Autumn; a time when wildlife comes out to play

© Andrew Whitmarsh

Autumn is a time of change, with many species altering where and how they live in preparation for the great annual emergency - winter. In Autumn we witness the landscape shifting, and for many plants, insects and some mammals it is a time of slowing down. But Autumn is also a time to experience some of nature's most magnificent wildlife spectacles, from rutting deer to mass bird migrations.

Migrating birds

For many birds, Autumn is a time for arrivals and departures, with some flying south in pursuit of food and warmth, while others arrive from the Arctic for a mellower winter. October brings the return of thousands of swans and geese, flying in their famous V-formations. Thrushes, finches and buntings also make the journey across the North Sea to the UK, sometimes in their thousands. It's a delight for the senses, vast clouds of finches and thrushes passing overhead in endless flocks, accompanied by the nasal croak of bramblings, the laughing rattle of fieldfares and the piercing call of redwings.

Deer rut

The annual deer rut is iconic of Autumn - this awe inspiring and violent contest sees stags lock antlers in battle. Because does are only in their fertile stage for about a day each year competition is ferocious., and the rut is a tremendous display of power from Britain’s most majestic creature.

Starling murmurations

Starling murmurations which can be made up of over 100,000 birds. These displays are one of the most magnificent spectacles in nature’s. Watching thousands of starlings take flight to form dark shapes, which rise, dip and turn in perfect unison can be breath-taking. The best time to watch is early evening as starlings take flight to choose their night-time shelters.

Salmon run

One of the great journeys of the natural world comes to a close at the end of the Autumn: the great Atlantic salmon run. Salmon navigate to their rivers of birth, gathering at river mouths around our coasts after five years' maturing in the Atlantic. As the river levels rise with the rains, the journey upstream begins. Gather at the riverside and cheer them on as they swiftly dip in and out of sight, leaping up waterfalls! By the end of November, spawning is complete, and the surviving adults make their way back out to sea at a calmer pace.

Mushroom explosion

With more than 15,000 species in the UK, fungi make up an entire kingdom of their own. These curious beings are neither plant, nor animal, and their diversity is stupendous. Chicken of the woods and King Alfred’s cakes, pink ballerinas and scarlet elf cups, blewits and boletes; some are delightfully named, some delicious, and others poisonous. Every habitat is home to a great variety of fungi, and autumn is the best time to explore this little-visited world: you may well be surprised at just how many you come across!

Fungi growing on a wooden post in a river.