CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Naturewatch: November

PUBLISHED: 14:59 11 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:08 20 February 2013

the slow worm

the slow worm

Moving in, moving out or simply settling down, Suffolk's wildlife is now preparing for the challenge of winter, as John Grant explains

Moving in, moving out or simply settling down, Suffolks wildlife is now preparing for the challenge of winter, as John Grant explains




November is natures nearly month. The autumn is nearly over, and, although some of us may say perish the thought, the long, dark days of winter are nearly upon us.
The miracles of migration we have witnessed over the past few weeks have nearly ceased, the year is nearly at an end and much in the Suffolk countryside has nearly gone to sleep.
In all those cases the key word is nearly nearly, but not quite.
Take migration. For the naturalist, the very word conjures up visions that are so awe-inspiring there is barely a word in the English language that does it justice.
We saw this spectacle reach its peak in September and October as myriad migrating birds arrived in Suffolk from far-flung shores, either to spend the entire winter with us or use our countys bounties as fuel for another mind-boggling leg of a mind-boggling journey to who knows where.
Weather-induced movements from the Continent into Britain, or from Britain to some point south, may well take place during the winter but the more widely recognised phenomenon of migration the regular, seasonal movement of organisms from summer quarters to winter quarters all across our planet is now easing down, at least for many bird species.
However, especially in the first half of November, there is often an autumnal sting in the tail a late surge of the more hardy species from the far north.
If we have an Indian summer it is even quite probable that some summer visitors may linger with us species as quintessentially part of the British summer as swallow and house martin are increasingly being recorded during the month.
But it is the more northerly species that really spice up a Novembers day along the Suffolk coast.
A brisk northerly breeze will bring in a host of seabirds to our inshore waters sea duck such as eider, common and velvet scoters and long-tailed duck can well be watched headed south past our resorts that are themselves preparing for the winter months ahead.
Also at sea in a November northerly will be the one species that ornithologists associate more than any other with the month the endearing, diminutive little auk. This tiny waif from the high Arctic has a massive population some 12.75 million pairs are thought to breed between Baffin Island in the west and the evocatively named Severnaya Zemlya in the east and most winter around the edge of the pack ice. But some disperse further south and, with a northerly blow pushing them into the North Sea, they can sometimes be seen whirring along on stubby little wings off our shores in what is known as a wreck of displaced birds seeking their required zooplankton and small fish far from their ice-gripped summer homes.
Inland, however, the spectacle of November is not what it once was. In the not-too-distant past, great feeding flocks of sparrows, finches and buntings would congregate on Suffolks stubble fields, ekeing out a winter subsistence of various seeds and grains.
Not so now. The onslaught of winter-sown cereal crops has seen to that. Stubble is now a rare habitat in winter, mores the pity, and our farmland breeding birds yellowhammers, corn buntings and the like, together with their visiting cousins from the Continent, suffer catastrophic losses as a result.
Some creatures, however, have a rather canny way of avoiding the need to exploit dwindling winter food supplies. These, of course, are our hibernators. Just imagine, missing out on winter altogether and indulging in the laziest of all activities months of sleep!
Well, it may sound an attractive proposition but there is a catch. Before the humble hedgehog and his fellow hibernators can settle down to pass away the winter months in suspended animation, they have to prepare for it by storing up the fat reserves throughout November to see them through until the warmth of next spring causes them to stir once more.
So all the British bats, our dormice, frogs toads, newts, slow worms, snakes and many insects the hibernators and those species that enter a winter torpor still face the challenge of survival. And they have to choose the right place for their winter slumber too. Hibernation really isnt as simple as it sounds.
Manys the time a sleeping hedgehog, for example, has had a rude awakening as the bonfire under which it has snuggled suddenly starts going up in smoke and flamesthe perils faced by our wildlife are many and varied indeed.
For some humans, November might well mark a time for a good brisk walk in the Suffolk countryside followed by feet-up at home and some hibernation of their own, albeit for just a few hours! Peter Lawson, our old botanist friend has, as ever, some advice for us.
He writes: Now we have reached November there are few wild flowers to be found, with just the occasional bloom produced on re-growth from earlier verge cutting. Until the first frosts come, though, do look out for unfamiliar flowers and grasses under your bird feeders, as in mild autumns many of these seeds will germinate and grow quickly to maturity, and may even flower.
This is a time for finding out more about those unfamiliar wildflowers you have seen during the past year, some of which I have highlighted in these articles.
This year saw the publication of A Flora of Suffolk by Martin Sanford and Richard Fisk. This attractive and beautifully illustrated book of 550 pages gives information on every plant ever recorded in the wild in this county, covering locations, habitats, history and lots more. All except the commonest have a dot map showing their distribution, and many are illustrated. Chapters on habitats, geology and agricultural crops over the past 150 years all help to explain how and why our flora is what it is.
This beautifully presented book, containing as it does colour photographs of habitats and individual plants, would make, at 40, a wonderful Christmas present for anyone interested in our Suffolk flora.
And with thoughts turning to Christmas, the year seems to have flashed by. Its nearly over but, like the many natural nearlies of November, not quite. December may have some surprises in store for us and not just those we find in our Christmas stockings!




NOW'S THE TIME TO SEE


BRENT GEESE: Streaming past our coastline in great lines that sometimes stretch for many hundreds of birds, the dark-bellied brent geese are heading for our shores. Their welcome arrival with us is a stirring November sight as they head into our estuaries from their far-off breeding grounds along the Arctic coasts of northern Siberia, particularly the Taimyr Peninsula.
With onshore winds, these small dark geese can be seen low over the sea close in along the entire Suffolk coast. Their cousins, the pale-bellied brent from Svalbard and the black brant from North America and far eastern Asia, are sometimes seen in Suffolk but the dark-bellied birds are now firmly established winter visitors in their thousands.
If you have not witnessed a big coastal migration never fear, they can be seen in and around the south Suffolk estuaries, particularly those of the rivers Deben, Orwell and Stour, throughout the winter. Make a date with them, they are an enchanting species and their soft calls are a winters delight.

0 comments

More from Out & About

Tue, 12:04

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more
Tue, 09:34

With breath-taking beaches, stunning stately homes and picture-perfect places, it’s no wonder so many TV shows choose to film in Suffolk. Here are 20 that set up camp in our county

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

It’s 70 years since the RSPB took over the conservation and management of Suffolk’s only island, rare and fragile wildlife habitat under constant threat from the forces of the sea | Words & Photos: Mike Trippitt

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

With so many locations of historical mystery and intrigue, Suffolk can be a spooky place to visit. Here are 10 spots aspiring paranormal investigators must experience

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Its unusual building? Intriguing history? Or distinctly weird collection of contents? Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Beccles & District Museum in Sir John Leman’s House high above the River Waveney, was home to an historic free school for over 350 years | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

There’s nowhere quite like Suffolk during the festive period with so many different places putting you right in the Christmas spirit. Here are 10 great places for you to shop, stay and visit

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Make sure there’s plenty of battery on your camera, you’re going to be doing a lot of snapping. We’ve picked 18 places in Suffolk where you can find the very best views

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

It may be Suffolk’s coastal towns and villages that largely get all the attention but our county town has been one Britain’s most important port locations and has an incredibly rich culture and heritage. Here are 24 reasons you should love Ipswich

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

We’re lucky to have such a diverse selection of towns and villages in Suffolk to explore, experience and live in. Here are 9 must-see streets to consider for your next journey round the county.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine regular newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search