Phil Pickin: And you thought autumn was a quiet time of the year?

One of the most impressive times of the year, regular blogger, Phil Pickin explains why autumn is active, interesting, and seriously colourful...

berries

Autumn is a great time of year, one that many people see as the best in fact. Although the days are shorter and a wee bit colder, the added colour in the leaves and the abundance of ripe fruits and berries make this a very colourful time to enjoy the outdoors.

Practically summer

It’s sad to see migrating birds, like the swallow and swift leave, but it’s also wonderful to see the flocks of waders and geese arrive, deeming our winters to be mild. In the depths of winter we might wonder if they've chosen wisely, but compared to their homeland even our freezing temperatures make a welcome change.

Breeding season

Birds are not the only ones who are particularly active at this time of the year; if you are close to the coast keep a look out for grey seals for whom autumn constitutes the breeding season. Similarly, autumn is the breeding season for red deer who will be taking part in the annual rut; a spectacular and noisy event and one not to get too close to!

Funghi

Preparing to hibernate

For the animals and insects that hibernate now is the time to make the most of the last few days of good weather and abundant food. Hedgehogs will be making warm nests as will many other small mammals who will be doing their best to stockpile food and build up fat stores. Bees, dragonflies, bats and butterflies are also preparing for the long winter sleep. Butterflies in particular will be seeking out the last of the nectar on offer. Ivy, in flowering late provides such insects with vital late season food, something that is all too readily taken up. Look out for them when you are out and about. Meanwhile, at dusk the Tawny Owls will be calling to claim territories. Their call is one of my favourites and still manages to sound eery when heard across a misty landscape no matter how many times I’ve heard it. Other owls too will be calling so try and identify them by their calls.

Circle of life

If you are lucky enough to be close to a salmon river you could well be lucky enough to see the final journeys of Atlantic salmon who, at this time of the year are making their way back to the rivers of their birth. Their epic journey will sadly will be the completion of their lifecycle as after they have given birth to the next generation in the rivers they they will die. Thousands of eggs will have been laid into depressions in the riverbed before the spawning has been completed. All of this after a journey of many thousands of miles and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles; an awe-inspiring if somewhat sad event to witness.

Plants

Blazing colours

Fungi, in all it’s forms is also abundant at this time of year. Mushrooms and toadstools abound in woodlands across the country. It’s said that there are over 3500 species of fungi in the UK, and although you don’t have to know every one of them it’s still safer to overcome the temptation to pick any. Not only is this good for conservation but also safer as you will avoid potentially coming into contact with the poisonous varieties. Some can be impressive, both in their coloration and their shape, and mixed with the bright colours from newly fallen leaf litter they help to provide some of our most memorable landscapes and views.

So as far as I see it, the autumn provides something for almost everyone. Bright and vivid colours, misty hues on early mornings, the sound of birdsong in the air mixed with the crunch of crispy fallen leaves underfoot. The smell of the damp atmosphere mixed with, if you are lucky enough, the smell of woodsmoke or the sweet smell of apples which provide something for almost all the senses.

It’s little wonder autumn is so popular with so many people. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Magazine of the Ramblers