Nature Diary by Chris Kinsey.
Another evocative picture of the season in mid Wales:
I find it hardest of all to be indoors in autumn – I just want to be out, making the most of the light, witnessing the shifts of colour in the security of knowing it won’t get too hot.
On the 19th October, after many misty mornings, the sky was glacier blue. A thin rainbow hooped the horse chestnuts, limes and blazing beeches. My eyes strayed with the streaming leaves and then chased the rise, fall and flicker of grey wagtails over flat water on the Severn. For a minute, I thought the martins were back, rising and falling, toing and froing, but the lemony bellies were like the spilling leaves. When they landed they earned half their name – wagtails. – but grey? They are roofed in slate but this just accentuates their colour. I guess this resident bird lost out to the even yellower summer visitor, when it came to naming. The yellow wagtail comes to breed on upland streams. Pied wagtails are the ones which appear grey to me.
As I watched this lively flock chase flies, I realized they were weaving round the head of a heron; tall, beak un-scabbarded, and deadly still. I lined myself up with a Scots pine, but the heron played statue for longer than my hounds were prepared to and I was distracted by a tree creeper foraging the scaly trunk. The dogs and I walked on. The shower came, erasing the rainbow. Two mute swans flew, creaking out of the rain. When they landed just upstream their feint splish ignited a kingfisher and settled a raucous dispute between mallards and crows.
Something broke the heron’s concentration. On the way back, he was flying so slow and low I was almost knighted by his beak. Thanks to the thinning willow leaves, I saw the kingfisher full-frontal on a bare twig. Still and rust-coloured, I wasn’t sure it was the bird until it flicked off for cover with the wow of turquoise. Twice since, I’ve been duped, waiting for dead leaves to fly or dive.
Our biggest and brightest butterflies: red admirals, tortoiseshells, and peacocks make the most of Indian summer too. Not so many peacocks have made false eyes at me this year, but I’ve delighted in the flutterings of the other two species, especially the tattered survivors of predators like blue tits.
Unlike the grey wagtail, the silver Y moth is aptly named. Whilst sitting on the front step to eat my lunch, I watched a female ram-rod the pansies for nectar. She probed more deeply into the purples than the yellows or whites. The moth is a strong fast flyer; many migrate north on southerly winds. Later that night, I saw a more tufted male vibrating and whirring under a street-lamp. It was the first night frost was forecast and, despite all the body hair, I thought it was nonplussed by the drop in temperature, but vibrating constantly, keeping the flight muscles prepared, is one of its characteristics. It can’t survive winter in Britain.
Chris’s article reproduced with kind permission of Frances Jones – Davies, editor of Cambria
Cambria is Wales’s National Magazine covering Welsh Culture, Lifestyle, Politics and interviews and articles on leading figures in Wales.