‘And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves….’ ~ Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse
Happy (calendar) Autumn!
Today’s plant couldn’t be more appropriate – these are Autumn lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis). True to their name, they usually appear when the weather turns more autumnal, and their twirling spiral form apparently reminded their original namer of the ringlets once popular in women’s hairstyles.
Though they like to grow in very short turf, Autumn lady’s-tresses are themselves quite small and, surrounded as these were by other wildflowers, especially the superficially similar Eyebright, they weren’t easy to spot.
Luckily for me, when I was having an early wander around Cosmeston this morning, I bumped into a friend of a friend, who is extremely knowledgeable about the local flora, and he very kindly showed me where these gorgeous little orchids were growing.
The autumn bird migration is now in full swing in south Wales and almost every day migrating birds are being spotted at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, where they’re stopping off to refuel before they tackle their long flights to warmer over-wintering locations in Europe and Africa. One that I find particularly charming is the Spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), which is not really spotted at all, more streaky and stripy. The scientific name is more accurate: Muscicapa is a combination of the Latin word musca, meaning fly, and capere, meaning to catch, and the epithet striata is from the Latin striatus, meaning striated.
I saw my first Spotted flycatcher at Cossie on 7 August.
A week later, on the 15th, I had two sightings.
The 20th was a bumper day, with three birds, two obviously travelling together, and another doing its own thing.
And last Friday, the 24th, a birding friend put me on to a single bird, that was catching flies in the paddock I walked through on my way home. Fingers crossed I manage to see a few more before they all disappear for the winter.
And I thought yesterday was hot!
On day 26 of #30DaysWild the temperature hit 29°C here in Penarth, even hotter than yesterday. And while people may be enjoying this weather (I am not!), it’s really tough for wildlife. I’m not sure what caused this little shrew to die but it’s easy to believe it was the heat, or perhaps thirst. We’ve had a couple of dry months now, and ponds and streams are running low and / or drying up. So, if you’re in a position to put water out for the birds and the beasties, please do – they really need all the help they can get right now.
During my walk in Bute Park a few days ago, I saw my first signs of spring. And, though I love winter – as I love each of the seasons for the differences they offer – still, it is always heart-warming, when the days are short and cold and often grey, to see small signs, like these snowdrops, of the earth’s re-awakening.
There is so much to love about autumn: it’s as if Nature is an award-winning play, and all the trees are her actors. She’s coming to the end of another successful season, it’s the last grand finale, the players are dressed in magnificent richly coloured costumes ready to take their final bows before a rapturous audience amidst great critical acclaim … and then the curtain comes down for another year.
Determination. Persistence. Resistance. Constancy.
Humans have cleared the land of ‘weeds’; laid a gravel path edged with a concrete strip; planted a bed of ornamental shrubs (many of which have died); and mulched that garden bed with metal chips yet, in spite of all that destruction of its habitat, this little Colt’s-foot (Tussilago farfara) has managed to push through and begin to flower.