The highlight of the month was undoubtedly a female wasp spider seen on the 4th. Fortunately, its striking black, white and lemon-yellow colouration saved it from the mower while cutting the meadow near the cemetery. This species is a recent arrival in the UK from the continent and is on the increase in England.
Bird sightings included a tree pipit on the 7th at Mill Hill. This bird would have been passing through on migration to its wintering grounds in Africa. Nuthatches have also been vociferous this month and been heard calling near the station and at Mill Hill, while one chiffchaff has also, still been in song before its likely departure south. Several sightings of Kingfisher have also been received including a juvenile bird.
A small heath butterfly was seen near the cemetery on the 18th while at least six small coppers and two common blues were still on the wing on the last day of the month, feeding on ragwort at Mill Hill. This month is also the time to see common darter dragonflies. They often return repeatedly to the same spot where those with orange – red abdomens can be identified as males.
Many of you may have noticed that some of the gorse this year has been shrouded in copious amounts of a fine white web-like material. This is produced by the gorse spider mite which is bright red, less than 0.5mm in length but can live in very large colonies.
Butterflies provided the highlights for October with up to 10 small coppers feeding on the ragwort at Mill Hill on the 8th, while the last speckled wood was seen on the 22nd. However, on the last day of the month, on the warmest Halloween on record, there were 3 red admirals, 1 small tortoiseshell and best of all, a stunning clouded yellow, also feeding on the ragwort at Mill Hill.
Encouragingly, within days of the digger leaving, a grey wagtail was patrolling at the Tadpole pond on the 27th. Hopefully the area will be to its liking and a pair may well be attracted to breed there next spring.
We also had a very successful bat walk at Barnes Pond on the 16th where the most common response on the bat detectors was around 55kHz, indicating soprano pipistrelles although 45kHz was also noted for the common pipistrelle. Occasionally, frequencies of around 20kHz were recorded which may well have been for Leisler’s bat, which has been recorded on the Common before.
While mowing the bramble near Rocks Lane, Mike spotted some mistletoe on a nearby apple tree. Judging from the size of the clump we can only assume that it’s a result of the seed we planted a few years ago. Anyway, it was great to see and hopefully the birds will get to work in distributing it elsewhere.
Elsewhere, the autumnal flock of small birds doing the rounds included two goldcrests and a tree creeper at Mill Hill on the 6th.
The gorse mites are still very much in evidence. While there has been one frost, we will have to see how they fare throughout the winter.
Finally, there were four blackbirds feeding on the rowan berries at Mill Hill on the 26th. Interestingly, the two males had dark bills and it certainly used to be thought that this identified them as being from northern and eastern Europe. While it is more than possible these are continental birds, at the start of the autumn it is probably too easy to mix up with first year birds but those seen in early spring that lack the bright yellow bill and eye ring may well be winter visitors about to return to the continent.