After a short, sharp gale in the middle of the month the second half of September has seen a return to mostly mild, calm weather with plenty of sunshine and just a little sea fog. Indeed John Keats may well have been depicting Sark in September with his famous description of the ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. Fruit weighs down apple trees and the hedgerows are laden with blackberries and the bright red berries of honeysuckle. This is also the peak season for sloes, the dark bluey-purple fruit of the blackthorn much prized by Sark people as the key ingredient in sloe gin. (I picked a couple of pounds of these bitter little berries this week that are now slowly steeping in gin and sugar in time for Christmas.)
Also in the hedgerows there are patches of pale yellow flowers, common toadflax, and the air is scented with the honey-sweet perfume of ivy flowers. The latter are hugely attractive to butterflies, bees and many other insects and provide a valuable source of nectar throughout autumn and into winter when few other flowers are in bloom. Fungi are popping up literally overnight with feasts of edible mushrooms emerging in the pastures as well as poisonous beauties such as the fly argaric that grow in woodland areas like Dixcart Valley. It’s a busy season for birds too with many migratory species on the move and using Sark as a feeding station on their incredible journeys. Most obvious are swirling flocks of swallows and martins swooping low over the meadows, lanes and cliff tops in search of insects to fuel their flight to their winter homes in Africa. John Keats also included these in his poem ‘To Autumn’, the closing line being ‘And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.’ Wonderful!
Pictures by Sue Daly L – R; Honeysuckle berries, Sloes, Fly Argaric,
Shaggy Inkcaps, Common toadflax, Ivy flowers