Autumn 2008

In mid November I went for an observant wander round the fields and made notes on what I saw. As I arrived it was a grey day, as November days usually are and it was very wet underfoot, having had recent rain – again! The good news on that, though, is that the ponds and scrapes were all full. Not too much green algae in the newer ponds, but Corner Pond has quite a lot clogging up the rather more welcome pond weeds.

The fields have only been cut this year in the rides, so they appear to have tall brown dead grass like a savannah. There is plenty of life going on below, but the grasses are now so strong that the wildflowers have been having a struggle to survive.

Bird life on that day was very apparent. Along with the usual crows and pigeons there were three common snipe that flew up suddenly from Square Pond. A crowd of chattering jackdaws flew over. Fieldfares were doing their best to demolish the few sloes that grew this year, with a worried blackbird trying to protect his patch. A robin sang – and then the blackbird sang. A pheasant was disturbed as Toby ran by. And was that really a cormorant? What else could look like that?

A couple of days later I had more to add: three red deer does, and that explains the freshly nibbled dogwoods, a fox and, amazingly, a barn owl at 10am. I have seen him again since then, so he must be really hungry to be hunting in the daytime.

But I digress. Autumn is the time full of colour.  Already dogwood and Guelder rose were bare.  Yellow leaves were on cherries, silver birch, ash, crab-apples and alder buckthorn. Brown leaves were on oak, goat willow and hornbeam.  Green leaves were on Scots pine, which showed up so well through the dead grass, but also wild privet, purging buckthorn and alder.  Red leaves and red/orange berries were magnificent on the spindle, along with rosehips and Guelder rose berries.

Most beauttiful of all was the sky as I was leaving. It was a dramatic dark grey over less than half the sky.   The other half was a gentle blue with wispy cirrus clouds. The sun was low and golden, picking out yellow leaves and red rosehips that were silhouetted against the dark grey. Where else would I rather be than admiring this beauty of nature?