The winds of change have arrived at RSPB Sandwell Valley. The recent Indian summer is but a distant memory and autumn has arrived bringing with it stormy weather. Whilst the summer weather, greenery and accompanying wildlife will be missed, autumn has its own joys and assemblage of critters that I look forward to seeing. Many birds arrive in the UK to winter here and others simply become more common starting from this time of the year. 

A particular highlight for me so far has been seeing my first ever snipe, something the reserve is well known for, in September. They can peak in numbers to up to 90 individuals towards the end of winter and start of spring. Other birds such as teal and wigeon will also become more common, but what I am quietly hoping to see this year is waxwing, something the birders here tell me isn’t very common but would be another first for me.  

In addition to the bird life, fungi offer an excellent incentive to get out and about on the reserve at this time of year. Being very seasonal by nature, we can find an interesting variety of fungi at the reserve, such as puffballs, bracket fungi and various types of inkcaps, all of which will often disappear within a week or two of first appearing in a particular spot. I found this rather eye catching mystery fungi during one of my walks in September. (Photographed below)

Seeing our reserve go through a dramatic change of colour and eventually leaf fall is something else I am excited for, and presents an opportunity to practice photography and take some great shots. Some of our wildlife such as some butterfly species (red admiral and brimstone) will start overwintering. Juvenile smooth newts should have left the ponds now and can be found under refugia feeding in time for winter.  

All in all, autumn presents an excellent opportunity to get to experience our reserve with a different feel and get to know the animals and fungi that call it their home. I for one will be making the most of this so as to see and experience as much as I can.

- Ali

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