Ranger’s Notebook – What To Look For In Autumn

Joanna Lawrence, the Fleet Pond Ranger, writes:

As winter draws in there seems to still be plenty of wildlife to see around Fleet Pond.  Many birds will be feeding themselves up for the winter by feasting on berries and seeds, and bats can still be seen flying around at dusk.  Bats are very busy at this time of year as the males continue looking for females to mate with, while at the same time searching for suitable winter hibernation sites and building up their fat reserves for the winter by feeding on insects.  One adult bat can eat about 3,000 insects in one night.

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Southern Hawker Dragonfly

If you see any large dragonflies still flying this late in the year, they are Hawkers, the largest type of dragonfly in Britain which can be found flying until late October.  Any seen at Fleet Pond are most likely to be Southern Hawkers, a very beautiful blue, green and black dragonfly, or maybe Brown Hawkers, which have distinctive brown wings.  Common Darters, a smaller red dragonfly, may also be seen until early November.

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Web Of The European Garden Spider

This photo of a spider’s web in the early morning dew was taken on Wood Lane Heath.  The spider that makes these webs is the European Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus. You have probably seen many of these spiders in your garden at this time of year hanging upside-down in the centre of its web.  These are known as the orb web spiders as they create this orb web in order to catch prey.  Not all spiders however make this type of web.  Some families of spider hunt visually and stalk their prey, and then there are numerous different types of spun webs with many families spinning their own variation.

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Fly Agaric Fungus

Autumn is also a time of the year when the majority of our fungi are fruiting, like the poisonous species Fly Agaric.  This species is easily recognisable due to its bright red colour and can be seen in many places around Fleet Pond.  The one in the photo above was taken at Sandy Bay.

The part of the fungi that you can see is the fruiting body containing the spores, similar to the fruits and seeds produced by plants. The rest of the fungi is hidden underground as thin white threads known as Mycelium.

By breaking down dead organic material, fungi continue the cycle of nutrients through ecosystems. The majority of plants and trees on earth could not grow without the mycelium that inhabit their roots and supply them with essential nutrients. Look out for the multitude of fungi in bloom at this time of year.

(Please note that it is illegal to pick or remove fungi from Fleet Pond Local Nature Reserve.)

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