Tom Gray’s Nature Notes: Changing of the seasons

Tom Gray
Tom Gray

With the autumn equinox just passed we were beginning to give up on our hopes for a sorely needed “Indian Summer” when, rather unexpectedly the skies turned blue (at least intermittently) and the weather turned mild with temperatures promising to rise back into the lower twenties over the next few days.

With trees beginning to exhibit autumnal colours as the week ended we set off in quest of sharing in the local fruit harvest of Newburgh’s Apple and Pear Orchards, eventually gleaning a well-priced share of crunchy, yellow James Grieve apples on the stalls in the shadow of the Laing Museum.

We continued on the same theme to share in St Andrews Botanic Gardens Apple Day Celebrations where visitors are encouraged to visit at an an open day in the orchard while listening to music of the local brass band as they enjoy a sample of freshly made apple juice.

Amongst the many stands and displays to be found there was experise to allow identification of any apple varieties brought in by visitors while, with the warmth of sunshine, I produced my net to briefly entrap the four Red Admirals and one Small Tortoiseshell butterflies (my highest count of 2011) before, quite unterturbed by the experience, they soon returned to refuel on the nectar provided by the pinkish-red flush of blooming Stonecrop (Sedum) and a purple patch of Michaelmas Daisy, where they seemed to have no problem in avoiding the ensnaring web of a large Garden Spider.

I returned home to find two Red Admirals pleasingly still on the wing in my Glenrothes garden and I now have hopes of their being active on my own Sedum until the end o the month before hibernation is enforced by October frosts.

And what better way of later celebrating our successful day than over a good homely, autumnal meal of roast pork, with apple sauce of course, and well washed down with a glass of pear cider!

However the real Fife biodiversity news of September was the rediscovery of the tiny spire-like shells of a colony of Plaited Door Snails still surviving at Blairhall within a few yards of the site where they had last been seen 110 years ago!

I know snails move slowly, but this is ridiculous!