There are many, many things to look for in autumn, just as there are at any time of the year. You will, of course, soon find things such as blackberries and hazel nuts, but if you know where to look you might also find the nests of the wood wasp hanging from twigs, or a bumble bee’s nest in the bank - in which you might even discover a field-mouse curled up.
By early September the swifts have already migrated to warmer climates, and the swallow tribe begins to gather on roof-ridges and telegraph wires in readiness for their migration.
These birds go south because there are not sufficient flying insects for them to eat during our northern winters. They return in wave after wave from April until June, when you may hear their wild cries of delight as they realize that at last they have earth - not sea - beneath their wings.
A full harvest moon is rising, though it is still only twilight. Farm buildings, ricks and church tower are still easily seen in the half-light, so also is the barn owl on its perch - on the look out for mice or any small birds that have not yet gone to roost.
If you have ever kept an owl as a pet, you will know what wonderfully soft feathers it has, and what sharp claws. One has to be careful when handling an owl, for it might grip tighter than you expect. It is always best to wear a glove.
September is the time for hop-picking, when large numbers of people come from the towns to help harvest them. Parents and children pick off the hop fruits, cramming them in bunches into the big bag or ‘poke’ - as it is called.
Hereford, Worcester, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire are the counties that have the most hop-fields, though hops are grown in some other counties as well.
A tawny owl is looking down from its high vantage point at the great bonfire lit for Guy Fawkes’ day. Not often does it see such a fire as this, and is astonished at the red glow and the many sparks.
Autumn, with its heavy rains, has filled the pond to the brim, and has flooded the track to the farm. In his raincoat and gum-boots the cowman is walking on the drier part away from the wheel tracks which are so full of water.
A LADYBIRD NATURE BOOK
Written by E. L. GRANT WATSON
with illustrations by C. F. TUNNICLIFFE, R. A.
First Published 1960 © Printed in England
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