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What you might see on a Local strollin Autumn

With Covid restrictions continuing, lots of us are walking and cycling in the countryside near home. Here are a few things to look out for this autumn and winter that you can spot almost anywhere: in parks and fields, in woods or by water. The most obvious signs of autumn are colourful leaves, but there are also berries, late flowers, striking seed heads and overwintering birds.

  • County: in Autumn
  • Great for: berries | birds | trees |
  • Refreshments: eat at home
  • Please note: Stay safe and local. Follow NHS guidelines on social distancing. This was researched/updated in November 2020. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 4. Seeds and spiders

    Once the flowers have mostly gone and the leaves have finally fallen, you can still enjoy the interesting silhouettes of bare trees and the sculptural shapes of dried seed heads, especially decked in dew-covered spiders’ webs.

    • The lacy white-flowered cow parsley that lines country paths and lanes in summer forms equally pretty umbels by late autumn. Prickly burdock and teasels, feathery rushes and dried grasses all add interest to the wintry fields.
    • The fluffy white seeds of wild clematis, known as old man’s beard, are also easy to recognise.
    • Spiders’ webs show up most clearly on foggy or frosty days. It’s mating season for house spiders and they do like – as the name suggests – to share human homes so sometimes you don’t even need to step outside for a wildlife encounter (Not so great for arachnophobes).
  1. 5. Birds

    October saw the usual influx of migrant birds arriving for the winter. The fruitful hedges and garden trees mean a feast for birds like newly-arrived fieldfares and redwings.

    • Fieldfares, large thrushes with grey heads and pale speckled bellies, make a noise like a football rattle; you can spot big flocks of them in late autumn and winter.
    • Walking near watery areas, look out for swans, ducks, geese and wading birds. Some of the usual residents, including herons, egrets, mallards and moorhens, live here all year round with others arriving to join them. You may think winter in the UK is chilly, but birds like pink-footed geese, arriving from Greenland and Iceland, head to Scotland for a bit of winter sun and move southwards as the days get shorter.
    • Waxwings are one of the most colourful and unpredictable winter visitors. With a crest, flashes of orange and a yellow-tipped tail, they can arrive from Russia and Scandinavia, sometimes in large numbers and suddenly descend on the berries in suburban carparks.
    • Perhaps the most mesmerising seasonal spectacles are starling murmurations. They often begin in November and can last through to early spring. No one knows exactly why thousands of starlings form huge whirling clouds on winter evenings, but it’s wonderfully hypnotic to watch. Finding safety in numbers (sometimes as many as 100,000), they generally perform their huge aerial dance at dusk as they gather over their roosting sites before they sleep. They’re often seen over the piers in Brighton (west pier) and Eastbourne, in the reedbeds at Fen Drayton near Cambridge and numerous other places around the UK. You can track and record the latest local sightings at Starlings in the UK.
    • These ornithological delights will still be there when the lockdown lifts. Unless they happen to be very close, it’s probably best to enjoy the everyday birds in parks and gardens nearby. There’s always something cheering about a little red-breasted robin, perched on a branch like a Christmas card come to life.

    Wherever you are, stay safe and enjoy the world around you. Happy walking!

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Visit car-free in 2020!