Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the autumn for many is Halloween. From creepy costumes to freaky films - many of us love to revel in its fun, its stories, its colour and creativity.

While we tend to concentrate on the natural more than the super-natural, there are plenty of examples of how our wildlife have become central to the modern-day Halloween narrative. There are also several creepy examples in nature which might not be at the forefront of your mind – here's a handful of both…

Let’s begin with an obvious one – bats. While we see these furry flying machines as cute and adorable, it is a sad reality that they are often unfairly portrayed as blood-sucking blights. But our native bats are completely harmless to humans - and have most definitely not transformed from vampires. They are in fact quite amazing – our most common species, the pipistrelle, can consume up to 3,000 insects a night while only weighing as much as 10 paper clips! Bats are among the ever-increasing amount of wildlife species who are suffering due to loss of habitat – but you can give them a bit of Halloween help, by building a bat box for them to hibernate in safety.

 Rahul Thanki (rspb-images.com)

Here’s one you might not have heard of before – and it gets pretty grizzly! The great grey shrike, apt for this time of year with its black “bandit mask” streak across its eyes, is a winter visitor to Wales and can be a tough one to find. But you may often notice that it’s been in the area by the uniquely creepy way it stores its food. The great grey shrike, the bird world’s very own Vlad the Impaler, will store its prey (sometime in pieces, sometimes in whole) on trees, using thorns and branches as skewers. Indeed, its Welsh name is cigydd mawr, which translates to ‘the big butcher’…yikes!  

 Smudge 9000 (flickr.com/photos/smudge9000/)

We’re very used to imagery of witches throwing them in their cauldrons, but frogs and toads are way more than a croaky ingredient in a pungent potion. Which is which you may ask? You can tell the difference between frogs and toads by their body shapes, their textures and their movement. While they both have a similarly green or brown blotchy pigment, frogs are slimier and have long legs which allow for hopping – while toads, drier and more wart-like, have shorter legs and tend to crawl from A to B. However, they both tend to start hibernating around this time, looking for leaf and log piles or pond mud to rustle into. That’s why you can give them a helping hand by being a bit messier this autumn and make a pile for them – or if you’ve got the space and the DIY skills, why not make a pond for them!

 Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’"   

The raven has been portrayed as a symbol of evil & death by Edgar Allan Poe. It is also seen as a similar symbol of darkness and death in Celtic mythology, especially the death of warriors in battle. Indeed, the raven was the totem of the giant Welsh king of Britain Bran the Blessed (Bran means crow in Welsh) – and after being mortally wounded by the Irish, he requested that upon death, his head be buried in what is now Tower Hill in London, to protect this island from any future invasion. It is believed that is where the idea of having ravens in the tower of London came.  But our relationship with the raven comes from a different place than death and darkness. Large and intelligent, the raven can be seen across Wales, soaring in flight, showing a wedge-shaped tail. The raven has a distinct and far-reaching call, which may be heard even when this shy and vigilant member of the crow family is out of sight.

Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

So what are your favourite Halloween species? Are there any creatures that give you the creeps? Let us know on social media by tweeting @RSPBCymru or on Facebook. There are also some great Halloween activities across our reserves in Wales, if you dare take a wild walk in the outdoors this Sunday…

Header photo: Raven by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)