• Barbara Copperthwaite

Ever-changing seasons

I woke up this morning and was so excited when I opened the curtains. Why? Because the roof tops opposite me were white: it was the first proper frost of this autumn! I grabbed my cameras…then I realised that the batteries were flat on both of them. So I had to wait while they charged, and sadly by the time I got out the ice had all melted from the rooftops and pavements. But as I walked along my breath made pleasing little white clouds in front of me, so that cheered me.

I love this time of year. In fact, I love the constant changes you see around you through all the seasons, and I simply can’t imagine being somewhere where the weather is always the same. It’s that feeling of the wheel of change constantly turning, taking you further from summer, but closer to winter, and closer to spring, even too. Ever changing, never stopping, it’s wonderful to feel you’re part of that.

Frost is one of the big changes that come with the seasons. While I love it, it poses its own problems for nature. Tiny birds are particularly vulnerable, and they were brought to my mind as I stood among the pines and conifers and found myself surrounded by the rapid-fire chirping of Goldcrests. They are Britain’s smallest bird; many people think it’s the Wren, but the tiny Goldcrest measures just 9cm, and weighs as little as 5g. I would dearly love to take a photograph of them, but their size means they are masters at staying hidden – and also they never sit still! They are constantly on the go, searching for insects to feed that incredibly fast metabolism. I did spot a couple though, their beautiful crests mimicking the golden carpet of fallen leaves in front of me.

I did take a photo of a Crow beside a frozen puddle. In autumn and winter this park feels more like a Crows’ dominion. They particularly dominate the central grassy area, and the boggy puddles and springs of the park. There they congregate to bathe, dig around in the mud for worms, and just generally hang out. Crows are easy to dismiss as boring and black. But take a closer look. The different textures of the feathers is beautiful. As for that sleek, glossy finish…

Over the past few weeks I have been seeing more Common and Black-headed Gulls, too. The haunting cry of the Common Gull, which is so synonymous with the sea, is now a more and more frequently heard cry in inland towns and cities too. Studies have shown that their breeding success in places such as this is actually much higher than their normal costal haunts. It is warmer, there is less predation, plenty of food, so this makes perfect sense. We could see them taking over in the way pigeons, so derided, have. You can’t blame nature for managing to make a success in a man-made area. Good on them, I say.

But it was smaller birds that once again caught my attention as I walked on. There was one young, bare oak tree in the park that was absolutely alive with little Blue Tits flitting around from branch to branch, picking out the insects. One seemed larger though, and wasn’t moving quite so frequently or rapidly . As I looked, it reared its head away from the trunk, arching its back – a classic Nuthatch pose. The little ones were there for ages, and only moved on when about five Crows decided they wanted to come over and land there. I took that as my cue to head home…

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