Balance of nature
- Credit: Richard Osbourne
September’s time of change is also a time of consideration, says the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Nick Acheson.
September is a fulcral month, tipping the weight of the year into coolness, damp, decay. This month begins with summer’s insistence that nothing will change, that the sun will shine, that the days will stay fine and long. Roesel’s bush-crickets wheeze from the verge, swallows loop in careless flocks over lake and marsh, and moths crowd about evening lights on the last of the patio days.
Soon though there is chill in the air, a reaching-for-jumpers chill, as stubbornly we sit outside in the evenings still. The robin’s soulful song of winter pours its mist and moisture over the land and gulls now gather at the plough. Drizzle drops migrant redstarts, pied flycatchers and chiffchaffs all along the coast, and in the damp earth the toadstools stir.
It is easy to feel this stirring, wing-purring change in September as diminishment. The flowers of spring and summer are gone, their birdsong done. The nights grow long, stealing morning minutes from the days, and it is cool. All through September our birds haemorrhage south, bleeding from field, hedge and spinney in their thousands.
But it is wrong to think September means diminishment. Even as summer’s whitethroats, nightingales and common terns go south, our winter birds come from the north. The night sky is striped with the fizzing of redwings, and fieldfares’ ballistic voices fill the hedges of the county’s lanes. September means change, but not diminishment.
It is change, and an understanding of it, that sit at the heart of The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for Living Landscapes, in Norfolk and across the country. We stand at the meeting of two axes of change in our landscape. The first is spatial. Our Norfolk fields and farms, our woods, our rivers, our nature reserves, our car parks even, do not exist alone. The eels in the Ouse, the Wensum and the Yare have come from a far Atlantic gyre, and there they must return if ever they are to spawn. The swallows that bred in the church porch will, if they make it, spend the winter south of the Sahara. The pinkfeet, dropping their sharp barks to the mud of our coastal marshes, broke from their eggs in Icelandic tundra. On a lesser scale, but equally important, this spatial axis of our Living Landscapes means spores, seeds, pollen and genes of sedentary species - specialists of wood and fen, bog and heath - may be shared between stranded sites in Norfolk, just as birds are shared between the tundra, the Sahara and the UK. In the Living Landscapes we envision wildlife will flow through habitat corridors across, into and out of our Norfolk.
The other axis is through time. We do not own the landscapes - wild and tamed - of Norfolk. We inhabit them, we use them, we change them, in spans of human lifetimes. These landscapes are the products of forces in time - natural and, all too often, anthropogenic - and beyond us they have a future. Uniquely our generation has the freedom to enhance the future of our landscapes for their own sake. Through the 20th century, with the development of industrial agriculture, the spread of roads, towns and cities, the creation of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the contamination of rivers, wild landscapes have been lost, reduced, orphaned in forgotten corners, and wild species have sighed from existence one by one. Landscapes have been handed on through time diminished. Today we have the technology and the skill to reverse the trend, to hand on healthier landscapes, full of wildlife, better connected in space and time, with people rooted in them. The question is whether we, as Norfolk’s people, have the will. At Norfolk Wildlife Trust we do.
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This September as the nights grow long and damp, as redwings fizz south through the sky, as waxcaps poke their slimy heads through the dew on the lawn, consider whether you wish to hand on a healthier landscape to your children and their children, along this axis in time; and join Norfolk Wildlife Trust in advocating and creating Living Landscapes in our county, for wildlife, for ourselves and for the future.
Discover more of Norfolk’s wildlife in September, plus the best places to visit at www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk