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
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
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