September sees shift to autumn speed up, writes Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
September typically sees summer segue imperceptibly into autumn but as the month progresses the subtle shift in the seasons becomes ever clearer, as autumn hues increasingly adorn our gardens, parks and the wider landscape, writes Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
Once the autumn colours are evident for all to see, there will be other changes in the natural world and some species will become more noticeable, just as others slip from view for another year.
As the leaves fall from the trees some of our most-familiar garden birds become more visible, but the regular visits you might receive from garden favourites, such as robins and blackbirds, belie the fact that many of the birds you see in the months ahead may well be either passing through or winter visitors from the frozen north — and not necessarily be the same birds seen earlier in the year.
During autumn, the numbers of blackbirds and robins in Britain increase as birds from northern Europe arrive here to take advantage of our relatively mild winter conditions.
Unlike species that only visit us as migrants — such as swallows in summer or waxwings in winter — the fact we have resident populations of robins and blackbirds means most people are unaware of the migratory element of their fluctuating populations.
The number of blackbirds can increase dramatically each winter as birds arrive from cooler climes. The number of robins also increases as birds arrive from northern Europe. While some of these robins might remain throughout the winter, others may be simply passing through on their way to southern Europe or even North Africa. With juvenile robins also developing their characteristic red breast at this time of year, it is no wonder we associate these striking little birds so closely with our winter months and our biggest winter celebrations at Christmas time.
Another garden visitor noted for their colour is the goldfinch. These birds are attracted to our gardens in autumn to feed on the seed heads of plants, such as lavender and teasel, but a more reliable way of ensuring close encounters with them, especially in small gardens, is to purchase a bird feeder and to fill it with niger seed.
Out in the wider countryside goldfinches may been seen in mixed flocks along with linnets, feeding on the seed heads of teasels and thistles and, where farmers have sown them to support wild birds, sunflowers.
Being surrounded by open farmland our Idle Valley Nature Reserve, on the edge of Retford, is a good place to look out for such mixed flocks and autumn is an exciting time of year at this spectacular site.
Whether you fancy a stroll along the River Idle or a spot of bird watching, taking advantage of the miles of footpaths and well-located viewing screens, it’s a wonderful place to explore at any time of year and the wildlife watching opportunities will only be enhanced with our current work to introduce beavers to the site.
I’ve spent a lot of time at the Idle Valley over the last few weeks supporting our lockdown-themed Postcard Show, welcoming many first-time visitors and promoting our new children’s play area, and it’s great to see our largest nature reserve buzzing with people.
Our café offers a warm welcome between 10am and 3pm each day and you can also buy bird food to ensure your garden is a haven for your feathered friends this autumn.
For further details, visit nottinghamshirewildlife.org.