Kate Humble

House martin Delichon urbica, and Barn swallow Hirundo rustica, gather on telephone wires in preparation for migration in August, Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve, Near Angermunde, Brandenburg, Germany
House martin Delichon urbica, and Barn swallow Hirundo rustica, gather on telephone wires in preparation for migration in August, Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve, Near Angermunde, Brandenburg, Germany

I love September. For some it heralds the end of summer; the leaves start to turn, the days get shorter, but for me it is a month of mellow beauty. The air is still warm, there are blackberries to pick and the country basks in the lovely golden light of early Autumn.

It is also a busy time for our wildlife and one of the best times of year for wildlife watching. Our migrants birds – the swallows, martin and warblers will be preparing to head south. Telephone wires will be full of chattering swallows all lining up for the marathon ahead. Other animals will be preparing for winter. If you are lucky to live in a part of the country that still has red squirrels, this is the season where they are at their most visible, foraging in the undergrowth and building up winter stores.

Your gardens will start to look like a Vermeer painting – all rich reds and gold and russets. The leaves on trees will gently start to turn, and vegetable gardens will be full. This is the month to harvest the rewards from all your hard work earlier in the year. This is a time for squash, courgettes and tomatoes, for fragrant bowls of ratatouille and making chutney for the winter. You might have autumn raspberries and the first hand-picked crisp apples of the season.

There is some planting you can do too – lettuce, spring cabbage and winter spinach – and this is also a good month to do a bit of tidying in the garden. However, your resident wildlife will thank you to leave seed heads, teasels, thistles and sunflower heads – all rich pickings for birds like the handsome goldfinch. And remember piles of leaves, stacks of wood and compost heaps all proved valuable habitat for a huge number of species and feeding grounds for many more!

Autumn is a good time of year for moths. Moths are often overlooked in favour of their more garish day-time counterparts, butterflies, but moths come in an extraordinary number of shapes, colours and sizes and with over two thousand species recorded in the British Isles the chance of seeing a new one every time you look is very high. Another nocturnal specialist, the bat, chooses the Autumn as mating season, so if you want to know more about these fascinating creatures this is the perfect time of year to do it. The RSPB run ‘bat and moth’ nights during September as well as many other wildlife events. Details are on our website.

RSPB