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Wildlife calendar: October

This is the second in a year-long series of monthly blogs, featuring seasonal highlights from the natural world in the New Forest. Keep an eye out for them as you explore the Forest this month and share your photos with us on Facebook afterwards.

This month marks the peak of the rut – the annual mating season for red, sika and fallow deer. The word 'rut' comes from the late Middle Ages meaning ‘roar’, and if you see or hear this event in the Forest you will understand how it got its name.

(Credit: Luke Parkinson)

Most of the rutting activity occurs very early in the morning. Red stags vie for supremacy by roaring, posturing and rounding up the hinds (females), but actual fights are seldom witnessed. Fallow bucks make a groaning mating call that has been described as a cross between a belch and a growl. Fights break out and sometimes serious injuries occur. Sika stags attract hinds with a series of piercing whistles.

(Fallow Buck. Credit: Keith Talbot)

Deer have traditional rutting ‘stands’ in the Forest. Telltale signs are muddy wallows where males urinate and then coat themselves in the mud, as well as scored tree trunks and frayed branches. The damage to timber is caused by males aggressively marking the stands and rubbing their antlers against trees to remove the velvet.  

Please be careful not to disturb Forest deer, particularly at this time of year. In the past, people trying to photograph deer have caused them to run across roads and some deer have been killed by traffic as a result.

Woodland areas are the best place to find fungi such as the chicken-of-the-woods, fly agaric, puffballs, beefsteak fungus and staghorn. The New Forest has thousands of species of fungi and is one of the best places in Western Europe for seeing them. So enjoy spotting as many fungi as you can and remember that it’s always best to leave them where they are for others to enjoy.

(Yellow Staghorn)

Although you might still see some warblers, swallows and house martins, most of our summer visitors will have left by the end of October. Large flocks of winter thrushes – the redwing and fieldfare – begin to arrive from Iceland and Scandinavia.

Wintering waders and wildfowl gather on coastal marshes: the Lymington – Keyhaven nature reserve is a great place to spot species such as lapwing, redshank, grey plover, turnstone and Brent geese.

(Northern Lapwing)

Reptiles go into hibernation until spring, and many birds and mammals are fattening up on nuts, fruit, seeds and berries. Fallen rotten fruit also attracts a variety of insect life: look out for fruit flies, ladybirds, hoverflies and late butterflies such as the peacock and small tortoiseshell.  

This is usually the last month when you will see wood ants, hornets and dung beetles in the woodland inclosures.

There’s no better way to explore the New Forest this month than on a guided walk during our Walking Festival. The festival runs for two weeks from 17 October and includes over 70 walks to suit all abilities and interests.

Book your place now at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival.

(A Walking Festival stroll at Landford)

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 15/10/2015

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