November Nature Journal
I’ve never had a very good memory, but at the moment I’m struggling to recall a November day that wasn’t blustery and damp. Looking back through this month’s photos, I know we’ve had beautiful days - it just goes to show how easily the rain washes away memories of light and warmth.
I’m a big fan of miserable weather. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about surrendering to the seasons and embracing the annual cycle of good and bad weather. We’re so inclined to hope for sunshine and warmth, to get outside and have fun in pub gardens, but it’s just as important to be still and cosy, to reflect and restore ourselves when conditions aren’t as favourable.
This month, between the cold and rain, there were a handful of bright, golden days that screamed autumn. One of mine was spent hiking through Kingley Vale, a haunted yew forest in West Sussex where a band of Vikings are thought to have been slain centuries ago, and who still roam the Vale at night.
I was there partly for a writing job for Country Walking magazine, and partly to carry on training Pablo to walk off the lead. He’s completely transformed in the last four weeks - he loves people, other dogs, sprinting through trees and fields, and most of all, chasing tiny birds he has no hope of catching. He now walks wonderfully off the lead and doesn’t stray too far, although we have to trick him into getting back on the lead before we get too close to the road again.
We were accompanied for most of our walk by robins, blackbirds and chaffinches, as well as a fleeing yellowhammer outside the village of Stoughton and two buzzards squabbling in the sky.
We also came upon two roe deer in a vast agricultural field, and one fallow deer in the depths of the forest, that managed to outstare Pablo (who is scared of cows, cats and everything larger than a chaffinch) before disappearing into the trees.
The highlight of our walk appeared just as we were walking back to the car in Stoughton. I was watching a heron balancing on a telegraph pole, when to the left I noticed three thrushes in the top of a beech tree. On closer inspection, I saw that they were fieldfares! These speckled birds arrive every autumn from Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia, and earlier in the summer I had seen them dancing around in their summer habitat in Finland. Now they had arrived in the UK for the long winter, along with the redwings that migrate over our heads at night. If you step outside on quiet evenings, you can hear the redwings call seep seep seep as they fly, invisible, over our heads.