When considering what the natural world has to offer in October it would be easy to default to describing the continued emergence of the autumn colour palette. With its wonderful mix of yellows, oranges and reds this natural spectacle is a joy to behold, but the month brings the prospect of so much more besides.
Another obvious topic to cover is the mass movement of birds on migration. With most of our summer visitors now long gone, we can at least enjoy the arrival of migrants from as far afield as Russia and Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia. Whilst we might moan about the cold, our winters offer a relatively benign, if not quite balmy, option for feathered friends that breed so much further north.
A wonderful mix of ducks, geese and swans is a real prospect at wetland sites this month with species set to arrive including wigeon and pochard, pink-footed geese and potentially whooper swans.
As well as new arrivals, we might also can also look forward to noticeable changes in behaviour amongst some of our resident birds and other wildlife. Tawny owls, of ‘tu-whit, tu-who’ fame, tend to get very talkative at this time of year as they work on evicting this year’s chicks and return to being territorial. As a result, you might hear a lot more of their call and response – perhaps more accurately described as ‘kee-wick’ and ‘hoo-hoo’ – even in relatively urban areas.
Whilst not as easy to experience as the vocalising of your local tawnies, the sight of rutting deer is perhaps the greatest natural spectacle on offer to most of us this month. The rut, another name for mating season, sees male native red deer, so emblematic of Sherwood Forest, as well as naturalised fallow and sika deer vying for dominance to secure access to females to ensure their line. Most challenges tend to be played out vocally, but can become quite brutal.
Unless you know of a regular rutting location you are unlikely to be lucky enough to chance upon an encounter so possibly your best would be a visit to a deer park such as Wollaton Hall in Nottingham or Chatsworth Park in the Peak District. Even when observing rutting in a managed herd it’s important to remember that these are powerful wild animals – so keep your distance to avoid disturbing the deer and to keep yourself safe.
Idle Valley – well worth an autumn visit
Through the autumn and winter, our Idle Valley Nature Reserve provides some of the most exciting birdwatching in the county. As well as the migrant arrivals, as the year progresses so too does the likelihood of good views of short-eared owls hunting for small mammals by day over the Tiln North area. As evenings draw in, afternoon visitors may be treated to a glimpse of the ghostly figure of a barn owl in this area around dusk. However, they may also be seen during the day if weather conditions limited foraging sessions the previous night.”
Details of all Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves, plus updates on current campaigns and ways in which you can help create a wilder Nottinghamshire can be found at www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org.
Up-to-date sightings at Idle Valley and other top birdwatching locations across the county can be found on the Nottinghamshire Birdwatchers website, www.nottsbirders.net/latest_sightings.html.
Main image: Short-eared Owl, Mike Vickers