Villagers article November 2022
It’s all change now that autumn has arrived. What have we been seeing in the past month?
We've been observing lots of redwings arriving in numbers for one thing. Redwings are small thrushes which are winter migrants arriving from Iceland, Scandinavia or Russia, staying with us throughout the winter. They will visit gardens and can be identified by a pale eye stripe and brick red flanks. We have had redwings with us since the beginning of October, but a massive influx arrived on the 19th with many observers all over the country seeing tens of thousands fly over in a few hours. Listen out for the thin tseep contact call of redwings and you should see these pretty little thrushes.
We’ve also been seeing another winter thrush species mixing with the flocks of redwings; the larger fieldfare. Listen out for the chak-chak-chak call when they are flying overhead.
There have been reports of large flocks of waxwings arriving in Scandinavia in October where there has been a poor berry crop. This could result in us getting a much awaited ‘waxwing winter’. These striking, pinkish, starling-sized birds could well turn up in numbers to feed on berries, notably in supermarket car parks where a favoured food are the berries of cotoneaster bushes.
Red deer have been roaring night and day all month as the rut has taken place. The stags, pumped full of testosterone, bellow out to each other as the dominant males try to hold on to their harem of females while challengers will try to steal them away. If the roar of the dominant stag does not deter the challenger, they will size each other up and walk in parallel hoping that the other will be intimidated and back down. As a last resort they will do battle and those antlers, grown each year at such physical expense, will be put to use.
Our local red squirrels have been busily gathering nuts to cache which they will feed on throughout the winter. We have noticed them running across the roads more than usual as they go about their business on the ground rather than in the trees, so please be careful when driving.
This damp autumn has been good for fungi and we had a fine showing of that classic toadstool the poisonous fly agaric in our garden. We have never had so many before and hope that they will return, however briefly, next year.
If you are planning a bonfire this autumn please check that no hedgehogs or toads have decided that your heap of leaves or wood is a great place to hibernate. In fact, do we need to burn our garden waste and release the carbon into the atmosphere? Decaying leaves provide fantastic habitat for invertebrates as well hibernating hedgehogs and toads.
We have spent lots of late afternoons at the local red kite roost which has re-established itself for the winter and most evenings there are as many as 100 birds to be seen going in to roost. On breezy days they are quite a spectacle to watch as they move around the sky in a silent ballet; swirling, grouping, dispersing and coming back together, first high and then low and then away again. Then suddenly, as if some silent signal has been given, they stream one after another in a loose line aimed at their roost wood where they settle down into a few selected trees leaving the sky empty.