Diary – November 2013.
A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
Summer turned into autumn with a vengeance over the past month. As the warm weather gave way to heavy rains and gales, interspersed with morning frosts, many of the trees in the lane lost their leaves. Consequently, the period in which they were full of bronze and yellows was quite brief. Most of the insects have either died or moved into hibernation sites although some of the late developers have been active in the occasional warm spells of sunshine – especially on the emerging ivy blossom. Many of the hedgerow birds are still in autumn moult and are skulking quietly in the hedges, but the robins have begun to sing loudly to define their territories. This snap of the lane was taken early one dark, frosty morning with the sun streaming through gaps in the greenery:
EARLY MORNING, CLEWERS LANE
Some insects which appear at this time of year will hibernate as a tactic for surviving the forthcoming cold weather. Ladybirds are a good example, and they will often hibernate in huge numbers in houses or sheds. Here are a couple of common seven-spot ladybirds inside a dead flower head, together with a sloe bug – which is not exactly friendly towards ladybirds, so they are strange bedfellows:
LADYBIRDS & SLOEBUG, CLEWERS LANE
Another non friend of the common British ladybirds is this fellow: the Harlequin Ladybird. It’s an introduced species from Asia by way of North America and has been described as the insect equivalent of the Grey Squirrel. It has a voracious appetite and when it competes for food with native ladybirds, it wins hands down at the expense of our natives. Fingers crossed that some sort of balance of power is arrived at:
HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD, CLEWERS LANE
Another insect which is sometimes easier to spot at this time of year, after the leaves have fallen is the SQUASH BUG. It is about 20 mm from tip to tail and, although similar to the shield bugs, it is a separate species:
SQUASH BUG, CLEWERS LANE
Many butterflies that have been out on the wing in the past month are from late broods. They all look ‘brand new’ and don’t have the tatty wings which are sported by the few springtime survivors. Here are some species which probably won’t appear again until late spring / early summer 2014. Many of them come to gardens at this time of year to feed on nectar-rich plants such as Buddleia and Sedum:
COMMA BUTTERFLY FEEDING, CLEWERS LANE
PEACOCK BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE
RED ADMIRAL ON BERBERIS, CLEWERS LANE
SMALL COPPER ON SEDUM, CLEWERS LANE
At this time of the year, some birds are beginning to assert their territorial rights once more. These House Sparrows are checking out potential nesting sites in local buildings, and squabbling with each other:
HOUSE SPARROWS, CLEWERS LANE
Meanwhile, in the sky above Clewers Lane, a pair of crows who have paired up in one of the oak trees, spotted a raptor in the sky and set off to drive it away by dive bombing it and cackling loudly. They succeeded after a minute or two. The raptor is on the lower left in this picture:
CROWS Vs RAPTOR, CLEWERS LANE
As the first cold nights arrived, a pied wagtail put in an appearance on the ridge of one of the local houses. Pied Wagtails often fly in from the countryside to pass the night away under the influence of the heat radiated from domestic or industrial buildings. Sometimes they arrive in large flocks:
PIED WAGTAIL, CLEWERS LANE
Finally, everyone loves a robin and so here is a picture of one, perched at the top of a small tree, early in the morning, loudly declaring that this territory belongs to him (or her).