The colours of autumn…

This was always intended to be mostly pictures, few words, but…

When you look out from an upstairs window and see firstly this…


Quickly followed by this…dscn1093

And then this…dscn1092

You do begin to wonder if you’re living in the real life version of Independence Day

Other than that, it’s been more about the familiar greens, browns and golds…






5 pictures above: Wyre Forest Country Park – early November 2016; the lower shot is of Dowles Brook and Knowles Mill, taken through the trees.



2 pictures above: Malvern Hills, looking west – added 19th November 2016

The sunset quickly lost its fire and faded as the sun dropped towards the horizon…




* None of these shots has been colour enhanced or ‘Photoshopped’ in any way, other than some slight cropping. They are exactly as the camera sensor recorded them; nature needs no help from me.



Suburban diary: Nuthatches

dscn1086To say that nuthatches have colonised our neighbourhood would be an overstatement; but there are now some, where previously there were none. We first noticed them in the local park, moving up through the trees in their familiar way, often disappearing at the very instant we identified them. Eventually a single bird briefly showed up on one of our feeders, disappeared and didn’t return. We are about 100 metres or so from the park and there are plenty of trees to choose from, probably plenty of feeders too, so there was some disappointment but no real surprise.

And then, earlier this year, they returned; a single individual to begin with, joined shortly afterwards by a second. They have been regular visitors ever since, particularly keen on the sunflower seeds and usually waiting until a feeder is clear of other birds before quickly taking seed to eat elsewhere, returning frequently. Surprisingly, they seem less attracted to the whole peanuts on offer than they do to the sunflower. So far they seem to have exhibited none of the aggressive behaviour sometimes associated with nuthatches.


    Goldfinches: a little too flashy for my tastes, but thriving

In the twenty years or so since we moved here, the garden has undergone inevitable change: layouts have altered; plants, features, trees even, have come, gone, grown, flourished, failed. So too, the birds…

The flock of starlings, which greeted us when we first arrived – 200 strong or more – dwindled to a handful before, thankfully, beginning a faltering but continuing recovery. Goldfinches? We never saw any for years, then a few appeared to take an interest in some flowering lavender; today they are, numerically speaking, the dominant variety. Also surprisingly dominant in their own way are the blue tits – first to the nest boxes every year and well capable of holding their own at a crowded feeder. Of the occasional visitors, our favourites have probably been the usually solitary goldcrests and the slightly more frequent siskins – a maximum of four in the case of the latter, and always in winter. There have been blackcaps, also in winter and sometimes paired; long-tailed tits are no longer a rarity, although they seldom linger.

Sparrowhawk_10 14 14_0004A buzzard once perched on top of the gate, no more than 3 metres from the kitchen window. There have always been sparrowhawks: whether the present ones are direct descendants of the originals, or itinerants occupying a new territory, there is no way of knowing. As recently as last week, the current male was within a whisker of taking a nuthatch, in a beautifully executed tight loop around the feeder. The nuthatch was saved by the rotation of the feeder and the hawk continued onwards without any reduction in its speed, tilting almost 90º and squeezing through the tightest of gaps between tree and trellis. A juvenile [pictured left] once sat for a long time on top of one of our fence posts, looking a little confused and a bit disoriented. Possibly it was out on its own for the first time.

So long, Leonard…

More often than not, you managed to get it about right: this will do nicely for the week when we woke up to the news of president Donald…

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows



Leonard Cohen 21.09.1934 – 07.11.2016


Autumn’s first real bite

Summer ends, inevitably. At some point the season becomes undeniably autumn.

The thing with summers, though – our summers –  is that, rather than storming out and slamming the door behind them, they have a tendency to slip quietly away. A whole September can pass, and then some of October, with the feeling that the end of summer still lingers, declining slowly, encroaching into autumn’s allotted time, delaying the changes which must inevitably come if nature’s work is to be accomplished – wind down; shutdown; restart…

And then, one day, it is unequivocally, unmistakably autumn. And here’s the odd bit – it already was, had been for a while but, just as summer exits quietly, autumn arrives without commotion; a seamless, understated handover.

This year, I hadn’t really noticed autumn until it was almost time to adjust the clocks. The combination of an extended dry spell and negligible winds had left the trees still holding a lot of leaf, even if the colours were changing. Losing that hour of daylight at the end of the day removed any lingering ambiguity.

Today, the message was reinforced by a wind more typical of midwinter – a biting, hostile, north-easterly. This was the day when an extra layer was added and never shed, even on the sustained uphill pulls; the day when we began the walk already wearing gloves – no need to “wait and see”. Today, I fished my Montane Prism out of the rucksack when we stopped for lunch, hunkered out of the wind in a sculpted hollow just about the size of a small sofa. When we set off again, the temptation was there to leave the jacket on but that would inevitably have involved stopping to discard it very soon afterwards.