Wildlife Notes for Great Ovens Heath by John Wright - October

October can be a fascinating month as the weather switches between breezy wet days and mild sunny days. Throughout the month some birds are moving through and other residents are preparing for the onset of winter.
The 5th October was windy and overcast with several meadow pipits and pied wagtails flying overhead, supplemented with a redpoll and a couple of crossbills. These last two species were numerous in Morden Bog throughout October and large numbers have also been recorded along the south coast.

Redpoll

Redpoll

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Linnets were gathering into autumn flocks and goldfinches plus greenfinches were also in evidence. Despite the windy conditions, stonechats and a dartford warbler were spotted on the gorse.
Common Ivy was in flower, ready to attract bees, wasps, flies and butterflies on sunny days and the mild days of September had encouraged heath milkwort and even wild strawberry to start flowering again.





Ivy Bee on Ivy flower

Photograph: Ken Dolbear


On 11th October, I was walking down the firebreak in the NW corner of the heath when a 6-point Sika stag burst through the hedge on its way from Morden Bog to Great Ovens and Wareham Forest. This is the time of the autumn rut and clearly, this stag was pumped up and stood its ground, watching me intently for a while. After a two minute stand-off it jumped away in an exaggerated high prance to show how fit it was and disappeared around the side of the hill.





Sika Stag

Photograph: Michael Wright

Two days later, conditions were mild and sunny on the heath and Red Admirals and Speckled Wood butterflies, plus a Common Darter dragonfly were on the wing. The large dark hairy caterpillars of the Fox Moth were also very active,as they crawled across the footpaths and fed on heather shoots.



Fox Moth Caterpillar

Fox Moth Caterpillar

Photograph: John Wright

A roe deer watched me intently from the partial cover of a fallen maritime pine on the wet heath, but then took fright and made for cover in thick gorse as it realised I was watching it. A pair of ravens flew over, and there were also skylarks, meadow pipits and the odd redpoll and crossbill overhead, while linnets and stonechats could still be found on the heath. But what I found particularly pleasing was a lone woodlark calling and flying in a broad circle over the reserve - a bird conspicuous by its absence over the summer.



Pair of Ravens

Pair of Ravens

Photograph: Ken Dolbear


And finally, the warm weather encouraged some the local dartford warblers to reveal themselves with four birds seen in three separate locations within the reserve and several others just north of the reserve boundary.


Through the second half of the month the most notable developments included the appearance of a small flock of yellowhammers, the more regular recording of reed buntings which tend to stay overwinter and a green woodpecker. Given the continuing mild weather, there has been no incentive as yet for the linnets and stonechats to leave the heath to find more reliable sources of food over the winter.



Male Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting

Photograph: Ken Dolbear