Spooky wildlife stars made for Halloween

© Adrian Clarke | ClarkePictures

Now is the time we embrace the creepy crawlies, the spooky spiders and blood-curdling bats...here's our favourite Halloween wildlife!
Common pipistrelle bat

Common pipistrelle bat © Tom Marshall

One of the first things that spring to mind when thinking about Halloween: bats. It's not known why they are associated with Halloween, but they have long been suffering from a bad reputation, not just since Bram Stoker's Dracula. Their secretive nature and nocturnal activities will have contributed to this myth. Bats are, in fact, fascinating creatures and incredibly important for our ecosystem. 

Top 5 bat facts:

  1. They use echolocation to hunt down their prey
  2. Contrary to popular belief, their eyesight is actually pretty good for a nocturnal animal.
  3. Of 1,000 bat species in the world, only 3 feed exclusively on blood, but their size of under 10cm doesn't live up to the horror movie stereotype
  4. Unlike many other small mammals, bats can live for up to 30 years - some even longer. 
  5. Alongside hedgehogs and dormice, they are one of only 3 mammals in the UK that hibernate. 
Common toad

Common Toad © Dawn Monrose

Supposedly slimy and warty, toads have historically been playing a big part in folklore and myths, often portrayed as demons and associated with the devil and witches, be it as a familiar - an animal companion - or even an ingredient to potions. In fact, toads are great garden helpers, happily sucking up slugs and snails. Sadly, toads have declined dramatically, we have lost nearly 70% of them in the last 30 years alone.  

Top 5 toad facts:

  1.  In contrast to frogs, they walk rather than hop.
  2. They are famous for their mass migrations back to their breeding ponds, often around Valentine's Day.
  3. Even though they are amphibians, they only visit ponds for breeding. 
  4. They spend most of their time in woodlands, grasslands, hedgerows and gardens.
  5. In winter, they hibernate under log piles or stones.
Barn owl at dusk

Barn owl © Andy Rouse/2020 Vision

Owls have long had their place in folklore. In particular, the barn owl with its ghost-like appearance and eerie screech had a sinister reputation for being a bird of darkness which often meant misfortune and death.  

Top 5 owl facts:

  1. Owls can turn their head through 270 degrees, but they cannot move their eyes in their sockets.
  2. They make virtually no noise when flying due to special feathers that break the airflow over their wings.
  3. Their vision is only slightly better than ours, but their hearing is excellent.
  4. They can accurately pinpoint the location of their prey under leaves, plants and even snow from the slightest sound.
  5. Most owls are nocturnal or crepuscular - active both at dawn and dusk - but little owls can often be spotted out and about in daylight.
Garden orb spider

Garden orb spider © Chris Maguire

Another animal that seems to go hand in hand with Halloween is the spider. They are associated with witches, haunted houses, creepy caves and graveyards. In reality, spiders are crucial parts of our ecosystem, keeping insects at bay. "If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive" is not said without a reason. 

Top 5 spider facts:

  1.  There are around 40,000 known spider species in the world.
  2. All of them have 8 legs - the main difference between insects and arachnids. 
  3. Not all spiders build nets - some, like the wolf spider, actively hunt down their prey and others, like the crab spider, sit and wait until the prey comes to them.
  4. At this time of year, you will see more of your resident house spiders, as these are looking for a mate.
  5. The giant house spider is one of our fastest spiders, running up to half a metre per second.
Earthworm

Earthworm

Traditionally associated with death and graveyards, earthworms live in the soil and decompose organic matter. In folklore, they are often an ingredient in a witch's brew.

Top 5 earthworm facts:

  1. There are 27 species of earthworm in the UK.
  2. Charles Darwin called them the most important animal in the history of the world, dubbing them ‘nature’s ploughs’, as they improve the soil quality.
  3. A worm can eat its own weight in organic matter in one day.
  4. Earthworms are hermaphrodites – so each worm has both male and female parts.
  5. They "breathe" through their skin. 

Why not go on a Halloween wildlife discovery walk and tick everything you see on the spotter sheet (download below)?

Spooky Scavenger Hunt

Wildlife Events