If you’re mourning the passing of summer and packing away the summer wardrobe, don’t be disheartened. Yes, summer is holiday season, but autumn brings amazing outdoor colours, cosy nights and fascinating wildlife.
Wildlife activity picks up pace in autumn, particularly with migrating birds creating stunning overhead V-formations as they leave or arrive at our shores. At BCH Camping we know that many of our customers love to track wildlife activity on their walks and autumn breaks, so we’ve put together an autumn wildlife guide to where it’s all happening and how you can help wildlife in your own gardens.
Wildlife to look out for during autumn
Autumn is the time when there is a bountiful hedgerow harvest of fruit such as blackberries, rose hips, apples, as well as hazelnuts and seeds. This is an opportunity for many wildlife species to build up reserves of fat for migration or hibernation, so they’re seen more frequently than during other seasons.
If you’re wandering through autumnal woodland you may come across young beavers, also known as kits, who will have emerged from the lodge at the end of summer, and are now looking for food with adult beavers. Their feeding habits change from aquatic plants, grasses and shrubs in late summer to woody plants and trees by winter.
There is a knock-on effect of the emergence of beavers and the building of their dams. They improve conditions for a wide range of species such as dragonflies, otters and fish so there is an increase in other wildlife thanks to their activity.
Flocks of birds
Autumn is flock time for birds! You will see the likes of long-tailed tits and waders on coastal estuaries, as well as stunning murmurations of starlings, when thousands of birds swoop and whirl in the sky. On autumn evenings you might see flocks of jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows returning to woodland roosts.
Bird migration is fascinating and incredible to witness. In autumn, swallows leave the UK after breeding here to return to South Africa. Other species such as house martins, raptors, redstarts, nightingales, cuckoos and swifts also head south. Bird watchers can observe the departing birds as they hug the coastline, before they’re forced to cross the open seas.
Of course, we also welcome other bird species who migrate to the UK from colder, northern parts. These include whooper swans and winter thrushes, such as fieldfares and redwings. If you live near the coast you will see migratory geese arriving from Arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter here. There is also the opportunity to see passage migrants such as green sandpipers, who use the UK as a stop off on their long journeys.
The Atlantic salmon run is one of the most significant journeys that nature has to offer. Salmon find their way to their rivers of birth by gathering at river mouths around our coasts after five years' maturing in the Atlantic. As the river levels rise with the autumn rains, the journey upstream begins. By the end of November, spawning is complete, and the surviving adults make their way back out to sea at a less frantic pace.
To see this amazing spectacle, early mornings and evenings during October and November are best. A period of rain after a dry spell will provide the perfect conditions for the salmon to leap. Find stretches with small waterfalls to observe the great salmon run, and enjoy the entertainment.
Thanks to the introduction of the grey squirrel from North America and the squirrel pox they carry, red squirrels have been in decline and can only be seen in specific locations. Scotland and Ireland are the main areas you will find red squirrels. In England, they are only found on the Isle of Wight, Brownsea Island, and the pine forests of the Formby Coast in Merseyside, Northumberland and the Lake District. There are hardly any sightings in Wales.
Red squirrels are found in coniferous woods where they can feast on hazelnuts by cracking them in half. Autumn is a great time to see them as they forage nuts to store for the long winter months. Up to 80% of a squirrel’s active period is in the morning and in the late afternoon and evening as they forage for food. They usually retreat to their nests in the middle of the day to avoid being seen by birds of prey.
Autumn is mating season for our largest land mammal, the red deer. Red deer spend the rest of the year in single herds, but the mating season sees the dominant male rounding up the females, an afront which is opposed by the younger males. The result is the annual rut which is hailed as one of the most dramatic events in the wildlife calendar. Bucks use their newly developed antlers, and testosterone takes over with stags roaring and heads tossing!
Visit your local deer park to see nature in all its glory. Deer, of several species, are surprisingly widespread and you may hear the barking of muntjac and roe deer, or the roaring of red deer at night.
How to help autumn wildlife in your gardens
Remove debris from ponds before winter sets in. Male frogs spend the winter in the muddy ponds as they break through their skin. If the pond freezes, gases from decaying plant material can poison them if they get trapped. It’s also a good idea to float a tennis or golf ball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing it.
Leaves and twigs
Create shelter for invertebrates and small mammals such as hedgehogs by stacking bundles of twigs, and leaving piles of leaves in a corner or underneath a hedge.
The likes of hedgehogs and queen bumblebees like to hibernate in compost heaps. To provide them with the perfect crib, there are a few things you can do. If your heap is in a bin with a lid, stand it on bricks to provide access for hibernators. If your bin is open, cover it with a piece of carpet, or similar, to keep it dry and insulated. Try to not disturb the bin between autumn and April.
Birds don’t hibernate, and they require a lot of energy to keep themselves warm at night. If you clear out nest boxes now, the birds can use them for shelter on cold nights.
Nurture garden ivy
As many flowering plants die off in autumn, ivy starts to flourish. Ivy is an important source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators when other nectar-bearing plants are in decline. Ivy is important for birds too, as its evergreen nature is perfect for shelter, and the winter berries are an important food source.
Nurturing garden ivy is probably the most important piece of advice for helping nature survive through autumn and winter.
Get in touch
We hope you have found this guide to autumn wildlife useful, and that you get many chances to go on walks to observe different species in action, even if it is only to the bottom of your garden! BCH Camping supply a wide range of camping equipment, clothing, footwear and caravanning accessories. Do get in touch for any information you might need about our products, or if there is a topic you would like us to cover in our blogs.