Well it's the 1st December so we just turned a page on the calendar but what does it really mean?
For us the calendar at home is a handy space to record appointments and reminders but our real calendar - the one that keeps us in touch with what is happening - is outside in our own little bit of the National Forest. This week we've seen ice across the pond and today it was hard frozen. We watched the 2 moorhens slipping and sliding across the ice on their huge feet as they made their way over to hoover up any bits dropped from the bird feeders. Above them usual visitors of blue tits, great tits and coal tits are now joined by gangs of long tailed tits and the occasional greater spotted woodpecker who will creep shyly up the willow before hanging off the bottom of the fat ball feeder. This is how we really know that winter is here.
Above is a picture of our pond. Just a couple of weeks ago this same view was noticeably greener - now the ash and willow are all bare and the golden brown leaves on the oaks are just hanging on. Its only really the hazel that still sport green leaves in our wood at the moment.
When you visit a spot regularly you get to know the trees, birds and plants well - you start to notice the changes in them as the years progress and these changes start to have meaning for you. Now it is the last leaves I am noticing but I know that soon it will be the first snowdrops coming up, the first frogspawn in the pond, the first sticky buds on the willow. These are my calendar, the events that I look forward to and which, for me, mark the passing of time.
Recently I came across an initiative run by the Woodland Trust called Natures Calendar. They are recording various species of plants, animals, birds, insects and fungi and the changes in them each year. Anyone can sign up to get involved - if you listen out for the first cuckoo, have a special spot where you go in search of bluebells each Spring or look forward to a particular patch of blackberries ripening then why not get involved?
We will be recording the changing of one of our young oaks through the seasons and over the years to add to their database. The project aims to help predict how wildlife will be affected as our climate changes but I think one great bonus to anyone taking part will be the reminder to take a moment out and just watch how the changing of the seasons is going on in a time frame all of its own no matter how busy our own calendars may be.
I just can't resist a footpath sign. The lure of that little arrow just says 'explore me' and sooner or later I just have to find out where it goes. Happily the National Forest is just full of paths. Public footpaths, permissive paths, tracks, trails and long distance paths - we've got the lot!