Late show seasons to be cheerful

PUBLISHED: 12:02 17 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:22 28 May 2010

THE trees seem reluctant to give up their leaves this winter. As I write, looking out of the window it would be easy to think it was the start of October with the oaks appearing fully clothed in yellowing leaves. This extra, prolonged cover is providing

THE trees seem reluctant to give up their leaves this winter. As I write, looking out of the window it would be easy to think it was the start of October with the oaks appearing fully "clothed" in yellowing leaves.

This extra, prolonged cover is providing plenty of shelter for late insects and birds. We seem to be some time away from the times when spotting smaller birds like treecreepers and goldcrests is a lot easier because of the bareness of the trees.

I have been recording so many "latest ever" dates for various things this month, including house martin on November 4, migrant hawker on November 8, and speckled wood and red admiral on November 9.

Insects may seem very delicate and vulnerable, but occurrences such as these remind us they are actually very hardy - and they need to be to survive.

Most wintering birds have made an appearance now although, from a numbers point of view, there are still many more to arrive.

In fact, the arrival of wintering species happens over a lengthy period. They do not all arrive at once and are then present for the winter.

Arrivals continue all through the winter into February, when we may get influxes of wild geese, so numbers are constantly changing.

Cold weather on the continent brings in fresh arrivals, while food shortages or particularly hard weather here may see them head to the continent and abandon us.

Birds regularly move around in response to the weather, too. On the rare occasions we do get proper winter weather now, you may well see flocks of thrushes, lapwings, golden plovers and others flying purposefully in formation, heading to new places.

Where are all the hedgehogs? I only hope you have been seeing more than I have. I can't recall the last time I saw one, dead or otherwise, which is extremely worrying. I honestly don't think I have seen one all year.

This shortage must be related to lack of food (slugs are a favourite of these spiny shufflers). It can't be a case of poor observational skills from me, as I'm not seeing the usual sad sight of squashed individuals as road traffic casualties either.

Hopefully, it isn't the case everywhere and it just happens that I have been spending a lot of time in hedgehog-less zones.

Of course, most are in hibernation now, so it will probably be several months before I do, finally, get to see one of my favourite mammals again.

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