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Autumn at Stoke Bruerne

Waterway wildlife in autumn

The autumnal months encourage a flurry of activity from many species found along our canals and rivers as they prepare themselves for the colder spells ahead. What will you spot?

Hungry winged visitors

The UK sees an influx of thrushes and other birds that migrate from colder places like Scandinavia to spend the winter here.

The slightly warmer, wetter winters in our country give these birds a better chance of survival, as food is easier to find than their typical summer breeding grounds which may well be covered in snow.

If you see an unusual bird in autumn or winter, it could be a redwing, fieldfare or the amazing bohemian waxwing. These birds can be seen in small, scattered groups and our canals, even urban ones, provide good feeding areas as the hedgerows and scrub are laden with their favourite winter food – berries!

Acorn loving animals

Animals such as jays and squirrels are busy preparing for the lean winter months ahead by gathering as much food as they can during autumn.

Both have a love of acorns and at this time of year they can be seen burying them, which will provide a welcome winter snack in the harder times ahead. The only challenge they face is to remember where they stashed them!

The rapid spread of oak trees across Britain, which happened after the last ice age, is largely credited to the jays' inability to relocate their buried snacks.

Small furry friends

Small mammals such as wood mice and bank voles find berries a brilliant food source through the colder months. These furry creatures need to stock up on food whilst it's plentiful and store it in a safe, secret place.

Sometimes, if you peer into a small hole in the trunk of a tree, you might be lucky enough to spot one of their stashes, hidden away ready for a midwinter feast.

Bugs, birds and bats assemble!

If you spot some ivy, go and have a sniff. It's not the most pleasant of scents but that punchy smell is heaven to the insects. The pollen and nectar produced by ivy is one of the last sources of these precious commodities before everything shuts down for winter.

Holly blue butterfly caterpillars feed on the plant, many birds nest among it, and bats often hide during the day between its leaves and the tree trunk.

Increasingly, we are seeing ivy bees and hornets feeding on ivy. The sounds of crickets on warm autumnal evenings comes from a variety of species, such as the oak bush-cricket, roesel’s bush-cricket, dark bush-cricket and both long and short winged cone-heads. They can often be heard coming from dense grassland, hedges, brambles and oak trees.

Any buzzing sounds to be heard are a sign that honey bees, hoverflies, wasps and hornets are also enjoying the benefits of ivy. You'll occasionally see red admirals, commas and peacock butterflies nearby too, as well as a host of moths during the night.

Last Edited: 17 July 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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