September can be one of the best months to be out and about as early autumn is usually still warm enough to be without a coat. The light shifts towards the red (long wavelength) end of the spectrum making it seem warmer than it actually is.
This month, the Reserve is just recovering from a summer that was so dry and hot that some places looked like they had been sprayed with herbicide. It looked like we would have autumn in August, but that didn't happen. The grass turned green and most trees held onto their leaves. Now we even have as show of late summer flowers such as blue cornflowers and evening primroses.
The cornflowers grow in our arable fields among this year's crops of millet and Facillia that were planted for the birds in winter and insects in summer. You may spot other wildflowers there too, such as corn marigold and corn chamomile, though these are largely over now. There is some yellow fleabane showing still.
The evening primroses are out in profusion near the dragonfly pond. It looks like an American prairie pond right now. That's because evening primroses are American plants that came here by ship and then spread along the railway lines from the ports. In return we sent them purple loosestrife which has gone berserk there.
Down by the River Viewpoint there is a huge area of nettles growing an a damp area we call Dodder Fen. My predecessor, Ron Elloway, discovered great dodder growing there and we have been managing the area for this plant ever since. Great dodder has no leaves; instead it captures the nutrients it needs from its host plant, which is usually a nettle. The seeds are spread by animals such as marsh grazing livestock or deer, or by fishermen who push through the nettles to reach an un-fished stretch of water. We have two crops of dodder each summer. Right now the second crop has finished flowering and the seeds are swelling.
For a lot of us, September is the time to raid the hedgerows for edible berries and there seems to be a lot of fruit about this year. Look out for blackberries, elderberries, sloes, buckthorns and damsons. The birds are particularly fond of the elderberries so they are are disappearing fast. If we get some rain, this should be a good autumn for fungi too.
Finally, there are the birds. The low water on all our lakes has revealed a muddy shoreline and a host of little islands that are attracting masses of wildfowl and other birds. The stars of the show are four great white egrets that stand out from the crowd of little egrets because of their size and their bill, which is yellow instead of black. If you have sharp eyes you might also spot some green sandpipers on the shoreline. These waders look almost black and white in flight when they reveal a white rump, like a house martin.
LATEST NEWS! Willow emerald damselflies have been seen near the beach on Cloudy Pit. This photo is by Ian Dawson who has been trying to spot one here for years. The black and white one is by me.