September wildlife watch with Cornwall Wildlife Trust
We work with Cornwall Wildlife Trust to bring you a monthly blog on what wildlife to see and where in Cornwall each month. September is great for dormice, the rare felwort and bumblebees.
This is traditionally a good month for finding dormice in the wild in Cornwall. At this time of year they are busy fattening-up ahead of their long winter hibernation. The dormouse is a nocturnal species, spending most of its waking hours climbing among tree branches in search of food; fruit, insects, nuts, flowers and pollen.
Dormice hibernate during the winter and can lower their body temperature to become ‘torpid’ if there is a shortage of food or if bad weather stops them foraging, thus saving energy. Because of this ability, they may spend three quarters of their year 'asleep'. This is possibly why dormice in the wild also live much longer, up to five years longer than other small mammals.
Some of our nature reserves are managed specifically with dormice in mind, like Lanvean Bottoms, near Mawgan Porth, Newquay.
The rare felwort
One of the few flowers associated with the beginning of autumn. The aptly named autumn gentian, Gentianella amarella – also known as felwort. This is a very rare and localised plant, now only found in very few places on the north coast of Cornwall. It's a late flowering species, mainly from August to October.
It is an attractive plant with pale pink flowers which lives mainly on coastal grasslands, but its appearance can be intermittent and rather unpredictable, meaning that it might grow in one place one year, but not be there the next. Many gentians have traditionally had medicinal uses, and they have historically been used to treat digestive disorders.
Many species of bumblebee, including Bombus terrestris, the buff-tailed bumblebee, will be particularly active in Cornwall during September. In late summer, bumblebee colonies produce males and new queens, and through the autumn they then need to find food to survive.
In autumn the number of flowers begins to decrease, but a ready and continuous supply of pollen and nectar are still sought by bumblebees until late in the year. After mating and feeding well, new queens will search out a suitable place to hibernate and remain there all through winter.
Gardeners, can of course, help our bumblebees by leaving suitable places for hibernation undisturbed, such as a cool, north facing banks which they can burrow into. They will often be found seeking out pollen and nectar in flower-rich meadows such as those found at our Downhill Meadow Nature Reserve also near Mawgan Porth, Newquay.
Your weekly dose of Cornish cheer!
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