Nature Notes, by Malcom Cox, October 2

Nature notes wood mouse ANL-150922-112843001
Nature notes wood mouse ANL-150922-112843001
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The autumn equinox is already history once more. Not easy to feel good about this time of year as day length appears to shorten at an alarming rate.

After such an abysmal summer we feel so cheated. And yet we learn that worldwide this year was the warmest on record. Part of a natural cycle as the fossil fuel lobby insist, or anthropogenic (human induced) as many of us believe – you pays yer money and takes yer pick.

In the garden a handful of seed-filled sunflowers stand sentinel. Their golden halos have long since fallen. They make super cut flowers but coat windowsills with a layer of pollen. So many insects have dined on them. Everywhere there is that feeling of shutting down for a few months while we content ourselves that “all is safely gathered in.” Some cereal growers might not agree with much grain lost to rain.

Meanwhile our resident pipistrelle who on a couple of warm evenings was seen flying with presumably its partner is now hunkered down until spring. A few days ago I came across a photo of this tiny creature that featured in the Lynn News a few years ago. Not at all easy creatures to study so if there is a member of the local bat group who can spare an evening next spring perhaps we could do a write-up for these notes. Please let me know.

Our nightly hedgehog will call to its dish of mealworms for a little while we hope before settling down to hibernate. The wood mouse that has entertained us with smash and grab at “Harry’s” dish will be forced to forage elsewhere. If it survives the winter it will do well. Another old photograph reminded me of younger days when I had the chance to study small mammals via Longworth traps.

Time to leave the garden for a stroll. St Andrew’s church in Ashwicken is a regular starting point for one of our short rambles. There is a small parking area guarded by a magnificent horse-chestnut tree. Not native to the British Isles, “conkers” have been with us a couple of thousand years or so after being introduced by, I believe, Roman invaders.

Whenever I pick up the fruits of Aesculus hippocastanum the appeal that every child feels returns. What gloriously shiny gems they are. And always so easy to grow into young trees should anyone wish to encourage an interest among children in the environment. Just plant a few in pots in October, forget them and await the arrival of April. The same can be said for acorns and ash keys.

From the church we strolled north towards the B1145. Alternatively one can walk east towards Ashwicken proper. The route is clearly marked (O.S. Map 132). There is an especially attractive stretch called. Fen Lane where a display showing the area, “Brands Wood” is worth perusing. We have Leziate Parish Council to thank for this display. As we read the information a couple of jays protested at our presence with their raucous scolding. As ever when we see these birds with their almost pink plumage and blue wing bar, we have to remind ourselves that they are corvids, members of the crow family.

As October approaches there will be a fine harvest of wild “plums” for anyone with the inclination.

Blackthorns are loaded with fruit for anyone keen to brew up sloe gin for the festive season. There are mirabelles or cracks aplenty, take your pick from these colloquialisms.

Such a range in size and colour of these fruits. If you have children with you it’s worth offering a few for tasting. Watch the expression as their faces show reaction to the acidity, always amusing and also a lesson in not sampling wild berries unless accompanied by an adult who has been harvesting such fruits since they themselves were children.

Alas, by October there will be few blackberries for harvesting. As the flesh dries the remaining seeds will sustain some wildlife, difficult to imagine much nourishment in these and I have noted that they tend to be left until more tempting items are all consumed.

I have written nothing from the coast for a while so for November we will be checking winter arrivals from the far north, wildfowl and waders and what is at sea. These days I am a complete wimp, so I hope that a “nor-easterly” ain’t blowin’ on the day chosen.