Dear Readers, I might have mentioned before that autumn is my favourite season – spring blossom is all very well, but there’s a frenetic energy then that isn’t exactly soothing. Whereas come October, it feels as if nature is tucking itself into bed, and putting on a final show before winter comes. Tonight the clocks go back in the UK, and so it will be dark by late afternoon for the next few months. In the meantime though, there is much to treasure in spite of the cold and wet.
The trees along Creighton Avenue are spectacular, but that’s nothing compared with the oaks and hornbeams once we walk into Coldfall Wood. Just have a look at these…
And as we walk along the path towards the allotments, a Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) bobs along in front of us, picking up small insects from under the leaves. We follow slowly behind him for about ten minutes, until he realises that we are there and loops back behind us to carry on foraging. The length of tail and the amount of bobbing is extraordinary – I caught a short video, but please excuse the quality.
Onwards! Coming out on to Muswell Hill Playing Fields, I see a lovely young horse chestnut sapling, with fresh green leaves and those sticky, shiny chestnut-coloured buds. It looks so healthy at this stage, but of course it hasn’t been nobbled by the various fungi and leaf-miners that are wreaking havoc with the trees in the UK. Also, I’m wondering what’s with the new leaves at this time of year, but then everything is a bit confused.
The brambles are still putting on quite a display of autumn colour.
I show my husband the Greater Burdock, and the way that the burrs are covered in tiny hooks. What a great way of latching onto a furry animal so that you can be transported for miles!
The white campion is still in flower too, along with the mallow.
The Black-headed Gulls are all over the Playing Fields, giving the crows a run for their money. In the south of the UK, a lot of these birds are winter visitors, who come inland to feast on earthworms and whatever they can find at landfill sites, whereas they are summer visitors to Scotland. I have always been rather fond of these elegant, quarrelsome birds.
Down by the children’s playground there is a magnificent pyracantha hedge, full to busting with orange berries. I read earlier this week that although birds seem to be much more attuned to red berries, these orange and yellow-berried plants are a boon later in the year, when the waxwings arrive, as this food will still be left for them, and for thrushes who become less fussy as the winter wears on. Certainly I shall be keeping an eye open for such exciting winter visitors.
And sometimes a little vignette presents itself, like this fallen leaf with a tiny Hedgerow Geranium peeping around the stem.
Then it’s back into the woods, past a magnificent oak tree…
And back on to Creighton Avenue. As we get towards the junction with the High Road, I just manage to catch the tail-end of a positive mini-murmuration of starlings. At this time of year they seem to get a touch of ‘migration-anxiety’ (the lovely German word for it is Zugunruhe), as if they remember that they’re supposed to be doing something but can’t remember what it is. Most starlings these days stick around in the UK over the winter (most of the population is, I think, eating suet pellets in my garden), but maybe they have an ancestral memory of slimmer pickings and long journeys. Whatever the reason, I shall keep my eye on them. The thought of a starling murmuration against the sunset over East Finchley is really rather exciting.
And finally, back on the High Road I notice a young Ginkgo tree, covered in sunshine-yellow leaves. I remember reading that Ginkgos drop all their leaves over a very short period of time, so I shall have to keep an eye on this too. It’s great to have a tree that has existed as a species for over 270 million years just across the road from the pharmacy.