Meet the cast: char­ac­ters from Au­tum­n­watch New Eng­land

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Autumn Watch -


Moose are sus­cep­ti­ble to par­a­sitic ticks, yet they are un­able to groom them off. Un­til re­cently the un­gu­lates could rely on cold win­ters to kill off the pests, but as win­ters warm due to cli­mate change they have re­sorted to rub­bing their backs vig­or­ously against trees to rid them­selves of their un­wanted guests. Sadly, huge num­bers of ‘ghost moose’, their hides rubbed raw and hair­less from at­tempts to shift ticks, die from blood loss and the ef­fects of cold.


Once hunted close to ex­tinc­tion, the seal pop­u­la­tion around coastal New Eng­land has re­bounded dra­mat­i­cally: as many as 50,000 grey seals are

“New Eng­land has charis­matic fauna that de­liv­ers just as much screen gold as its renowned flora.”

thought to live on Cape Cod alone – and they’re at­tract­ing un­wanted at­ten­tion. In the early 2000s, only one or two great white sharks were spot­ted each year in the area; in 2016, there were 147. We spoke to shark sci­en­tist Greg Sko­mal, who

ac­knowl­edges that these are prob­a­bly among the least stud­ied white sharks in the world.


When farmers moved away from New Eng­land in the 19th cen­tury, they left be­hind small or­chards, rem­nants of which still linger in the forests to­day. Dur­ing au­tumns when nat­u­ral food is in short sup­ply, these or­chards act as a mag­net for wildlife, es­pe­cially black bears des­per­ate to feed up be­fore the long win­ter hi­ber­na­tion.


Each Septem­ber, many of north­ern North Amer­ica’s hawks, ea­gles and fal­cons head south for the win­ter, mi­grat­ing in as­ton­ish­ing num­bers. Hun­dreds, some­times thou­sands, of birds can be seen in New Eng­land in a sin­gle day, with broad-winged and red­tailed hawks gen­er­ally in the largest num­bers; pere­grines, kestrels and bald ea­gles of­ten reach dou­ble dig­its, too.


Al­most ev­ery au­tumn evening, thou­sands of tree swal­lows flock to the Con­necti­cut River to roost on un­in­hab­ited is­lands in the mid­dle of the water­way. Like star­lings, they will swoop and sway above the river in mes­meris­ing dis­plays be­fore de­scend­ing to the safety of their roost for the night.

Clock­wise from right: tree swal­lows flock­ing to roost on Con­necti­cut River is­lands; a black bear en­joys the fruit in an aban­doned or­chard; moose use trees to

scratch off ticks; the red-tailed hawk is one of many mi­grat­ing rap­tors; great white sharks pa­trol the Cape Cod shores to pre­date the grey seals that thrive there.

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