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Wildlife Calendar - October


Vast swathes of colour from scarlet through burnt orange to pale yellow adorn the British countryside in October. This is a transition month when late summer makes way for autumn. The nights are drawing in and the temperature drops, but a sunny day in October can be one of the best days of the year for a wildlife walk through woodland.

The leaves of deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll in autumn which provided their green colour throughout the summer. The bright colours you can now see have been masked and are now revealed as the chlorophyll seeps out before leaf drop. Trees and shrubs are also now providing berries, nuts and seeds – a wonderful bounty for the wildlife living around the trees. Mammals are preparing for the harsh weather ahead by burying hoards of nuts – squirrels stay active throughout the winter so bury many caches of food (called scatter hoarding) in order to guarantee survival. Other rodents and some birds such as Jays and Woodpeckers also store food for the winter.

In the wildlife garden, leaving some of the dead and dying plants benefits the wildlife in your garden. The tangled stems and dead leaves provide shelter for insects and many other species, finches arrive in numbers to feed on seed heads and mature Ivy left unpruned will attract bees and butterflies to its late flowers, as will Michaelmas daisies and Sedum. The hedgerow is an important habitat at this time of year for shelter and warmth, and can be enhanced by piling up leaves and making a log pile habitat. Help to halt the decline of hedgehogs and other small mammals by providing a hedgehog house. Another useful form of shelter is a corrugated sheet – the tunnels are used by mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians to keep warm.

Around the middle of the month, Housemartins are flying to warmer climes following the Swallows and Swifts that departed last month. There are many birds to replace them including Geese and Ducks arriving from the Arctic Circle and Scandinavia. You may be lucky enough to attract newly arrived flocks Fieldfares and Redwings to the fruit fall in your garden.

Fieldfare Fieldfare

An important job at this time of year and through the winter is to clean and disinfect your bird feeders and bird baths – birds become more reliant on you for food, and are susceptible to diseases if food in feeders is left to decompose. Use a disinfectant made for the purpose or a very weak bleach solution to clean. Also remember to keep the bird bath topped up with water.

To attract the most species of birds to your garden, provide different types of feeder. There are many available – bird tables and feeding stations, seed feeders, nut feeders, suet feeders as well as ground feeders. Keep them clean and stocked with food. Nature Station keep a large selection of bird food in stock, and are happy to offer advice on your choice of products. Ideally site hanging feeders over a surface that can be swept regularly, and site bird tables away from fences and overhanging branches to prevent cats and surprise attacks from birds of prey.

Although insects are becoming fewer in number, they can still be seen on warm days around the late flowers – Bees, Hoverflies and Ladybirds mingle with Small Tortoiseshell and Comma butterflies who are feeding before overwintering as adults. Butterflies overwinter in different stages of their life-cycle depending on the species – you may see pupa of the Small white butterfly under the eaves of your house or in your shed or larvae of the Ringlet and Speckled Wood deep in the meadow grasses. Butterflies such as the White letter hairstreak overwinter as eggs. This demonstrates amazing adaptation to the British weather!