With the arrival on October, there is change in the air on the League’s wildlife sanctuaries. The emphasis for animals and plants alike quite suddenly becomes all about preparing for winter; whether it is making the most of the bountiful supply of nuts, seeds, fruits and berries, enjoying what warmth remains in the fading sunshine or withdrawing resources in preparation for the times when just surviving is enough.

Long-tailed Tit in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

Small birds that have decided to sit out the winter, rather than risk migrating to warmer climes, have gathered together in flocks and rove through the woodlands seeking out choice morsels. They often go unseen in the woodland canopy, but listen carefully and you may hear their constant chattering conversation in the treetops.

Fungi appear as if by magic overnight and often they disappear just as quickly once they have dispersed their spores. There is an amazing array off fungi in the UK, due to our mild and damp climate, with evocative names like Witches’ Butter, Angel’s Bonnet, Stinkhorn, Sickener and Yellow Stagshorn, Some fungi are poisonous and some are hallucinogenic, but many are also edible. Fungi are largely ignored by most people who are probably still conscious of a parent shouting “Don’t touch that!” at them as a child. Few are aware that without the symbiotic relationship between fungi and trees our woodlands would struggle to survive. Sunday October 8th is UK Fungus Day. with events all across the country for everyone to get involved in.

3 Parasol fungi in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

There is a different smell to the air now too; a damp, musty, earthy sort of smell, sometimes punctuated with the overpowering odour of Red Deer stag. It sounds like the name of a macho male eau de toilette and in a way it is. Shorter days and colder nights trigger rises in the testosterone levels of the local stags and a number of them descend on Baronsdown for the annual rut. It would seem that female Red Deer like nothing more than a mature stag that has bathed in a cocktail of mud, urine and other bodily secretions.