The weather is turning and a lot of our wildlife enters slumber mode in November. By the end of this month most trees will have shed their sometimes flame-coloured leaves, revealing the hidden shapes of their trunks and branches. Watch out for skeins of geese flying overhead in their perfect ‘V’ formations; you’ll no doubt hear them before you see them. If you’re fortunate, you may be lucky enough to experience the amazing spectacle of a starling murmuration. These wonderful birds swoop, turn and glide in perfect synchrony, as if by magic, creating swirling patterns, sometimes dense black in colour, other times less so as they ebb and flow together in their gentle sky dance.
For some, it’s time for hibernation
Meanwhile, at ground level, the hedgehog has found a cosy place to hibernate in amongst the fallen leaves, twigs and branches, a perfect snug hut to last out the winter. You may notice queen wasps buzzing around looking for a suitable place to cabin up for the coldest months of the year before leaving to set up a new colony as the weather warms up in spring.
Look carefully amongst dry leaves or ivy, or in crevices of the bark of a tree and you may spy a ladybird hiding away for the winter – sometimes together in large groups.
For others, it’s time to hunt for prey
With vegetation slowly breaking down this is a great time for detritivores, feeding directly on the vegetation or on, fungi or bacteria which are actively breaking matter down into more accessible nutrients in the soil. Some adult ground beetles are more active now and are hunting for prey and mates to start the next generation.
The Blackclock beetle, with its shiny black oval casing, and deep red legs is one of our most common beetles found in most habitats including gardens. It will feed on many invertebrates, especially slugs and snails, if they are small, or ill enough to subdue.
Worms in the meantime soldier on, consuming, digesting, and excreting organic garden waste. In doing so, these unassuming invertebrates change the soil’s composition, nourish and aerate it thereby increasing the soils capacity for drainage when those heavy winter downpours arrive.
Do: Enjoy the smell of that familiar dampness of autumnal earth. ‘Petrichor’, as is the formal name for rain-soaked earth, has been found to have great benefit on our emotional wellbeing by reducing ruminations significantly, so breathe in deeply!
Fill up your birdfeeders with nuts and seeds. Long tailed tits have a penchant for those peanuts!
Get involved: Take part in a beach clean https://www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/join-a-beach-clean/find-a-beach-clean/ or litter pick to clan up your local wild space.
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Author: Terry Smithson BSc in Zoology, MSc in Ecology
Terry is our in-house ecologist. He’s worked in the nature conservation sector for over 25 years and loves all things wildlife, especially hoverflies, beetles, mammals and birds. He’s helped design our BioScapes products so they maximise the recovery of wildlife and he’s happy to offer advice to individuals, schools and businesses on how to boost biodiversity.