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Brecks heathland

Top 10 wildlife in Autumn

Norfolk has some of the best wildlife in the country. Here Norfolk Wildlife Trust's David North gives us his Top 10 wildlife spectacles to look out for during the Autumn...

Details of NWT reserves 

Fungus forays

Fungi by Neal Trafankowski
On the ground, under the mulch of birch leaves, a silent miracle is happening. In a good year, which for fungi generally means a damp year, many species of fungus will emerge now. The massive networks of fungal mycelia in the topsoil, in the leaf-litter, or in rotting wood, are now putting up sporocarps, or fruiting bodies, to produce reproductive spores. These appear with astonishing speed in the right conditions. If you’re not distracted by the warblers in the trees, look down to the leaf-litter now for common earthballs, fly agarics, false chanterelles, parasols and blushers.

Flocks of birds

Stone curlew by Lawrie Webb

Throughout autumn, from August to October, look to the skies for signs of migrating birds leaving and arriving at our shores. Along the Norfolk coast, shimmering flocks of waders can be seen on their migratory passage, bringing with them some of the less common wading birds, such as little stints and curlew sandpipers. In September, NWT Cley Marshes is the perfect place to explore for the chance of seeing rare migratory birds blown slightly off course, such as shrikes and bluethroats. Even some of our commonest garden birds, such as chaffinches, flock in their thousands from Scandinavia to arrive at our shores for winter.

Birdwatching in Norfolk 

Deer ruts

Deer rutting by Darren Williams
Hear the clash of antlers as fallow deer stags fight each other during the rutting season. The stags and bucks grow antlers in order to fight each other for dominance and to attract a harem of females. Holkham Park hosts a large captive herd of these beautiful mammals, but other species of deer roam wild across the heaths and woodlands of Norfolk, so keep your eyes and ears open for signs of the rut taking place.

Rock pool rummaging

Rockpool rummage by Matthew Roberts

On a fine day in September, head to the beach to visit a hidden world of colourful creatures. Rock pools are home to a wealth of marine life, such as bright red beadlet anemones and velvet swimming crabs. Visit Norfolk's only rock pools at West Runton beach at low tide for the best chance of finding life amongst the rock pools. Norfolk Wildlife Trust runs a number of Rock Pool Rummaging events during the first week of September, so don't miss out on being able to find and identify these strange water-dwelling creatures!

How to rock pool in Norfolk

Heavenly heathlands

Heathland by Brendan Joyce

Take a wander across the heathland to enjoy the splendour of colour on show in early autumn. The glorious purple heather should be in full bloom, whilst the yellow gorse fills the air with its warm coconut smell. Gleaming blackberries should also be growing in the hedgerows. Visit NWT Roydon Common for an autumnal walk or NWT Weeting Heath for the chance to see the strange and rare stone curlew, with its big yellow eyes, before they migrate for the winter.

Explore the Brecks 

Wide open skies

Cley sunset
As the nights draw in closer as autumn turns to winter, look to the skies in the late afternoon for the some of the year's most spectacular sunsets. The sky arches over the flat land of the Broads, and on a clear night, the stars are dazzling. Nature reserves, being far away from the light pollution of the towns and cities, can be the best places for star-watching. Which constellations can you pick out amongst the clusters of stars?

Otters hunting

Otter by Mark Ollett
The sight of a gleaming otter, swimming along the river with a fish in its mouth, is undoubtedly one of the most special wildlife encounters you can have in Britain. Autumn and winter are brilliant times of the year to see these elusive creatures. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and they are identifiable from their broad head and long wide tail. Your best chance of seeing an otter would be to take a long walk along the Broads; they are often seen along the river Yare and Wensum. They are also seen at NWT Ranworth and Barton Broads, so a couple of hours waiting patiently in a hide could prove rewarding.

Woodland wonders

Beech trees by David North

Take a wander through the woods in autumn and you will be awed by the stunning array of colours on display as the leaves begin to turn from lush summer green. Beech woods can be especially beautiful as the leaves turn yellow, gold and orange before they fall. Conkers and sweet chestnuts will also be ripening on the branches, whilst blackthorns will be sporting bitter sloes. Felbrigg, Lower Wood Ashwellthorpe and Holt Country Park are worth a visit.

If you're looking for something to keep the children busy whilst they are on holiday, come along to the Wildlife Watch Moth Morning at NWT Hickling Broad in which we open the moth traps from the night before. From Cinnabar and Ghost moths to a range of Hawkmoths, this is a great time of year to explore Norfolk's spectacular diversity of these insects, particularly after those warm, muggy nights. Don't forget to take part in National Moth night in August.

Fluttering butterflies

Small Copper by David North
In September and October, you may still be in with a chance of seeing butterflies before they hibernate for the winter. Visit one of our coastal reserves, such as NWT Holme Dunes, to see the mottled grey and brown graylings drinking from puddles, and small coppers sitting prominently on flower heads.

Garden wildlife

Hedgehog by Hilary Tate
Nature can be right on your doorstep as well. Take an early morning stroll around the garden to see intricately built spider webs glistening with dew covering the lawn and hedgerows. And look out for our only spiny mammal, the hedgehog. The characteristically long snout with a black nose, short tail, small ears and approximately 6,000 spines makes hedgehogs easy to identify. At this time of the year you can help hedgehogs by creating hibernation spots. This can be a box or an undisturbed log pile. Hedgehogs also love the warmth of compost heaps, which also provide hedgehogs with food. Please remember to check bonfires for hedgehogs before setting light to them.

Norfolk's Natural World