“It was October again … glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of Autumn had pored them in for the sun to drain –amethyst, pearl, silver, rose and smoke blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through”
~L. M. Montgomery~
The Indian summer screeched to a halt as icy winds blew in from Russia. The Beast from the East brought cold winds and frost. Very cold air blew in from Russia and moved across the southern flank of high pressure over Scandinavia which meant chilly easterly winds. Night-time frost and fog became the norm along with chillier day-time temperatures. After the lovely warm September slipped off the calendar, it felt chillier and markedly colder. A few extra layers was certainly needed to ward off the chill.
I’d an awful start for October. My eyes flared up again and it was worse than before. I’d another attack of Allergic Conjunctivitis which was an inflammation of the membrane covering the white part of the eye known as the conjunctiva. It was very bad because my skin started blistering around both my eyes. We went straight to the walk-in health centre on Sunday morning and was informed that the waiting time was 3.5 hours!!! I’d no choice but to wait. Babe went home because he wasn’t feeling well himself.
I sat at the furthest end in a corner hiding my very swollen eyes behind dark glasses. I don’t want to frighten the other patients. I wasn’t able to read anything and spent the time people watching. After about an hour, I went to the nearby cafe for something to eat and had the most expensive mug of hot chocolate and a bar of flapjack. Then back to my corner where I was trying not to fall asleep. Finally, I was called in. I was seen by a nurse who assessed me and told me to continue taking the allergy tablets and also prescribed a balm to soothe the skin around the blisters. Although I’d to wait nearly 4 hours, I was seen by someone and for that I’m very thankful that the NHS was there for me. I took 2 days certified leave to recover from my ordeal.
I spent the days listening to the local radio station and was shocked to hear advertisements for Christmas parties in October!!! That was too soon. Outside, on the bird-feeder, I could hear a commotion and when I looked out I spotted this beauty. A female Greater Spotted Woodpecker had scared off all the local garden birds away and having the place to herself. I watched her dangling on the fat-ball feeder before pecking onto the fat-balls.
Zeus won’t in a hurry the sceptre restore to the woodpecker tapping the oak
In times prehistoric ‘tis easily proved, by evidence weighty and ample,
That Birds and not Gods were the rulers of men, and the lords of the world.
In the garden, the world glistened as the sun rays sparkled on dozens of spiders’ webs that had reclaimed every space. They had been busy every night stringing their intricate lacework from bough to fence to branch. It was impossible to walk out without walking into one of these long single threads stretching yards across the garden. With the cherry bird trees, overgrown elder bushes and Leyland Cypress at the top, and ivy winding their way throughout, it was ideal home for these master weavers. They were everywhere like silky tripwires.
Silk-thin silver strings woven cleverly into a lair,
An intricate entwining of divinest thread…
Like strands of magic worked upon the air.
The spider spins his enchanted web
His home so eerily, spiralling spreads.
His gossamer so rigid, yet lighter than mist ,
And like an eight-legged sorcerer- a wizard blest,
His lace, like a spell, he conjures and knits;
I witnessed such wild ingenuity wrought and finessed,
Watching the spider weave a dream from his web.
We went to Brandon Marsh to get a bit of fresh air and stretch our legs after toiling indoors for a couple of days. We walked through the forest and was assaulted by the musty smell of autumn, rotten wood and decayed leaves. The carpet of fallen leaves were under attack and broken down by lots of fungi. The berries and apples, wet and rotting from the late sun and autumn rain, enveloped a sweet, alcoholic aroma to the surrounding, like the dregs of an abandoned glass of wine. On the damp grass, windfall fruits were burrowed into them by late wasps. I bet the natives were having a whale of a time feeding on them.
The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants -
At Evening, it is not
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop opon a Spot
As if it tarried always
And yet it’s whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay -
And fleeter than a Tare -
’Tis Vegetation’s Juggler -
The Germ of Alibi -
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie -
I feel as if the Grass was pleased
To have it intermit -
This surreptitious Scion
Of Summer’s circumspect.
Had Nature any supple Face
Or could she one contemn -
Had Nature an Apostate -
That Mushroom - it is Him!
~The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants by Emily Dickinson~
We checked out Steely Hide where Babe had photographed the Kingfisher. I was hoping to see it today and we waited and waited but it didn’t get the memo. It was very quiet except for a dozen of Mallards upending and feeding while a young Heron was skulking among the reed-beds. We watched it standing motionless, its neck extended at an angle with only its head and eyes moving to locate the prey. Suddenly, it slowly folded its neck and the entire body unbend and its head suddenly plunged into the water. But came out empty handed, It then waded slowly in the reed beds and disappeared from our sight.
After a few days recuperating, it was time to get back to work. My eyes were still swollen but at least, the blisters had healed. On the bus, as we drove past the fields in the mornings, dew settled on the grass, mist rose and wreathed in and out between the tree trunks that bordered them. By noon, the sun was high, and it was warm. I started peeling one by one the layers of clothing that I’d on and putting them back at 5.30 pm. The evenings were chilly and I needed to keep warm as I took the 15 minute walk to meet Babe at Canon Park. After sitting and facing the computer for more than 3 hours, it was a wonderful way to stretch the legs, clearing the mind and winding down for the day.
I was also looking forward to have lunch with an ex-colleague, MM, who’d moved back to Estonia. She was here for a short holiday and after careful planning, we managed to meet. It was lovely seeing her again although we kept in touch via e-mails. I treated her to fish and chips at the Library Cafe where we spent nearly 2 hours talking!!! We’d so much to talk and laugh about. She gave me a bar of very yummy white chocolate and a hand-crafted butter spreader made of juniper wood. The aromatic smell of the juniper lingered on the butter as you spread it. Aitah* MM.
We ended mid-October with trips to Bradgate Park. In fact we’d been going nearly every weekend because we wanted to be there for the rutting season. Unfortunately, we weren’t alone because we came across dozens of photographers in camouflage armed with some very impressive cameras. As summer drew to a close, stags gained weight rapidly. Hormone increased in their blood boosted antler growth, neck muscles strengthened and a distinctive mane appeared. On the hill, among the bracken, we saw a herd of females feeding. From deep inside, the forest we heard the bellow, the call to thrill the females and browbeat rivals. His mighty roar echoing around the hillside. It came closer and closer and we stood there waiting and there he was, a very handsome male with an impressive set of antlers.
I think it was just coming up to the beginning of the rut. The stags were still not competitive yet as there were no clashing of antlers or near confrontations. The few younger males soon disappeared. The stag strutted among the females The annual red deer rut was a truly impressive courtship ritual, full of danger and drama. In preparation for the rut, the virile male splintered off from the herd and moved to their traditional rutting grounds. During the rut, the larger mature stags round up as many hinds as possible into a harem, which they fiercely defend from rival stags, which gathered, competed and displayed in hope of securing an opportunity to mate. Rival stags displayed a great deal of aggressive, ritualised behaviour. They covered their antlers in mud and bracken, thrash vegetation, and started roaring, urinating on themselves and eyeballing each other. Competition was so intense that stags virtually stopped eating during the rut.
Evenly matched competitors walked in parallel, sizing each other up and charged and locked antlers in a dangerous match, which often resulted in injuries and even death. But at the moment, they were just content to bellow, groan and trash the vegetation. We also spotted a few young ones practising, clashing and locking antlers. As the females moved around, the stag followed the herd. These attendant hinds came into oestrus or sexual activity just briefly; a day in which they focused their concentration on the male they seemed superior. With a decent stretch of water between us, we settled on the opposite bank of the River Lin and took a bucket load of images.
It was great to watch them against the afternoon light. What an amazing sight to see the stag walk, strutting about in the bracken, with that regal sort of walk. The wonderful antler crowning his head, and the lion-like mane that grew around his neck dressed them well for the ladies!!! He was huge compared to the hinds, and nearby, the young stags with pointy antlers, looked comical. I bet they won’t get a glance from the ladies.
Lately, the forest is dank
with mussed trees,
leaves fussed and branches
cast askew for better air.
I've been tiptoeing here:
hoof stumping a
crunch into stiffening
snow, rutted in
a gangling pattern: homeless
Perhaps it's the sighing
wet of this world
that's caught my nose,
tempted my tongue towards
the bitterer brambles--
though the wind is high
in the old oak trees and
the fur of my
neck still stands thick
in the breeze,
I find it harder now,
harder to sink my snout
into something real,
harder to differentiate
in the substantial smog
where my thoughts awoke.
I breathe in fog.
Or is it smoke?
~Pneumonic ‘Deer in the Woods~
We left when the herd disappeared deep into the forest. The bellows from the stag could still be heard as they walked off over the ridge. We made our way to the ruins but was distracted by this adorable puppy who was enjoying running around in the open space. She was such a friendly little thing and people stopped to give her a stroke and spoiled her with soppy words, When her owner called her, she would run over and stood on her feet as if to say, ‘I am here Mummy, don’t worry’ in doggie talk :-).
At the ruins, we met our warden friend and while they’d a chat. I was busy checking out the perimeters. Pied wagtails were were dashing about the lawns, frequently calling during their undulating flights. With so much food there, they indulged in aerial fly-catching with their rapid twitter songs. Flocks of brightly-coloured Goldfinches were dancing and dipping to and fro over their favourite seed plants. But the flight call of a Green Woodpecker caught my attention caught my attention. I spotted it landing among the ant-hills and crept slowly. It was a beauty with green and yellow plumage and a bright red crown.
A herd of fallow deer thundering past spooked it The bucks were in territorial mood, baying here and there. trying to attract the attention of the females. But the does weren’t in a mood and were more interested in grazing. We kept quite a distance away so as not to disturb them but a few so called ‘photographers’ were walking past us and trying to get as close as possible to get the perfect photograph. Unfortunately, these were wild animals and they could sense the encroachment and off they disappeared into the bracken. It was very frustrating when this happened. But cie la vie…
I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers
~L. M. Montgomery~
*Thank you in Estonian.