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Wildlife Calendar - September


September can have some of the best weather of all the months – even though the evenings are drawing in, you can enjoy spectacular late summer colour from crimson leaves and scarlet berries to fire red flowers.

Deciduous native trees and shrubs are the most rewarding plants to establish in the wildlife garden, they often have wonderful shades of fruit (e.g. hawthorn, rowan, dog rose), colourful leaves (field maple, hazel) and seeds (oak, alder, birch). They also support many more species of native wildlife than non-native plants, since they have all lived happily together for many thousands of years. The leaves are changing colour this month before leaf drop, and the fruit fall benefits mammals, birds and invertebrates such as red admiral butterflies and wasps, who appear to get “drunk” after gorging on the fruit pulp.

The established summer meadow can be mown to a height of 5 to 10cm now, and new meadows may be established – follow the instructions in our “Pocket Meadow” article. You may see a number of insect species while you are working in the garden, such as holly blue and speckled wood butterflies. The holly blue is a double-brooded species with a curious habit – the spring butterflies typically lay their eggs on holly, whereas the late summer adults lay on ivy on which the caterpillars feed. Although scorned by many, the common wasp is a natural pest controller and pollinator in the garden, as is the similar looking (but non-stinging) hoverfly. They will help to protect your garden plants by eating aphids, flies and caterpillars.

Winter preparation starts now – you will see mammals and birds foraging more for natural food. Some mammals such as the squirrel and wood mouse will create and add nuts and berries to a food store for the harsh winter, whereas others (hedgehogs, badgers and foxes) will increase their own fat reserves now that their family has reached adulthood. You may help by supplementing their natural food with special badger, fox and hedgehog foods. You can also help provide shelter by way of wildlife homes and make or maintain your own log pile habitat.

Some birds are leaving our shores for sunnier climates – the willow warbler, blackcap, pied wagtail to name a few are preparing to leave this month. Those that are permanent in the UK seem to more visible in your garden now. Among those that are helping themselves to your garden bounty are finches – you may be lucky enough to see a charm of goldfinches on thistle and teasel seed heads, so be sure to leave as many seeding plants as possible for the autumn – they can be tidied later once the seeds have been plucked!

As this time of year can be fairly dry, be sure to clean and top up your bird bath and water bowls – they will be used for both bathing and drinking. Natural seed and berries are diminishing so you would be wise to clean and stock up your wild bird feeders for the barren months. Try to cater for as many different species as possible by providing a variety of feeder and food types – hanging feeders suit many birds including tits, finches and sparrows, bird tables are great for species such as robins, chaffinch and wrens, whereas ground feeders suit blackbirds, thrushes and doves. Refer to our Wildlife section to find out what food and feeders are recommended for different bird species.