Insects hang on through first frost

PUBLISHED: 11:22 10 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:21 28 May 2010

The month began with a shiver, with the first overnight frost on November 1. The stars shone brightly and the northerly airflow brought air temperatures well down too. It was quite sad really as I was confident that it would see off the last of the butter

The month began with a shiver, with the first overnight frost on November 1. The stars shone brightly and the northerly airflow brought air temperatures well down too.

It was quite sad really as I was confident that it would see off the last of the butterflies and dragonflies that had been at large, brightening up the days.

However, come the next day, it soon became clear that the insects were considerably tougher than I thought with four species of butterfly and several common darter dragonflies still around.

The line-up was red admiral, peacock, comma and most amazingly of all, a tiny, delicate female holly blue - a very late individual indeed.

These 'hangers-on' rely on the last of the flowering plants to sip nectar and tend to stay faithful to the same flowerheads. There aren't many around now and they certainly can't afford to waste what little energy they have left flying around in search of others.

Some of the darters were still taking advantage of their prolonged lifespans by mating and making sure they played their part in ensuring another generation's arrival next June. Others were basking in sunny spots, such as walls, enjoying the somewhat tepid warmth of the early winter sunshine.

At the same time as celebrating in their survival for another day at least, an excellent, heavy passage of incoming fieldfares was going on overhead. These Scandinavian thrushes always seem to arrive in force once the wind turns to the north and hoards were pouring in, heading westwards in big, noisy flocks.

There were morning counts (this is when the majority arrive) of thousands in some parts and very few of us would have failed to have been 'overflown' by fieldfares at some stage during the first week of November.

They will keep arriving throughout the month, so remember to keep your eyes skywards and listen out for their chuckling calls. They flash their brilliant-white underwings as they pass over.

It is very exciting to witness bird migration and wonderful to see the hungry masses arriving for winter.

The berry crop is their first target. Once it has been devoured, the thrushes rely more on worms and other invertebrates in the soil.

Redwings arrived earlier, but they were still coming in alongside their larger, more colourful cousins, dashing through the treetops in smaller groups and as singletons.

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