Beginning in September and ending in early November, the red deer rut is perhaps one of the most impressive spectacles of Autumn. Stags compete for dominance by clashing antlers, or ‘parallel walking’, where they walking threateningly alongside each other. Their aim is to impress the hinds (female red deer) in the hopes of being able to mate, with the most successful among them mating with up to twenty hinds!
Nature's Calendar: October
As we move firmly into autumn, there’s still lots going on in nature. Find out what you could see in October...
Red deer rut
Have you ever wondered how birds and other animals ensure they have enough food to survive the winter? Autumn is a time of abundance, and many creatures will take advantage of the excess food supply by storing it for the colder months, when it is harder to come by. Coal tits have learned to spread their caches over a number of different sites to reduce theft from other species, and sightings of jays increase significantly in autumn, as they amass and collect as many as 5000 acorns to save for a rainy day.
Warblers on the wing
After spending spring and summer in the UK, many warblers make the journey to their wintering grounds. In autumn, their diet consists mostly of berries, as insects become gradually less abundant. This makes hedgerows and trees a great place to look out for willow warblers, chiffchaffs and other birds on the move. We’ll also see the arrival of blackcaps from Europe, whose UK wintering numbers have been growing in recent years.
Moth on the move
‘Silver Y’ moths migrate to the UK each spring to breed, and remain here over the warm summer months. However, they are largely unable to cope with our harsher winter weather, and therefore make the southerly journey back to North Africa and southern Europe come autumn. Their numbers often quadruple as young emerge throughout their breeding season, and it is estimated that this migration can amass as many as a billion moths each year.
Find some fungi
Autumn is a great time to go looking for fungi! The mention of mushrooms brings the classic red and white 'fly agaric' to mind, but there are lots of weird and wonderful fungus finds in October. Your local woodland is likely to be a great place to look, as dead and decaying wood is a great host for species like chicken-of-the-woods, lemon disco, and bird's nest fungus. Gardens and grasslands can also be a great place to look for fairy-ring mushrooms and earth tongues.
The transition from summer to autumn brings with it a change of colour in the foliage that surrounds us. Green trees turn varying shades of brown, red and gold as the colder months draw in, and berries emerge from farmland hedgerows and garden bushes, providing essential food to birds and other wildlife over the late autumn and winter. Some birds will also take on a winter, or non-breeding, plumage. Male yellowhammers often become less vibrant and bear a greater resemblance to their female counterparts, whilst great crested grebes and sanderlings will lose their russet brown plumes in favour of grey.