By Tim Martin, Farm Wilder Founder
The smallest of the true thrushes, Redwings start arriving in September, with October and November seeing them arriving in droves. Watch out for these orange-red flanked birds throughout the British countryside. For the best chance of spotting them, head to areas with berry-laden hedges or orchards, but you may just see on in your garden! Distinctive feature: Orange-red flank patches.
UK breeding: 13 pairs | UK wintering: 8.6 million birds | UK conservation status: Amber
This boldly marked thrush is one of the largest, and spends its winters in flocks ranging from a dozen to serveral hundred strong, arriving in mid-October and leaving again in April. Their harsh 'tsak tsak tsak’ calls are a distinctive part of the soundtrack of the British winter. The Fieldfare is another bird which uses hedgerows to source its food, picking delicate berries from their stems. Distinctive feature: Yellow beak.
UK breeding: 1-2 pairs | UK wintering: 680,000 birds | UK conservation status: Red
With their long beaks and short legs Common Snipe are slightly comical looking medium-sized waders. Whilst a few nest on our Dartmoor farms, the summer numbers are dwarfed by over a million winter arrivals from Northern Europe, which can be seen on marshes across the country. They are also joined by the rarer and smaller Jack Snipe, which prefers to feed on worms in boggy rough pastures. We’ll be seeing if we can spot them on our own farms this winter.
UK breeding: 80,000 pairs | UK wintering: 1 million birds | UK conservation status: Amber
The inevitable shortening of the days in October triggers Red Deer to start their breeding season, which can cause mighty fights between mature stags, as they battle over groups of hinds. Red Deer can be found roaming woodlands and grasslands across much of the UK, with strongholds in Scotland, Cumbria, East Anglia and the South West. Distinctive feature: Branched antlers.
The cool damp autumn season brings a flourish of wild mushrooms. Fungi have long been associated with ancient taboos and modern caution, but they are a key part of healthy woodlands and grasslands. Their underground filaments, mycorrhizae, connect plants' roots to the soil, and we are discovering more about the importance of fungi to plant and soil health every year.
Wild mushrooms are a great addition to your cooking, but make sure to do your research before stepping into the woods!
Edible species: Bay bolete, Beefsteak fungus, Charcoal burner, Field mushroom.