After the daily outings of week one for the remainder of October I was back at work, so things became a bit harder for doing #WildOctober.
It’s not so much the getting outside that’s hard – there is a small park near work and I try to go for a walk around it every lunchtime. The struggle is finding interesting things to photograph. For the last few years this park has had a lot of wild flowers, brambles, fungi and lots of insects and I’ve taken quite a few photos there in the past. I’m not sure what happened this year, maybe it was the wet and mild weather of last winter, but that wide array of nature was almost entirely missing. During the week I would therefore be mostly looking for things in and around the garden at home in the evenings.
This didn’t get off to a great start with a wet and gloomy Monday meaning that the already darker evening was even darker than usual, but there’s always something out there to see and as the week went on the weather improved.
The weekend weather forecast was for a mixture of sunny spells and heavy showers, so I decided to stay home and spend some time in the garden in daylight. Autumn crocuses were still well in flower and on the Saturday I noticed the bright pink berries on my Spindleberry tree were opening up to reveal the even brighter orange seeds inside. Sunday saw rain in the morning followed by sunshine, which brought out the fruiting bodies of some delicate pleated inkcap mushrooms in the lawn.
As the fading evening light became more of a problem, I’d decided to break out my lights. I have a pair of Manfrotto Lumimuse 6 LED lights which I’d already used for the chestnut leaf photo on the Friday. During the next week they got a lot more use, with the chestnut, daisy and even the feather (which looks like it was taken in the sun) below all being taken using one of these lights for extra illumination.
The third weekend of October saw nice sunny weather on Saturday, which brought out the common carder bees to the still flowering crocuses and really lit up the yellowing ash leaves against the blue sky.
As the Sunday was also forecast to be dry, albeit with some overcast spells, I decided to head over to RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes. The weather mostly held out giving a nice warm day, although it did get surprisingly cold on the few occasions when the sun was obscured by cloud. There was a lot to see: tufted ducks, cormorants and swans out on the lakes, common darter dragonflies still hunting along the hedges and the autumn colours starting to come through in the leaves. There were also an unexpectedly high number of harlequin ladybird exuviae around where the adults had emerged, although I didn’t actually see many adults around.
Monday and Tuesday of the final week of October I was out in the garden with my lights in the evening again. On the Wednesday and Thursday I got some unexpected (and unwelcome) assistance with the weekday photos: due to illness I was at home during the day so was able to take a couple of photos in slightly better light. I say slightly better because although it was daytime the week was very overcast so it was still quite dark. By Friday it was so dark in the evening that I gathered some leaves, acorns and knopper galls together and had to use entirely artificial light for the photo.
A cold and overcast Saturday in the garden on this final weekend, so much so that the morning dew was still on the lawn at lunchtime! I also noticed that one of my honeysuckle’s was now covered in small black berries.
For the last Sunday of #WildOctober I decided to go somewhere new again, so I headed off to Wakerley Great Wood for a walk around the Deer Park Trail. This is the longest of the waymarked trails around the wood, although there can be longer walks if you plan one out yourself. It was another cold and grey day but the autumn colour in the trees and berries was brightening everything up quite nicely. There were a LOT of squirrels around, running up and down the trees and around the woodland floor.
And so we come to the last day of October. With the now quite dark evenings I decided to get up earlier than normal and have a hunt around the garden in the morning light before heading off work. I found a small number of these fungi growing on one of my slowly rotting log piles, they seemed like an appropriate way to end a series of autumn photos.
However October wasn’t quite done yet!
I hadn’t thought anymore about the harlequin ladybird exuviae I’d seen at Fen Drayton Lakes, although the numbers were high it’s not unusual to see them at this time of year as the larvae turn into adults and then go off to find somewhere to overwinter.
However during lunchtime walks over the following week I’d also seen an unusual number of adult harlequin ladybirds flying around or gathering together in large numbers. I still didn’t really think much more about it until a member of the Countryfile magazine team mentioned that they’d seen the same thing happening, which then sparked a lot more people to mention that they’d seen them as well.
Over the next week or so similar reports started coming in from all over the country, with the unusually high number of adults gathering together in houses, sheds, etc, to overwinter, with the reports peaking over the final weekend in October. There were so many it ended up becoming a national news story!
BBC News: We’re being invaded – by ladybirds.
And with that final burst of nature, #WildOctober was over. For 2016 at least!