Watch the seasons change and the wildlife adapt, as we find ourselves doing the same.
Autumn is a time of change. For birds and animals it’s about feeding; getting busy in the short hours of day light, building up reserves for the winter. For some, it’s about moving to warmer climes. For trees and many plants, it’s about dying back and resting. We are not that dissimilar.
The autumn colours are a beautiful reminder of this. Greens become yellows, oranges, reds and, finally, browns as leaves fall and trees rest. An explosion of colour followed by a loss of colour. Walking around Low Barns Nature Reserve, eyes can feast on red berries, yellow larch needles and orange beech and, like a gift from nature or the creator, this beauty lifts the spirit.
Slowing down as you walk, stopping, listening, perhaps leaning against a tree, you will hear flocks of long tailed tits traveling together through the trees with blue tits, coal tits and great tits following along; gleaning seeds and insects from branches and leaves. Redwings flit through the upper branches of tall trees or feed from haws. Male bullfinches flash their crimson chests, and the soft tones of nuthatch calls are never far away.
The bird feeders are a buzz of constant activity and competition. Watch a while and glimpse another world outside of our own. Wait a while and chance an encounter: perhaps a hungry sparrowhawk flyby; a beautiful chestnut-feathered tree creeper with its white, fluffy belly feathers and long, forked tail always traveling up trees - it can’t go down – or maybe a flock of small, yellow, green and black siskin. No siskin today but the tree creeper was a treat.
Then the river. The river is both constant yet dynamic, like much of life. The reserve at Low Barns is nestled within a loop of the River Wear. Along the southern side of the site, the path approaches the river and wanders along beside it. At a number of spots the trees part and provide a view; each is unique. Some stretches are deep and quiet, others rush by noisily over rocks. Otters fish in these rivers. I enjoy the fishermen’s tales but, so far, they have evaded me, leaving me only signs of their presence: a print in the soft river sand, spraint on a rock or a discarded crayfish claw. On a good day, a bright turquoise kingfisher delights us with the short gift of its momentary presence, and often dippers are seen flying beneath the water to pick caddisfly larvae from rocks. All the while, the constant notes of the rushing river, the autumn colours and perhaps a ray of sunshine somehow soothe and recharge the soul.