Au­tumn’s ar­rival is late – but just as beau­ti­ful as ever in our wood­lands

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Countryside -

Na­ture lovers are in their el­e­ment at the turn­ing of the sea­sons, with so many new things to spot. The Wood­land Trust records the changes

THE first red­wings have soared into the UK, bring­ing a clear mes­sage it’s au­tumn – but it’s late.

Tem­per­a­tures are still hit­ting 20 de­grees for a lot of us but the first sight­ing of red­wings to UK shores brings a clear mes­sage au­tumn is here.

An ea­gle-eyed Wood­land Trust na­ture recorder spot­ted the first sight of this dis­tinc­tive bird fly­ing into our coun­try from the east.

The birds gen­er­ally nest in Siberia and Scan­di­navia but take a per­ilous 500-mile jour­ney to the UK each au­tumn to seek refuge here from freez­ing con­di­tions fur­ther afield.

The red­wings’ ar­rival is not the only sign that au­tumn is here, how­ever some signs point to the fact it may be late, ex­plains Martha Boalch, a Cit­i­zen Sci­ence Of­fi­cer at the Wood­land Trust.

She said: “While the ar­rival of the red­wing (first sight­ing in York­shire) is a clear marker for au­tumn there are other sea­sonal changes be­ing recorded too.

“One of the first signs of au­tumn – the conkers are now ripen­ing and fall­ing across the UK and leaves are chang­ing colour and fall­ing off trees.

“We have also had some record­ings of ivy flow­er­ing which is very im­por­tant as it is the fi­nal nec­tar source of the year for in­sects be­fore they hi­ber­nate for win­ter.

“All th­ese events seem to be hap­pen­ing much later though, most likely be­cause of the heat wave and above av­er­age tem­per­a­tures.”

The first ripen­ing of conkers, which gen­er­ally oc­curs in the south east of Eng­land, was around six weeks later than usual – thought to be due to a slow-down in trees pho­to­syn­the­siz­ing due to drought con­di­tions. Mean­while, only six record­ings of full au­tumn tint so far have been recorded on the leaves of the horse ch­est­nut – tra­di­tion­ally one of the first trees to show the sea­sonal changes. The Woodand Trust had 38 record­ings this time last year.

There have been only 51 leaf falls recorded so far this year, com­pared to 161 last year – and just half the num­ber of records of ivy flow­er­ing.

Miss Boalch said although all in­di­ca­tions point to au­tumn be­ing late it doesn’t mean peo­ple won’t see au­tumn in its full glory.

She added: “Although all in­di­ca­tions point to the heat wave slow­ing the on­set of au­tumn, as tem­per­a­tures get chill­ier the full beauty of au­tumn should be on dis­play – just a few weeks late!

“It’s very im­por­tant though that peo­ple do tell us about what they see hap­pen­ing with lo­cal flora and fauna. By record­ing sea­sonal changes with our Na­ture’s Cal­en­dar project, we can as­sess how na­ture is cop­ing with our rapidly chang­ing cli- mate – and in­form wider stud­ies.”

Through its Na­ture’s Cal­en­dar project the Wood­land Trust re­lies on the pub­lic record­ing signs of na­ture. Record na­ture here: https:// na­turescal­en­dar.wood­landtrust.org. uk/

The data helps the char­ity un­der­stand how na­ture is af­fected by weather and cli­mate change.

Red­wings are the small­est true thrush. They have a brown head with a pale stripe above and be­low the eye and brown back and wings with a pale mot­tled front with dis­tinc­tive red patches.

Dur­ing mi­gra­tion they face a per­ilous jour­ney across the North Sea, com­plet­ing the 500 mile jour­ney in one go.

They’re very so­cial and can form large flocks of up to 200. They have a dis­tinc­tive “tseep” sound.

Dur­ing sum­mer they for­age on earth­worms and moths in the ground but feast on fruits when they ar­rive in the UK. If very cold they can take shel­ter in peo­ple’s gardens.

Au­tumn is a time to visit wood­land, to see the chang­ing colours and the wildlife that thrives on the bounty at this time of the year.

Great woods to visit this au­tumn in the south west in­clude Fin­gle Woods in Devon, which boasts an Iron Age hill­fort. There are also newly re­vealed paths in the wood, which is is be­ing trans­formed back to its for­mer glory. Fin­gle Woods are home to 36 breed­ing bird species that vis­i­tors can see or hear. And the river sup­ports ot­ters and salmon.

Fur­ther east Bea­con Hill Woods, Shep­ton Mal­let, Som­er­set of­fers vis­i­tors steep climbs and stun­ning au­tumn scenery, a very pop­u­lar place to visit for both lo­cals and tourists. A copse of large old beech trees, vis­i­ble for miles, form a dis­tinc­tive crown on its ridge. The wood in­cludes fea­tures dat­ing back to Ne­olithic, Bronze Age and Ro­man pe­ri­ods

Cre­den­hill Park Woods, Cre­den­hill, Here­ford­shire: As you walk along the tran­quil paths amongst the trees of Cre­den­hill Park Wood, you can glimpse rare small leaved limes and early pur­ple or­chids. The Iron Age hill fort that is an in­te­gral part of the site is one of the largest hill forts in Eng­land and is thought to have been an Iron Age tribal cap­i­tal. The walk to the top is well worth it, dis­cov­er­ing na­ture within the woods along the way. At the top you will see views across to Wales. Soak up the au­tum­nal land­scape and let your imag­i­na­tion take you back to a time gone by.

Bishop’s Knoll, Stoke Bishop, Bris­tol: Get lost at Bish­ops Knoll. Stroll around the 19th cen­tury hid­den wood­land and gar­den and un­cover se­crets from its grand past. Once a me­dieval deer park and later the grounds of a 19th cen­tury stately home, Bish­ops Knoll is a myr­iad of paths, ter­races and ex­otic and an­cient trees.

Find the ar­bore­tum as it is slowly un­cov­ered and while away the hours wan­der­ing around this open-air time cap­sule.

PIC­TURE: Wood­land Trust

The first red­wings of the au­tumn have ar­rived – but most har­bin­gers of the chang­ing sea­sons are late this year

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