NATURE NOTES FOR 25 SEPTEMBER 2014
I can tell it’s September because small dollops of what look like blackcurrant yoghurt have started to appear on our car. These are, of course, the fruity droppings of a range of bird species that are taking advantage of what the Woodland Trust has said is a record-breaking year for wild berries.
Soon, millions of winter visitors will be arriving in Yorkshire to gorge themselves on the wild crop, in particular fieldfares and redwings, two continental thrushes that we only see in our county in winter.
If you head out on a starry night you can actually hear this arrival taking place, as the redwings – Europe’s smallest thrush – call to each other in flight with a thin, high-pitched note. It is a wonderful spectacle to witness.
When the first aircraft radars were developed the radar operators were amazed to see that flocks of migrating birds lit up their screens. On autumn evenings, they could even track the progress of these migrating flocks as they approached the British coastline.
Another ‘wild sign’ left by nature in our neighbourhood are the silvery slug tracks left on the walls of people’s houses.
We often come home in the evening to find slugs making their way up the front of our house (never downwards!), with most at or below door level at tea time. Then, as we leave for work in the morning, the sun often picks out a remarkable record of their nocturnal journeys as their slimy trails reveal themselves – miniature slug super-highways heading right up to the roof of our house.
I can only assume that these very mobile slugs have become habitual ‘house climbers’ in Otley in order to profit from a lofty food supply. Yet the strange thing is the intriguing trails are only ever abundant on OUR house – never the neighbours’!
As I write these notes there are still large numbers of swallows and house martins feeding around our house and perching on the overhead wires in loose groups.
We usually get an accumulation of these-insect eating aerial feeders at this time of year, and these are surely migrating birds from further north dropping into a staging site that has a good food supply. This year there seems to have been a record-breaking gathering – a sure sign of a good breeding season for these long-distance travellers.
Brin Best, Wharfedale Naturalists’ Society
BRIN BEST – Award-winning author and educational consultant
9 Throstle Nest Close
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Photo by By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.