During Autumn 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.
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! Download your fungi detective sheet from our activities section below!
Thrilling deer ruts
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 and murmurations of starlings. 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.
Intricate 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 and 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!
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. You can also 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. Download our activity sheet below to make your own blackberry crumble!
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 twos 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! Have a look at events near you here.
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!
Get outside this Autumn and try out our activity sheets! Click on the thumbnails to download.