Just back from a fortnight’s leave and the changes autumn is bringing seem more obvious than ever. When you see the changes day by day, it’s less striking than not seeing the reserve for two weeks, then coming back. Although it is still warm through the day, there is a distinct chill in the air and Wednesday night marked the first ground frost of the autumn. The tree leaves are yellowing fast but it’s been fairly windy, so most are falling right away. It doesn’t look like it might be a particularly “golden” autumn at the moment- the trees will go bare rather than hold their leaves for a bit.
Unlike the birches and aspen, the pine trees are evergreen. But this doesn’t mean they don’t lose some of their “leaves (ie needles) in autumn. A quick glance under a pine tree will soon show you a thick carpet of needles and most will fall just now. You can see the ones that will fall turning yellow here.
The leaves aren’t the only thing that’s been falling. A large branch had snapped and hung up over one of the paths. Thank goodness for the “tifor” – the winch we use to take down this sort of branch. Once it was safely down, it could be chopped up and moved off the path.
One resident of the reserve won’t have been appreciating the wind. Owls find it difficult to hunt when it’s windy. They mainly listen for mice and voles, but could you hear one moving through the grass when the wind is hissing through it? No? Neither can the owls! But one must have been trying as we found a couple of owl feathers under a waymarker, which must have been used a perching post.
Owl feathers are (excluding down) one of the softest feathers you can touch. The edges of each feather are broken up so they don’t form a smooth edge like most other feathers. This allows the owl to fly quietly as there is no “whoosh” of wind through the feathers that you get in most birds…and is an important advantage if you are trying to sneak up on a mouse!
In spite of the colder nights, there are still a very few adders on the go. However, the frost may well push the youngsters into hibernation and these may be the last we see for the year. Can you spot the young one to the left of this picture?
And possibly the last baby adder sighting of the year!