From this month until November, look out for flocks of winter thrushes as they move south. Fieldfares are similar to the more common song thrush but have slate grey and chestnut colouring rather than warm brown. Redwings are easy to identify because they have a patch of red beneath each of their wings. These birds have bred in Iceland and Scandinavia and are now feasting on berries in large groups.
With winter looming, many mammals are busy caching food and building up fat reserves to see them through the cold season. Hazelnuts are now ripening so look out for squirrels as they forage and horde away their finds for when food is less abundant. As well as hazelnuts, red squirrels feed on seeds from many different trees including pine, larch and spruce. Their diet also consists of fungi, fruits and even birds’ eggs if they get the opportunity.
As wildlife spectacles go, the red deer rut has got to be one of the most dramatic. Every October, stags battle it out with each other for the right to breed with a harem of females, or hinds. During August and September, stags have been developing thicker necks and shaggy manes in preparation for the rut. While clashing antlers is common, on many occasions rival males will walk alongside each other to gauge their opponent’s strength. It is best to watch the red deer rut during early morning or evening, but be careful not to get too close. Watch safely from a respectful distance and enjoy the sights and sounds of Britain’s largest land mammals as they breed.
If you’d like to see the red deer rut this autumn, check out this Countryfile article for some ideas of places to visit.
Fungi and Flora
Head to the woods this month to see lots more fungi. With more wet weather, fungal fruiting bodies of all shapes and sizes will be emerging. Interestingly, the visible body above ground is only a tiny fraction of the whole fungus – many metres of filaments known as hyphae spread out below the soil and are extremely beneficial for breaking down leaf litter and dead animals. Look for fungi on rotting wood, in particular fallen trees and sodden stumps. You may need to get lower down to see some of the daintier varieties, but in many areas they’re very obvious. Some fungus families grow in circles, which are known as ‘fairy rings’ and increase in diameter as the fungus ages.
This piece was originally published on Bloom in Doom as part of my role as Nature Editor.