Our top 10 wildlife sightings in September

Change is in the air as our summer bird visitors gather before heading south for the winter. Find out which wildlife to look for this month across our nature reserves.
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!

Hobby

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.

Jay

Jays

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’. 

Swallows

Swallows and house martins

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. 

Blackcap and whitethroat

Warblers

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. 

Clouded yellow and speckled wood

Late summer butterflies

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. 

Migrant hawker

Migrant hawkers

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.

Waxcaps

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.

Badger

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!

Water vole

Water voles

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.