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November Wildlife in the Garden

What Garden Wildlife to Look out for in November: Red Admiral, November Moth, Siskin and Hedgehog

On a sunny day, although chilly, November can be one of the most beautiful months of the year. Quite a lot of the leaves have come down now, but there are still a lot of beautiful colours and not just on the trees. The fungi are really doing their thing now and I particularly like the bracket ones. Some of them are downright bizarre and look like something out of Science Fiction! I have no clue what most of them are and if you thought moths had lots of species that is nothing to fungi, with around 15,000 species! I will add, if you do not know what fungi you are looking at, do not pick them unless you really know what you are doing and always get permission first. I think the Hen of Woods is my favorite named mushroom and is sometimes served in fancy restaurants.

The insect activity is really starting to drop off now, but on a sunny day the Red Admiral is one of the most likely butterflies you will encounter, and this year especially. Like their close relative the Painted Lady, the Red Admiral is also a migrant to the UK, traveling in the spring from North Africa and other parts of Europe. Unlike the Painted Lady however, they do go on to breed here with a new generation emerging in July. The foodplant is yet again the Common Nettle and also Small Nettle, showing just how important these plants are for butterflies. Although according to Butterfly Conservation they do also like Pellitory-of-Wall and Hops. Red Admirals are at home in most habitats and are common garden visitors and can even be found in some mountainous areas. If you are keen to attract them, like most butterflies, they love Buddleia and because they are still flying so late in the year Ivy is also an important food source. Red Admirals also seem to be on the increase, which is nice to know, and I think I have seen more this year than I can ever remember.

Although there are fewer about now, you can still see moths if you put a moth trap out. You may have to be patient though as you can have nights where you catch nothing as it gets colder. If you are unfamiliar with moth traps, they do not harm the moths and are a brilliant device for monitoring numbers. It is also great fun seeing what you get the next morning, and unlike butterflies they allow you to get up close and personal. At its most basic a moth trap is simply a light that attracts the moths, and you could just use a white sheet with a torch if you want to be cost effective. Ours uses a UV bulb set in a wooden box, where we place eggboxes for them to hide in. For some reason moths like eggboxes, who knew?! One moth you may encounter this month is the aptly named November Moth. The adult moths emerge between September to November so truly an autumn specialist. The caterpillars are not as choosy as some species liking a variety of shrubs and trees. They can be found in a range of habitats including gardens and are common and widespread throughout the UK. The November Moth can have variable markings and can be pale or dark with wavy stripes. It is also very similar to other species including Pale November Moth and can be difficult to separate on markings alone.

Here's a sketch my dad drew of the November Moth as we didn't have a photo.

At this time of year many species of bird start to gather in large mixed flocks, especially members of the Tit and Finch families. Many of these groups are further bolstered with migrants from mainland Europe, meaning you may spot something a little more unusual in your garden. One such bird is a little finch called a Siskin. Although they are resident and breed in many parts of the UK, a large influx arrives each winter. Siskins are normally found in pine forests and other wooded areas; however they are becoming an increasingly common sight on our garden bird feeders. They particularly like Niger seed if you are keen to attract one, and the Goldfinches will be happy too. They are a beautiful little bird with their almost lime green plumage and the males are especially handsome with their black caps. They could be confused with Greenfinches which are bight green too, but Greenfinches are larger without the black streaking. Other similar birds you might see in your garden this winter include Bramblings, Lesser Redpoll and I have even had Reed Buntings before.

Probably one of the nations favorite animals is of course the Hedgehog! As I am sure you are aware Hedgehogs are really struggling sadly, but if you are lucky enough to have one in your garden please do try and help them out. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and spend the day hunkered down in a nest of leaves or grasses. They eat a wide variety of invertebrates and are brilliant at getting rid of garden pests like slugs and snails. Please do not use slug pellets or any other insecticides especially if you know you have hedgehogs, as they can do them serious harm. In the autumn they prepare for hibernation, and many will have started already choosing a sheltered place like a log pile or you could even build them an area. Bonfire night is over now, but lots of us light bonfires throughout winter so please be aware that hedgehogs may be hibernating inside. Always check thoroughly before lighting to allow wildlife to get well out of the way. I recommend putting some food out for them, not only does that help them out but it also makes it easier to see them. I would advise you to put out dog, cat, or hedgehog food and water. Definitely do not use milk as they are in fact lactose intolerant. My final tip is to use a trail camera, which are not too expensive, and will allow you to have fun watching what they get up to, and of course you can spot any other animals that turn up too.

Amazingly the end of year is fast approaching and next time I will be looking back on the year we have had. I hope you enjoyed reading this month’s addition!

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