September had arrived. I smelt it in the air, like wild blackberries and wind fall apples, autumn was knocking on the door. The green of summer hadn’t abandoned us yet but little tinges of brown, yellow and orange were beginning to make their appearance. I’d this urge of gathering in all the yummiest of summer’s blazing glory and kept it forever. I’m not ready to say goodbye to the glorious summer of 2013. And with temperatures still hitting the 20s, an Indian summer was on its way.
An Indian summer was when the weather was warm and dry for a significant period of time after summer has officially ended. Normally, an occurrence between mid-September and late October. An area of high pressure had remained over the UK due to the wind changing directions to south westerly. A heat-wave left us sweltering in the first week of September as early fog gave way to beautiful skies and rising mercury.
“If we can have modest ordinary weather from here on and some Indian summer for veraison [the onset of ripening] and harvest itself, we could be looking back in November at a beautiful and even plentiful harvest.”
The hedgerows were bursting with brambles and bushes were heavy with berries. There were mounds and mounds of them. A late, wet start to spring turned out to be perfect weather for the berries. Just as the bumble bees were the harbinger of spring, the ripening blackberries were the harbinger of autumn. Trees such as hawthorn, crab apple and rowan delayed flowering for weeks because of the chilly weather. When warm, sunny conditions finally arrived, they came out with a bang. The blackbirds, thrushes, field mice must be having a banquet. Oaks, too, flowered late, ensuring a bumper yield of acorns. Good news for the Jays and the squirrels. There was a bumper crop of bird cherries, elderberries and blackberries in our garden that we’d stopped putting food out for them.
Folklore has it that you shouldn’t pick wild blackberries after Michaelmas (29th. September) as the Devil will have spat them, rendering them inedible. You have been warned. But actually, superstitious or no, by the end of September, you are unlikely to find any berries left. But who knows with this weather? And also does the bumper of fruits and berries foretell a hard, bleak winter??? I guess we just have to wait and see. But we can be sure of is that 2014 was likely to produce even more weather surprises for both us and the wildlife. The blueberries too were ripening slowly on the bushes. It was lovely to have cereals with freshly-picked, home-grown blueberries, bursting with anti-oxidants. Yum…yum. I’m thinking of planting another bush next year. They were quite easy to grow and the only major drawback was that they required ericaceous soil which was a bit expensive. But once it started fruiting, you get more, plenty more than you bargained for. I have already picked them 4 times and usually saved the last harvest for blueberry muffins. Oooh…I’m salivating already.
I’d to call in sick on Tuesday because I think I had food poisoning. I was up all night with stomach upset and feeling a bit nauseous. And I wasn’t alone. Babe too were up all night and both of us were scrambling to use the toilets. Thankfully, we’d 2 in the house. We couldn’t think what we’d eaten that had gone off. Both of us went to bed with a hot water-bottle each and plenty to drink because you can get easily dehydrated. After calling the office, I’d another hot-water bottle and fell asleep on Babe’s reclining chair with the patio doors opened. Outside, summer was flying past its glorious best, and everything looked a bit tattered. This was my last bunch of roses.
When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and like a dream of beauty glides away
~Sarah Helen Power Whitman~
But not the sunflowers. They were just beginning to bloom. Last year, the giant variety grew taller than our porch, which was more than 2 metres high. I’d to tie them to the porch to support them because none of the bamboo stake were tall enough. But not this year. I wonder why? There was a theory that last year’s lack of sun had forced them to grow taller, in search for the light. The busy bees were always buzzing around them and later after the flowers were spent, we hang them on the bird-feeder and watch the birds, especially the starlings, go crazy over the seeds. I love sunflowers. They were magical, grand and mood enhancing. Native to the Americas, the Incas worshipped its image as a symbol of the sun god. And they were right. Most sunflowers exhibit ‘heliotropism’, a propensity to turn towards or follow the sun. At sunrise, their faces turn towards the east and over the course of the day they follow it westward. They epitomized the bright, sunny days of summer by their name, and their cheery yellow and red faces. The flower was a testimony to the majesty of the sun. The ‘sun-dance’ was a North-American Indian ceremonial dance in honour of the sun.
William Blake (1757-1827)
At work, I took the opportunity to grab the last of the summer’s ray during my lunch break by taking a brisk walk. I walked towards the nursery lake where a lot of work had been going on. A car-park was built behind Radcliffe and a pathway was built linking Radcliffe to Heronbank. A few Darters were seen patrolling by the reed-beds. The sight of a heron having a shower under the fountain was hilarious. And as I continued on, a large flock of about a hundred Canada Geese were enjoying the peace and quiet under the shade before the students return for the new academic year.
I attended another International students group meeting and volunteered to write the minutes. We decided not to add any new materials to the new library website until the website was much more ‘stable’ and when KH was given editing rights. We hoped it would be soon because we wanted to update our web-page before the new students arrive. The group was relieved when we found out that we might not be fully involved with the ‘notorious Stratford students’ but we might be on stand-by. KH and HR will be giving a training session for new library staff and I’d agreed to be present. All the group members will be involved with ‘Get started’, the library induction programme for the new term.
I ended the weekend with a visit to our favourite playground. There were sightings and photographs of the Painted Lady and I was looking forward to see them. Unfortunately, they were no where to be seen. We stood among the Buddleia bushes and saw Whites and Peacocks with bees buzzing around us. A large flock of Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits were busy feeding among the Rowanberries. I couldn’t help popping a few ripening wild raspberries which were just yummy as we made our way to the hides.
We met the gang at Baldwin Hide and had a little natter, keeping up-to-date with things. The Common Terns had left and flashes of blue followed by a piercing cry flashed past the hide. The Kingfishers were playing tag and disappeared down the creek with their shrill calls trailing behind them. The water level was still high and on the main island, we spotted 7 juvenile Grey herons. Some were fast asleep while the rest were either standing motionless, hunched down with their neck bent over their chest at the water's edge or wading slowly, hunting for food. Having found a suitable location, they stood silently and waited patiently for the right moment to stab passing prey with their dagger-like beaks.
“The old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wings”
We continued towards East Marsh Hide. The path was overgrown with brambles but thankfully, not in front of the hide. The islands and banks had their annual trim and the chances of seeing something will be greatly improved. We saw a Common Snipe huddled in the corner of the island. A Bullfinch made a pit-stop but was too quick to pose for a photograph. A female Pintail was supposed to be around but we failed to see her. A heron was seen flapping its wings and squawking the harsh ‘frarnk’ calls, looking like doing some funky dance move. When we looked closely, we noticed that it was being mobbed by a flock of Gulls. It was trying to shoo them way but it still stood there like a target, waiting to be attacked.
We nipped over at Teal pool and we were glad we did. We spotted half a dozen Common Snipes beautifully camouflaged with cryptic patterning of browns, blacks and whites. They were feeding furiously on the mudbanks. Their numbers were beginning to increase slowly, a sign that the autumn migrants were beginning to arrive. Among them, too, were 2 Green Sandpipers, enjoying the banquet. A juvenile Water-rail was dashing from bushes to bushes, trailing off with its long. red bill and impressively barred flanks. A handsome male pheasant strutted in front of the hide.
I wanted to check the wasp nest but it was already too dark. It was bright an hour ago and in a flash, the sun was already setting in the horizon. As we walked past the Goose Pool, Babe spotted this adorable toadlet hopping merrily towards the pool, minding its own business. I bet it was surprised and a bit miffed to be manhandled but not for long. After rattling a few shots, we let him down gently and it quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.
September arrival heralded autumn with her cloak of gold and crimson and bronze. She trailed through the garden leaving silken threads of cobwebs across the paths and got attached to my hair and clothes as I topped up the bird-feeder. Tinges of autumn can be seen on the leaves. It is less than 3 weeks from the Autumnal Equinox.
“Departing summer halt assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
~William Wordsworth ‘September’~