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September

Minke Whale by Richard Baines Yorkshire Coast NatureMinke Whale by Richard Baines Yorkshire Coast Nature

The heather is holding on but it's a month of change as summer draws to an end and wildlife starts to prepare for the approaching winter, eating more or stockpiling reserves. Breeding waders (golden plover, lapwings and curlew) will be thinking about leaving for the coast or the lowlands. 

Our tip

Start with a morning spent at sea whale-watching and porpoise-spotting on Real Staithes’ traditional fishing boat ‘All My Sons’. Then it’s back to land for a totally different perspective, observing from a coastal watch point with the experts from Yorkshire Coast Nature, where you can expect to see species not seen from the boat. You can even try your hand at pulling lobster pots! This joint Seabirds and Whales tour runs during the summer too.

Also look out for:

  • Whales. In the autumn, whales move south along Yorkshire's coast, following the shoals of mackerel and herring. Late August through to early November is the best time to look for them, and regular whale watching cruises run from Whitby with Whitby Whale Watching. Minke whales are spotted regularly, but sei, fin and even large humpback whales have been seen in recent years.
  • Badgers and go badger watching in North York Moors forests at a brand new purpose built hide, as the families go foraging and the cubs play boisterously. Join the organised watch from May until September. Please contact Hidden Horizons for more information.
  • Wildlife making the most of the autumn food glut with abundant rowan berries and blackberries. Bright red rowan berries will be hanging heavy on the trees in woodland edges, moorland and hedgerows. Keep a note of where they are and remember to visit later in winter to see hungry birds like redwing, fieldfare, ring ouzels and waxwings gorging on the fruits. Blackberries are at their best too – across the North York Moors and Howardian Hills many woodland-edge and field-edge footpaths are next to brambles offering a good harvest. Don’t forget to leave a few for the small mammals and birds! Mice, voles, foxes and badgers have a taste for them.
  • Apple orchards, with late September being the best time to visit one. Sample some of our best native varieties, and possibly the refreshing cider made with them. Orchards are a fantastic place to see birds, too, and are a great habitat for bees, moths, butterflies and hoverflies, all feasting on the fallen fruits. This abundance of insects also attracts feeding bats. From the picturesque village of Ampleforth, uncover the story of Ampleforth Abbey’s award-winning cider on one of its behind the scenes tour of its historic orchard of 2,000 trees where 40 different varieties are grown, before heading to the Cider Mill to see how Ampleforth’s cider and cider brandy is made. There’s a tasting or two, not to mention a slice of Ampleforth’s famous cider apple cake.

Walk of the month

Enjoy sweeping views across to Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook monument while also seeing the ancient woodland restoration work in Greenhow Plantation on our Clay Bank walk. Alder, rowan, willow, oak and birch have taken over quickly where conifers have cleared, with rowan berries and other autumn bounty to be found on this short walk.

Yorkshire Coast Nature tips

Here's what else experts Yorkshire Coast Nature say we should be looking out for this month.

Autumn is a great time to explore your local woodlands in search of strange shapes emerging from the ground overnight. Richard Baines of Yorkshire Coast Nature chooses three types of fungi of differing forms, to look out for in the coming weeks.  

The recent damp weather has been a god-send for fungi. Rain releases tiny spores (seeds) from the fungi which explode into the air. Scientists have calculated that every year, 50 million tons of spores are released into the earth’s atmosphere. Enough to coat every square millimetre of the surface of the earth with 1,000 spores!

Chicken of the Woods Copyright Richard Baines, Yorkshire Coast NatureThe recent damp weather has been a god-send for fungi. Rain releases tiny spores (seeds) from the fungi which explode into the air. Scientists have calculated that every year, 50 million tons of spores are released into the earth’s atmosphere. Enough to coat every square millimetre of the surface of the earth with 1,000 spores!

The world of mushrooms is also blessed with a fantastic array of imaginative species names. Chicken of the Woods rolls of the tongue and is well named, being one of our edible species. It is a bracket fungus due to its habit of growing at right angles to the trunk of a tree in a similar way to a bracket. 

Its favourite trees are beech, oak, chestnut and yew. Its sulphur yellow colour is given recognition in its scientific epithet sulphurous.  

Yellow Stagshorn Copyright Richard Baines, Yorkshire Coast NatureChanging shape from bracket fungus to creepy horn like vertical shapes, next up is the radiantly coloured Yellow Stagshorn. This fungus can be commonly found in coniferous woodland; its amazing colour is so bright it can appear fluorescent in the dark. 

I photographed this specimen in the Forestry Commission’s Wykeham Forest in the North York Moors National Park in early September 2017. 

Look out for it on the woodland floor under trees where it grows on wood which may not be immediately visible as it often chooses to grow on small pieces of timber buried under the soil. 

The Latin named Genus Calocera of which Yellow Stagshorn belongs originates from the Greek for beautiful and waxy.  

Earthball Copyright Richard Baines, Yorkshire Coast NatureOur third species also lurks in the undergrowth in similar habitat as the Stagshorn. 

The Common Earthball is scaly brown in colour (becoming darker with age) often looking similar in colour and texture to a potato. 

Earthballs can look similar to a Common Puffball but unlike the Puffball, Earthballs are poisonous. 

The spores can be seen as dark dust dislodged by rain droplets as the fungi grows old and its covering skin breaks up. The Latin name for the genus Scleroderma originates from scler- meaning hard, and -derma meaning skin.

The importance of fungi for healthy ecosystems has been long recognised by scientists. This may be even greater than once imagined as a potential feedback loop has recently been discovered between the spores and rain. As the spores are released by rain and transported on the wind, tiny droplets of moisture settle within their structure and create opportunities for rain to be created by the existence of the spores themselves! For more on this exciting research see https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/made-by-rain-mushrooms-also-make-it/