Wildlife this month - September

Bird migration:

September is the month when the mass bird migrations begin, with waders and waterfowl arriving in large numbers.

For those species departing the UK, timing depends on the weather, while for those species arriving, it is dependent on the weather in Russia, Iceland and other northern lands. There is consequently always the chance of some unexpected species turning up this month.


Many birds will be coming out of moult this month and appear in fine winter colour. Waterfowl go through a period of being flightless, as they shed all their flight feathers at once. During this period known as ‘eclipse’, the males lose their bright colours and skulk in camouflaged colours more reminiscent of their females. This month the new feathers will be coming through and brightly coloured males will appear again.


Horse chestnut trees will begin to drop their conkers this month. Many trees will begin shutting down for winter and their leaves will be turning red, yellow or brown prior to falling. 

Hazels will carry ripening nuts and oak trees will be dropping their acorns. Jays are important partners to the oak tree, as they store the acorns for later use and often forget where they left them, thus assisting in the spread of oak trees.


Many hedgerow species will now be displaying fine crops of berries, including:

  • Hawthorn (haws)
  • Bramble (blackberries)
  • Elder (elderberries)
  • Wild rose (hips)
  • Blackthorn (sloes)


The last of the butterflies will still be on the wing in September but the variety of species is less at this time of year. Watch out for:

  • Meadow Browns
  • Ringlets
  • Gatekeepers
  • Walls
  • Speckled Woods
  • Red Admiral


For orchid enthusiasts the finale of the British flowering season is provided by Autumn Ladies Tresses, named for the spiral flower spike that resembles the plaited hair of a mediaeval damsel. These are small plants and easily missed among the grasses but look carefully for them in unimproved meadows on well-drained calcium-rich soils. In favoured locations they should be in flower until mid-September.


The last of the summer flowers can be found this month. On unimproved chalk grassland, species such as the Autumn Gentian provide a splash of colour; in damp places Purple Loosestrife is in flower.


September can be a good month for dragonflies. These spectacular creatures brighten up a late summer walk along rivers and beside lakes.