As we segue from our welcome ‘Indian Summer’ into more familiar autumn conditions, with frosty mornings and blustery days, there’s still plenty of wildlife to enjoy – though not quite as much daylight in which to enjoy it.
Whilst our changing climate and bonkers recent weather is still throwing up topsy-turvy sightings – with reports of toads on the move to their spawning grounds months early in some parts of the UK, in the main, more established rhythms remain – for now.
Winter migrant birds such as fieldfares and redwings should soon be evident in good numbers and flocks of geese and swans should soon be visible at our Idle Valley Nature Reserve and at Idle Washlands Reserve off Hagg Lane, Newington – where as many as 2,000 pink-footed geese were recorded last November.
Whilst wetland sites such as Idle Valley will be teeming with bird life and well worth a visit, autumn also presents some of the best opportunities to see one of our most common, yet elusive creatures, the fox.
Foxes are hugely adaptable and thrive in a wide range of habitats in the UK, and will be present in most woodland areas. But it is in our towns and cities, where they have adapted brilliantly to living alongside us, that we are most likely to encounter them.
As autumn arrives, fox cubs are fully grown and independent. Whilst some of this year’s cubs will remain with the family group to help rear the next generation, the largest and most adventurous will now leave the safety of the family to tackle life on their own. This may make them easier to spot as they explore unfamiliar trails and territory, and the shorter days also mean that we are much more likely to encounter them as we go about our everyday business. Being crepuscular – most active around dawn and dusk – for much of the year, the fox’s twilight world coincides with when we are safely tucked up in bed or lounging in front of the TV. In autumn and winter, the shorter days and the changing of the clocks, thrusts us onto the streets when urban foxes will also be pounding the pavements and exploring gardens, ginnels and jitties in search of prey and new hunting grounds.
Whilst much of our wildlife will still be preparing for winter – gathering food supplies or seeking out dry bedding for the cold days ahead – autumn is actually a great time for us to help nature prepare for next spring. Now is a good time to clear our bird nesting boxes, ensuring that they are clean and tidy well ahead of the nesting season. Clearing them now also means you’re less likely to disturb small birds such as wrens that sometimes choose nest boxes as a warm roosting spots in winter.
Autumn is also a great time to dig a new wildlife pond. The ground is soft enough to dig and there is plenty of time over winter for the pond to collect rainwater to give it the best possible start.
For details of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, events and campaigns visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org