I don’t know what to call this one!
It’s been hanging in the air for a while now. Sometimes you could smell it, sometimes you could hear and feel it but now we’re beginning to see it. The natural world is savvy and has been preparing for it, and now the change is finally here. It’s my favourite season but the change is a hard one. There’s much work to do. Ladybirds are building communes, finding shelter in seed heads and the hollow stems of spent plants. Garden spiders and daddy long legs are moving in with us much to the horror of some. Many birds have headed off south for their vacation flying thousands of miles, while those forced to ‘staycate’ are growing their own duvet to keep them warm throughout the impending winter months. Dormice, bats, hedgehogs, slow worms, frogs, toads, newts and snakes are each constructing their hibernation bed – hibernacula – to spend the winter sleeping in. Those who don’t hide away are eating their way through the season; feasting before the famine to put on some extra weight, giving them a better chance of surviving the leaner days ahead. Agile, arboreal acrobats are pillaging the trees for nuts and seeds to stash.
I think the hardest part of Autumn for the critters out there, surely has to be an event that happens at the very beginning of it – more towards the end of summer. All those Mini Me’s that we met frolicking, playing and cavorting through Spring are now adolescents, and in true adolescent manner, they’re eager to break away and become independent. The Summer Dispersal involves teenage critters striking out , travelling far and wide to set up their own home. Foxes can travel up to 10 miles to find and establish their new territory while the water vole need only swim a few metres. I wonder what Mum thinks of it all. Children she has fought for, protected, and nurtured in every way she knows how are now rivals for food, shelter and partners. I know you can see the parallel.
Change is hard. Where there is expectancy and a chance to prepare for it, as with Autumn, it’s a bit easier. But when it’s imposed without warning, it’s a shocker- even when it’s a change for the good. The plant that is repositioned so that it can grow bigger and stronger, inevitably becoming more productive, goes through a period of stress while it settles into its new environment. The adolescent critter striking out on their own so they can do the same, must surely experience some fear and loneliness. The hardest change of all is the loss of a relationship and right now relationships are changing throughout the animal kind. I hope they don’t feel it as keenly as we do. However, what might seem like a change for the worse now, will ultimately be a change for the good. All those seeds that will have been sitting in the cold and wet for a wee while will soon be bursting through the soil. They need that period of dormancy to bring forth so much productivity. All those adolescent beasties that might be feeling lonely and insecure now, will go on to perpetuate their kind, delighting us with their company on the way. In the meantime, for mankind; there are cold, crisp, sunny days to enjoy; bonfires and fireworks to delight in, and relationships to relish as we move towards the other side of change. Surely that’s what wintery walks and pub lunches are for after all?