1. Giant puffballs
The giant puffball is the largest fruitbody of any fungus and appears around this time of year, often the size of a large football or bigger. It is found in nutrient-rich grassy places such as parks, fields, roadside verges, scrub and woodland. This mushroom is edible when young and still white inside but should not be eaten after it has begun to decompose. The mushroom has also been used in bee keeping. Fumes from smoldering fruitbodies calm bees when placed beneath a hive.
2. Purple loosestrife/purple lythrum flowers
This popular magenta wildflower should have fully flowered by September, creating a beautiful plant found most often in wet habitats such as reed beds, fens, marshes and riverbanks. Many tall stems grow from one root and the nectar is a valuable food source for bees, moths and butterflies. This flower is widespread across England, but less common in Scotland.
September marks the start of conkers season and a flurry of activity on school playgrounds across the UK. The conker is the seed of the horse chestnut tree and is found in a green, hard, spiky casing. As the casing turns brown, it cracks and the conker falls out. An age-old favourite, the game of conkers involves attaching a piece of string through a hole in the conker and then swinging your conker with the aim of hitting, and eventually destroying your opponent’s conker.
After the successful pollination of rose plants in spring and early summer, the fruit of the rose, the rosehip, starts to ripen in autumn. Rosehips can be eaten and are widely used to make jam and herbal teas. They are also used frequently to make rosehip oil and are particularly high in vitamin C. Rosehips can be eaten raw but care should be taken to avoid the hairs inside the fruit. It has been claimed by some scientists and well-known actor Larry Lamb that rosehip is a brilliant pain relief for those suffering from arthritis or joint pain.
5. Goldfinches feeding on seed heads
Keen gardeners should avoid cutting off the seed heads of plants in the autumn, as some species, including goldfinches, love to feed on them. September provides lots of seed heads for goldfinches, allowing them a broad diet of groundsels, ragworts, dandelions and more. Male goldfinches are the only birds that are able to extract seeds from teasel heads, clinging to the stem and tearing into the seed head with their long, pointed beaks. Female goldfinches have shorter beaks and so are unable, like their male counterparts, to exploit the teasel heads.
6. Barking of muntjac deer
Also known as barking deer, September is the perfect time to listen out for muntjac deer and their loud, characteristic bark. With a large population reaching almost every English county, and even a few in Scotland and Ireland, most people could spot, or at least hear, a muntjac deer relatively easily. Numerous circumstances lead to the distinctive bark, and other sounds include screaming by alarmed deer and squeaking by maternal does and kids. Their preferred habitat is woodland, but muntjac deer have increasingly been spotted in urban areas.
August and September are the best months to pick blackberries. Legend has it that after the end of September, the devil spoils the blackberries after a blackberry bush broke his fall from heaven. This may be a legend but it holds good advice – as the weather gets colder, the blackberries are not as good to eat. Remember to pick carefully, avoiding the lowest berries as foraging animals may have spoiled these. Jams and crumbles are the most popular uses for blackberries, but try making blackberry sorbet or blackberry wine this September. The berries can also be frozen for use at a later date.
Wildlife spectacle of the month: Migrant birds departing
September is the perfect time to watch migrant birds depart. Popular species such as swallows and house martins begin their journey south, seeking the warmer weather in Africa. Other birds, like puffins and gannets, leave our shores to spend the winter in the sea.
Islands and coastal areas are the best places to watch migratory birds, with the Isles of Scilly famous for their brilliant vantage points for spotting rare birds from North America, Europe or Asia that have been blown off-course by bad weather. It is particularly important to choose the right time of day – early morning and dusk often guarantee the best chance of spotting the birds.
This month the UK also welcomes species that spend the winter in the UK, enjoying the milder weather. Fieldfares, redwings and many kinds of ducks and geese will arrive on our shores. Wetlands are excellent spots to witness the return of thousands of geese and wading birds.
Main image: Getty
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