Autumn in bloom
Throughout autumn, the vibrant golden flowers of the western gorse cover many of the eastern slopes and, in grassy areas and tracks, the yellow flowers of autumn hawkbit can be seen.
Bilberries continue to provide a meal for small mammals and human visitors alike, while the last heather flowers slowly fade to give whitish seed capsules and the bracken starts to turn a distinctive rusty brown as it dies back.
However, even in late autumn the short grasslands can be spectacularly colourful, scattered with the crimson, orange, yellow, white or pink caps of the waxcap fungi as well as the finger-like black earth tongues and golden spindles. Parasols and field mushrooms can also be found, particularly close to boundaries of enclosed pasture, and wild mushrooms are found throughout the short grasslands.
Birds to spot
Some migrating birds pass through between mid August and mid October, although there appear to be considerably fewer than the numbers that pass through in spring.
This is probably because birds flying north to get to their breeding grounds travel much more directly and only stop over for short periods to feed. The return migration in the autumn is more leisurely, food is available in many more places and weather conditions, particularly prevailing winds, are very different.
Autumn is heralded by the arrival of large flocks of birds that come to Britain for the winter – redwing and fieldfare and, perhaps, brambling and golden plover.
The second brood of small coppers and walls still look fresh as they bask in the September sun on the track sides and many moth caterpillars continue to feed up and bask in the last sunny days of autumn as they prepare to overwinter.
Adult dragonflies and damselflies remain active well into September and, under water, their larvae continue to feed. The onset of November however, with its cold weather and lack of nectar, brings most insect activity to a close for the year.