Great nature reserves to visit in September

With nearly 90 nature reserves to choose from in our three counties, which are the best to visit this month?
Tufted ducks

Tufted ducks by Margaret Holland

Calvert Jubilee, Bucks

Calvert Jubilee, east of Bicester, is a haven for birdwatchers. Visit in September and you may see a variety of migrant birds passing through the reserve on their journeys to spend the winter in warmer places.

The reserve's large 'lake' was created by clay extraction for the brick industry. Later, part of the site was a municipal rubbish tip. Steep banks were carefully sculpted to form shallows in front of two bird hides while the creation of three floating raft islands have enabled common terns and waterfowl to nest away from local foxes.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher by Jon Hawkins/Surrey Hills photography

Cholsey Marsh, Oxon

Take a walk along the Thames Path through Cholsey Marsh near Wallingford. This site comprises flood meadow and marsh, wet woodland and scrub with ponds. The marsh is home to wading birds, a mixed winter roost, reptiles, dragonflies and the highly protected Desmoulin’s whorl snail.

It’s a great site at this time of year with lovely views of the Thames and the chance of catching a glimpse of a passing kingfisher. Take a stroll at dusk to watch bats, including Daubenton's bats, as they swoop low over the river catching insects to eat. 

Ivy bees

Ivy bees at Dry Sandford Pit by Peter Creed

Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon

Take time on our Cothill Fen Wild Walk to explore Dry Sandford Pit. The site has been created out of an old limestone quarry. A ring of sandy cliffs create a secluded spot where nature and geology are both on show. The cliff face reveals ancient fossils laid down during the era of the dinosaurs.

Now the cliff is used as a home by hundreds of solitary bees and wasps. The ivy bee, which was first spotted here in 2011, is now well established in south-facing banks. This remarkable mining bee, slightly smaller than a honeybee, was described as new to science in 1993 when it was identified in southern Europe. It was first sighted in Britain in September 2001 when it was found on the Dorset coast and has spread north since then. The foot of the cliff is carpeted with lichens, wild flowers and fungi.

Greenham Common

Greenham Common by James Osmond

Greenham and Crookham Commons, Berks

Greenham and Crookham Commons on the southern edge Newbury forms the largest area of lowland heath in West Berkshire. 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 our latest flowering orchid with white, bell-shaped flowers arranged in a single spiral around the stem. It is probably 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. Tread carefully or you’ll squash them!

Chiltern gentians

Chiltern gentians by John Morris

Homefield Wood, Bucks

Take a stroll through the chalk grassland at Homefield Wood to look for gentians that flower in late summer. Autumn gentians are the more common species, but you can also find Chiltern gentians, which as the name suggests only grows in the Chilterns. Find out how to tell the difference with our handy infographic.

Other reserves in the Chilterns where you can see gentians include Aston Clinton Ragpits, Dancersend and Yoesden in Bucks, and Chinnor Hill and Warburg Nature Reserve in Oxon. The two species can be tricky to tell apart without a hand lens and a ruler to measure specific features on each plant, and where the two species grow together they easily hybridise. So enjoy the sight, whichever the species you find!

Wildmoor Heath

Wildmoor Heath by Andy Fairbairn

Wildmoor Heath, Berks

Unlike many other flat heaths, Wildmoor Heath is situated on a slope and offers visitors a wonderful range of habitats and views, from wet and dry lowland heath and valley bog, to mature pine and broadleaved woodland. Neighbouring Broadmoor Bottom, to the east of Wildmoor Heath, is also worth a visit in September for the heathland colour.

You can explore Wildmoor Heath and surrounding area with our Sandhurst Wild Walk. This 9km circular walk, which starts in Sandhurst, passes through heathland, pasture and forest.

Water vole
wildlife

Our top species to see in September

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Woolley Firs by Ric Mellis

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