Friday, 25 July 2014

An early autumn?

Under last week’s blog, Jeanne from Oklahoma said, “We are experiencing record low temps with rain and mist. Absolutely wonderful weather - in mid July!!! Usually we have triple digits with drought so you can imagine how much we are enjoying this break. It's so unusual, it's almost spooky, but I am still enjoying it.” This left me thinking about the weather here because I think I detect something odd this year.

Like the other plant pictures here, this was taken late last night (hence the use of flash) so we can see exactly how things are going.
Hazel nuts - and someone has been nibbling.
Before I go any further, a quick thought. Nancy (from Charlotte, also in the USA) is far more knowledgeable about plants than I am – I shall rely on her for a logical explanation of what I have been seeing and photographing if, indeed, there is one.

Rosa Rugosa hips
The spring was a bit of a blur as we were preparing to move during March and April. There was little point in doing anything positive in the garden we were leaving apart from making sure it was reasonably tidy. We did not have access to the garden we were going to until it was rather too late to do all the things that are needed early in the year to ensure a productive season. Worse, in some ways, I was distracted from the more natural things – flora and fauna – and so was not as aware of the way last spring panned out than I would have been under normal circumstances.

Blackberries in the hedge.
The first realisation that things weren’t quite normal was that the blackbirds seemed to be nesting later than usual and then I began to suspect that for some reason everything was holding back by a week or so. But it is what is happening now that I find most interesting. We are still in July and yet when I look around me it seems that many plants have fruited early and already beginning to take on a look of early autumn. That is not to say that they are beginning to take on their autumn colouring yet but that there is that slightly tired look that I associate with late August. Indeed, and I do not expect most people to agree with this, for the casual naturalist August is the most boring month of all. The birds stop singing and are seen far less frequently and very little comes into flower. But, stop and listen for a moment. Can you here any birds? Quite – and we are still in July.

The beech tree by the front gate is looking very autumnal.
Is that this year's mast or left over from last year?
Actually that isn’t quite true. Although we are some way from the sea the River Dart (which we could see from the windows were it not for the trees and shrubs that grow on its bank) is tidal less than a mile away and we are often visited by gulls: herring gulls in the main. They fill the air with their strange cries as the wheel around the house in the late evening. And then there are just one pair of pigeons who pop in and out and sit in the branches of the trees in the garden cooing gently to each other. And that is that: no thrushes inspiring the evening air, no blackbirds pouring out their rattling challenges, no warblers warbling or sparrows chirping.

This small tree/large shrub is coming into berry. I have no idea what it is and so I am relying on one of you to tell me. It is probably something quite common and I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself. We'll see.
Am I right? Has nature somehow started this summer late, rushed through it at breakneck speed and is now already beginning to tumble into autumn (or fall if you prefer)? If I am, why? Any ideas, Nancy?

There are always many charities that appeal for our support. Both of us rate very highly those who provide terminal care for people and one such is the Rowcroft Hospice. This charity, which operates only in South Devon, cares for nearly two thousand people each year. From Saturday, August 9, to Friday, August 15, they will be running a Summer Reading Campaign to help them sell books that have been donated to them. Marcia will be helping with that campaign. She will be in Rowcroft’s shop in Totnes from 11 am on Thursday, August 12, when she will be giving a short talk and enjoying a chat with other supporters. She hopes to be meeting as many readers as possible but totally understands that some of them (such as Jeanne and Nancy) might find getting there a bit difficult.

And there he was. Sitting on the driving seat and daring all and sundry to come and start pinching things. Buddy may not be that big but he knows he’s bigger than everyone else.

PS We would both like to send our best wishes to Traudel who is due to have an operation next Monday. May it happen this time and let us hope for a totally positive outcome.