From Matt Collis of Avon Wildlife Trust
October is the month of misty mornings and warm afternoons as we all enjoy the last of the suns summer rays. It also sees the last of the summer flowering plants give us their final blooms and final nectar for the year. Don’t be surprised to see them over-flowing with insects gasping for one last sugar-sweet drink!
WHAT TO SEE THIS MONTH
Whilst many of our mammals are busy building fat stores for the winter, the same can be said for the birds, with the exception of one; the jay. One of my favourite birds, the jay is the most colourful of the corvid family which includes crows and magpies. Its pinky-brown body is broken up by patches of black and white (including a striking black moustache!), and a glorious blue patch – one on each side. Jays’ love acorns and spend much of October caching them in the short grass of gardens and parks, ready to revisit during harder winter times. Keep an eye out for them flying back and forth from oak trees.
October sees a final flurry of butterfly activity as the final generation of caterpillars of the year prepare to spend the winter months as chrysalises (i.e a cocoon). Adult butterflies are still on the wing, collecting nectar before hibernating as adults. Common species you a likely to see include red admiral, peacock, small tortoiseshell, large white and speckled wood. Any late flowering plants are likely to have the odd butterfly on them, particularly Buddleia which is a favoured and common plant in cities.
This is the last month for seeing a good amount of bat activity. Although the mating season started in September, October is often when this behaviour is at its peak! Bats have a lot on their mind in October; finding a mate, building fat stores for winter, and trying to work out where’s the best to hibernate. With so many things to keep them busy and the nights getting longer, spotting a bat flying around your garden couldn’t be any easier than now. Best time to go out is 20 minutes after sunset – don’t forget to look up!
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Ivy (Hedera helix)
The ivy is a common and easily recognisable climbing plant. Often seen clambering up large trees, garden walls and houses, homeowners are often concerned about what damage it might do. It rarely does any, especially when the surface is structurally sound, and growing ivy can have many benefits; vegetative cover insulates and cools buildings, traps pollutants and attenuates noise but most importantly, it’s brilliant for wildlife!
Ivy providies brilliant cover for hibernating insects over winter, nesting sites for birds like wren and blackbird in the spring, fresh leaves for munching caterpillars in the summer, and in the autumn it’s one of the latest and most abundant nectar supplies around. In fact, it isn’t until October that ivy really comes into flower. A quick look one sunny afternoon will reveal a plant covered in hoverflies, bees and butterflies. One such butterfly is the Holly Blue whose caterpillars are almost exclusively reliant on the flowers of ivy to get them through the winter. So, if you like bright blue butterflies then plant yourself some Hedera helix!
Why not visit the wildflower nursery at Feed Bristol to learn more about gardening for wildlife?
Avon Wildlife Trust’s team of experts will help you pick the right plants that will attract wildlife to your garden. See you there! Feed Bristol, 158 Frenchay Park Road, Bristol, BS16 1HB.
And don’t forget to join in the BS3 Winter Garden Bird Watch which runs from October to March. A record sheet and instructions are attached. (Ben Barker of the GBCP NEWSLETTER Team reports, ‘4 species, so far in my garden. A magpie, a flock of black birds and a blue tit or two, bog standard, but good to see, and, less expected, a coal tit visiting my feeders. Good start!’).
From the My Wild Bedminster Team
Wildlife Records in BS3 for 2017
Now that we are moving towards the winter, we want to collect wildlife records that you may have made during 2017. These may have been in your back garden, the local park, on your allotment, wherever. Please start to send them in towards the end of October and we will try to collate them into a report. If you have sent information earlier in the year, please send it again so that we don’t miss anything. Send data and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org marked My Wild Bedminster. We will share these with Avon Wildlife Trust and other wildlife specialist organisations and also with our My Wild Bedminster partner the South Bristol Voice.
By the way, you may have seen that the October South Bristol Voice has a great article on hedgehog sightings (pp14/15). We are sure that the Voice will publish some of the wildlife information and pictures that you send in.