coquet nature lover

Friday, 23 September 2016

Waiting for the apples

Autumnal equinox

Over the last few weeks, I have been woken by the chattering of flocks of swallows congregating on the power lines. What a beautiful sight to watch these small sociable feathered creatures twist and turn, then gracefully swoop down into the Coquet valley. Yet, this sign of imminent migration is also one that also brings sadness as their departure signals the end of our summer - just as their arrival announced that summer was here.  So that's it - the nights will soon be longer than the days and officially, it is most definitely autumn!

(Fr-Hirondelle    D-Rauchschwalbe)

As our summer visitors depart for warmer lands, winter visitors start to arrive. Here is a photo of black-tailed godwits (arriving from Iceland) taken last month at the RSPB nature reserve in Leighton Moss, Lancashire. A great place to visit if you are on the west coast. See 'on the move' page for the story on another Icelandic migrant!

black-tailed godwits still in summer plumage
 (Fr-Barge à queue noire    D-Uferschnepfe)

On the subject of autumn migration, I've not seen any sign of fieldfares or redwings just yet but, with the plentiful supply of berries and apples in the orchard, maybe they will pop in for a seasonal feast soon. Now that would be good! They should be arriving over next few weeks so look out for them along the hedgerows - especially if there are berries about and yes, there are absolutely loads this year!

According to ancient folklore if you get a bumper crop of berries, 'there will be a cold winter ahead'. Check out your weeds too as another interesting saying goes like this: 'the taller the weeds during the summer, the deeper the snow in the winter'. In my garden, the weeds are usually quite high but that's because their removal is one of my least favourite tasks!  

Getting back to fieldfares and redwings, both species are members of the thrush family. Fieldfares are large birds, similar in size to mistle thrushes, whereas redwings are much smaller and described by the RSPB as 'Britain's smallest true thrush'.

cotoneaster berries

The apples aren't quite ready for harvesting but with the great weather we've enjoyed this September, it won't be long now. It's not difficult to tell when the fruit is ripe as if you hold an apple and give it a gentle twist, it should come away with ease. Here's another saying for you - not sure how true it is! 'the thicker the apple skin, the colder the winter'.

ripening apples

Rich rewards for all the orchard

collared dove enjoying the ripe damsons
(Fr-Tourterelle turque    D-Turkentaube)

Here is a photo of Jacques the resident jackdaw waiting for the apples to ripen! Sadly, his left wing is broken but despite this, he does seem to be able to clamber up into the fruit trees. I am amazed he has survived so long but this bird, being an intelligent member of the crow family, (see my post Swiss Affair) has adapted well and never turns down a dish of peanuts or tasty dried mealworms! 
  (Fr-Choucas des tours    D-Dohle)

rowan berries

song thrush (Fr-Grive musicienne   D-Singdrossel)

robin devouring huge worm
 (Fr-Rougegorge     D-Rotkehlchen)

...and in and around the greenhouse

wood pigeon (Fr-pigeon ramier    D-Ringeltaube)
swallows and house martin congregating - preparing for migration

Time to reflect 

If you enjoy poetry, here are two very different poems on apples

by Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

Behold the apples’ rounded worlds:
juice-green of July rain,
the black polestar of flowers, the rind
mapped with its crimson stain.

The russet, crab and cottage red
burn to the sun’s hot brass,
then drop like sweat from every branch
and bubble in the grass.

They lie as wanton as they fall,
and where they fall and break,
the stallion clamps his crunching jaws,
the starling stabs his beak.

In each plump gourd the cidery bite
of boys’ teeth tears the skin;
the waltzing wasp consumes his share,
the bent worm enters in.

I, with as easy hunger, take
entire my season’s dole;
welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour,
the hollow and the whole.

After Apple-Picking
by Robert Frost (1874-1963)    
   My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


  1. What a lovely garden you have! I'm not surprised Jacques the jackdaw enjoys the fruit filled orchard

  2. Truly a garden of Eden for wildlife!