Winter doesn’t officially start until the 21st December, so there’s still lots of time to get outside this autumn and spot wildlife preparing for the colder weather ahead.
This is a time for beautiful colours; the crimson red, golden yellow and burnt orange shades of the leaves can be spectacular and the berries, nuts and seeds are rich pickings.
Much of our wildlife will be taking full advantage of this wonderful free hedgerow harvest. Blackberries, rose hips, crab apples and hazelnuts will all be stockpiled for building up fat reserves for migration or hibernation.
Even though the days are getting shorter, and the nights longer, you can still see stunning sunsets and brighter stars in the dark skies.
On cold mornings you’ll wake up to dewy mists in the fields until the weaker sun burns them off – this is a wonderful time of year!
We’ve picked out some of the top things to see below. Please let us know about anything you find and share any comments and pictures on our blog so we can all see!
Murmurations of starlings – an autumnal highlight
Flocks of migrating birds will be on the move, some coming here to avoid extreme colder climates, others leaving for much warmer climates.
About 17 million birds use the UK for migration, some feeding as they fly over. All along the coast, skeins of migratory geese will be arriving from Arctic breeding grounds to spend winter with us.
Flocks of jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows come together and fly to woodland roosts to spend the darkening evenings. Parties of long tailed tits, huge flocks of waders feeding on coastal estuaries and murmurations of starlings, one of the great highlights of autumn, can be seen in our skies.
Deer rutting – one of nature’s greatest spectacles
This is a very special time of year for our largest native land animal, the red deer, and a great time for you to visit a local deer park.
The stags and bucks grow threatening antlers and fight rival males to attract a harem of females. The victorious, though normally calm and quiet, stag can end up with 10-20 females all to himself!
At this time of year you can also hear the roaring of the red deer at night and the barking of the smaller muntjac and roe deer in the distance.
Five great places to see rutting deer are:
Cairngorms National Park – take a guided tour into the Braes of Glenlivet to watch rutting stags.
Exmoor National Park – park rangers and other experts guide walks to seek out the stags.
Foulshaw Moss, Cumbria – where you can see stags rut out in the middle of this wonderful wetland area.
Richmond Park – to observe the stags in lovely open woodland.
RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk – join a guided tour and see the rut on the naturally beautiful heath.
Finding fungi – amanita muscaria & more
Fungi pop up all over the place at this time of the year: woodland, lawns, dead logs and tree trunks and other locations.
You can have great fun unearthing their strange and mysterious world. However, some, like amanita muscaria (otherwise known as ‘fly agaric’ – pictured above) are poisonous, so make sure you can identify the safe ones – especially if picking any to eat!
Many wildlife trusts have events where you can learn to identify fungi with an expert. This is a perfect excuse to get outside and visit woodland in autumn, but a safer option is to go looking for sweet chestnuts under trees, which are delicious roasted on an open fire.
Some other things to see and do:
Look out for spiders’ webs outlined with dew in hedgerows, meadows, house windows and across doorways. If you time it right and look carefully you may even see a spider actually making its amazing web.
This is the time to pick the last of the blackberries and persuade someone to bake you a homemade pie. Look out as well for wildlife competing for the last of the hedgerow harvest, such as birds and small rodents.
Now is a great time to clean out any nest boxes or bird feeders and rinse well with very hot water. Get rid of the old nests to make room for new ones and to remove the risk of parasites overwintering in the box.
If you have room in your garden, and some old pieces of wood, logs and twigs, make a woodpile in a shady quiet area. This will be a safe and warm haven for insects, toads and hedgehogs to spend winter plus your logs will sprout fungi which recycle the wood and turn it back into soil!