I haven’t written a monthly wildlife post for a while, but I am excited to write about October wildlife! There aren’t many butterflies around anymore which I am really missing, but there is still lots to see. September was a hot one, and I’m sure we will see the negative effect of this next year on butterflies. However, the hot weather has been good for one butterfly species. Red Admiral butterflies have been on the rise, with a 338% increase in the Big Butterfly Count this year compared to last. Last year I saw Red Admirals well into October, so we are likely to see them again this year.
As the temperature drops and the food available dwindles, autumn is the time to provide lots of food for the birds in your garden. Each species has its favourite food, but whenever I get half a coconut of suet it goes within a few days! Peanuts, sunflower seeds and fatballs are other favourites among the birds. Remember to give your bird feeder a good clean every few weeks, especially as it starts raining more often. Wet/damp bird food can cause a disease that spreads among birds and has seen a decline in Greenfinches.
Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
The Jay is part of the Crow family. Although it is much more colourful, it is the shyest bird in the family. Their body is a mixture of grey, pinky buff colour with blue and black striking wings. Jays mainly eat acorns, nuts, seeds and insects. But if in need, they won’t shy away from a small mammal or even a nestling. They have a symbiotic relationship with oak trees, burying up to 5,000 acorns each Autumn. They don’t eat them all, which means that some of the acorns develop into oak trees.
You can see Jays across most of the UK, with the exception of Scotland. It lives in woodlands, parks and gardens, preferring areas with oak trees around. They breed in late April, and are mates for life! ♡ Every now and again, I see Jays in my garden – often two at a time.
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Coal Tits are more monotone than the birds in the tit family, with a grey back and pale cream tummy. It has a black and white head and is smaller than blue tits and great tits. They eat insects, nuts and seeds; often storing them to eat later. They store their food in multiple places to reduce the risk of someone else stealing all their food. Coal tits can be seen across all of the UK, and are spotted in gardens, parks and woodlands, favouring conifer woods.
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Bramblings are similar in size and pattern to Chaffinches, but they have an orange breast and white tummy. Their wings are a mixture of black, brown and grey; they have a black head. They eat seeds in winter and insects in summer, so it is extra important to make sure you have seeds in your bird feeder! Brambling numbers depend on food supplies each winter. They can be seen in most of England and Wales but are more rarer in Northern Ireland and Scotland. These birds can be spotted from mid-September until April. You can spot Brambling birds in farmland fields, woodlands and particularly beech woods.
Continue reading: October wildlife to spot in the UK
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
The final bird I am going to write about in the October wildlife guide is Starling. Starling are pretty special birds because they look black, but their feathers have a greeny purple iridescent look. They are smaller than blackbirds, are very noisy birds and spend most of the year in flocks together. Their diet consists of invertebrates and fruit. Starling are found all across the UK, apart from the highest points of Scotland. They are one of the most common garden birds, though are declining elsewhere. You can see them in a variety of habitats.
Other garden birds to spot in October:
- Song Thrush
- Blue Tit
- House Sparrow
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Red Admirals are a common butterfly and can be found in almost any habitat. The most favoured caterpillar foodplant is the common nettle (Urtica dioica), but they also feed on small nettle (Urtica urens). They can be seen well into the autumn, even November! As there are fewer flowers in October and November, they feed on rotting fruit. So if you have a fruit tree, wait to see if it attracts any butterflies first.
Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
The Clouded Yellow butterfly is a migrant butterfly flying from North Africa and Southern Europe. The caterpillar foodplant includes wild and cultivated Clovers (Trifolium spp.), and Lucerne (Medicago sativa). They also use Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Clouded Yellows can be seen in any habitat across the UK. But they prefer the southern coast of England where they favour unimproved chalk downland. You can spot them from May until November.
Other butterflies to see in October:
- Speckled Wood
- Brown Hairstreak (in southern England)
- Common Blue
- Holly Blue (potentially!)
Other October wildlife to spot in the UK
We often think of summer as the prime time for fruit, but October is the month for Sloe (Prunus spinosa). Sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn hedge tree which is very common. I have seen some trees on the allotment site near me, though they seem to have started early. The butterflies love the rotten fruit, I saw 3 red admirals and a comma fluttering around it. They are known to be bitter fruit, so are often sweetened and paired with gin.
Apples are also ready for harvest in October, and the fallen ones are great for wildlife. Mammals including badgers, hedgehogs and mice eat apples so make sure to keep an eye out for them! As with the sloe berries, insects are attracted to the sweetness of apples. This includes wasps, hoverflies, butterflies and ants. Apple trees provide habitats for birds, specifically their twigs for nesting sites and homes. Mistletoe is supported which in turn supports the Mistletoe Marble Moth (Celypha woodiana).
Sourced from Cornwall Wildlife Trust.
I am hoping to spot some new (to me) fungi species this autumn. At university, there is a mycology society which I intend to join! I don’t know a lot about fungi, but here are some of the species that I thought looked cool.
- Ballerina Waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis) – a pale pink mushroom that looks like a tutu.
- Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)
- Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)
- Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) – the classic fungi, think of the emoji.
- Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica) – the name is based on their look, not taste.
Which October wildlife do you hope to spot?
More autumn-related posts: