It's been a proper summer this year. Hot days, thunder storms, and lots of sunshine. It seems only a week or so since I saw the first tower of swifts over the river near our flat. But in reality it has been months and I realised this week that I don't remember the last day I saw a single swift, let alone a tower of 40+. They have moved on; both adults and (hopefully many) young, towards warmer climates for the winter.
Other migrants are reappearing on our shores from further north and the evenings aren't quite as long, or warm, and they have been. More than that, or maybe because of all of the above, I can feel autumn settling in. It's a sense of movement, towards something different, a feeling of change that cannot be avoided.
At this time of year I have the urge to collect fruit and store away treats for the cold winter months. My mind turns to blackberry and apple crumble, collecting up warm blankets and looking for my winter boots. Even though the first crop of UK apples are a week or so from the shops and the blackberries could be left for another day or two as well I'm already beginning to prepare. What new warming soups can I discover? Where did I leave my gloves?
I know in reality I only need to plan an extra layer of clothing or two and then really my winter life is little different to my summer one. But it feels like a bigger change than that. For most of nature it is still a huge change. Hedgehogs, dormice, bats, insects, butterflies and other creatures are preparing for the long winter's sleep. Plants are having one final flowering spurt before turning to seed. And like the swifts, many of our favourite summer birds are turning their wings southwards while winter favourites are beginning to search us out again.
But it's not something to be mourned. I miss the swifts, but I look forward to the first waxwing reports, the sight of holly berries and, lots later, the first snow drop in the depths of winter. I have been told I say it about every season, but now it is almost here, I know that autumn is my favourite. Or maybe, it's the sense of change I enjoy, the knowledge that soon there will be new sounds and smells and sights and tastes to mark the passing of time and the starting of a new season. Whatever the reason, I do not lament the end of summer, I relish it. Because without winter's long nights how would we appreciate the warm summer days?