Wildlife Notes for Great Ovens Heath by John Wright - November

The month started with a mild day, blue sky and plenty to see. In just over two hours I saw or heard ten dartford warblers, four of which were singing males. Clearly the Great Ovens population has started to increase and now we must hope for a mild winter. Several stonechats, linnets and a yellowhammer were still on the heath and temperatures were high enough for a red admiral and common darter dragonflies to be on the wing. I even saw a late season field grasshopper.

Common Darter
Common Darter

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Several crossbills flew overheard, recognisable from their very strident 'kip' calls while four ravens used a thermal to gain height and eventually disappear from view. Meanwhile, at ground level, fungi were much in evidence, the most obvious being fly agaric, a species whose underground hyphae are associated with the roots of birch trees, for mutual benefit.The fungus supplies water and nutrients to the tree roots which in turn provide the fungus with its energy needs in the form of sugars.


Fly Agaric

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

A few days later, in walking through the northern end of the reserve I noticed a small flock of six reed buntings, a pair of bullfinches, another stonechat and also a pair of mistle thrushes, the latter perching on an isolated dead maritime pine within the heath.


Male Stonechat

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

By the 9th we had had some rain and the day was rather overcast, but green and greated spotted woodpeckers were seen and a small flock of long-tailed tits and also a tree creeper were feeding in deciduous trees in the SW corner of the reserve by the gas reduction station.


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Ken Dolbear

Mild sunny conditions on the 17th and lack of any autumn frosts meant that there were still several common darters on the wing together with another Red Admiral butterfly. On the same day and on further brief visits a day or two later dartford warblers were calling or singing and crossbills, reed buntings, bullfinches and also a couple of goldcrests were seen. Whereas some goldcrests are resident in Britain, many others migrate across the North Sea from the continent of Europe in autumn, an impressive feat for a bird weighing no more than 5-7 grams - little more than a 5p coin.


Goldcrest

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

On the 23rd another bright sunny day provided mild enough conditions for one of our overwintering butterflies, the Peacock to be on the wing. On the next day, despite more breezy conditions, a common darter was flying and crossbill, bullfinch, reed bunting and dartford warbler were seen.Two pairs of stonechats were still finding sufficient food on the heath but redwing flying over suggested that winter conditions could not be far away.     


Redwing

Photograph: Ken Dolbear