Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - November

I thought I would do a bit of fauna today, and I would actually like to focus on the British red squirrel which is now an endangered species, because of the introduction of the North American grey squirrel.

The red squirrel would have been the only squirrel you would have seen in Britain during the Regency. Note the tufts on their ears and their very reddish color. Grey squirrels were not introduced into Britain until 1876, when they were imported as a novelty.

Baby squirrels are called kittens. I did not know that! Squirrels can swim and they are right or left handed. Not that you would ever need this level of detail.
But they would be seen busily collecting and storing nuts and seeds for the winter around this time. Red squirrels do not hibernate, by the way, so they are seen all year round. I just recall them being more noticeable at this time of year.

November tends to be a cold month with frosts and rain, "dull and cheerless" our naturist calls it. But the weather is local and changeable, so you can never be sure.

Another creature you might see on your rambles in the woods at this time of year is the hedgehog. The hedgehog is the only spiny mammal in England and does not shoot its quills. Its main means of defense is to roll up in a ball and look prickly. Not much good if they are on a modern day road let me tell you. They can often be found in gardens, but they are mostly nocturnal, so you might find one during the day, curled up under a hedge. November is a time when they are busy eating insects and worms, building themselves up to survive a winter of hibernation. Gypsies used to eat them. They would cover them in a clay-like soil and bake them in the embers, much like a baked potato. While I don't have a hedgehog in the novel I am working on at the moment, I did use the little creature in a simile.

All right, just a bit of flora for balance.

The naturist is very insistent that November is a time for mushrooms in England. I thought this useful from two perspectives, first you would see them, and secondly you would eat them!

Beechwoods have their own species of edible fungi, from something called a horn of plenty to another called chanterelle, which is bright yellow. And of course beech trees are simply beautiful. This picture looks more like what I think of when I think of a mushroom. it is called a field blewit mushroom and is certainly available in November. It is found in open fields, pastures and marshes, often after the first frosts.

Now that is the kind of mushroom I like to see on top of a well buttered slice of toast for breakfast.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.