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Autumn in to Winter

Rural Matters

Article written by 28 November 2013

Late October and after one of the easiest harvests and drilling periods in recent years, heavy rains and winds have descended over the East Anglian landscape.

The last clutches of wood pigeon eggs laid in the warm September sunshine, produced squabs that have now been battered from their perches amongst the hedges and trees. Tell-tale signs of wings and feathers where passing carnivores have enjoyed an easy meal, perhaps eaten by a new generation of young predators yet to learn the skills they will need for the coming Winter. But the pigeons have done well over the Summer and large flocks have started to develop since the break-up of the weather. They move across the last remaining stubbles and oak lined belts, clearing the ground as they go. The wet weather and efficiency of the modern drill, has meant that fields drilled to winter crops are a short lived affair as pigeons race over the fresh turned soil in search of the odd uncovered grain.

However, for the Wood pigeon and many other creatures, nature has provided a vast natural larder this Autumn which will reduce the requirements from the farmers efforts!  Acorns lay thick beneath the oaks and a hive of activity has developed. Pigeons stuff their crops while Jays, Squirrels and other rodents frantically store this precious food for the hard times to come.

Pheasants are lured to their death by the rich muesli of road crushed acorns, chestnuts and digestive grit. Magpies and Carrion Crows soon arrive to claim their prize playing chicken with the traffic and so the food chain goes on.

On warmer days warblers grab the berries from the now leafless elder berry on their long journey South keeping an ever watchful eye for avian predators. However East Anglia’s sparrow hawks have virtually disappeared since Buzzards have colonised every acre.

The warblers being a sylviidae species do not have the security of the winter flock of thrushes about to arrive on our shores. They will have to make their perilous crossing of the sea in darkness to avoid the ever hungry Gulls that patrol our coastal waters.   Fieldfares, Redwings and Blackbirds will soon arrive from Northern Europe to join our resident thrushes.  Their inbuilt Sat Navs guide the chattering flocks to our few remaining orchards here in Suffolk. This years success in finding an isolated apple tree is likely to produce rich pickings after an abundant apple crop.

Clouds of yellow leaf drift from our hedges to expose the blood red hawthorn and the scarlet of the Dog rose, the promise of winter feed.  Blackberries hang thick on the hedges avoided by the flail hedge cutter and Dunnock, blue and grey tits   enjoy a smorgasbord of delights gorging and snatching hover flies as they too are attracted to the delights of the sweet fruit. Near by a large boisterous Mistle Thrush sits in the rowan tree, shovelling down berries chasing off its smaller cousin hatched from the sky blue eggs back in May.

Largely though, so much of  our wildlife’s toil to store nature’s harvest in those hidden holes and crannies and indeed their fat reserves, goes unnoticed amongst the  golden foliage of Autumn. Then in late November, trying to prize out the last sweet chestnut from its prickly shell you realise they are all gone, looking up though the bare branches you realise Winter is here.

 

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