Thursday, 25 October 2012


I'm taking time out to be a full-time father (as if there was any other way to be a father anyway!) - my wife has returned to work, so we've taken advantage of the opportunity for me to take the last three months of her maternity leave - in effect unpaid leave to look after our daughter. It's fun! Rhythms are pretty baby-tuned now, so there are brief bursts of activity whilst she sleeps, punctuated by bursts of feeding and playing - but best of all we've been able to take the opportunity to go out and walk together most days.

Today was a kind of soft-focus day. We visited Yarner Woods NNR for a midday walk. It's mild muggy weather at the moment (a Saharan air-stream appears to be to blame) and the cloud base was around 180m, so we spent the entire walk in or just below the cloud, but at this time of year there's something very right about it: the leaves are turning, the spider-webs and grasses are pearled with water and everything seems rather hushed. As we walked round the woods, the only loud noises were a handful of Jays rasping their disgust at our intrusion; otherwise there was little to be heard apart from the random drip of water falling from saturated leaves and branches above us, and the sibilant calls of Goldcrests searching for insects.

As we walked down one track, there was a flurry of excitement: Blackbirds and Robins hopping off the track, then a burr of wings in a dozen different directions as a small flock of Redwings emerged from beneath the Bilberries where they had been fossicking in the fallen oak leaves. Semi-whispered 'tseet' calls between them - and then they were gone, deep into the tangle of branches and leaves in the valley below us. A Brambling flew over, only its wheezy call betraying its presence, and then we were down at the hides, where a constant stream of Coal Tits arrived and departed, rooting for overlooked seeds below the feeders, occasioning great interest from Sabina, who seemed fascinated by the abrupt appearance and equally rapid disappearance of each bird from our limited field of vision. Nothing remarkable, nothing surprising, but comfortingly appropriate for the time of year.