Downs Diary


With the long summer drawing to a close autumn now begins, bringing rich, vibrant splashes of yellows, browns and reds. In September, birds start seeking safety in numbers, bringing a profound change from territory holding to sociability. As the season changes and the nights grow longer, fast-food berries become a vital source of food for them.

Downs promenade in autumn (copyright Denice Stout)

September heralds conker season! These prickly horse chestnut fruits begin falling over the next few weeks revealing 1-3 smooth, shiny brown conkers (nuts). Great for kids young and old!

Although some birds are beginning their annual migrations away from the approaching cold months, September is full of young robins and wrens calling loudly from the safety of bushes. Listen for their shrill alarm calls as you pass by.

Autumn begins with a feast as many plants provide succulent fleshed fruits which appeal to hungry birds, insects and mammals alike. Ripening blackberries turn from red to black from late August. On warm, sunny days, look out for comma and red admiral butterflies sipping the juice from rotting fruits. Blackberries are made up of lots of tiny, round shiny berries stuck together. Each tiny berry in the cluster has its own seed so one animal eating one fruit spreads many seeds.

Comma butterfly on leaf (copyright Denice Stout)

Photographs © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project, Denice Stout.