Nature Notes – November 2017
I start this month’s notes with a tale of two frogs in the boiler room of St. James’ church. I should explain that the boiler room is some eight feet under the church and is cut out of solid sandstone rock. Because of this there is a square hole, 1x1x1 foot deep in the corner to gather any water which flows over the sandstone from outside the boiler room. A small sump pump sits in the hole to remove any quantity of water but there is always a small amount left in the bottom. Two months ago, David Davies and myself were giving the boiler room its annual ‘tidy up’ only to find two frogs in the water at the bottom of the sump pump hole. With my rubber glove on I managed to catch one frog, put it into a bucket and David gave it its freedom. I also caught the second one but as David climbed the ladder out of the boiler room with the frog, it jumped out of the bucket back into the sump hole and is still there! Now, as soon as you lift the hatch the frog moves to hide under the sump pump. How they managed to get in there is a mystery and I can only assume they feed on the hundreds of midges which live in the boiler room.
Many of you will recall the few very warm days we had in mid-October. On one of those days I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. All the years I have been birdwatching I cannot remember hearing this in the autumn before. I was in the greenhouse at the time I first heard it and came out to listen again. The bird was in a tree close by and it drummed a further six times before flying off. Whether this was the effect of the warm temperature or just a bird claiming a territory, I do not know it but it proved once again you can always learn something new from mother nature.
I have mentioned in previous months the low counts of butterflies in our area and I was interested in a newspaper article from the national Butterfly Conservation Group stating that throughout the country it had been a very poor year. The field volunteers who monitor set areas each summer through the UK reported very low numbers with the exception of the Red Admiral. In recent weeks I too have seen many Red Admirals in the garden and one unexpected recording of the first Painted Lady Butterfly of this summer.
You know winter is coming when you see large skeins of wild geese flying across the sky. I am fairly certain the flock we were watching recently were Pink-footed Geese and by their height it would suggest they were heading for the Lancashire mosses.
Several people have mentioned that the birds are eating the berries earlier this year than usual. Why I do not know. This is before the winter Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares arrive in our area for the winter.
Storm ‘Brian’ passed through without too much damage the other week. I hope that we will be spared too many winter storms in the coming months.