It’s creeping towards the last quarter of year – yes, autumn is just around the corner. Officially, this year it begins on 23rd September. As the wheel of the year turns towards the start of the season, the leaves start to fall, creating a blank canvas and stillness for the months ahead. During this crisp and colourful time of year, a number of animals make frequent appearances in our local areas of natural beauty, many preparing for the colder months ahead. Here are five to watch out for:
Found across Britain but not in Ireland, this pigeon sized owl is also known as the brown owl. It is recognised by its hooting call, most commonly heard during autumn time and has a diet that includes small mammals such as wood mice and voles. The months of October and November are when the tawny owl becomes most visible; research has shown that for your best chance of an encounter, you should head out at sunset on a warm, dry evening with a clear sky and full moon. The Full Moon in October falls on 28th and 27th November.
As our only wild member of the dog family, the red fox is active all year round across the UK. But by autumn time, the young cubs of adult fox families are fully self-sufficient, meaning the potential for more sightings. Most of the red foxes’ activity takes place at night or at twilight, but occasionally during daylight. Females are known as vixens and males as dog foxes. Interestingly, red foxes’ forepaws have five toes, while their hind feet only have four. They also have excellent hearing and sense of smell and rely heavily on these two senses in finding prey. For example, a red fox can hear a mouse 100 feet away.
A native species to the UK and one which has lived here for around 10,000 years, autumn time is one of the busiest times of year for the red squirrels. They are known to be elusive, preferring to stay in tree canopies but this is a time when all the nuts, seeds and berries are ripe and ready for picking and the squirrels are busy gathering food to store ahead of winter. They can be spotted digging holes for nuts and seeds.
This colourful member of the crow family is known to be a more shy and secretive bird, so a good time to spot jays are most noticeable in autumn when they’re foraging for acorns. They can be identified by their brilliant blue wing patches and spotted in local parks and woodland areas across the UK except Northen Scotland and the West Coast of Ireland. Look out for them around oak trees in autumn time.
As the largest native land mammal and along with the roe deer, our only native deer species, red deer are most commonly spotted on the open moorlands of the Island and Highlands of Scotland. They can also be spotted across the rest of the country, with the highest numbers to be found in the Lake District, East Anglia and southwest England, according to The Woodland Trust. Adult stags weigh up to 190kg, just under 30 stone. Males are known as stags and are larger than females, known as hinds. Another interesting fact about red deer is that they have existed since at least the end of the last Ice Age, making them a very ancient ancestor.
To find out more about wildlife in your local area this autumn, visit the Woodland Trust’s website.