Saturday, 15 October 2011

The forest in autumn

The scent of the forest has changed these last few days. The full and rounded odours of summer have been replaced by a ripeness that contains the sharp edge of decay. Autumn is upon us, the evenings are drawing in and the leaves are turning as trees retreat back into the security of their heartwood. Two Roe haunt my morning walks; feeding on the clearfell they no longer retreat but watch from a distance, marking my progress as I beat the bounds of my regular circuit. The other day I encountered a small group of Red Deer. More nervous than the Roe they slip away, heads stiff and upright, with a curious almost equine gait – Red Deer dressage.

Small parties of crossbills can be heard some mornings, their sharp, excitable calls ringing out from the tops of the pines. Blackcaps alarm at me harshly from the snowberry, like resonant pebbles brought together in anger. These warblers may be passing through or perhaps they are part of the local population into whose nests I peered earlier in the year. They will soon be gone, as nature changes her guard alongside her seasons.

The vegetation is shedding its greenery and adopting more sombre tones. One large patch of clearfell is particularly brown, the grass long dead and I suspect it has been sprayed ahead of a planned bout of planting. This is where the Tree Pipits were nesting – three or possibly four different pairs – and I wonder what they will find when they return next year. The mosaic of different-aged blocks will, however, ensure that they have suitable nesting habitat somewhere within the vast acreage of this working forest.

Every few days or so I will stumble across a plump ground beetle, a carabid, deep black and with a sheen of purple that dances across its wing cases with the changing light. These beetles seem to do well in the forest and, much like a black cat, I am warmed by seeing one cross my path. My almost daily walks around this patch of forest mean that I am sensitive to the subtle seasonal shifts in its appearance. It may be going too far to suggest that it has changing moods but this does seem a sensible way by which to describe how it feels to be in the forest on different mornings. The differing combinations of light and cloud cover, the subtle shifts in temperature from one forest block to another and, most importantly, the changing animals and plants, all influence my experience of the forest from one day to the next. Some of these changes tell me that autumn is come, that the bountiful days of summer are gone. 

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