Saturday, 8 November 2008

Gold and pink

The Trail is full of golden leaves at the moment. Even to all the carbon-burning motorists who normally see little of the Trail along the bypass, the Norway Maples near the traffic lights are sunshine bright in their yellow clothes at the moment. Perhaps the sight is a special concession by the One whose (later nail-scarred) hands placed them there, to all those trapped in their noisy little boxes. Native trees are not outshone either; the Goat Willow by the Park pond was every bit as bright when I passed it. The other colour I noted along the bypass was pink, in the form of a Jay that flew down right by the traffic. I thought it a late bird: October is my Jay month, when they show themselves all across the countryside, flying to favourite oaks collecting acorns. After that they vanish again - except perhaps to Trail walkers at quiet times - see you there! - George

Monday, 3 November 2008

Liverworts and Waitrose

Most people equate liverworts with slime. The large ones are actually respectable and fairly attractive plants. A new find on the Trail today was the common Great Scented Liverwort, (Conocephalum conicum) - no, I don't know what scent. Its large fronds, with their six-sided cells, grow on the stream boarding by St Mary's Wood and a good colony lives under Brook Bridge. I preserved a pressed sample of one slimy frond to check later. However, I narrowly escaped a sensation an hour afterward at the checkout in Waitrose, where I remembered (just in time!) that the sample was pressed inside my wallet, on top of my debit card. How green would Waitrose have proved, I wonder? - George

Leaves falling

The recent frosts have encouraged many leaves to begin their fall. In St Mary's Wood, the Aspens were an odd sight, as all their lower leaves had fallen but none of the lower. In Brook Bridge Wood, strange white objects on the wood floor turned out to be fallen White Poplar leaves that had landed with their silvery faces upward. - George

In flight, though not ascending

Country birds often fly over even busy urban areas. Today I thought a Black-headed Gull was my lot (it then flew down to Dingle Lake). But then, as I had almost finished walking the Trail, just passing the Park bowling green, I heard a misplaced sound. A brief, liquid trill - seemingly from the empty sky. I know that sound - but it's not a Park bird - what and where is it? The answer was a repeat of the classic flight-call of the Skylark, as two speeding birds shot over me, heading north-west. With the low winter sun highlighting them from below, they were a breath of the countryside right in the town. - George

Autumn birds

On clear autumn days many birds can be observed by a walker. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling in St Mary's Wood, across from which a heap of Woodpigeon feathers revealed a Sparrowhawk's meal table. Bullfinches were calling at the Dingle. Near the Park Pond, Wrens and Robins called and perched, but most entertaining was a dunnock which shot with a startled peep out of the ivy on the tree by the boardwalk, perched by me then quivered in indecision for full thirty seconds before fleeing from me. - George