The Damp Birch Woods in Autumn

If you visit the dampl lowland birch woods at this time of year you can see lots of very interesting invertebrates. Here are two worth noting that I recently came across: the first is a caterpillar that stands on its tail-end to imitate a twig. There are many species, and they can be very similar, making identification difficult, but I think this one is the Birch Mocha – Cyclophora albipunctata, which is quite common in Wicklow and sometimes the moth itself comes to window light.

A twig-mimic caterpillar, probably of the Birch Mocha moth, which can be seen in birch woods at this time of year.

If you look under fallen logs or large rocks in the dampness of the forests (which are usually located on fens) you stand a good chance of seeing large predatory leeches. Known as Horse Leeches – Haemopsis sanguisuga. They are extremely common in Wicklow, and don’t suck human blood, being in fact active predators of small slugs and snails and many other creatures. They do have that typically creepy quality though, shared by all leeches.

A large (finger-length) Horse Leech decides to flee the light of day after being found under a stone. Note the hind “anchor” by which it is attached to the leaf.

 

Can Hedgehogs climb?

As you can see from this photo, yes, they can. In fact, they have been discovered to be able to climb the tallest of countryside stone walls. This particular individual comes every night to steal cat food, which is normalyl positioned at the top of the wall. She has a habit of knocking the bowl off. At this time of the year hedgehogs are fattening up for winter hibernation. If they don’t get enough fat on them they can die from starvation before completing hibernation.
Tonight I will try to video her climbing the blocks. Wish me luck!

A hedgehog taking dried cat food from the top of a stack of concrete blocks, but hedgehogs are known to climb much higer than this.

An Adventure in the Garden of Ireland