Just having a quick afternoon tea at the desk while Howard does the cleaning and replenishing the chickens’ bedding. It is the most glorious weather. Not a cloud in the cornflower blue sky, and the air is drenched with bird song. The gulls are doing their snowdome impression over the lake, and starlings are gathering and chattering in the trees before finding something less organic to roost in overnight.
Now I’m back at work, I need to savour these moments. I’m heading off just after sunrise, and arriving home as dusk fades to dark. I’m so grateful that today the weather is so good and I can take it all in, even though I wish I was fit enough to enjoy it even more.
The last two nights have been clear, and we’ve woken to a proper frost. My walk from the bus stop to my perilous front path has been guided by the dazzling bright evening star in the south western sky – Jupiter I think, and in the morning, just before the alarm goes off, the moon swings round to shine through our bedroom window, amplified by the sparkling frost on the garage roof. It almost seems like winter has arrived. Notwithstanding my injury, it was a long, slow Autumn. And since the Solstice, the weather has been so mild it barely counted as Winter - until today.
Our clumps of Snowdrops were a little sluggish this year, but started flowering last week. My hellebores are bursting forth. Most are laden with buds, but my precious yellow one is already in full bloom. I counted seven flowers fully open, and many more buds. But there are flowers out elsewhere that really shouldn’t be. One house I pass by on my revised walk to the bus stop (avoiding steep paths and slippery slopes) has a Thrift and a French Lavender in flower! Granted, it is sheltered and south facing, but even so, it seems wrong, and something that should be saved for the summer.
What little Summer we had came to a close earlier than has been usual of late, but a couple of sudden hot spells meant the start of Autumn proper took even longer. When I broke my ankle on the 1st November, many trees were still in full leaf – late even by recent standards. By mid December, most trees had shed their leaves, although a few, in particular Oaks, and the Hazel in next door’s garden stubbornly hold on to their foliage. Now even those have gone. Next door’s Hazel is now dripping with golden catkins, which sway as the assorted Blue Tits, Great Tits, Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins launch themselves off its branches towards our birdfeeders.
As over the past couple of months I’ve only been able to sit and watch a limited area, I’ve been able to really observe Autumn, even if only from a distance. When I first became incapacitated, most trees were only just starting to turn gold. The one tree ahead of the game was the Field Maple on the road to the lake. It had gone from deep blue green to crimson, then a burnt coral orange. By the time most other trees had started to turn colour, the Maple had shed its leaves.
My last trip out of London before my injury was to North Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. Although a relatively short distance north, there was a distinct difference in the advance of the seasons. The trees were a mass of reds, corals and gold.
The trees are only part of what I have been able to observe from the window. The Canada Geese from the lake herald Spring and Autumn by flying in flocks rather than pairs. The flocks started forming in August – worryingly early. The Swifts had already disappeared, but this year the Swallows and House Martins stayed longer. I even saw a bat flying near the houses in late October. The redwings and fieldfares have arrived, though as yet not in the usual numbers. I can’t get down to the lake to see if there have been any unusual migrant arrivals to add to the little Call drake who tries to mingle with the much larger Mallard males. We’ll have to see if he has any affect on the population next year, like the white farmyard ganders who this year mated with some of the Canada females and produced hybrid offspring – Canada goose marked heads, but chunkier bodies and yellow legs.
I often see the Herons flying between the local lake and the ponds in parks further afield, and I see the flocks of gulls taking off from the lake and looking like a giant snow dome. The Ring Necked Parakeets around here usually fly round in twos and threes – they are yet to be the nuisance they are in other areas, but last week I saw a flock well into double figures. I’ve noticed more Blackbirds recently than I have for some time. Howard has put more bird feeders out in the garden, which has brought in Robins, Blue and Great Tits in particular. Yet to see anything unusual, but I didn’t get to see any Waxwings until the very end of last Winter.
And then, when it gets dark, I can hear the Tawny Owls, calling to each other as they fly between the trees.
Once I am fit and able to get outside under my own steam again, I will relish being able to get close to nature properly. I look forward to watching Winter take hold, and then melt into Spring again.