Hello everyone! Hope you are ok.
We are now well into the official meteorological start of autumn, but between, darker, crisper days, I think it is fair to say that we are still fortunate enough to have some lovely sunny, blue sky days too.
As time goes on, however, we will undoubtedly witness the return of all things autumn.
Here are 5 things in the Natural World to look out for to detect the definitive change of seasons.
1. Golden Leaves.
An obvious example, but for a very good reason. As autumn progresses, deciduous woodlands treat us to a spectacle of colour. Lush green leaves turn to all shades of gold, yellow, russet and maroon, before falling all together.
Now the magic behind this is science. Chlorophyll (the pigment that makes leaves look green) is absorbed back into tree, but other pigments such as carotenes and anthocyanins remain, making leaves orange and red.
As temperatures get colder, hormone levels within trees change. One hormone, called Auxin, isn’t produced as much in autumn, which means that a process of cell elongation within an area called the ‘abscission layer’ – where the leaf is attached to the tree, goes unchecked and it gets so long, it causes fractures in the abscission layer, which eventually causes the leaves to detach from the tree.
The fruiting bodies of fungi are always a good sign that autumn is here. They are the bodies that release spores into the air to produce yet more fungi. They come in all shapes and sizes; from the pretty, to the weird, to the quite frankly a bit disgusting. But they are a very important member of our ecosystem.
Their shapes have featured in many a fairy tale, such as lairs of the fairy folk who will trap you forever if you step within their fairy ring.
It is well known that some fungi are edible, but others are deadly poisonous, so please – if you go out foraging, make sure you are with a mycologist guide and know exactly what it is that you are harvesting.
3. Migratory Species.
One sure way is to keep an eye out for species returning from colder climbs to spend the winter months here, such as Redwing, Waxwings, Pink Footed Geese etc. The influx of these species is always a special event in the natural world, so please keep feeding the birds throughout the autumn and winter, as they really need extra supplies to survive the cold weather.
Another very autumnal show is Starling Murmurations. Now, Starlings are not a solely migratory species, they are resident in the UK throughout the year, but more travel to the UK in the autumn. Their spectacular murmurations they perform before they roost is an autumnal speciality. Masses fill the sky, undulating and fluid in their thousands to confuse predators, and provide safety in numbers.
4. Misty Mornings.
I think this is quite possibly one of my favourite key moments in the transition into autumn. I remember getting ready for Primary School and being able to hear the traffic from quite a way away as the air was so crisp. You could start to feel Jack Frost nipping your nose. But the damp, dreich mornings could just be as evocative, especially in preparation of ‘Spooky Season.’
Everything takes on a different shape when it is misty, something a little more ominous.
5. Foraging for Conkers.
Why not release your inner child? This is hands down one of the best things about autumn! I remember spending probably about an hour when I was younger scouring the little group of Horse Chestnut Trees in the far corner of a car park. I don’t think I had an end goal for my haul, but I was so happy to find the glistening little orbs. To this day, when I see one, I still have to pick one up!