Our Patch: Jack Frost Arrives

By on Wednesday, December 4, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanBefore we can leave the house in the summer months, there is a mad dash for sunscreen and sun hats. It adds an extra 10 minutes onto the time it takes us to get to school, and despite knowing this, it’s a battle to leave on time.

As the year grows old and the sun is too tired to reach high in the sky, we are still hard-pushed to depart on time. This time of year the scarves’, hats’ and gloves’ name labels must be checked, and they must be put onto less-than-cooperative heads and necks and fingers.

These ever-shortening days do not allow much time for the sun to warm the earth, and we are seeing more and more of Jack Frost’s handiwork when we draw the curtain. For us the inconvenience of taking the extra time to wrap up warmly or to de-ice our cars is just that, a few minutes of our day – but it must be very different story for our wildlife.

evergreensMany of the trees have lost their arboreal grandness and are bare and stand quietly waiting for spring to return again. Even those trees we consider ‘evergreen’ have amongst their number amber and gold examples tucked in amongst the green.

This week I took the opportunity to walk off the beaten track – through once lush grasses now bent and dying – to see what I could find.

It was incredibly still, with just the distant call of blackbirds and robins – there was little around to see. Most of our flying insects have gone now, and only a few lazy gnats and flies can be seen circling.

A curious wren followed me, ducking mouse-like through the undergrowth, unused to seeing people so deep in the scrub. I’ve heard people talk of wrens moving around like this before, but I have never taken the time to sit and watch as they perch and flit; low to the brambles, this one never took its eye off me, but it was never still enough to allow a photograph.

As we turned back to rejoin the path, the dog startled two gulls which had been digging for worms and other invertebrates in the long grass, and I managed to catch them in flight. It is all too easy to take these rather elegant birds for granted. They are noisy and messy and all-too-often seen as a pest or somehow dirty, but true to form, I’m rather partial to them – nature’s dustbins and true survivors, they are adaptation in practice.

nestI found a large scrappy bird’s nest in a tree, and I wondered if it had been a pigeon or dove. As I got closer to get some pictures I noticed there were a few buds on the tree the nest was sitting in.

Even as the fungi are the fruit of the season of decay, there are the hints that the seasons will turn again soon. Every time I have been in the woods over the last couple of weeks, I have discovered masses of mushrooms and toadstools, often gathered in the leaves and pine needles as fairy rings, reclaiming the nutrients back to the soil to perpetuate the cycle of life.

fairy_ring_toadstools

There are hints that the winter will bear down on us soon: There have been beautiful sunsets as the sun’s rays have had such a long way to travel to us, and on some nights the moon seems as though we can reach out and touch it.

moon

Soon there may be snow (my children can hardly contain their excitement), and whilst much of our wildlife will take a break and hide out, the bare trees and white carpet will hopefully reveal some interesting sights for us to behold.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital. In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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