Autumn’s here- Muir of Dinnet NNR

Autumn sometimes seems to spread at different rates. Here, the trees are really starting to turn yellow now, but in other parts of Scotland, like Morayshire, they are still quite green. But on the reserve, they seem to be getting yellower almost daily- and a brisk wind will already whip some off the trees and set them dancing.

Birch leaves turning yellow

Birch leaves turning yellow

This is fairly early for the leaves to be this far turned. There have been years when the leaves have been greener than this in October. So why has autumn come early this year? Well, weather-wise, it has been a bit of a strange year. There was that awfully cold late spring, then that glorious summer- the driest we’ve had for years. So the trees were late in producing leaves and then suffered drought for most of the summer. This has probably led them to start shutting down early for the winter- they’re giving up on this year’s growing season and preparing for the winter shutdown.

Rowan tree with berries, early autumn

Rowan tree with berries, early autumn

So why do the leaves turn yellow? Well here’s the science bit…..

The green stuff in leaves is called chlorophyll.  It’s what makes leaves green and allows plants to convert sunlight and water into food. But over the winter, there’s not enough light to make this process work- so the plants re-absorb this chlorophyll and the green colour goes away. The yellows, browns and reds we see are other pigments or chemical waste products left over in the leaves. There’s another pressing reason to shed leaves too-we’ve all seen trees snapped by the weight of snow when the branches are bare. Imagine how much more snow would stick on the trees if they still had leaves!

Rowan leaf showing all the autumn colours!

Rowan leaf showing all the autumn colours!

Other signs of autumn are everywhere too. The mornings are much colder and mistier than even a fortnight ago and the sun is much lower in the mornings. It’s worth getting up early to see an autumn morning- the mist on the lochs is a wonderful sight, and the low sun shows up all the spider’s webs in the dew.

Spider webs in autumn morning sun

  Spider webs in autumn morning sun

Loch Kinord on a misty morning

Loch Kinord on a misty morning

It’s a beautiful time of year. It can also be easier to see wildlife, as the duck numbers increase on the lochs. The local breeding greylag goose population come back to Dinnet to roost on the lochs over the winter and there were 127 greylags on Loch Davan on the 12th Sept – and one white domestic goose that must have decided it didn’t want to be domestic any more!

Any of the paths at Muir of Dinnet offer a walk through the woods, so please come and visit us and experience autumn for yourself.

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