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Our top 10 wildlife sightings in September

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Tuesday 22nd August 2017 by bbowtblog

swallows, jay and clouded yellowSwallows on a wire, jay by Margaret Holland and clouded yellow by Paul Simmons

Change is in the air as our summer bird visitors gather before heading south for the winter. Fungi are appearing and animals are gathering food for the winter months. Find out which wildlife to look for this month across our nature reserves.

1 Autumn lady's-tresses

Autumn lady's-tresses

From late summer to the end of September, when conditions are right, you may see thousands of autumn lady’s-tresses in the grassland at Greenham Common. This delicate plant is a late summer flowering orchid with white, bell-shaped flowers arranged in a single spiral around the stem. The plants growing at Greenham Common may form the largest population on a single site in southern Britain. The best spot to see these beautiful snow-white flowers twirling around soft grey stems is on the short dry turf 100m east of the Control Tower car park. From late afternoon the tiny flowers waft a soft, coconut fragrance. Tread carefully or you’ll squash them!

Join our guided walk on 3 September around the common to look for late summer flowers with local expert Peter Creed.

2 Warblers

blackcap Margaret Holland whitethroat Amy Lewis

Now that summer is drawing to a close more of our summer bird visitors are beginning their journeys south for the winter. Look out for warblers, such as whitethroats and blackcaps, feeding up on berries to fuel their long flights to southern Europe and beyond. 

3 Martins and swallows


Look out for flocks of swallows and house martins lined up on telegraph wires as they gather before heading south for the winter. You might also find large flocks gathering in areas of reedbeds, where they feed up on insects before their journeys to sub-Saharan Africa. 

4 Hobbies


Hobbies are amazing aerial acrobats, catching, and often even eating, prey such as dragonflies while flying. They will even catch small birds to eat. They spend the summer in Britain before heading back to warmer, southern countries for the winter. Look out for them flying over heathland, wetlands and along woodland edges where there is plenty of food for them to catch.

5 Jays

jay collecting acorns

Despite being a colourful bird, jays spend most of the year hidden away in woodland. But in the autumn you can see them gathering and storing acorns to eat during the winter. Look out for them burying acorns on lawns. Listen out too, they make a loud screeching call, which is generally heard more often than jays are seen.

Did you know their scientific name, garrulus glandarius, translates roughly as ‘chattering acorn gatherer’! 

6 Late summer butterflies

Clouded yellow by Paul Simmons and speckled wood by Les Binns

You can still see butterflies flying around on warm days in late summer. Look for speckled wood butterflies flying in sunny glades and along rides in woodland, or basking in pools of sunshine. Clouded yellows are a migratory butterfly, arriving in Britain from Europe. Keep an eye out for them as you may see them in many different habitats, but particularly where clovers are growing as this is one of the food plants for their caterpillars. 

7 Migrant hawker

Migrant hawker by Richard Burkmarr

Migrant hawkers are one of the later dragonflies to emerge as adults in the summer and you may see them still flying as late as November. They breed in pools of standing water but look for the adults flying in gardens, woodland and along hedgerows too. As a group, hawkers are the largest and fastest flying dragonflies; they catch their insect-prey mid-air and can hover or fly backwards.

8 Waxcaps


Don’t wait until the midst of autumn to look for fungi. Waxcaps are a group of, generally colourful, fungi that grow on nutrient-poor grassland or heathland, and some species, like parrot and golden waxcaps, appear in late summer. Some waxcaps are of conservation concern because this habitat is declining.

Why not come on a fungi walk this autumn and learn more about the enormous variety of mushrooms and toadstools in our counties. 

9 Water voles

water vole

Late summer is a good time to look out for water voles as the vegetation along river banks is starting to die back. There are also lots of young water voles around as they’ve grown large enough to leave the burrows and find food for themselves.

Did you know BBOWT’s water voles recovery project is the longest-running such project in the UK? Find out more here.

10 Badgers


As dusk gets earlier why not head out and look for badgers feeding on fruit and nuts, and digging for worms and insect larvae. Head to a sett before sunset and sit quietly – you may be lucky to see them emerge and feed!

Things to do

  • See which of our nature reserves are at their best this month.
  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Sign up to our e-newsletter and stay up-to-date with our news about local wildlife
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.

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