Easy Wildlife To Spot In September

Matt Brown
Jan 30, 2024 By Matt Brown
Originally Published on Sep 01, 2020
Jay bird perched on a tree branch.
Age: 0-99
Read time: 3.4 Min

Header Image © Luc Viator, creative commons licence

The leaves are turning orange, and the conkers and acorns are dropping. The change from summer to autumn is one of the most magical times of the year for children. But what plants and animals should we look out for, among the fallen leaf litter?

This guide picks out the natural wonders that would particularly appeal to kids, and which you might find without too much trouble if you keep your eyes and ears open.


Think squirrels are the only creatures to cache acorns in the autumn? Not so. Catch a flash of pink and blue and you’ve probably glimpsed a jay. These large, beautiful birds (pictured above) are closely related to crows, but without the bolshy attitude. During the summer months, they hide away in the woods, a tricky bird to glimpse. Come autumn and they get a little bolder. You may find one pecking around on the edge of a park, particularly near oak trees. They’re looking for their favourite food -- acorns, which they’ll then bury for winter -- and do so with a distinctive screech. Indeed, the Eurasian jay’s Latin name is Garrulus glandarius, which means ‘chattering gatherer of acorns’.

Blackberries and other fruit

Hands holding out a large handful of freshly picked blackberries.

Image © Unsplash

Even the most nature-dodging indoors-lover must be aware that September means blackberries. The fruits are everywhere right now, poking out of hedges down every alley and parkway. Sloe berries and damsons are also very common. Both are blue-purple berries with a white patina, and are easily mistaken. The surest way to tell them apart is to look at the wider bush. Sloes have sharp thorns, while damsons do not. Sloes also tend to grow closer to the branch, while damsons dangle. 

Clouded Yellow Butterfly

Clouded yellow butterfly on a purple flower.

Image © Dean Morley, creative commons licence

Most UK butterflies are on the wing during spring and summer, with fewer sightings in the autumn. One distinctive exception is the clouded yellow, which is also seen in September. It’s the only yellow butterfly you’re likely to spot, and so is easily identifiable (the brimstone, also active in September, is more of a yellow-green and lacks black markings). They prefer countryside settings (especially chalk grassland), but can pop up anywhere -- particularly where clover grows.


Fox trotting along the platform of a London tube station.

Image by the author, snapped on a tube station platform.

As the famous song asks: “What does the fox say?” Well, if you live near any kind of open space, you’ll probably find the answer on a September evening. Open the windows to the night air and listen out for a variety of shrieking and wailing noises, disturbingly reminiscent of an injured child. Those be foxes. They get particularly vocal in September and October, as the next generation reach maturity and start leaving the den. You’re also most likely to encounter a fox on the streets at this time of year, particularly around potential food sources, like open bins. They are bold yet careful creatures, not afraid to venture into the human realm. One was even discovered at the top of London’s Shard skyscraper during its construction phase.

Water voles

Voles can be a tricky spot. They’re small and shy, and quickly scamper away if they sense humans. You’ll need to head to a river bank, preferably somewhere away from roads and other noisy places. Late September is your best bet for catching sight of one. The young generation will have reached a size where they’re beginning to head out, plus the diminishing vegetation makes them more visible. Their burrows are quite distinctive -- small holes in the river bank close to water level. If you sit still -- preferably at distance with binoculars -- you may see these charismatic creatures popping in and out.

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Written by Matt Brown

Bachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

Matt Brown picture

Matt BrownBachelor of Science specializing in Chemistry, Master of Research specializing in Biomolecular Sciences

With a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a Master's in Residency specializing in Biomolecular Sciences and roots in the Midlands, Matt has developed a passion for writing about London. As a former editor and prolific contributor to Londonist.com, he has authored several books exploring the city's hidden gems. In addition to his work, Matt enjoys spending time with his two preschool-aged children.

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