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Tales of autumn from a Forest Ranger

As summer gives way to autumn Gerry, our Forest Ranger at the Forest of Dean gets misty-eyed and mellow. Find out what autumn means to him…

“Autumn is perhaps my favourite season. I love the changing hues of the forest and the vibrant colours on display. I love the fresh crisp mornings and the sharp clear nights and I love the sights and sounds of the forest at this time of year.

Woodland animals increase their activity levels, so magical wildlife encounters become more commonplace and we also see an abundance of nature’s harvest with fruits, nuts and berries on display. In autumn, we can admire the complexity and beauty of the natural world perhaps more so than at any other time of the year and this certainly makes the approaching winter a whole lot easier to take.

A kaleidoscope of colours

So what creates the kaleidoscope of colours in a forest at autumn? Well, the reduced daylight hours at this time of year, lead to the draining away of chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green. This reveals glorious hues of red, orange, yellow and gold. Beech trees can be especially spectacular and their coloured mixture of leaves, interspersed with the evergreen conifers make an autumn forest experience a visual delight.

So what creates the kaleidoscope of colours in a forest at autumn? Well, the reduced daylight hours at this time of year, lead to the draining away of chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green. This reveals glorious hues of red, orange, yellow and gold.

Birds prepare for the long winter

Woodland species that are now much easier to spot are varied. Members of the tit family will form large, mixed flocks in order to find food, and their contact calls can be heard as they flit through the trees. Flocks of long-tailed tits may be regularly spotted and these colourful, gregarious characters will always brighten up your day. Jackdaws, rooks and carrion crows will also flock together and you may see large numbers of them flying noisily to their woodland roosts on autumn evenings, a stunning sensory experience.

Jays are much more commonly spotted in the woodland as they start to collect acorns for their winter hoard. This vibrant member of the crow family may gather as many as 5,000 acorns in a single season! Look out for them flying just above the treetops or scrabbling about amongst the leaf litter.

Grey squirrels and fallow deer

Grey squirrels will be extremely active right now too; most woodland walks will reward you with a sighting of this familiar creature as he prepares for the cold days ahead. Indeed, at our Forest of Dean site, our resident grey squirrels will probably come right up to your decking so you may have an opportunity to observe them from the comfort of your cabin!

High density populations of Fallow deer are also resident in the Forest of Dean. Autumn is a great time to observe them as they form together in big herds in preparation for their annual rut. Our ranger-led Twilight and Night Vision experiences provide a great opportunity to see them and learn more about their behaviour at this time and if we’re lucky we may hear the bellowing males as they assert their dominance.

Spiders weave their webs

Spider web

Spider silk is amazing and if you find a spider spinning a web, take a few moments to watch it closely. Perhaps, there is no better way to appreciate the wonder of the natural world as autumn takes hold.”

Stay at the Forest of Dean this autumn to immerse yourself in this most colourful of seasons and enjoy one of Gerry’s exciting Twilight or Night Vision walks.

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