhaps spot the aftermath - messy birds with berry juice smeared around their beaks, or bright purple or pink droppings left behind.
On our lunchtime stroll yesterday, Lucinda and I stopped at several bramble patches to watch the diners. Along with the wasps and bees, butterflies were also partaking of the purply-black feast. We watched a vivid orange comma butterfly sipping delicately at a blackberry; closer inspection after it had flown off showed where its tongue left the berry looking deflated.
Smaller beings also enjoy the fruits of the bramble bush. Old folklore says that you shouldn't pick blackberries after St Michaelmas Day - 29 September - because the devil spits on them, but the real culprit is the flesh fly, whose saliva makes the fruit go squishy.
Though they're strictly carnivorous, dragonflies seem to congregate around bramble bushes, too. Southern-facing bushes appear to grow the best, juiciest berries and dragonflies appreciate a nice, warm resting spot, so perhaps it's just a coincidence.
The berries draw in plenty of insect life - dragonfly fodder - and the thorns mean they can perch safely away from predators. Common darters and migrant hawkers are the most common species at the moment, but last week I pushed my way through a bed of nettles to get a closer look at a fantastic brown hawker. Ouch!
Of course, we couldn't resist sampling a few blackberries ourselves. The nicest-looking ones are always just out of reach of human hands, but the birds and insects deserve them more than we do.
I was down at Titchfield Haven, in Hampshire last weekend and spotted a Moorhen working its way across a blackberry bush, plucking berries as it went.
Thanks for your comments. I'm shamefully ignorant about plants, but I always thought that the black bits on honeysuckle at this time of year were the middle bits of the red berries. Birds love eating the berries, insects love the flowers and honeysuckle provides useful cover all year, so what's not to like? So if any plant gurus are out there...
My neighbour's lovely honesuckle spills into my garden and I was surprised to notice last autumn loads of blackbirds eating the little black berries that appear on honeysuckle at this time of year - I didn't think they were particularly edible. Janey St Albans