Monday, 8 October 2012

Autumn nerves

Today Druridge Bay glowed in a luminous autumn sun, picking out every gradient of green turning into brown or orange. The low rays saturated the reds; a robin singing on a Blakemoor farm rooftop, Hawthorn berries being revealed as the leaves fall away, the faces of goldfinches working the hedge lines. Enough warmth to bounce back off walls and wood. Deceptive too. One step into the shade and the frost lingered, picking out the edges of lost leaves, waiting for the shadows to move back across, unhurried. The birds seemed overly casual, putting on a brave face but busy. Autumn nervous ticks, still pretending this was summer. The lapwings on Cresswell lagoon could not settle. Every few minutes they would rise, a drifting chequer board, out over the water, white bellies flashing against the sun, then settling back, fidgeting. The Bay makes a fine theatre for the seasons and the wildlife is rehearsing for winter, reluctantly and nervously. Many pools have refilled and the amphibious grasses make a late flush of green. Flote grass, Glyceria fluitans, is particularly vivid, the parallel sided leaves criss-crossing over the surface in a style reminisecnt of the artist Goldsworthy. Look closely and the leaves show occasional runs of pink or purple green in the bright sun. Flote grass and its companions Creeping Bent (Agrostis stolonifera) and Marsh Foxtail (Alopecurus geniculatus) are common enough, often overlooked but it is these pond margins where grass and water refuse to define an edge that are especially rich in invertebrates. If you want a good wildife pond you will do better with straggling grasses than you ever will with water lilies.

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