Autumn is fading and winter starts to take hold, leading to beautiful misty mornings. Acorns and other nuts litter the woodland floor. Many migratory birds have headed off while others start to arrive from the continent, making the North York Moors their home for the winter.
Leaping salmon, now it's time for the annual salmon and trout runs as they return from the North Sea to the rivers of their birth, heading to their breeding grounds to spawn. The river Esk is one of only a few rivers in Yorkshire that supports salmon. Females lay eggs in gravel bedded streams and the male fish fertilise them. The fittest fish can leap an incredible 3 metres to negotiate waterfalls and rapids on their journey upstream. In some places specially designed fish ladders have been put in to help them climb up weirs. Salmon Leap point on the river Esk in Sleights is a good place to see salmon launching from the water to breach the weir, when the water is running fast and high.
Also look out for:
- Grey seals come ashore and can be seen from the clifftops giving birth to their pups in November. Around half of the world’s grey seals live in UK waters, and many are found breeding on the National Park coast every winter. It may seem odd to be breeding in the harsh conditions at this time of year, but the cow seals are in an excellent condition after a rich summer's feedings. The pups will be weaned on fat-rich milk for a month by their mothers before heading out to sea with the colony. Like the common seals earlier in the year, a good place to spot one of our largest mammals is at Ravenscar. Brace yourself for a chilly breeze and enjoy the sight of the gorgeous pups and their soft white coats while you can. Take care not to disturb this small colony.
- Stoats in northerly climes moult their russet summer coats, and take on pure white ermine fur now for winter camouflage. Though snows are less frequent, this winter change is hardwired into the stoat’s nature. Seeing a pure white stoat bounding across the ground on the hunt for rabbits and voles is a striking sight. They’re so quick you won’t see them for long! Stoats will make their home in the many hedges and drystone walls found throughout the North York Moors but the ones found in Mount Grace Priory are the most famous. The priory is open at weekends over winter and is a good place to start.
- Acorns which rain down from mighty oak trees, before being eaten and dispersed by hungry squirrels and jays. Jays are in the habit of burying stores of acorns, their favourite foodstuff. A single jay can bury thousands of them in a single season. They have an extraordinary facility for remembering where they’ve left them, even digging through a foot of snow in the winter to retrieve them. But inevitably some of their acorn caches go forgotten and eventually sprout into oak trees. For that reason jays are one of the prime agents in the survival and spread of oakwoods.
- Horse chestnut trees laden with conkers. Collect these shiny jewels in their spiky cases, and leave the rest for deer.
- Unusual fungus Plicatura crispa, which grows prolifically in deciduous woodlands here, including Gilling Wood. Appearing on dead or dying wood, it resembles many miniature bracket fungi in clusters, but has wrinkles, not gills or pores on the underside. More commonly reported in Scotland, it’s very unusual to see it thriving this far south in the UK.
Walk of the month
Get a birds-eye view of gorgeous Harwood Dale from the escarpment edge on a circular walk that starts and finishes in Broxa Forest and follows mostly good stone and gravel tracks, good for this time of the year. Tree-felling has opened up the views on the first part of the walk, and you really feel on top of the world as the path swings round the scarp edge.
Yorkshire Coast Nature tips
Here's what else experts Yorkshire Coast Nature say you should be looking for this month.
In our temperate maritime climate, autumn often slowly merges with winter as October comes to a close and November arrives. In the colder days many birds and other animals come closer to towns and into our gardens or in search of food. The berry harvest in the wider countryside is beginning to be depleted as waves of migrant thrushes arrive on our shores hungry after the long North Sea crossing.
This wonderful migration spectacle involves millions of songbirds moving west and south throughout Yorkshire having arrived on the east coast in October or early November. Your garden British robin may well be joined by continental birds that are here for the winter. Some of these birds move even further. A robin caught and ringed at Flamborough on 10 October 1993 was found only four days later in the Manche district of France!
The way to tell them apart is by looking at the intensity of orange on the breast and sometimes a greyer overall tone to the colour of the upperparts of the bird. This photo shows both British (right) and continental (left) side by side. There is no difference in size between the two.
Another bird to look out for in your garden in November is the gorgeous Bohemian waxwing. These stunning birds arrive each winter from Scandinavia and western Russia often in small numbers but occasionally in their thousands. They love the warmth and range of exotic berries on offer in towns and cities. Look out for them on bushes such as cotoneaster in many towns such as York and Scarborough. They can often be very tame allowing approach for photos in their splendid dress.
November is a great month to look for animal signs. Almost everywhere you may walk there may be a message left by an animal that they were there not long ago. Look out for badger hair on barbed wire especially close to setts or on their regular paths which can be clearly marked lines of trampled grass or compacted earth. The distinctive colour of their hair; black, grey and white is often a good indication it’s a badger.
Many people love barn owls but we don’t often know when they are close by. One way to detect them is by looking for their pellets which they regurgitate from their stomach in the same way as cats do. After eating small mammals or other prey it takes about 6 hours for digestion before they have to cough up the indigestible items through their beak. The pellets are like a short fat sausage up to 5cm long. The photo shows two pellets on the floor of an old garage where the barn owl has been roosting overnight. When the pellets are fresh they are often darker black in colour and slightly damp and you can often see bones sticking out from the hair. For more information, go to The Barn Owl Trust website.
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