Sunday, 1 November 2015

Wild Winkworth, October snippets

'The summer-flower has run to seed,
And yellow is the woodland bough;
And every leaf of bush and weed
Is tipt with autumn’s pencil now.'

The opening lines of John Clare's 'Autumn', and now very apt as the season is well and truly upon us. The trees are turning some wonderful shades around the arboretum and some of the early ornamentals have already lost many of their leaves, smattering the ground with dots of red and gold.
The misty hazy mornings this month have already brought with them the odd touch of grass frost and ripe berries are fast disappearing from the hedgerows and trees, gobbled up by hungry creatures. Jays become more conspicuous at this time of year, flitting from Oak to Oak, collecting acorns to store away for the cold winter months to come - did you know that a single Jay can gather five thousand acorns in one autumn?
It's not just the landscape that is changing though, as the autumn migration season is now in full flow and birds are sweeping across Britain in their hundreds of thousands and there has been much evidence of this at Winkworth recently.
The early Redwings I mentioned in my last blog post have now been joined by many more - on the 20th I noted over a hundred over the arboretum in the first hour of the day alone, mostly heading south and west, some very high so presumably had just arrived from Scandinavia overnight. Check out the Sorbus and other berry-bearing trees in the Bowl to get a closer look at these handsome thrushes. The first Fieldfares, meanwhile, were a flock of thirty or so which flew west on the 17th.
Skylarks too have been moving in numbers. Up until this month it had been weeks since I'd seen or heard one here, but I've recorded over a dozen over in the past couple of weeks alone.
There have also been noticeably more Reed Buntings around lately and it would appear they are using the small reedbed next to Rowe's Flashe Lake as a roost site as I noted three flying from there early on the 20th followed by six doing the same on the 22nd.
On the morning of the 27th it was a very nice surprise to find two Pintail (a female and a young drake) and two first-year drake Wigeon on Rowe's Flashe Lake - both new species for me here. One of the Wigeon flew off early in the day while the Pintail and remaining Wigeon stuck around for the rest of the day. All had gone, however, by the time I returned to Winkworth on the 30th after two days' training at Polesden Lacey. Both of these species breed in Northern Europe, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia so these individuals were presumably tired first-time migrants stopping off for a rest en route to their wintering grounds, perhaps somewhere on the south coast.

In keeping with the Siskin invasion going on all over Britain and indeed Europe at the moment, there have been loads here in the past few weeks; many seemingly just passing through but others lingering. The Alder trees on the eastern side of Rowe's Flashe Lake are a reliable spot for them, while on 8th October John Rowland got some nice shots of some of a flock of at least forty which were frequenting the Western Hemlock trees along the edge of the overflow car park.

Butterflies are getting very scarce now, but the warmer days towards the end of the month have seen the odd Red Admiral on the wing in the arboretum, while on the 13th visitor Graham Dash reported seeing a Small Copper

There are some lovely moths to be seen around this time of year and I've been finding a few around the place recently, like this Angle Shades I found on my car door handle when I was leaving work the other evening...
...and this Feathered Thorn which had decided to take refuge in the public toilets!
I've been finding a lot of Common Frogs around the arboretum recently, particularly in The Bowl, so keep an eye out if you're kicking through the fallen leaves! 
While the autumn leaf colour is (rightly!) taking centre stage in the arboretum at present, there are still a few splashes of flower colour around - this Nettle-leaved Bellflower is putting on an unusually late show near the top of the Fiona Adam Steps.
As ever Roe Deer are a common sight around the arboretum in small numbers, particularly the Badger's Bowl lately where these two were hanging out early on the 6th.
And to finish this blog post, how about this for a cool-looking bug? It's a Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) which I luckily spotted before I sat on it as it had taken a shine to the seat of our off-road buggy!


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