I may have only been away for a week but the changes on my local patch reveal the shift from autumn to winter that happened in my absence. The storm that passed through while I was away stripped many of the local trees of their leaves, changing vistas and shifting horizons. The dry hues of autumn no longer adorn branches but instead crunch beneath my feet, the tapestry of autumn colour now a carpet to be sullied, swept away and broken down. The only saving grace has been the temperature, remaining unseasonably high; the now dark evenings lack the bite of what will inevitably arrive over the coming weeks.
The soft calls of redwings in the night sky provide a different signal of the changing season, a pleasing sign of migrants arriving from further north. There is plenty of fruit for them this year, although it may remain little used until the first frosts restrict access to the soil-dwelling invertebrates on which these and other thrushes feed. The clear skies will see temperatures fall overnight, perhaps bringing with them an end to the late flying migrant hawker dragonflies and the last of the season’s crickets and grasshoppers. The odd bumblebee and butterfly is still on the wing though, and a few warming rays of sunlight are enough to see them stir. I wonder how the large white caterpillars munching on bolted greens in the vegetable patch will fair?
This is the time of the year when the lure of home grows stronger and where a good book replaces time spent in the field. There’s still the opportunity for a walk, although this has become a weekend treat and not something to slot in before or after work. Still, the dark evenings provide opportunity for reflection and for the collation of notes made throughout the year. There are ringing and nest recording submissions to be made, data to be processed and delivered and observations to write up. It is the time of the year for repaying the pleasure that has come from spending time in the field. There is also the opportunity to start thinking about next year, to make plans and to think about what new delights the countryside will deliver.