I have fallen behind somewhat with this seasonal diary, drifting off in a similar fashion to the way autumn is sinking into the soil under the weight of winters approach. After the first flush of inspiration that came on the winds that turned the leaves to crisp flowerings of golden hues, I have been feeling increasingly washed out. I struggle to maintain momentum as the hibernation gene fires and skies are unsettled and mercurial. It is easy at this time of year to get caught up in looking forward, to forget to breath in anticipation of the festive season approaching. When grey skies and drizzle dominate and the countryside withers into nightfall, the promise of warmth and light that Christmas brings is like a drug we cling onto to block out the dark. Busy focussing on future moments, I neglect the present and forget the power of recording the now.
Looking at my nature diary of 2004, the original inspiration for this series of blog posts, it seems I paid more attention, although perhaps I didn’t feel dissimilar to this season, I just didn’t express it in so many words. The November entries read as a list, as though I am recording on auto-pilot, and noticing nature is a natural reflex rather than an conscious action. They are interspersed however, as with this year, with occasional eloquent days, when a dose of bright sunshine or a free-time walk has fired the neurons with beneficial chemicals. It is interesting to note that many of the same characters; great spotted woodpeckers and roe deer for example, feature in both years.
So here is a list of the moments nature has offered over the past weeks.
The weather has been particularly mild, with the occasional spell of single figure temperatures. The forecast for next week signals a change in the pattern; after a gusty squall last night the temperatures are due to fall this weekend and the winds switch round to the north with frosts likely.
Song thrushes have been singing. I always think that from their favoured perches in the topmost branches of the tallest trees, perhaps they can see further ahead into the year than we can. That’s why, of all the birds, it is the thrush that has been given the role of town crier, and shouts the news in repetitive phrases.
Blackbirds and redwings have been stripping the berries from the holly; there will be none left by Christmas. I sat on Sunday morning, waiting for the gates to be opened to the car park at work. I had switched my engine off and wound down the window, listening the the woodland undersong as I waited. Along the bridleway track that takes an alternative route from the driveway, is an old oak, its base clad in a prickly coat of holly. precious few berries are to be found on these hollies this year, and what is there will not last long now the birds have located them.
It is at the other end of the driveway where I saw the roe deer. As I left for home I paused at the junction and my headlight beams penetrated the woodland edge opposite. Three pairs of eyes turned to peer warily back at mine; a buck with the characteristic knobbly antlers of his species, and two soft-eared does. Moments passed until eventually the deer melted away into the deeper gloom of the woods.
Flocks of tits fill the woodlands. Sometimes I also spot a great spotted woodpecker working his way up a dead branch. I saw one this morning, during a short walk on Midhurst Common. The sunshine slanted from a low angle, broken into golden shards by the leaves, for the oak still clings onto many of its dry papery flags, and the pines of course are fully clothed.