As summer draws to a close, there are many signs that nature is already gearing up for the next season. And what a spectacular season it is –autumn is nature’s last hurrah before the cold, bleakwinter months, and it celebrates in a blaze of golden glory.

Here are six signs of autumn to look out for.

1. Leaves changing colour

A dazzling display of gold or crimson leaves is one of the defining features of autumn. If you look up into the tree canopy you may already see the first leaves beginning to turn.

This annual event is triggered by autumn’s cooler temperatures and shorter days. When there’s less sunlight, deciduous trees stop producing chlorophyll, which they use to convert light into energy to grow. Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives leaves their green colour. When production slows down, the chlorophyll fades and yellow and red pigments are revealed.

Autumn leaf, close-up, Marden Park

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Why do leaves change colour and fall off in autumn?

Helen Keating  •  24 Oct 2018

Autumn is the most spectacular season thanks to our deciduous trees. But why is autumn colour better some years than others? Find out why.

2. Migrating birds

Many birds, including nightingales, cuckoos, swifts and swallows fly south to warmer climates for the winter. Look out for huge flocks of swallows lining up on telegraph wires ready for their 6,000 mile journey to South Africa – it will take them six weeks!

Before long we’ll start to see some arrivals too. Redwings, fieldfares, waxwings and some types of duck and geese head to the UK from colder countries like Iceland and Scandinavia.

swallow in flight

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Animal migration: why do animals migrate?

Danielle Wesley  •  17 Feb 2020

Discover why birds and other animals migrate and learn how they complete this astonishing feat without getting lost.

Discover migration

3. Fruits for foraging

Late August to early September is prime time for blackberries. These sweet, juicy fruits are delicious in cakes and crumbles – look for the berries ripening in bramble bushes and check out our scrummy blackberry recipes.

The hedgerows will soon be groaning with other mouth-watering delights too. Keep your eyes peeled for ripe elderberries, sloes, rosehips and wild raspberries.

Remember to leave plenty for wildlife. Badgers, foxes and small birds all feast on these fruits in autumn, and they provide a valuable source of energy and nutrients.

Find out more about foraging.

4. Flowering ivy

Take a closer look at the dark green ivy trailing over trees, old buildings and garden walls and you’ll see little clumps of yellow-green flowers. Ivy is one of the few plants to flower in the autumn, so it’s very important for pollinators such as bees and butterflies that are still active at this time. On a warm, sunny autumn day you’ll see lots of insects buzzing around it, feasting on the nectar.

5. Falling seeds

In autumn, many tree seeds ripen and fall to the ground. Look out for plump acorns, shiny, brown conkers, and prickly beech mast nestled in the leaf litter at your feet. Some trees rely on the wind to spread their seeds – can you spot papery field maple seeds twirling in the wind?

Conker with split casing among fallen leaves

Blog

Seed dispersal: 5 ways trees spread their seeds

Amy Lewis  •  23 Aug 2019

Trees have found several ingenious ways to ensure their seeds are spread far and wide. Some use wind or water, some use explosive force, and some hitch a ride on passing animals. We look at each of these clever methods.

Discover seed dispersal

6. Fungi

Damp weather provides ideal conditions for fungi to grow, so autumn is when many species thrive. They come in an amazing range of colours and some very peculiar shapes. Even more weird are the names – from amethyst deceiver to dead man’s fingers and lemon disco to bearded tooth, these fabulous fungi really capture the imagination.

Remember – fungi can be highly poisonous, so it’s best to look but not touch.

blackthorn berry being picked close-up

Spot the signs of the seasons

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of spring? Or your first ripening berry or autumn leaf? Let us know what's happening near you and help track the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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