November >>

<< September


Mouse over species links for pictures;
click links for detail page

October

is a time of plenty for wildlife that depends on berries and seeds. Starlings and thrushes – blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares – arrive from Scandinavia to take advantage of an abundance of berries that far outstrips the demand from our resident birds. Mistle thrushes, so-called because they are partial to mistletoe berries, often guard holly bushes which may hold enough berries to last them right through the winter.

At this time jays leave the woodland and come into gardens looking for acorns. They take them back to their home territory and push them into the ground, digging them up to eat later. Plant berrying shrubs like pyracantha or trees like rowan in your garden and you may attract other species looking for food.

Apart from the berries, the other striking feature of some hedgerows is the wild clematis, also known as traveller's joy and, because of its wispy seed heads, old man's beard.

Numbers of insects on the wing are declining as the days get colder. Those that remain congregate around plants such as ivy that bloom late and serve as a valuable source of nectar. On warm days ivy flowers are alive with bees, wasps and flies, sometimes joined by a few surviving butterflies or silver-y moths.

Wasp and bumblebee colonies are running down now and the young queens will be getting ready for hibernation, feeding and looking for good spots to spend the winter. When they wake from hibernation next spring they will take on the herculean task of starting a new colony from scratch, first building a new nest and then raising workers that will help to build up a colony strong enough to produce new queens.

October is a good time to visit woodlands, for their autumn colours and for the fungi and mosses growing on the woodland floor – visit Hainault Forest, Epping Forest, Chalkney Wood, Stour Wood, Pound Wood, Blakes Wood, Hockley Woods, Hillhouse Wood, Thorndon Park or West Wood. If you are lucky you may also come across a woodcock feeding on the woodland floor, which flies off rapidly when disturbed, zig-zagging between the trees.



Photo © David Harrison

Around the estuaries and coast, large numbers of birds are arriving from all points north to spend the winter here, drawn by the grazing marsh inside the seawall or, outside it, the expanses of mudflat which hold uncountable numbers of invertebrates on which they will feed through the winter. Go to Tollesbury Wick, Rainham Marshes, Cudmore Grove, Marsh Farm or Blue House Farm to enjoy the spectacle. Brent geese arrive from late September on to feast on the eelgrass beds – see this at Two Tree Island – before moving on to coastal fields.