Well, that’s the tattie holidays nearly over and the clocks go back this weekend- autumn is slowly turning to winter. Mind you, you wouldn’t have known it on Tuesday- it was the warmest I ever remember an October day being, with a sizzling 21 degrees Centigrade! It’s also been one of the most golden autumns I can remember. Some years, all the leaves just shrivel and drop but this year the trees seem to have held onto their leaves and the woods have been a rhapsody in gold.
The birches make up the bulk of the golden trees. They look like suspended rains of gold, especially when the sun strikes them.
Birches go golden as the chlorophyll (the green stuff in leaves) breaks down in autumn. But they don’t produce a chemical called anthocyanin, so stay golden. Trees that produce anthocyanins often go a vivid red colour -like many of the rowans around the reserve. But rowans can go yellow too!
However, the aspens, often the most golden of our trees, haven’t put on quite such a good show this year. Some have already dropped their leaves and look wintery already, while others are still have a hint of green. But they still provide an impressive contrast with the red of the rowans….and a few leaves of aspen do blush red, too.
While sunny spots still harbour the odd late-blooming flower.
Down on the lochs, the swans are being stroppy. Not quite sure why- it’s not breeding season, but there has still been a lot of posturing and scrapping going on. Maybe they are establishing territories for next year? They don’t do it quietly- you can hear the whum-whum-whum of their wings as they chase each other half a mile away on a still day.
We also had an unusual sighting this week. Nothing new, but high numbers of goosander were seen on Loch Kinord early in the week. I’ve never seem more than three or four birds before but there was a flock of 26 juvenile goosander on the loch on Monday. They are probably passing through on their way down to the sea for the winter.
In the woods, there has been an arrival of goldcrests and redwings. Although goldcrests are resident here, their numbers are boosted in winter by birds from the continent. How they survive crossing the North Sea is beyond me- they are absolutely tiny- but are little gold-and-green jewels in our winter woods.
The redwings have also come from Scandinavia. The winters here are less harsh and there’s the chance of fruit like rowan berries or rose hips all winter. You can tell them from the native song thrushes by their red armpits (which you can’t always see) or by their pale “supercilium” …that’s big, pale eyebrow you can see on this bird. So get out there and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of autumn!