• Barbara Copperthwaite

Dare I say it...?

The sun is shining in the blue sky above me, but there are also clouds hanging large and heavy that are grey and laden with rain, and the wind is making the trees hush me with their shaking leaves. It feels too early to be bandying this word about, but there is a one thing repeatedly springing to mind to describe the feeling in the air… Autumnal.

Yes, there are already signs that the wheel of the seasons is turning, despite it still being the height of summer. Thanks to Tropical Storm Bertha the weather has changed the last few days; it is much cooler than it should be, which in turn seems to be hurrying nature along. The berries are ripening, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, rosehips, are all turning to full colour already, cloaking bushes with rich purples and reds, hanging like Christmas baubles (no, no, it’s definitely far too early for THAT word!).

The meadow grass that has been allowed to grow so long and lush for the butterflies to hide in is now being cut and managed by a tractor. It ensures will continue to grow in that fashion rather than develop into scrubland, but it is another sign of things changing and moving on.

The swifts have all left the country to go on their winter hols to sunnier climes, too. They (and Cuckoos) are the first of many who will leave us now that their breeding season is over, and the last will depart in September.

Why do they go? Mainly to follow the food – most are insectivores, and insect numbers drop by the time autumn proper hits. In humid countries such as Africa they can find a feast though.

But despite birds leaving us, and the myriad other signs starting to show, there are, of course, plenty to let us know that is it still summer. The dragonflies are out and about, a Common Darter coming to sit right in front of me to get some warmth in its wings this morning. The other day I saw an Emperor, the big daddy of all British dragonflies. It was a wonderful sight as it skimmed over an open area of grass, looking like a jumbo jet compared to damselflies – but if it is a jumbo, it has the manoeuvrability of a fighter jet. Surely if anything is a sign of summer, it is these big, bold, beautiful insects?

Another insect that is synonymous with summer is the grasshopper. In the heat of the sun, if you’re near long grass, especially if you’re in the Midlands southwards, you’ll be lucky enough to hear the sound of grasshopper shaking their maracas. You might even see one if you look closely! They can change colour to camouflage themselves, but it is possible to see them if you look closely.

So while there may be a change coming, for now I’m going to make the most of summer while it lasts. And hopefully the sun will come out properly soon!

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