The days might be drawing in, yet autumn brings a range of wildlife wonders capable of brightening the dullest of days.
Fantastic fungi will be popping up all over, so look out for them on lawns, dead tree trunks and even in cow pats! Interesting varieties include the wonderfully coloured amethyst deceiver, with its rich purple hues.
Autumn is when deer, our largest wild mammals, are most likely to be seen and heard. Stags develop antlers to attract and defend their females and red deer stags may be heard bellowing to assert their claim on mates and territory. Roe deer, a smaller native species, can also be heard, but their call is more a bark than a roar. Introduced muntjac deer, even smaller than the roe, also bark and are increasingly common in relatively urban areas.
A third wonder of the season are the flocks of birds that gather; ranging from parties of long-tailed tits seen searching out food in woodlands, parks and even gardens; huge groups of starlings gathering at dusk and the large flocks of ducks and waders that congregate on wetlands sites.
A wetland wonder, on your doorstep
Idle Valley Nature Reserve, just outside Retford, has long been known amongst the bird watching community as a great place to see a wide range of wetland species and autumn is one of the best times of year to visit.
Autumn provides the opportunity to see many birds passing through on migration as well as species that come to spend the winter in the UK. Whilst the site gets its fair share of unexpected and infrequent seasonal sightings – hooded crow, spotted redshank, hen harrier and cattle egret have all popped up in recent years – it is the more regularly spotted birds which draw wildlife watchers time and time again.
This year we’ve already seen a good build-up of ducks and geese and if recent winters are anything to go by, we soon hope to see large colonies of gulls and good numbers of common snipe. Last January as many as 100 of this not so common species were visible from the comfort of the café at the southern end of the reserve off North Road, Retford.
The site is also a great place to see short eared owls hunting and a bird that is becoming a more regular sight at Idle Valley is the great white egret. About the size of a grey heron, these were previously a rare visitor to the UK but, as populations in southern Europe have expanded, a few dozen birds now spend the winter here.
Idle Valley Nature Reserve, directly off the A638 North Road just a few minutes from Retford, has a café and shop which are open seven days a week from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust hosts monthly guided bird walks and details of upcoming events can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/idle-valley.
© Image Jon Hawkins