Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 16, 2020


It is September that arguably shows the flux of the seasons more so than any other time of year. It is a time of contrasts, more marked than of the cusp of autumn to winter and also perhaps that of the spring and summer when that wonderful surge of productivity simply continues apace from one into the other. It is a time when we still might see those potent images of the summer still very evident, but when we may receive clear messages of the autumn arriving and even of the winter in waiting. The risk here is that I begin to sound like some sort of premature harbinger of ever-shortening days and the countryside retreating into itself. But the turning of the seasons is, I think, a thing to be embraced, essential to the freshly-engaging and recurring wonders of the temperate natural world.

A Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) bathing.

Living close to the Essex side widening gape of the Thames Estuary, in a single walk I might have the good fortune to admire the rich, yellow wings of Clouded Yellow butterflies, skimming across the sward in search of the few remaining knapweed blooms, while almost in the same breath cast my eyes across the tidal mud to see the probing Greenshank and stooping Curlew scouring the water’s edge. The butterflies are southern migrants unable to survive our winters, the wading birds passage migrants from the north and a whisper of the thousands that will later gather for the winter.

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

Dragonflies are on the wing. We are lucky enough to have the Southern Migrant Hawker hereabouts, a species still scarce, but perhaps in the process of colonising the UK. They have been on the wing here since the last days of June and there are still a couple of males maintaining their territories, but now they might carry out their patrols, low over their pond or length of weedy ditch, against a backdrop of scarlet Hawthorn berries or the mauve of Blackthorn weighing heavy on the branches. It is these fruits of course, that may later lure down the flocks of thrushes, the Fieldfare and Redwing fleeing the pains of a harsh northern winter.

The piercing blue eyes of a male Southern Migrant Hawker (Aeshna affinis).

Just a couple of examples of these seasonal pairings that I have had the pleasure of over recent weeks. Each of you, I am sure, wherever you find yourself looking, will have your own.

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