For some, the start of autumn is a time to lament the passing of the long hot days of summer, but whilst the days will be noticeably shorter, our ever changing weather patterns mean there could well be plenty of warm dry days on which to seek out local wildlife.
Had I been writing this piece a decade ago, I’d probably have focussed on the pleasures of bountiful hedgerows and the prospect of days spent wildlife watching being enhanced by the opportunity to collect a bumper crop of blackberries with a surfeit of sloes to follow to flavour your gin; but our changing seasons mean that these crops can come much earlier than they used to and warmer, wetter, conditions mean that they often spoil before you have chance to collect them. Thankfully, our wild creatures will take crops as soon as they are ready and are also a little less fussy as to what they can eat – presenting us with a wide range of wildlife watching opportunities from spotting flocks of goldfinches feasting on the seeds of teasel or dandelions to squirrels and jays harvesting acorns and cob nuts to store for leaner times ahead.
Rather than lamenting the departure of summer, visitors such as swallows and house martins let us celebrate the return of the birds that choose to spend the colder months with us. Whilst the majority of migrants will arrive later in the year, everything from geese and other water birds to colourful fieldfares can start to arrive in September. Much will depend on the conditions in their summer residences. Fieldfares, for example, tend to linger in their breeding grounds in continental Europe and Scandinavia until the favourite food sources including rowan berries are exhausted. Once the crop is gone the birds make their way here to take advantage of our relatively mild winters and by the end of the winter there may be as many as three quarters of a million bird fieldfares here.
One of the personal highlights of the season for me is the myriad of colours to be enjoyed as the once verdant green leaves on our trees change colour. This annual natural spectacle has the advantage of not requiring a pair of binoculars or any specialist knowledge to track your target down! Any walk at this time of year, whether in a local park or even an area with mature street trees, has the added benefit of the autumnal hues. From vibrant yellows to deep coppers and reds these colours will get better and better for weeks to come, with colourful treelines making the ideal natural backdrop against which to enjoy a low autumn sunset.
Take in the spectacular Idle Valley Nature Reserve this September
Whilst we can’t promise anything quite as unusual as the white-rumped sandpiper that turned up unexpectedly at Idle Valley, just outside Retford, last September, we can offer the prospect of a wealth of bird life from flocks of geese and swans, waders including ruff and green sandpiper; ducks including the striking pintail and a chance to see a majestic marsh harrier soaring overhead. With hundreds of hectares of wildlife habitat and miles of footpath to wander alongside the River Idle, it’s the ideal destination for a day of exploration.
At the time of going to press we’re working hard to get the café, reception and shop open at Idle Valley, but for further details visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/idle-valley or like the Idle Valley Nature Reserve Facebook page @IdleValleyNatureReserve to be sure to see our latest updates.
Images: Swallows; Goldfinch; Fieldfare © Mike Vickers