Nature Diary November

The first two weeks in November are often peak leaf-peeping time around the Lake District. If you can get there early on a windless morning you will get double the colour by making the most of any reflections - a landscape photographer's dream.

However, by the end of the month autumn colours are well and truly jaded, so colour will now need to be sought out among the evergreens. Here's a selection of locations that are worth checking out:

  • Beinn Eighe, Scotland (NH000650), postcode map
  • Gait Barrows, Lancashire (SD480772), map
  • Highbury Wood, Forest of Dean (SO540085), postcode NP25 4LX
  • Queen Elizabeth Country Park, South Downs (SU718186), postcode PO8 0QE

By this time of the year any remaining fruit will have no shortage of admirers. Birds will flock to blackberries, frantically pecking at any they find. The last tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral butterflies of summer are also drawn to the overripe and oozing berries. Woodmice stockpile crab apples and beech mast throughout the month in preparation for the tough times ahead, and jays continuously search for acorns in oak woods.

In years of large invasions the first waxwings will begin to appear. These beautiful birds feed on berries in flocks of various sizes. Out of town supermarket car parks are often surprisingly good sites. Landscape gardeners seem to use ideal fruit bearing shrubs for decoration, and these birds find them irresistible. They mob a bush and feed for a while before flying off, only to return twenty or thirty minutes later to do the same again. Once you find out where they are, getting close for a photograph shouldn't be a problem, but do wait for at least one hour.

One of nature's spectacles that shouldn't be missed is the roosting of starlings. Drawn together on long cold nights they roost in thousands, no - tens of thousands. An ideal place to watch this is Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, Lancashire (SD478750), postcode LA5 0SW. Get there well before dusk with a moderate telephoto lens and fast film (I find the "Public Hide" to be best). The slower shutter speeds needed around sunset should emphasise the shape of the flocks. Pick a day when sunset colours will occur for the best effect.

Our native mute swans begin to enjoy the company of bewick and whooper swans, their cousins from across the water. The best places to photograph them are at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserves scattered around the country. Welney WWT Reserve, Norfolk (TL530939), postcode PE14 9TN is often considered to be the best by many experienced wildlife photographers.

On still mornings during this month millions of money spiders climb to the top grass stems and spin an almost invisible thread. They drift from here to the ground where they spin tiny sheet webs among grass or across hoof prints. Catch these with early-morning dew and the ground shimmers with silver. This is an excellent subject for a macro lens.

After periods of rain rivers often go into spate allowing salmon to negotiate weirs and such like. Making the most of any opportunity Atlantic salmon now try to make it back to their spawning grounds. There may be an opportunity to photograph this spectacular sight where the River Tyne flows under Hexam Bridge (NY940646), map.

I always used to count on a cold snap during this month, when the ground froze solid. Gone are the days when this lasted for a week or more. Now it seems to last only a day or two, but when/if it comes do get out and about for the fist icy shots of the winter.

October  Index  December

The Locations: Where grid references are given they are based on the Ordnance Survey Landranger Grid.
Where possible postcode/map links have been provided to Google Maps showing the exact location.