What to watch out for in November
Skeleton trees and piles of leaves. Bonfires. Roving gangs of tits scouring bark and twigs for morsels to eat. Frosty nights. Misty mornings. Hedgehogs are tucked up under your shed or in your compost bin. Frogs, toads and newts have hunkered down in the
Look for starlings murmurating at dusk during autumn and winter. Our resident starlings are joined by visitors from Eastern Europe escaping the harsher winters. Just before roosting, they gather in huge, swirling masses to ‘dance’ into the sunset. This is thought to be a tactic to ward off predators – flying en masse, their synchronised movements look like vast, moving shapes in the sky. Some of the best places to see these mesmerising displays are at RSPB nature reserves, as well as on the Somerset Levels and at Brighton Pier, but they can happen anywhere. Starlings usually murmurate near a structure they will roost in, such as a bridge, pier or tree. If you get close enough, you’ll hear the rush of their wings and their gentle chattering. Starlings are about the size of blackbirds, and black all over but with iridescent greeny-blue markings. They walk with a sort of swagger, and feed in large groups on lawns or at feeders. Some gardeners object to their noisy antics, which can scare off smaller birds. But it’s not their fault – they’ve evolved to feed and live in groups. Traditionally, starlings eat soil grubs such as leatherjackets (crane-fly larvae) and earthworms – their sharp, yellow beaks are perfect for teasing them out of the ground. Sadly, starling numbers have fallen by 66 per cent in Britain since the mid-1970s. Lack of food could be a factor – widespread use of pesticides in agricultural areas may have reduced the soil invertebrates they rely on. Nesting opportunities may also have become more limited.
Also be on the lookout for…
Unusual overwintering birds, such as hawfinches and waxwings. Fungi in lawns and on old logs. Goldcrests and firecrests – Britain’s tiniest birds – darting between trees. Field mice, which don’t hibernate.