Wild places to visit and exciting wildlife adventures to enjoy with Dorset Wildlife Trust

Shades of Autumn 

September 23 marks the autumn equinox of equal day and night, from here on in the days get shorter. Across Dorset’s woods, fields and hedgerows, autumn turns the leaves to flaming red and burnished gold, with plump berries and fungi replacing summer blooms. It’s a particularly good time of year to visit woodland nature reserves, each has its own unique treasures to discover.

Kilwood Nature Reserve near Wareham is a wildlife-rich birch and oak woodland with small areas of old hazel coppice. The branches of the large oaks host a variety of mosses, lichens and epiphytic ferns, providing habitat and shelter for a range of creatures. Listen to the sounds of the woodland and you might hear the distinctive descending song of a willow warbler. They are fueling up on small insects and spiders, as well as fruits and berries before making the journey to Africa, leaving our shore in September and returning in April.

A little further north, Ashley Wood near Blandford Forum is an ancient ash and hazel coppice, with varied habitats and diverse wildlife to match. This wild woodland landscape is a delight to observe as the seasons change. Birds to look out for on this Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserve include the marsh tit, a small brown bird with a distinctive black ‘cap’; the bullfinch with its glorious coral coloured plumage and the song thrush, which you will probably hear before you see it.

To find a nature reserve near you for a wild experience this September visit: dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/nature-reserves.

Great British Life: Hoverfly on Ivy flower. (Photo: Nick Upton 2020VISION)Hoverfly on Ivy flower. (Photo: Nick Upton 2020VISION)

Valuable Late Bloomer 

Think of ‘ivy’ and you will likely envision swathes of green leaves climbing up an old wall or scrambling around a tree. But from September to November, ivy blooms with small yellow flowers providing a valuable source of late season nectar for insects in autumn such as honeybees, hornets, hoverflies (pictured) and butterflies. These flowers grow in round clusters and are followed by black berries in winter, which are feasted on with relish by birds including starlings, thrushes and blackbirds.

Great British Life: Red admiral butterfly. (Photo: Richard Burkmarr)Red admiral butterfly. (Photo: Richard Burkmarr) Look out for...Red admiral butterflies 

A migrating visitor from North Africa and continental Europe, the red admiral butterfly (pictured) can be seen here from late spring when they lay their eggs, through to early autumn. Favourite foods include buddleia, flowering ivy and orchard windfalls. Found in a wide range of habitats, from coastal landscapes to flitting high up on hills, they are easy to identify. Mainly black, with broad, red stripes on the hindwings and forewings, and white spots near the tips of the forewings.

Great British Life: Teasel after flowering. (Photo: Richard Burkmarr)Teasel after flowering. (Photo: Richard Burkmarr)

The Kindest Cut

As summer growth begins to die back in the garden, you might be tempted to get tidying. However, spare a thought for wildlife. Seed heads such as teasels (pictured) and old foliage provide an important habitat for insects in the cooler months. Opt for a light trim now leaving plenty of foliage at ground level to provide shelter for creepy crawlies. More insects in the garden means more food for the birds, so your restraint with the clippers could help a wide range of wildlife.