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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. This joint Seabirds and Whales adventure 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 whale watching cruises run from Staithes with Yorkshire Coast Nature or Three Sisters Sea Trips. 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

The experts at Yorkshire Coast Nature are our eyes on the ground, here's Richard Baines' pointers on what else to look out for this month.

Birds without borders

Birds have no physical borders to movement, no boundaries to their migration. They can fly anywhere they like. Imagine that, total freedom of movement…

I have been inspired by animal migration and especially birds all my life. I remember peering out of my bedroom window as a teenager and overlooking the industry on Teesside. I would watch with a keen eye the direction of factory smoke. If the smoke was moving right to left that meant the wind was blowing from the east. I would rush down to the coast in search of magical migrant birds from continental Europe and maybe if I was extra lucky from Siberia. That rush of adrenalin when the first birds arrive from over the sea is amazing. So many questions fly through my mind; how do they navigate? How do they survive flying over the North Sea? Which country did they nest in? How many borders have they flown over?

Redwing (c) Dan LombardIn those early days of my birding life it was easy to drop everything when the weather looked good. These days with more responsibilities it becomes harder but it’s still worth dashing to the coast if you sniff an easterly! There are many places on the Yorkshire coast to seek out. In the North York Moors National Park try any headland such as Boulby, Kettleness or Ravenscar. Even the cinder track disused railway between Whitby and Scarborough can be good.  

Later in September the first thrushes arrive; Redwing and Song Thrush. Later in October the thrush rush gains momentum as Fieldfares join the show and other species arrive in bigger numbers. Anything can turn up on our shores from the smallest bird in Europe, the Firecrest, to impressive raptors such as Arctic nesting Rough-legged Buzzards.

Swallow (c) Dan LombardIf you want to discover more about bird migration there is a fantastic week-long event happening in October. Migweek is an annual event open to the public celebrating the amazing world of bird migration. The events are all based at our two most northern Bird Observatories; Flamborough and Filey.  

All events are free! Bird ringing demonstrations, guided migrant bird walks and visual migration events, sea-watching demonstrations, talks by local and national experts, merchandise sales etc. Richard Baines, Yorkshire Coast Nature Director, will be leading two walks during the week, see programme for more details.

Yorkshire Coast Nature is sponsoring this event with limited edition t-shirts and Flamborough walking packs. All proceeds from the sale of the merchandise will go to the refugee council and Jean Thorpe Wildlife Rescue Centre.