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Signs of autumn

Posted: Friday 29 August 2014
by Kate Bradbury

Autumn does seem to have come a little early this year. I wonder if it’s because we had such a good start to summer, followed by a few weeks of rain.


It’s feeling very autumnal, suddenly. Leaves have started to fall from trees, Michaelmas daisies and cyclamen are in flower, the air has that wonderful dry freshness that autumn brings.

The bumblebees did their disappearing trick a couple of weeks ago; one day the borders were full of them and the next they were empty. Only a few stragglers remain – mainly scruffy common carder workers and the odd queen stocking up on nectar before entering hibernation. Most nests will have finished now.

It’s now time to see the ivy bee, Colletes hedera, a solitary bee that feeds almost exclusively on the flowers of ivy. It’s about the size of a honeybee but has very pronounced, thick, velvety abdominal bands. It arrived in Britain in 2001 and has since spread along the South Coast of England and up into London – a friend spotted one in Peckham last year. I’ve not seen one, despite checking ivy flowers for the last couple of years. But they can’t be far away.

But autumn does seem to have come a little early this year. I wonder if it’s because we had such a good start to summer, followed by a few weeks of rain. Now the sun is out again I’m in the garden seeing things that weren’t there when I last looked. Seedheads. Conkers. Plums full of wasps. A friend thought she saw a flock of fieldfares last weekend but we have agreed they were probably mistle thrushes, which apparently gather in flocks in late summer. But the fieldfares will arrive soon. As will the waxwings, redwings and other winter migrants.

It’s been a mixed summer. It started so well and then graduated into a bit of a washout. But we had some good weather for bees and other wildlife. If the number of bumblebee queens I saw yesterday has anything to go by there will be plenty of bees around next summer.

What signs of autumn have you seen?





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Cangrandmafixiit 02/09/2014 at 21:34

Don't know if this is a sign of autumn but today we had a humming bird moth on the butterfly bush. it's wings were going nonstop was very interesting, it seemed oblivious to me being close up trying to take a photo. It's long tongue was in and out ,going from one tiny flower on to the next.took a photo but it came out blurred .I will try next on a different setting next time.

Fishy65 02/09/2014 at 22:44

Hi Cangrandmafixiit - I think the hummingbird hawk-moth is a summer migrant from mainland Europe and is nearing the end of its time here around this month. I remember seeing one in my garden a few years back,they look very odd flying in the day don't they.

Cangrandmafixiit 02/09/2014 at 23:42

Hi Fishy65  ,

Yes they do it's odd  by their name I thought they would have a bit more colour.unless it's   natures way of making them not so noticeable to predator s.

Fishy65 02/09/2014 at 23:57

I did read somewhere that the design of a hummingbird and a hummingbird hawk-moth is brought about by convergent evolution. Two separate species,one a bird and the other an insect,develop highly similar designs despite the differing physiologies of each. The similarity is in the design rather than anything else Cangrandmafixit,fascinating stuff