Autumn scene - istock
Autumn is a time of plenty with berries, fruits, nuts and seeds everywhere. The colours of autumn are beautiful and it's also a time of change, as some birds arrive and others leave on migration and animals get ready for the cold of winter.
Autumn (September, October, November)
Autumn is the season when the days are rapidly getting shorter and the sun is becoming lower in the sky. The Autumn equinox, when day and night are of equal length, is on 23 September. There are often spectacular sunsets in Autumn, the stars can seem brighter at night, and on some mornings mist hangs over fields and parks. This is a time of nature's plenty, with a wonderful hedgerow harvest of blackberries, rose hips, crab apples, hazel nuts and seeds. Many wildlife species take advantage of this wild harvest to build up reserves of fat for migration or for hibernation.
Wild Autumn - top five things to look for
- Fungi – fungi are not just in woodlands they pop up all over the place: on lawns and in parks, on piles of wood chip and on dead logs, on the ground and on the trunks of trees, even on cowpats! Have fun discovering the rather strange and mysterious world of fungi but take care, some species are very poisonous and only experts can identify the ones which are safe to eat!
- Visit a deer rut – if you have a local deer park then visit it in the Autumn. This is the time of year when stags and bucks develop antlers and fight rival males to attract a harem of females. Red deer are our largest land mammal and the stags have the most spectacular antlers of any British species. Deer, of several species, are surprisingly widespread and at this time of year you may hear the barking of muntjac and roe deer or the roaring of red deer at night.
- Birds in flocks – Autumn is when many birds form flocks – from parties of long-tailed tits to huge flocks of waders on coastal estuaries. Look for flocks of jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows flying to woodland roosts on Autumn evenings. If you live near the coast look for great skeins of migratory geese which arrive from Arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter with us.
- Spiders webs – on cold autumn mornings you suddenly realise how many spiders there are. Take an early morning walk and spot spider webs outlined in dew on hedgerows, in meadows even on house windows and car wing mirrors. Spider silk is truly amazing – see if you can find a spider actually making a web and watch carefully how it's constructed.
- Visit a beech wood – in America Autumn is called ‘Fall’ – the time when trees turn amazing colours and then shed their leaves. Any woodland in late autumn will have trees showing autumn colours but beech woodland can be especially spectacular with leaves turning yellow, gold and orange before they fall. Magic!
Wild Autumn - top five things to do
- Go blackberrying – you may prick your fingers but it's well worthwhile if you can persuade someone to make you a blackberry and apple crumble or blackberry jam. When you are picking blackberries you will spot all sorts of wildlife also feasting on the hedgerow harvest. Blackbirds and thrushes love blackberries too and the crops of rose-hips, sloes, crab apples, elderberries and haws (hawthorn berries) provide autumn food for mice, voles, hedgehogs, squirrels as well as many kinds of birds. Don’t worry there is plenty to go round at this time of year.
- Clean out nest-boxes - if your nest-box has been used in the summer it’s a good idea to clean it out in the autumn. Remove any old nests as this will make sure there is room for a new nest next year and reduce the risk of bird parasites overwintering in the box. Wear gloves when you do this job and always work in two’s with someone holding the ladder if you have to use one.
- Gather conkers and sweet chestnuts – there is something really special about splitting open the green shiny case of the horse chestnut fruit to reveal the shiny brown conker within. They are great for games of conkers too! Sweet chestnuts can be gathered and are delicious roasted especially on an open fire.
- Join a fungi foray – many local Wildlife Trusts will have organised events where you can learn to identify fungi with an expert. A great excuse to visit a woodland in Autumn.
- Make a woodpile habitat – if you have room in your garden then borrow a few logs from the fire-wood pile and make a small log pile in a shady part of the garden. In time this will attract all sorts of insects and is just the sort of place for a toad or hedgehog to safely spend the winter. Your dead logs will also eventually sprout fungi – nature’s recycling system for turning dead wood eventually back into soil.