Autumn provides a chance to see new species of wildlife to spot, says Rippingale naturalist
As autumn progresses, we have the opportunity to witness a wide variety of wildlife, says Rippingale naturalist and columnist Ian Misselbrook.
It is not too late to look for butterflies. In fact, I remember that when we moved into our current house on October 14, 1986 we watched comma and speckled wood butterflies basking in the autumn sunshine. Some attractive day flying moths will still be visiting gardens if we get some sunny days. Look out for the silver Y and hummingbird hawk moths. Some dragonflies are usually still active too; mainly migrant hawkers and common darters.
A sunlit bank or woodland edge will be worth looking for reptiles. Common lizards are widely but thinly distributed in our area, grass snakes are relatively common and they might seek to hibernate in your compost heap. Adders are quite scarce, but there are one or two sites in our area where these beautiful creatures can be observed.
Mammals are easier to observe in the fields now that the crops have been harvested; brown hares, rabbits, foxes and roe deer should all be sought in the fields with dawn and dusk visits likely to be the most productive. In the woods, the rutting season for fallow deer will soon be underway and it can become quite noisy!
Of course, the autumn migration season for birds is still in full swing and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether the birds you find are arriving or departing. For example, the blackcaps that nest here in the summer are departing and heading south but other blackcaps that have nested in central Europe will just be arriving and if you are lucky, they may visit your bird feeders.
Another example to confuse us is the diminutive goldcrest (Britain’s smallest bird) which nests here, usually in conifers, but the numbers are augmented by the arrival of flocks from the continent. I remember going on a boat trip to look for sea birds in the Wash when a flock of goldcrests landed on our boat just ahead of a storm which our captain was trying to outrun. A good friend of mine could not photograph the goldcrest because it landed on his camera! Incidentally we failed to outrun the storm and anchored up instead. Fortunately, it only lasted 20 minutes.