When it comes to the seasons I can never quite decide whether I prefer spring or autumn, however there is something about the cold, crisp air of a sunny autumn morning and the golden hues taking over the natural world which I find particularly appealing.
Today a carpet of fallen autumn leaves provided a beautiful backdrop on which to photograph one of my absolute favourite birds, the charismatic and striking jackdaw.
Here in the UK we seem to be obsessed with tidying up the natural world and insist on sweeping up these piles of fallen leaves and throwing them away. What many people do not realise it that these leaves are actually a vital part of the ecosystem.
Decomposing leaves recycle important nutrients back into the soil, helping to fertilise the ground on which they fell and encourage the growth of new plants and trees. Piles of rotting vegetation are also home to all kinds of tiny invertebrates, worms, insect larvae and snails which in turn provide food for larger animals and form a key part of the food chain.
This jackdaw has found a wasp hiding among the leaves and branches.
Such insect prey is exactly the sort of calorie rich food birds such as these jackdaws will rely on to get them through the cold winter months. Working methodically, the flock picked through the foliage, deftly flicking aside leaves with their beaks to reveal what might be hiding beneath.
This particular jackdaw appears to have a dark spot in it’s eye, possibly the resulting of scarring from an old injury?
Fallen leaves also provide shelter for many overwintering insects such as species of bees and butterflies who hibernate in the safety of the foliage whilst they await the warmth of spring. So next time your garden is full of leaves resist the urge to rake them up and leave them where they fell, or at the very least just sweep them to one side and allow nature to do it’s thing!
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography ©