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Nature Notes October 2018


Nature Notes

The days are getting shorter as the equinox approaches on about 21st September when the day time will equal night time the world over. Then, the northern hemisphere days will be shorter than the nights and the southern hemisphere will experience the opposite, until the spring equinox next year on or about 21st March.

These landmarks in time will be recognised and reacted to by organisms the world over. Deciduous trees start losing their leaves, summer visiting birds will leave Britain and winter visiting birds arrive. Britain probably hosts more wintering bird species than summer ones.

There are many species that use British coasts as a winter larder, birds such as curlew, grey plover, golden plover, knot, dunlin, sanderling, redshank, greenshank, ruff. Meanwhile, in the woods and fields redwings and fieldfares arrive along with wintering chaffinches, bramblings, blackbirds and song thrushes, the latter four, largely from Scandinavia, augment our resident populations. Many of these birds will have been moulting after about the summer solstice which is the longest summer day on or about 21st June. Moulting usually takes several weeks and results in a strong bright plumage ready for tough autumn and winter weather and migration flights. Some birds, such as the waders mentioned above, have a winter plumage that is a different colour compared with their summer plumage. Most waders become grey during winter and flock together on muddy foreshores to hunt marine invertebrates such as shellfish, crustaceans and lugworms.

There are flowers that bloom in the autumn also such as the tiny white spiral flower stems of autumn ladies tresses, which is a type of orchid, and the purple or white flowering wild cyclamen whose flowers appear before the leaves do. Ivy too flowers in the autumn and provides some late nectar and pollen for honeybees, butterflies and bumblebees.

As the nights get colder, some animals prepare to go to sleep for the winter such as all the reptiles; snakes, lizards and tortoises also amphibians; frogs toads and newts and some insects such as tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies

Dr.Marrtyn Stenning