November is a month of great change as leaves absorb their green chlorophyll and fall from the trees. Many mammals and insects disappear from view, finding warm places to hibernate during the colder months. The time for flowering plants is over, but fungi still abound.
Trees/shrubs… The woods will be blazing with autumn colour this month before the trees give up their leaves for the year. Oaks take on a spectacular golden hue, rowans become oranges and reds, beech trees a beautiful bronze, while alders turn yellow and are the last to lose their leaves. The first frosts can cover leaves in a silvery coating.
Plants… Ivy may still be in flower this month, offering an important late source of nectar to any flying insects still out. The poisonous berries of black bryony plants will turn scarlet this month, find them in hedgerows and at the woodland edge. The fluffy seed heads of old man’s beard becomes obvious in hedgerows as the leaves fall.
Fungi… November is still a good month for many fungi, especially as the fungal fruiting season has been getting longer. Species to look out for include boletes (which have pores rather than gills), milkcaps (which exude a milky fluid if cut), puffballs (some are as small as marbles and others as large as footballs) and brackets (found growing from tree bark). There is still chance to go on a fungi foray and discover more about these keystone woodland species.
Birds… As the leaves fall they expose rookeries high in the trees. Throughout autumn and winter you may be lucky enough to see an amazing murmuration. This is the spectacle of hundreds and thousand of starlings flocking together in huge clouds that swoop in incredible synchronisity.
Mammals… For bats their periods of torpor are becoming longer and many will begin full hibernation. Hedghogs will also be looking for places to hibernate this winter, and bonfires can make attractive nesting opportunities. Please check piles of logs/leaves before setting fire to them.
Insects… The few adult insects that are left, such as ladybirds, will be looking for nooks and crannies to hibernate in. Peacock butterflies will find their way into lofts and sheds to hide from the worst of the cold. Many other insects overwinter as pupae or larvae, waiting for warmer weather the following year.
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