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Wildlife Photography in October

Autumn is now in full swing and a look in any tree lined street, out in the countryside, amongst our woodlands and arboretum you will see a wealth of colours from yellows, gold's, oranges, reds and of course some greens. In some areas the change in temperature is now starting the process of trees loosing their leaves, so you need to get out in the next couple of weeks if you want to capture the autumn colours, see our Autumn Colours area for how to go about doing this, lists of places you could visit and location guides on some. Whilst out in the woods keep a look out for squirrels and jays as they scurry about on the ground burying their stash of hazel nuts and acorns which are now ripening, ready for their winter store. Red squirrels undergo their autumn moult and replace their worn coats with one of the deepest red chestnut, their tails begin to fill out and they complete the cute package with their little tufty ears. To watch the hectic foraging you will find clusters of these in the UK in places such as Formby Point on the Lancashire coast and in Kielder Forest, Northumberland.

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Grey Squirrel with Acorn

October is a special time for our largest native land animal, the Red Deer,  as this is the start of the rut. The males fight it out to be in control of a group of 10 to 20 females which he can mate with. During the summer he has been growing a complete new set of impressive antlers, having lost the old ones in the spring, they go through a number of growing stages including a velvety covering before they are fully hardened and ready for battle. They use these and their newly acquired body weight and bellowing to impress the females, using their antlers only when necessary to fight off an intruding male. Red Deer can be found in Scotland and some of our National Parks such as Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest, but take a look at our Deer Section for places you might want to try. It is also the rutting season for Fallow Deer, a much smaller breed, but the stags are still just as impressive with their large antlers and light spotty backs.

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Red Deer Stag by Mark Robinson

Woodlands and Forests are a place to visit not only for the autumn colours on the trees, or the colourful carpets of leaves on the woodland floor but also for this months speciality, fungal fruiting bodies. Many of the different types of fungi will be covering the woodland floor, taking route in old fallen trees, in tree bark and other such moist places and getting ready to disperse their seeds. Fungi play an important role in the circle of life of plants and trees, their part is to break down organic matter i.e. dead leaf litter, dead animals etc and help the process of recycling. They also help plants to access the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. The Red top with white spots of the Fly Agaric which can be found around birch or sitka spruce tress are attractive to photograph, but beware DO NO TOUCH as they are poisonous. Or watch out for the black and white of the Shaggy Inkcap also known as the 'Laywers Wig' they can appear in lawns overnight. These are just two of the species you may come across.

Fly Agaric by Andy Roberts Shaggy InkCap or Lawyers Wig
by Andrew Dunn

Within your garden, if you put out winter feeds for the local birds, Robins will be coming back to take their fill and keep them going through the winter months, and greenfinches will flock to get their share. If you are lucky enough to live the in right country location you may also see Redwings who have migrated here from Scandinavia, Russia and Iceland to enjoy our warmer winter. Also look out for the FieldFare and other winter thrushes as they arrive from their breeding grounds and feast on berries in the hedgerow, and fallen fruits such as apples. So don't have the urge to tidy your garden over this period, fallen fruit, leaf litter and the like provide good feeding grounds for birds, insects and other winter wildlife, and you will be surprised at what visits you. Another garden visitor and is very prevalent in my garden this year is the spider. There are cobwebs everywhere and getting to see these in the early morning when the dew is still upon them gives photo opportunities in abundance, the only problem usually is the background as they are not fussy on where they create them. Another effect is the capture of flying seeds as they travel to new resting grounds and get caught in the spiders web, not much of a meal for a spider, but a pretty photo.

Pink Footed Goose

On the bird front migration for most birds that have been here through the summer months is coming to an end, you may still see some warblers and house martins, but most will have returned by the end of the month. On the other hand the big migration of Winter Migrants such as swans and geese that visit us during the winter months is in full swing, with the Wildfowl and Wetland Centres around the UK starting to fill up with Bewick's Swans arriving at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire and Arundel in Sussex, while the Whooper Swans and Barnacle Geese flock into Caerlaverock in Scotland, Pink Footed Geese arrive at Martin Mere in Lancashire and Brent Geese make their winter home on Strangford Loch in Northern Ireland. Our Estuaries are also filling up with more waders and wildfowl, such as the red beaked, tufted headed Merganser which can be found in small flocks along the east and south coast as well as in the Bristol Channel. Starlings gather in large groups on treetops and telephone wires before joining up with other large groups in large roosts in woodland. Some of the best starling displays are seen at dusk as them come to roost for the night.

Bats will be more visible in the dusk skies, with frantic activity in collecting enough food to keep them going through the winter hibernation. Badgers will also be out and about looking for enough food to fatten themselves up for ready for winter, although they do not hibernate they do need to get ready for winter when there is less around for them to feast on.

Our mountains and uplands have been home through the summer to breeding waders and summer migrants, now they are being left to our native species such as the grouse, ptarmigan and mountain hares.

The dawn and dusk period is not only a busy time for bats and birds, but also for foxes, as the days start to get shorter there are opportunities to catch sight of them as the afternoon light fades. They have just finished their summer moult and are in pristine condition with glossy red coats and fluffy bushy tails at this time of year. They are out trying to fatten up ready for winter and will be looking for small mammals and hedgerow fruits.

Ptarmigan by Alistair Rae

The Mountain Hare

In the plant world, most of the colourful floral displays of the summer months is coming to an end, and many will be out in their gardens tidying up and planting winter varieties. Our hedgerows will contain some colourful fruits and berries  such as the rosehip, which attract the birds, but our road verges and even meadows and grassland will have been mown and starting to be grazed until Autumn is out.  However one plant that is a prominent during Autumn and Winter is the Ivy, being an evergreen they provide a very important role during this period. Their life cycle is out of step with other British plants flowering in the autumn and having fruit in the spring, for this reason they provide an important food source for hibernating insects who can feed on their nectar. It also provides shelter for insects and birds when they need it most. The Holly Blue butterfly relies on Ivy as a breading ground for their offspring, they lay the white, dimpled, disc shaped eggs on the Ivy flower stalk, green caterpillars hatch and

See Larger Image Holly Blue Butterfly by Mark Robinson

feed on the buds, they then spend their winter as a chrysalis hidden in the ivy foliage ready for the adults to emerge next April.

So Autumn should not be a time to think about putting away your camera, but should be a time to get out and capture what you can, even if a little more challenging. However if you achieve it you will be delighted you made the effort to take time out with our wildlife.


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More Information

See also the Nature and Wildlife calendar - October

Other species can be found listed in the Wildlife and Animals section of the Topic Index and plants within the Nature, Flora and Countryside section, more lists may be found from the Wildlife & Nature index page within the reference section. These lists also give you links to other websites allowing you more information on what we have and haven't yet covered.


By: Tracey Park Section: Key:

Page Ref: wildlife_photo_october

Topic: Wildlife Last Updated: 09/2011

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