I have spent the last few weeks thinking about how, despite the wet Summer, this Autumn has been spectacularly colourful. The leaves on the Sycamores that I pass on the way to work have been a glowing yellow, but alas, they are no more. The wind of the last couple of days has taken away most of the leaves and left them on the ground, shadows of their former glory. The Purple Hazel and the Dogwoods in our garden, which last week seemed to laugh at the autumn, are now as naked as the Rowan and Silver Birches.
Around Daventry, apart from the evergreens, it seems as though it is only oaks that have kept their finery. Walking down the old railway track you can be fooled into thinking that the trees are still looking green, but it is the ivy, winding its way up so many trunks, that is giving the colour.
I went for two walks today, because I could, and because it wasn’t raining. This morning we walked into Daventry, and then back along the old railway track via the church yard. It was all peculiarly quiet. About this time last year we carried out the first Winter surveys for the BTO bird atlas, and the church yard was full of life (no pun intended). We struggled to count the blackbirds, they were so abundant, and, as for the old railway track, you could hardly hear yourself speak for their rustling and alarm calls. This morning there was hardly a peep (or cheep) out of them. We saw an occasional blackbird leaping about in the yew, looking for berries, but nothing else. But then, there were hardly any berries for them to leap for. Has it been a bad year for berries, was it the late frost and Easter snow, or are these shrubs and trees also suffering from the same lack of insects as most gardens this year?
Anyway, to look for more birds (and, I admit, in a half-hearted attempt to find the Red-crested Pochard again) I went to the Country Park. To sum up, it was cold. I only had binoculars (photography being my primary reason for the outing) so am not sure whether there were many birds out in the water. I am pretty sure there were no Red-crested Pochards though. What I did see, which surprised me as I have never seen them in November before, was a flotilla of Goosander. These are my bellwethers, the Harbingers of Winter. I may still be missing the redwings, but I need no other signs to tell me that it is time to get the thermals out.