Autumn is a time of change in nature, and all around we can see the signs that summer is departing and winter is slowly coming on.
The swallows and swifts which have been dancing through the summer skies are making their way back to Africa, the leaves are starting to turn to brown and gold, and squirrels are storing food for the harsh weather to come.
But it’s not all one way traffic – there is plenty of wildlife that actively seeks out the British Isles as a safe place to spend the winter. Many of the starlings , blackbirds and even robins that we see in our gardens and towns in the colder months are actually visitors from the continent.
Butterflies and moths are still bravely flying through the bad weather. This week I have seen a red admiral fluttering about in a rain storm and was visited by the truly remarkable Silver Y moth , which migrates to the UK across seas and mountains from as far away as Southern Europe and Africa!
Even the resident birds are a little different in the autumn – we are often asked to identify mystery birds, which then turn out to be commoner species in the middle of moulting. Many callers to the RSPB wonder where the garden birds have gone in late summer – they may well be hiding while their feathers return to normal.
Although the RSPB recommends that garden birds can be fed all year round, it’s over the winter that small birds will see most value from it, as food gets scarcer and they need more energy to keep warm.
So now is a great time to clean out your nest boxes for next year, work out the best position for your feeders, make sure you re-stock on bird food and just sit back in the warm and watch your favourite garden visitors return!
Nigel Blake (rspb-images.com)