Autumn has arrived and with it the end of the main survey season for protected species; in this blog post we take a look at what some of those species are getting up to at this time of year.
In October, bats are in the midst of building up fat reserves, seeking out hibernation sites, and mating (‘pups’ aren’t, however, born until the following June). During periods of cold weather, bats will enter periods of torpor and as temperatures continue to drop over the coming weeks, they will go into hibernation in November/December – lowering body temperature and metabolic rate to conserve energy whilst they live on fat reserves. They will occasionally emerge to feed during the winter months, if temperatures are warm enough.
Amphibians and Reptiles
As with bats, our native amphibians (common frog, common toad, great crested newt, smooth newt, palmate newt, natterjack toad and pool frog) and reptiles (common lizard, sand lizard, slow worm, adder, grass snake and smooth snake) are also looking for suitable places in which to overwinter. The type of ‘hibernacula’ that they will seek out, depends on the species and their individual requirements. Great crested newts, for example, tuck themselves away under features such as rocks, dead wood and in compost heaps.
Autumn is a season of change for our UK birds in many respects. Summer migrants (often insect eaters) leave for warmer shores, whilst winter migrants arrive in the UK to take advantage of milder winters, often from eastern Europe. Passage migrants also stop off to refuel on their migration north or south. Resident birds and visitors will be preparing themselves for colder temperatures, by feasting on nature’s bounty of berries, seeds and nuts.
At this time of year, badgers are busy fattening themselves up, ready for the winter months ahead. Whilst they don’t hibernate over winter, badgers will feed less often, and spend more time in their setts underground, until warmer temperatures the following year result in the birth of cubs and an increase in activity.
Otter and Water Vole
Like badgers, otter and water vole do not hibernate over winter. They have dense fur and a waterproof coat that helps to keep them warm over the cold months, although water voles do become less active over winter. Autumn is a good time of year to spot evidence of otter and water vole along river banks, as vegetation dies back.
Hazel dormice do hibernate over the cold winter months. They hibernate at ground level, under logs or at the base of trees, for example, or just beneath ground level where temperatures fluctuate less. This behaviour is in contrast to the active season, where they rarely come down to ground level. In autumn, dormice are busy fattening themselves up for the winter ahead.
Whilst some of our native species are busy preparing themselves to hibernate over the winter months, our ecologists are very much alert and active! In fact, this time of year is highly advantageous for undertaking a number of surveys, such as scoping surveys for bats and badger surveys. If you have a project that needs ecological input, you can contact us via the ‘request a quote’ button at the top of this webpage.