Wildlife Watch - with Kate Humble

Robin, Erithacus rubecula, on bird table in garden. Co. Durham. October.
Robin, Erithacus rubecula, on bird table in garden. Co. Durham. October.

The nights really are drawing in, the days are getting chillier and the leaves are turning. October is here!

After the summer, when the birds seem to disappear from our gardens, they will start to re-emerge and take advantage of anything you put out on your bird table. Check all your feeders are clean and the birdbath topped up in preparation for the RSPB’s Feed the Birds Day at the end of the month. For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/feedthebirds

There were some really strong winds last month, with the tail of Hurricane Katia hitting UK shores. The RSPB received lots of calls about tired and starving seabirds turning up inland because they’d been blown off course, and there’s every chance this could happen again with the rough late-autumn weather. One gentleman found a manx shearwater on his garden log pile; not a bird you would ever expect to find in your garden! If you do find a stranded seabird inland please contact an animal rescue centre which can feed and care for the birds before re-releasing them into the wild.

October is a good month for digging, such as turning over the veggie patch flower beds or creating a new bed. Now is the time to put in the hard work and then let nature do the rest. Over winter the clods of earth will break down leaving the beds ready for spring planting.

Many garden books suggest this is the time to cut the dead stems of herbaceous plants, but leaving them over winter can provide shelter for lots of beneficial insects like lacewings. Again, let nature do the hard work for you. Many of the stems you would spend time cutting now will blow or rot away over the winter, so leaving them is not just good for insects, buts saves you time too!

Keep an eye on the skies above your gardens, particularly early in the morning. This is a busy month, when our summer migrants are leaving and our winter visitors are arriving. It’s not unusual to see swallows and martins in the sky at the same time as redwings and fieldfares. And of course, don’t forget to relish those special, warm Autumn days, when you still might see bees, butterflies and the occasional dragonfly around your flowers and shrubs.

Kate