Today is the first full week of the new lock down. How are we all feeling?
It is a bit different from the last one in many ways for one the weather was amazing, and you couldn’t stop yourself getting outside. Lockdown in November is a harder in that way as the weather isn’t quite so great. As I look out of my window now the sky is very grey and it looks cold and wet. Not very encouraging. When inside it is warm and cosy. It is harder to get out there but once out I know we will all feel the benefit of the chilly air making our cheeks glow and you may even find a few puddles to splash through.
There are still some autumn colours to see out there. Have you noticed how bright and red the hawthorn berries are this autumn? I collected loads of conkers earlier in autumn-huge bags full. Everything seems to have produced more this autumn. It is what is called a ‘mast year’. This explanation was taken from The Woodland Trust website..
What is a mast year?
Every species of tree and shrub has a distinctive way of reproducing. Autumn is the prime time to see this and can help us recognise different species too. Acorns, conkers, winged seeds and an array of fruits, berries and cones make autumn’s colourful leaf displays even more enjoyable.
Every few years, some species of trees and shrubs produce a bumper crop of their fruits or nuts. The collective term for these fruits and nuts is 'mast', so we call this a mast year.
Two of our most recognisable trees, oak and beech, fluctuate massively year on year in the amount of acorns and beech nuts they produce. Some years seem to have very little while in others, the nuts create a thick carpet beneath the trees.
Why do trees produce bumper crops?
One of the main theories for this behaviour is ‘predator satiation’. Take oak and beech as an example again. Animals like squirrels, jays, mice and badgers feed on the acorns and beech nuts. When the trees produce smaller crops for a few consecutive years, they are in effect keeping the populations of these animals in check. But during a mast year, the trees produce more food than the animals can possibly eat.
This abundance causes a boom in populations of small mammals like mice. More importantly, it guarantees some will be left over to survive and grow into new trees. Mast years have a major evolutionary advantage for the tree. Producing nuts is costly work and slightly stunts the tree’s growth, but as it tends to happen every 5-10 years, it’s worth the payoff for some of the crop to germinate into new saplings.
When you out on your walks see what berries and fruits you can spot. Do post photos of your walks to help others with ideas of where to go and what to look out for. Thanks.
Stay Safe, Keep Active and Get Outside
My activity pages will be making a comeback this week. This time I will post on a new page on my website as well as on Face Book and Instagram. I hope to get you all active and connecting with nature and the outdoors during these strange and uncertain times.
I will put up a new activity each Tuesday and some in between so check in regularly to see what is new. Please let me know what you do with some photos of you having fun outdoors so that we can inspire others to do the same.
I hope this helps in some small way to keeping us positive and sane. Please keep in touch and help to keep ourselves and others safe.