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The wildlife calendar: September

This is the first in a year-long series of monthly blogs, featuring seasonal highlights from the natural world in the New Forest. Keep an eye out for them as you explore the Forest this month and share your photos with us on Facebook afterwards.

As swallows congregate for their migration south, there is more than a hint of autumn in the air this month. The days shorten and the sun sits lower in the sky, with the autumn equinox - when day and night are of equal length - occurring on September 23rd.

This month is when the peak fruit picking season begins. The hedgerows are bursting with ripening berries – look out for red hawthorn haws and rose hips and black sloes, elderberries and blackberries. These attract numerous birds and insects for you to spot when out and about in the New Forest.  

(Mark Simpson)

You might also see winged seeds floating away from their parent - field maple, sycamore and ash trees. Fallen acorns are eaten by the commoners’ pigs that are turned out for the pannage season from 14 September, helping to protect ponies and cattle for whom the acorns are poisonous. These acorns are also buried in the ground by jays and grey squirrels storing food for the winter months.

(Pig at Balmer Lawn, Luke Parkinson)

The leaves of horse chestnut trees have been browning at the edges for some time, and this month their conkers fall to the ground. Other trees such as ash, beech and sweet chestnut are also slowly changing colour.

They may be less popular than other Forest inhabitants but Craneflies (daddy-long-legs) appear in their greatest numbers in September, watch for their legs breaking off easily as a way of escaping predators. Now is also a good time to see hoverflies, wasps and bees; nectar from the late-flowering ivy is an important food source for them.  

(Dragonfly, Martin Perry)

Dragonflies and damselflies are still on the wing, and their spectacular flying displays as they hunt for insects are a highlight of this month.  Along riverbanks and around pools such as Hatchet Pond, Eyeworth Pond and Cadman’s Pool are good places to spot them. You will be able to see the larger dragonflies until later in the autumn, but the adults will not survive the winter.

In September, fallow bucks and red deer and sika stags begin to return to their traditional rutting areas in the Forest, having spent the previous months away from the females and their offspring.

On the coastal estuaries, flocks of wildfowl and wading birds such as curlews and oystercatchers are returning from their summer breeding grounds. Head down to Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve on 13 September to spot thousands of coastal birds at their yearly free open day.

(Dipping heron, Martin Perry)

This entry was posted by Communications on Thursday 10/09/2015

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