Overlay

Five signs of autumn

Summer is coming to an end, and next week astronomical autumn officially starts. As nature prepares for one last burst of colour and energy before winter, here are five signs of autumn to look out for.

Seeds

Throughout autumn many native trees lose their leaves and their seeds. Conkers, acorns, and beech masts are all tree seeds that fall to the ground. This means they rely on gravity to spread the seeds and do the hard work for them!

Other trees produce tasty, nutritious, and filling seeds which birds and mammals love. When eaten these berries travel through the hungry animal and exit at the other end covered in fertiliser! Oak trees also benefit from foragers, with many of the acorns that are hidden in winter caches being forgotten and growing into new trees in the spring.

Fruit and berries

Blackberries are an autumn icon. Throughout the late summer and early autumn blackberries ripen into sweet, delicious fruits that are loved by humans, animals, and birds.

There are many other fruits appearing in hedgerows and bushes at this time of year. Sloes, elderberries, rosehips, and wild raspberries are also ready for picking and can be used in jams, cordials, and of course, sloe gin.

If you go foraging for berries then remember, only take what you need, and always leave lots for wildlife. Birds, small mammals, and even badgers feast on berries at this time of year, getting a much-needed energy boost to prepare them for the winter months.

Golden leaves

When you think of autumn the yellows, oranges, and reds of the changing tree canopies is one of the first things that springs to mind.

There is no set date for when this terrific transformation takes place. The change is actually caused by the cooler temperatures and shorter days which trigger trees to stop producing chlorophyll (which trees use to convert light into energy). Chlorophyll makes the leaves green. So, when it’s production stops it, it fades away and shows the natural yellows, oranges, and reds of the leaves.

Migrating birds

Swallows, swifts, and sand martins are all visitors to the UK. They spend their summers here, before heading back to Africa in late September to October. These epic journeys can last several weeks, and swallows can cover over 200 miles in a day!

Many birds from colder areas will soon be arriving in the UK to escape the harshest winter weather, including several species of geese and swans, and smaller birds like redwings, waxwings and starlings. These birds will be coming from much colder climates, like Iceland, Scandinavia, and Russia. They’ll spend the winter here, taking advantage of the milder temperatures and more plentiful food supply.

Fabulous fungi

Fungi come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and can grow on trees, in soil, on water, and even on animals. There are around 15,000 species of fungi found in the UK, compared with about 600 species of birds.

Because fungi thrive in damp weather autumn is the time when many species are at their best, showing off their amazing colours and shapes. Some of them are beautiful, whilst others are plain strange. Look for chicken of the woods, dead mans fingers, giant puffball, common stinkhorn, and fly agaric. As always, be wary when touching fungi, and never pick or eat anything unless you are totally sure what it is.

tree planting in Lancashire