The turbulent gusts of November had finally stripped the leaves from the intricate architecture of their broadleaved woody hosts. For a brief while the discarded shapes stayed crisp and lifted easily in the lightest breeze, far too soon however dampened and trodden they began their return to the earth. I enjoy the autumn for its fleeting character, it’s finest moments being sublimely transitory. My best moment of this year’s transition was an early evening journey back through Shrewsbury, the orange sodium lights igniting an avenue of golden flaring Lime trees, whilst the road was covered in drifts of molten almost sparkling leaves.
The winter brings short days and new vistas. I was recently delighted to find that whilst chasing a sunset to get a better view, it was deliciously framed by an avenue of oaks, planted deliberately to enhance this natural wonder. The dark evenings have lead to other chance encounters, whilst driving through Maesbury Marsh our headlights picked out a Tawny owl, standing watchfully on a residents drive, foolishly I reversed to get another look, but of course he was gone. Driving on we illuminated a rat with its supper clenched firmly in it’s jaws, I know rats are a source of mixed feelings but this fella I am afraid to say was allowed to enjoy his supper and live another day.
Yet more tidying around the garden and before another frost cracks the lining I set about folding the paddling pool, unless we were contemplating ice skating of course! Staring out the window working myself up to dealing with the task I was taken aback to see a Grey wagtail working the edges of the remaining water pecking clean any bugs she found thereabout. The grey wagtail favours riversides; our crumpled plastic lookalike detained the bird only briefly. More regular if not insatiable visitors to our and other local bird-tables have included coal tits, nuthatch, long tailed tits, goldfinches and of course blue tits, the lucky few have also been treated to close up views of the Great spotted woodpecker. The great spotted woodpecker was among a clutch of sightings for a lucky cyclist recently whom whilst on a short jaunt down the canal sighted mute swans, heron, a pair of green woodpeckers, a kingfisher and a swarm of house-martins. [These being the ones that had got away from an eager Sparrowhawk hunting elsewhere in the area]
The longer evenings mean more time to sort out inside the house. Cleaning off a window ledge I scooped up the corpses of this years insect residents. A hoverfly, distinguished by the fused venation on the wings and wasp-like camouflage. A real wasp, Vespula vulgaris, one of roughly 11 species of social wasp found in the UK, it is only mated females that overwinter, the main colony like its paper nests disintegrating as the autumn turns to winter. A honey bee, a sad singleton of a close-by colony that can number upwards of 50,000 individuals. A crane fly, this one not much of a Daddy more a Diddly legs, though crane flies can range in size from mosquito titchy to the Tipula Maxima, which has a wingspan of nearly 3 inches. And finally an Ichneumon fly, parasitic, narrow waisted and glistening still.
The festive season is rushing towards my expectant young family, just to one side of all that glitters I can see winter wanders, chance encounters with hardy wildlife, wellies, fieldfares and redwings on the mosses, and fingers crossed I may get a glimpse of a twilight ghost as a Barn owl works the gloom of the winter day.
Happy wildlife spotting, Pete.
If you would like to share your wildlife encounters please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org