Nature Notes November 2022

As we come towards the end of another year it’s time to look back over some of the more memorable wildlife that I have been fortunate enough to encounter over the last twelve months. October brought the highlight of my birding year with this Sparrowhawk swooping over my back garden. Although they have been fairly regular visitors over the years, this was by far the best view of this spectacular predator. They were almost extinct in the county in the middle of the last century due to the overuse of pesticides, but have since made a remarkable comeback.

Amongst the smaller animals, the moths have had an outstanding year in my garden, with more than ever before visiting my moth trap. Several of these were new to the garden, including this magnificent Striped Hawkmoth, a rather rare visitor to these parts. They are migrants that arrive in small numbers from the continent each year, but are usually found only in the south of England and Ireland. Another of our hawkmoth species, the Hummingbird Hawkmoth, has had an excellent year with numerous records coming in from throughout the country, with more than three times as many as usual in some places. I saw five individuals in my garden this year, compared to a grand total of three for the last 20 years put together. They are unable to survive out winters so we have to rely each year on another batch crossing the channel from southern France.

Another surprise visitor to my garden was this Common Toad, which although abundant over most of Leicestershire has never turned up here before. We have had ponds in the garden for more than 40 years with regular sightings of frogs and newts, but never a toad. They breed in deeper ponds each spring and then spend most of the year in log piles, amongst stones, or even in flower pots (which was where mine turned up). They feed on slugs and snails as well as many other invertebrates, so they truly are a gardener’s friend.

It seems unfair to single out just these three animals from more than 900 species of wildlife that I have seen in the county this year. I really do enjoy all of them, whether they are colourful, slimy, warty or whatever their apparent defects. Some are difficult, even impossible, to identify but that really need not affect your enjoyment of our wildlife. Each year with our changing climate, increasing use of pesticides and loss of wild habitat the abundance of animals and plant species decreases. I would urge you to take a good look at them whilst they are still around.