Whilst the autumn sunshine in October can make the days feel relatively warm, November is usually the time to reach into the wardrobe for your winter coat. Despite the falling temperatures and shorter days, the month brings some real natural delights.
With natural food sources starting to become scare after the early autumn bounty, regular favourites will start to return to your bird table – along with some more unusual visitors such as siskin and lesser redpoll. Another welcome seasonal sight is the arrival of flocks of delightful long-tailed tits flitting from garden to garden in search of sustenance. It is also worth looking out for overwintering blackcaps, which love to feast on fat balls. Whilst our breeding birds will likely have travelled south for the winter, birds from Eastern and Central Europe arrive in UK gardens for winter respite.
Away from the garden, farmland is a great place to look out for mixed flocks of finches, including chaffinch, brambling and goldfinch; and when out in the countryside keep an eye out for large flocks of fieldfare and redwing. An estimated one million birds travel across the North Sea to feed on crops of berries each year.
With migration in full swing, wetland sites will also be busy. Ducks, waders and geese will all increase in number and another species that often gathers at wetland sites, providing one of the best winter wildlife spectacles, is the starling. Numbers tend to build through early winter with flocks numbering tens and even hundreds of thousands. The experience of seeing a large flock, or murmuration, of starlings flying in formation before coming down to roost is truly one to savour and one that should be on every nature watcher’s winter wildlife ‘bucket list’.
It is not just our feathered friends that are busy as autumn gives way to winter. Fox family friction reaches a peak as the cubs begin to move on to find their own territories and the breeding cycle starts over. Many adult males will also be seeking out new territories and mates – so listen out for the first mating calls, often described as a screech or scream, of the season.
Hedgehogs will be looking for safe, dry places they can hibernate over winter – so do check any bonfires before lighting them.
If you do have hedgehogs in the neighbourhood consider building or buying a hedgehog home – it could provide a lifeline. Many smaller mammals such as wood mice and bank voles, which do not have the option of hibernating, will be busy searching out food to stock their larders to help through the challenging colder months when food gets hard to find.
Getting out and about wildlife watching or enjoying the birds in the garden can be hugely rewarding and beneficial to our wellbeing, but we cannot escape the fact that wildlife has declined in both diversity and abundance over the past century. It is against this backdrop of nature’s decline that The Wildlife Trusts and others across the environment sector reacted angrily to the raft of policy shifts announced as part of the Government’s Growth Plan. We are genuinely concerned that in the drive to reduce ‘red tape’ and ‘liberalise’ planning rules, many of the threats that have caused nature to decline are about to be unshackled. We need to reverse this decline and put nature into recovery and we need your help. To find out how you can play your part visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/defendnature.
Main image: Wood mouse, Sean Browne