As Autumn draws to a close and the darkness of Winter sets in, I wanted to write a little post in praise of the former. A lot of people dislike Autumn; for the cold, the rain, the biting wind that makes your cheeks sting. Others just hate to see the end of Summer (whatever ‘Summer’ means in Britain) but to me, Autumn holds a special lustre that I prefer over any other time of year.
With Summer blowing out the back door and the icy fingers of Winter beckoning at the front, Autumn is a month of change. Out of all the seasons, it is the one that makes the most ‘noise’ – announcing itself in a riot of colour and seriously temperamental weather. Spring is subtler, blending seamlessly into Summer. But come September, the trees suddenly change, swapping their blossoms and greenery for tones of russet brown, burgundy and burnt orange, and drop their leaves to create a carpet of sunset hues. Even the sky has a different quality, becoming muted and pastel-coloured, streaked with grapefruit pink and gold towards the evening (well, on a good weather day). I like to think Autumn is nature’s version of an end-of-year office party, with the leaves falling as confetti, giving the wildlife a final siesta before the long, harsh Winter days.
Autumn is also the best time of year to see wildlife, in particular birds. The air has a crisp-cut cleanness to it, making bird song appear clearer and creatures easier to spot. Garden birds come into their own this season – blackbirds, goldfinches, starlings, robins – and other bird species begin their Winter migrations, most notably pink-footed and greylag geese. Great numbers of them can be seen flying overhead in a characteristic ‘V’ formation, sometimes known as a Skein, honking incessantly to one another (if you don’t see them, you’ll hear them). We receive another few visitors during this time, including Bramblings, Redwings and Fieldfares. Mammals too, are particularly active, preparing for the difficult times ahead. Of course, squirrels will be busying themselves storing food. There is much food to harvest; berries, hazel nuts, crab apples and seeds. I have seen a few hedgehogs ambling along hedgerows, a fleeting sighting of a stoat, and, amazingly, a mother otter joined by two gambolling cubs, almost grown up.
If you live in Scotland, it’s also a fantastic time to try and see red deer rutting. It is the time of year that stags and bucks develop impressive antlers in order to win the attentions of a female; driving towards each other, heads down, locked in battle to rival Game of Thrones.
Dawn and dusk are, to me, the best times to go on a little Autumn ramble. In the morning, when the watery sun is just beginning to rise, dew is tangled on the spider webs like jewels, and it is always a surprise to see just how many there are. It’s difficult not to marvel at these intricate patterns, seemingly delicate as lace but impressively strong. And at dusk, a stillness falls over everything, as the day gives way to the night and its nocturnal inhabitants. Autumn is a magical time, filled with change – a good opportunity to notice changes in nature and appreciate it, instead of moaning over numb toes.
**This post features some photography by my lovely and very talented friend, Ciara Menzies. Go check her out 🙂 http://www.ciaramenzies.com