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Nature Notes  November 2009
By Pat and Charles

There have been good patches of autumn colour, especially on beech and cherry trees. September and October’s dry weather caused an early start to leaf fall, now much accelerated by November’s winds. Most oaks will keep their leaves late and are still green.

In our October 2006 newsletter we described how the premature browning of horse chestnut leaves is caused by the caterpillars of a tiny moth feeding within the thickness of the leaves. The leaves of other plants are mined by larvae of tiny moths, flies and beetles, usually in quite characteristic ways, but with less devastating effect. In an hour on West Common last Friday we found ‘leafmines’ of at least 16 species of moths on 14 different trees and bushes and there must be many more to find.

In June we were hoping for a summer enlivened by the offspring of the vast numbers of Painted Lady butterflies that had arrived in Britain from North Africa. Sadly most flew on northwards without stopping in Bedfordshire. Some even got as far as Iceland! Hordes of caterpillars were reported chewing thistles in other parts of the country but many succumbed to the wet weather in July and August. The resulting butterflies were around until early October but the largest numbers were seen elsewhere in England. So far we haven’t heard of a return southward migration this autumn.

October is usually when the winter migrant birds start arriving with us. Thousands of redwings and some fieldfares were reported passing through Bedfordshire. A small flock stopped briefly in our neighbour’s tree on the 18th. Even some of our common resident birds, such as blackbirds, may be joined by others from the Continent.

And finally, there is further exciting news about our elusive dormice: since our report last month of a dormouse nest in one of our boxes, we now have confirmation from Steve Halton our local expert of nests in three boxes, with one adult and 2 young seen.

 

The Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - website:

Click on any small image to see an enlarged version

An adult Dormouse emerges from one of the nesting boxes

Phytomyza ilicis mine on Holly

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Stigmella aurella mine
on Bramble

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