Seasonal change

Tues 6th Dec 2011

From the weather we’ve been having over the past few days there’s a real feeling that Autumn is now passing into Winter. Most of the leaves have disappeared from the trees and it’s feeling a lot colder here on Exmoor. We even had a frost a couple of days last week.

This seasonal change is also bringing in some Winter visitors from the bird kingdom. I’ve spotted a few woodcock, a beautiful but shy woodland bird that flits about the trees, and there are some fieldfares about. These are small thrushes that come down from Northern Europe as the weather gets colder.

There seem to be more starlings about than in recent years, which is encouraging. Do you remember when the skies seemed to be full of them and their deafening chatter?

Another bird I’m seeing around where I live is the peewit. They normally like to live on the coast and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them this far inland. They nest on stony ground and with all the ploughing that goes on here I guess there’s few good nesting sites for them. Why they’ve chosen to visit us now I’m not really sure.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately and the rivers are running high. There might be a late salmon run which we haven’t had for a couple of years. Three lots of salmon come up the river. First there’s the old, stale salmon which live in pools in the valleys in summer. We call these ‘dirty salmon’. Next come the very shiny salmon straight from the sea. They are often infested with sea lice which clear when the salmon enter the fresh water of the rivers. Finally, the green back salmon arrive. My dad used to call them Christmas salmon. I’ll leave you to ponder why!

None of these salmon have been seen in the smaller rivers for a while as waters have been running low. Maybe we’ll see them now. I do hope so.

I mentioned the other week that many birds are feasting on berries at the moment. Well I must tell you about the sloes we’ve had this year. It’s the most I’ve ever seen. The bushes on our land have been black with them. Quite a sight to see.

I was out and about over the weekend as I told you I would be. ‘Dunster by Candlelight’ was one of the best shows they’ve put on. My wife Julie and I had a great time and would like to thank everyone who came and supported us. I’ve no idea how many people we talked to but it was a huge number.

There is one lovely lady who brings me goodies every year and she was there again. She made me the most delicious lemon curd tarts, jam tarts and mince pies. What a treat. I get given lots of present from all sorts of people and would like to say thank you to each and every one of you.

I also met a man who’d come all the way from Cyprus to see me. I could hardly believe it. He says my films are very popular over there. Something else rather special was a picture a chap called Michael Punter drew of me, with a stag in one corner. It is very good.

Sadly I didn’t make it to Dulverton on Sunday so I’d like to say sorry to anyone who was looking out for me there. Hopefully I’ll be there next year.

Oh, I nearly forgot. Thank you to those of you who came up with an answer for my question in last weeks’ blog. I asked what happens to a stag to enable him to make the amazing roaring sound that can be heard during the Autumn rut. Well, here’s the answer. In September his throat swells up like a balloon and it is this swelling that enables him to produce the distinctive roaring. Towards the end of the rut the swelling goes down and he can’t roar any more. He may keep trying however, especially if some of the hinds are late coming into season as seems to have happened this year. So now you know.

Next week I’ll probably talk about badgers. I’m looking forward to it as I love these wonderful animals. See you in a week.