Nature's calendar: October
The full spectacle of Autumn is now all around us. It’s time to wrap up warm and head out to enjoy the sights, sounds and colours of the season! October may have you thinking about falling leaves but there’s plenty more to look out for.
- Our wetlands get busier as birds arrive ahead of winter. Most wetlands seeing growing numbers of lapwing, black-tailed godwit and maybe even golden plover. Meanwhile, coastal wetlands could see big flocks of dunlin and knot.
- A night-time visit to the garden could reveal some nocturnal migration. Many birds migrate at night as they’ll be safer from predators. Try listening out for some unusual calls overhead. You can often hear flocks of birds calling to keep in touch with each other in the night sky. The best one to listen out for is the redwing, which has a high pitched ‘Tseee’. Cloudy and damp nights can be best for hearing this as the birds migrate at lower altitudes.
- During the day, newly arrived redwings and fieldfares will be feasting on hawthorn and rowan berries. If you’re lucky, you can find them in large flocks. Fieldfares are particularly noisy, so listen out for their loud ‘chakking’ calls.
- Keep an eye out for something unusual. With so many birds on the move, October gives you a great chance of seeing something out of the ordinary. If you visit coastal migration hotspots – particularly on the east coast – you could see rarities such as the yellow-browed warbler, which travel all the way from Siberia!
Nearing the end of their long journey, Atlantic salmon return to our rivers to spawn. These incredible animals battle currents and leap waterfalls as they aim to reach the spot where they hatched. The females will seek gravel to lay their eggs on. If you want to witness this spectacle, early morning and evening visits to small waterfalls are your best bet. Especially after some rainfall when the water levels rise.
- October is an important time for hedgehogs, as they’re preparing to hibernate. If you regularly feed hedgehogs, make sure you leave plenty of food out to help them fatten up for the winter. And don’t forget they also need plenty of water. We cater for your hedgehog needs in our online shop.
- Now is also a good time to think about the bedding options hedgehogs have for the winter. Bespoke hedgehog houses filled with dry leaves will work or you can make something a bit more rustic. Find out how to build a hedgehog home.
- A classic autumn spectacle is the deer rut – although it can be a real challenge to witness. Some species become very vocal, such as the red, fallow and sika deer. This can give way to some distant rutting activity but getting a glimpse of the action isn’t easy. Deer are often sensitive to disturbances, so care needs to be taken not disturb them. Top tips are: watch from a distance – ideally from a vehicle; don’t forget your binoculars; and make sure you get up early – action usually kicks off just after sunrise.
- Quiet coves and beaches around our coast will be home to grey seals. More importantly, they’ll be joined by their pups. Grey seals pup throughout the autumn but October is a great time as you can see a variety of ages, including some very small white pups. If you’re heading off for a bit of seal watching, take care to ensure they are not disturbed. Here’s a bit more information.
Plants and Fungi
- Now’s a good time to plant trees in your garden – it’s cheaper to buy them bare-rooted or root-balled during the colder months. Look for native trees like crab apple, holly, elder, birch and hawthorn, which will provide food and shelter for nature.
- There’s no escaping that this month can sometimes be a bit damp. The upside is that the wet weather can spark a mass emergence of fabulous fungi. There is incredible variety to see from the classic red and white fly agaric, to more delicate elfcups or even the ominously named Deathcap. Which reminds us… best not to have a taste, as some are incredibly poisonous! Why not join us at our reserves for some fungi fun this Halloween?
Insects and spiders
- Look out for some autumn colours amongst your garden insect life. Moths and butterflies at this time of year often have oranges, yellows and browns. The brimstone butterfly is a good example with its bright yellow colouration.
- October sees the appearance of one of our most spectacularly named and beautiful moths – the Merveille de Jour. Translated, that means ‘wonder of the day’. It certainly will be if you’re lucky enough to discover one.
- Look out for a new bee on the block: the ivy bee. This species is rapidly colonising the UK and spreading fast. They were first recorded in Dorset in 2001, not far from where this video was filmed at RSPB Arne.
- Male house spiders are looking for love and may scuttle inside in search of a mate. You can tell a male by his long legs and boxing glove – like palps either side of his jaws. If you’re not keen on sharing your home with these amorous arachnids, gently trap them under a glass with a piece of card or paper slid underneath and release them outdoors, somewhere sheltered.
Best reserves for an autumn walk
Check for these reserves on our reserve information page where you can find all the information you need on opening times and how to stay safe when visiting.
- Belfast Lough: A wonderful wetland on the outskirts of Belfast where you can welcome back a range of winter visitors.
- Exe Estuary: Not far from Exeter city centre, this vast estuary provides a winter home for large flocks of avocet and black-tailed godwit.
- Loch Leven: This wonderful wetlands situated between Edinburgh and Dundee is the perfect place to see thousands of arriving pink-footed geese arriving from Iceland.
- Conwy: A wetland on the east bank of the Conwy estuary and a great place to see arriving migrant birds.
- Leighton Moss: This large wetland reserve offers the chance to see migrant waders such as black-tailed godwit, knot and redshank.
- Snettisham: A prime location to witness some spectacular numbers of waders that use the Wash as their winter-feeding site.