Column: Get out, go wild this autumn
Misty mornings, smoky evenings, autumn calls you out, enticing with coppers, reds and glorious golds.
Autumn sunlight seems richer, thicker – summer sunlight is too clear, winter sunlight too watery. The nip in the air makes you keep up a good pace, without melting as you move. Late autumn is one of the best times to experience the abundant wildlife on our doorstep.
Woodlands seem particularly magical in late autumn. Walking through Greno Woods, the oaks seems to be a little behind the other trees, saving their best display of colour for November, and the beeches have not yet shed their copper crown. You can hear crossbills and coal tits above and around you. Most trees have shed their leaves now, and the bounty of leaf litter is a joy to crunch through. More importantly it returns goodness to ground level, where minibeasts and fungi will break down organic matter and replace nutrients in the soil.
Fungi are fascinating – they seem to appear as other things are dying, and ingesting certain species can cause agony instead of ecstasy.
The familiar toadstools are only the fruiting bodies of the fungal organism, which can spread underground for great distances. No wonder they have a mystical reputation.
Take a wander through Wyming Brook and you’ll find a great variety of fungi to ponder on.
The increasing starkness of trees reveals new views on the spectacular landscapes we are blessed with on our doorstep – purple heather and bronze bracken.
On Blacka Moor a little patience can reward you with sight of the magnificent red deer; it’s a great time to spot them as they strut their stuff during the rutting season.
Our hedgerows and stone walls play host to chaffinch and black caps; if you want to see bullfinch and chiffchaff in abundance, try Carr House Meadows.
Some species come in as visitors; winter thrushes like fieldfares and waxwings are arriving, and Woodhouse Washlands plays host to lapwings (also known as peewits because of their call), easily recognisable because of their distinctive crest. One wildlife spectacle you can be sure of spotting at this time of year is a starling murmuration – thousands of birds come together and create twisting, shifting shapes that seem to have a life of their own. Get out and go wild this autumn
For more information about any of the reserves mentioned, visit www.wildsheffield.com/reserves