Thistledown Days

…or A Touch of Autumn

Dr Tim Entwisle, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney, says there should be at least five seasons rather than four.

And maybe he has a point – can’t see it catching on though. Four three month seasons are, as he points out, rather arbitrary and it doesn’t take much looking to find signs and foretastes of the coming season at any time of year. So here in our English summer we are indeed experiencing ‘a touch of autumn’.

I’ve been out a couple of times recently, once on my own and once with family and friends*. To be scrupulously honest, I set off on the first walk without much enthusiasm, really from a sense of duty – the sun was shining, I was home alone, and if I didn’t drag my carcass out I knew that I would be kicking myself later. I hadn’t got more than fifty yards from the door however before a sizeable patch of tall thistles attracted my attention and I was back in the swing of things. There was a great deal of thistledown, something the kids enjoyed when we passed that same patch on the second walk – throwing it, chasing it and catching it again, even stuffing it in their pockets for later. Not all of the flowers had gone to seed yet though, a fact clearly appreciated by both this bee…

  

… and the photographer.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though, my first insect encounter took place before I had even left the house…

    

This moth is a Garden Carpet** which had been trapped in the porch for a couple of days. Attempts to release it by leaving the door open had failed. It’s amazing how the brain stores things away – I knew that this was a … erm… something Carpet, presumably after A and I had our ‘moth breakfast’ earlier this year, because before then I was totally clueless. Now I’m just almost totally clueless.

It was only a short walk, but as ever there was plenty to see. I could select summery images of flowers like this Ragwort…

…or this tiny Selfheal…

Or if I intended to emphasise the imminence of autumn, I might draw your attention to fallen Hazelnuts…

…or Cuckoo Pint berries…

But I’m happy to enjoy the transition from summer to autumn, and the changing scenes and seasons: I don’t feel the need to coin a new term to cover the period when summer and autumn coexist cheek by jowl.

Whilst we away in Germany, TBH and I were both impressed by the volume of the evening chorus of crickets (or grasshoppers? or….who makes all the noise?). We never saw the culprits though. I heard a few grasshoppers on this walk too. They weren’t so loud and generally, even where the grass was short, I could only see a brief glimpse as they sprang away from my clodhoppers and disappeared in the vegetation again. But, on the limestone pavement in Pointer Wood, this fellow not only showed himself, he also agreed to pose for photos….

I’ve had a look at my field guide, but apart from the fact that this is a grasshopper and not a cricket, I’m none the wiser. I think that grasshoppers vary quite a lot in colouration even within a single species. His camouflage is first rate though isn’t it? Small wonder that they’re more often heard than seen.

*I was intending to cover both walks here, but I’ve run out off steam.

**As ever, I stand ready to be corrected on any and all of my identifications – my moth has now escaped, in case you were worried.

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Thistledown Days

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