Some sparkling nature tips for Bonfire Night

Always make sure that wildlife such as hedgehogs and toads are not sheltering under your bonfire. Pi

Always make sure that wildlife such as hedgehogs and toads are not sheltering under your bonfire. Picture: Ben Andrews/RSPB - Credit: Archant

Emily Kench of the RSPB offers some wildlife-friendly tips for Bonfire Night... and where to see nature's own spectaculars.

Planning on celebrating bonfire night this weekend? Love the fireworks, sparklers and the display? How about making time for some natural spectacles too? Here are our top five 'better-than-fireworks' spectacles for the weekend:

1 'Ooh' and 'aah' at starling murmurations: tens of thousands of birds' wheel and swoop in vast clouds as they settle into their evening roosts in trees, reedbeds or even under piers. Starlings form breath-taking patterns in the skies before swirling downwards to find a safe place to perch for the night.

2 Many of us will be creating a 'fun Guy' for our bonfire, but there's plenty of fascinating fungi popping up all over the place at this time of year. Look out for the famous red and white fly agaric toadstools.

3 Who needs Roman candles when you can have 'Roman noses'? The owners of these noses, grey seals, along with their relatives, common seals will all be raising their pups around the shores of Norfolk and Essex.

4 No flames are needed for the explosions of rust and bronze as trees such as beech, hazel and dogwood are ablaze with colour. At this time of year, leaves have switched from greens to reds as the green chlorophyll drains from the tree into the roots.

5 Sparks fly as massive red deer stags battle over groups of hinds in parks and moors. The deer rut is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes: the bellows and roars of the stags carry for miles over open land. Watch from a safe distance and enjoy one of the most impressive wildlife displays in the UK. RSPB Minsmere is a great place to see this at the moment.

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If our natural autumn spectacles can't tempt you away from the draw of a bonfire, please look out for wildlife.

On the whole, birds can cope with the sound and disturbance of fireworks, because they are used to natural phenomenons of thunder and lightning, but it is best to avoid areas where they are known to be roosting.

However, piles of logs, leaves and twigs are an ideal spot for sleepy hedgehogs to take a long nap, and usually they will choose to rest right at the bottom. To avoid disturbing one of our favourite mammals, leave bonfire-building as late as possible, to stop our beloved hedgehogs and other wildlife mistaking the woodpiles for cosy winter quarters.

Look out for frogs, toads, newts, slow worms, common lizards and grass snakes too, which all use log piles for shelter and sleep during the winter months. These animals tend to move slowly when the temperature is low and would have difficulty escaping a roaring fire. By building your bonfire with on the day, you can avoid wildlife moving in overnight.

If you do have to build your bonfire in advance, please check it for prickly guests by giving the pile a gentle poke with a stick (not a sharp one), so they can wake up and make their escape, but if you accidentally disturb an active hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material. If there are young in the nest, avoid touching them. Similarly, if it is a hibernating adult, avoid waking it. Should it wake, you may want to leave it some food nearby until it hibernates again. Of course, in this instance create a new bonfire elsewhere with new materials

A compost heap is another common place for hedgehogs to hibernate, so if you have one, try to avoid turning it over too often... hedgehogs don't like to be woken up!

For more information on where to see the incredible wildlife spectacles, visit rspb.org.uk/nearme

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