At this time of year I would expect to be waxing lyrical about the shift from summer to autumn and the change that heralds, in the natural world. This year it seems like we’ve skipped summer, apart from a short burst in June, but despite the vagaries of the weather and frustration we might feel at being robbed of plentiful warm summer days, the natural order still rolls on and the seasonal shift remains pretty much the same.
Given all the rain in July, some trees may hang on to their green leaves a little longer than usual but, given that change in nature is driven by a combination of temperature and day length, the unseasonal weather this year shouldn’t make a huge difference.
Once we pass the 23rd September – the autumn equinox – when day and night are split equally, our days will imperceptibly begin to draw in, but this loss of daylight is balanced, to some extent at least, by the prospect of spectacular sunsets and the stars seeming brighter in the night sky.
Autumn is renowned as a time of bounty – with hedgerows heaving with hips, haws, berries and seeds. This seasonal harvest provides plentiful opportunities for sampling tasty treats whilst on country walks and also boosts the chances of seeing a range of birds as they make the most of nature’s larder. It’s not just birds that make the most of the bounty on offer – many mammals including mice and voles will also be busy building up fat reserves to see them through the longer, colder days ahead.
It will be interesting to see if the unseasonal summer weather impacts the timing of crops. The hazel hedges on my allotment have already been stripped bare of nuts by the voracious local squirrels – suggesting that the combination of the early hot, dry spell, followed by heavy rain has brought the nuts forward.
In the weeks ahead, squirrels and jays will be seeking out nuts and large seed to eat, storing any surplus by burying them for use later in the winter. Whilst this is a tried and tested survival technique, it clearly isn’t foolproof. Many tree species thrive because animals fail to find all of their stash – and I often find seedling hazel trees in my raised beds – testament to the fact that my local squirrels certainly don’t find all their buried treasure.
With any luck we’ll be treated to an ‘Indian Summer’ to make up for the poor show we’ve had so far but, whatever the weather, remember to focus on the positives in nature. In addition to marvelling at the hedgerow harvest, keep an eye out for flocks of migratory birds such as redwing as wells as numbers of swans and geese starting to build on wetland sites such as the Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley Nature Reserve.
Details of all the Trust’s nature reserves, events and campaigns can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Main image: Redwing, Mike Vickers