Monday, 15 October 2012

Frosts, Acorns and Springer Spaniels

The last ten days have been filled with seasonal joys. From dramatic skies and weather changes, to fungi forays and country shows. There has been a noticeable drop in temperatures, particularly overnight with clear skies resulting in the first frosts, steamed up cars, and thick river-valley fogs.  Hopefully the sudden frosts will trigger a greater turning of the leaves, many trees are still a dusty green; the oak beyond my window is tinted with golden shades by the colour of its acorns rather than the leaves themselves. This tree is always full of life; in its crown the starlings sit and sing with their strange rattles and whistles, parties of tits and finches wheel overhead, twisting and scattering this way and that. Between the lower branches, plump wood pigeon coo and court, tail fanning and head bowing, happy to breed at any time of year if food is plentiful. Throughout the year the great spotted woodpecker can often be heard, and sometimes spied, propped stiff-tailed against a branch, sharp beak reverberating off the wood. And now, in autumn it is the jays who are the star of the show. Pink-breasted and nutcracker-beaked they climb and flap on the ends of twigs, azure wing patches flashing in the the low sun, as they fill their bulging crops with acorns. Those fruit that they do not plunder to feed themselves, they carry away and bury in soft turf, unwittingly planting the oaks of the future. Few saplings will grow without being nibbled by deer and rabbit, but those which do may provide an autumnal feast of acorns for jays in future centuries.

The oak may be slowly turning, but elsewhere the maple and sycamore trees are awash with glorious colour. Across the grass at their roots a carpet of fallen leaves is forming; a tapestry of reds, yellows, golds and oranges, some with spots of green or brown, long stems and raggedy edges, some flat like stars, others curled and crumpled. Out in the woods and heaths, between the bracken and the birch, beneath the oak and on rotting pine the fungi have taken centre stage for their brief extravaganza. From fairy-tale castles to foul smelling slime their variety is extensive!

I went for a walk in the woods with my Aunt and Uncle and their two Springer Spaniels last weekend. The rustling carpet of autumn leaves, rain damp earth, maze of bushes and bracken and horizontal trees were irresistible and a source of great excitement for the dogs. As is usual with spaniels, their excitement was translated as frenzied speed, so slowing them down enough to pose for a few photos was hard work! With the low sun slanting in golden rays through the ancient trees, a few words of persuasion and perhaps a dog-biscuit treat or two, however, some rather nice shots were achieved. Here are a couple of my favourites.

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