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Nature Notes November 2019

Nature Notes

In October we can notice many changes in Nature. The weather is often unsettled. The days are noticeably shorter and cooler, the leaves on the trees of old England are changing colour and thinning out. Insects are getting scarcer and many are being caught by the seasonal abundance of Arachnids, such as the orb web spiders.

Birds such as willow warblers and swallows are migrating away from us to their summer quarters; many more, such as wheatears and pied flycatchers are passing through on migration to Africa. Other birds such as Brent geese, teal, pochard and pintail ducks plus many species of waders such as dunlin, grey plover and curlew are arriving from their Arctic and eastern breeding grounds to spend the winter on English estuaries and waterways. Mammals, like us, are preparing for the cold winter by storing food, growing thicker pelts and putting on weight by feeding on Autumn’s season of plenty. Some of these such as bats, hedgehogs and dormice will hibernate for months. Others, such as foxes, badgers, squirrels and mice will simply feed up and spend more time sleeping and foraging for food. The badger females are likely to mate and be pregnant in October and will suspend embryo development for a while until late December. The badger embryos take 49 days to develop leading to births (about 3 per female) underground in February.

The reptiles such as our common lizards, slow worms, grass snakes and adders have slowed down so much, in the coolness of Autumn, that they are compelled to hibernate in a secure cavity underground somewhere. Reptiles, insects, spiders and other invertebrates are poikilothermic or cold blooded, which means that their body temperature is not internally regulated like ours, our mammal relatives and birds. Likewise, the amphibians such as frogs, toads and newts. These too will slow down with the falling temperature and find somewhere damp and free from frost to hibernate until early Spring.

We humans do not have to mow the lawn so frequently, because the grass has no need to grow very much in the Autumn. We get tired easily, our skin may go paler and we wear more and warmer clothes. Our diet may also change with fewer salads and more hot soups.

Dr Martyn Stenning