Trees/shrubs… Acorns and hazelnuts are ripening, offering an energy packed food source for dormice. Jays and squirrels will bury them for winter storage, but they often forget the location of their secret stashes and young trees shoot up next spring. The spectacular pink and orange fruits of the spindle tree appear this month, hanging in eye-catching clusters. Bright red yew berries are also ripening and are very popular with thrushes.
Plants… The flowers of gorse still bloom through autumn and ivy flowers until late autumn. The attractive seed heads of teasels will begin to supply an important source of food for many birds.
Fungi… The iconic fly agaric mushrooms are an October favourite, and have been linked to many fairy tales and myths. They form symbiotic relationships with birch and pine, so keep a watchful eye out for them near these trees.
Birds… Fieldfares arrive from Iceland and Scandinavia and can be spotted raiding hawthorn trees/hedges for their berries. They can often be seen flocking with overwintering redwings.
Mammals… Dormice begin hibernating this month in underground nests. They will have been fattening up to survive without eating until April/May, when they will have lost half their bodyweight. During hibernation their temperature drops to just above freezing and their heart rate and breathing slow considerably – this conserves energy and essential fat reserves.
Reptiles… Grass snakes also go into hibernation in October. They try to find shelter in ‘hibernaculum'; places that will remain frost free, such as under tree roots and rocks, and in piles of leaf litter, compost heaps and crevices in walls. Smooth snakes hibernate underground. Whereas adders like to hibernate in rabbit or rodent burrows, or under logs, they sometimes hibernate communally. Young adders will often hibernate in the area they were born.
Amphibians… Frogs will start hibernating at the bottom of ponds, under stones or logs or buried in leaf litter. Toads will also go into hibernation this month. The official term for amphibian hibernation is ‘brumation’.
Our VisitWoods website can help you locate many stunning woods in your area and across the UK. You can also record all your amazing finds on our Nature’s Calendar website and be part of a great citizen science movement.
Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser