BLOG: The spectacles of autumn

16 May 2020 

Discover how the natural world marks the changing of the season in our autumn blog. 

The 22nd September marks the official start of Autumn in the UK, when the sun passes over the equator. This means that we can expect shorter days and longer nights, cooler temperatures, changing colours and falling leaves as we say goodbye to summer.

For a lot of animals, now is the time for them to gather everything they need to see themselves through winter as plant growth and food resources become limited. However, even though it seems like nature is slowing down, there are still some natural wonders to keep an eye out for this autumn.

Bird Migration

As colder weather sets in, birds which made their home in the UK over spring and summer begin their journey south to spend winter in warmer climates. House Martins and Cuckoos migrate to Africa, as well as Swallows, which undertake an enormous 6,000-mile journey to South Africa, flying up to 200 miles a day.

At the same time, birds which have spent summer in higher latitudes arrive in the UK for the milder winter. Redwings and Fieldfares can be spotted in Greater Manchester and Whooper swans, a close relative of our common Mute swans, have been recorded in previous years in Rochdale and Salford.

If you want to help the birds in your garden or local green space over winter, check out our Go Wild resources for guides on how to build nest boxes and bird feeders, as well as a bird spotter sheet to identify what you see!

Fungi 

There are currently 15,000 species of fungi that have been identified in the UK and the damp autumn weather provides the perfect conditions for fungi to thrive.

Fungi grow in a range of habitats which means that there are endless opportunities to see a variety of species right on your doorstep! More recognisable species include the Common Puffball, Chanterelle and Shaggy Inkcap, as well as the classic fairy tale mushroom, Fly Agaric, which is commonly found near birch trees.

Why not head down to your local park or woodland for your own fungi walk and see how many different types you can spot? It is best not touch or eat fungi until you are 100% sure of what it is as some can be poisonous but if you want to learn more about fungi foraging, have a look at our Forage & Feast blogs.

Deer rutting

Deer rutting is another term for the deer mating season, a dramatic annual event characterised by displays of strength and sound. Of the six deer species in the UK, four begin their rutting season during autumn, albeit at slightly different times.

During this time, males compete for females in various ways. They will mark their territory by rubbing against trees and scraping the ground, making loud rutting calls and engaging in physical fights with other males.

In Greater Manchester, Roe deer have already finished their rutting season, but you can witness the Red deer rutting season between September and November at Tatton Park and Lyme Park. You can also see Fallow deer rutting around the same time at Dunham Massey and Tatton Park.

Autumn fruits

Trees and shrubs are filled with an explosion of colour in autumn as berries begin to ripen. These berries provide an abundance of food for animals over winter but they can also be used to make tasty treats at home.

  • Blackberries: Found on brambles and can be used to make jams, liqueurs and desserts. 
  • Elderberries: Fruits of the elder tree that can be used to make syrup and cordial. Elderberries are toxic when raw so make sure to cook them before consuming.
  • Sloes: Fruits of the blackthorn tree which are commonly used to make sloe gin. They are bitter when raw but when prepared give a plum-like flavour.
  • Rowan berries: Fruits of the rowan tree which can be used to make rowan jelly. When raw, the berries are very bitter so it is best to cook them before consuming.

These berries can be found in hedges, woodland, parks and often the verges of paths and roads. As with fungi, avoid touching and consuming berries until you are certain of what they are. For more guidance on foraging autumn berries, check out our Forage & Feast blogs.

Heather

Heather is found in heath, moor and bog habitats and prefers acidic, moist soil in sunny spots. Easily recognised by its pink and purple flowers, heather blooms between mid-August and the end of September and provides a habitat for an array of birds and invertebrates. 

Traditionally, heather was used for fuel, building and even to make ale! Nowadays it is sometimes used in herbal medicine and areas of heather are managed through grazing by livestock, cutting with machinery and controlled burning of certain areas. Head out to areas such as Saddleworth Moor and Crompton Moor to see heather in bloom. 

We would love to see your shots of our autumn wonders! Share your photos with us on Instagram or Twitter @cityoftreesmcr