Nature Notes – October 2016

The caterpillars pupate, and spend the winter within the fallen leaf. The adult moth emerges in spring, a narrow winged moth, reddish-brown with three white cross stripes (does that make it sound as if I’ve ever seen one?). It is small, some ¼ inch long, about the size of a clothes moth. Apart from the damage it does, the most dramatic thing about this insect is the rate at which it has spread, since it first appeared here from the continent as recently as 2002. It already occurs over most of England and much of Wales. Presumably it spreads due to adults being dispersed by the wind, and dead infested leaves being accidentally transported. Infestation may be reduced by collecting and destroying fallen leaves. Interestingly, some trees, especially the red flowered variety, seem to be much less prone.

At the time of writing, there are still a small number of Swallows in the air over the villages. Some of these may be birds with late broods, or they may be from further afield on their way south.

I have written before about Robins at this time of year. They make themselves very conspicuous with a sharp ‘tic tic’ call, and especially the fact that in autumn and winter, unlike other birds, they sing. Singing in spring is a sign of advertising and defending a territory in which the pair can breed. In winter a similar territory is occupied by only a single bird. The young of the year and one of the pair, most often the female, are driven out. These birds move away to find an empty territory, or may even migrate across the Channel. The remaining bird will sing, and many people detect a thinner, more wistful quality than in the spring. Early next year a partner will turn up, often the previous mate if it has survived.

By Geoffrey Abbott on September 30th, 2016