Crunchy leaves. Weird toadstools. Wild geese in the skies... are you enjoying autumn? I am! And you won't miss out if you try some of my top 10 ideas for things to do this season...
For most of the year, jays are shy. You might hear a harsh squawk or see a pink bird flying away from you through the trees. But at this time of year, jays are busy, busy busy. Their aim? Grab as many acorns and chestnuts as possible, and bury most of them for later.
Amazingly, a jay was once seen carrying NINE acorns all at once! So listen for the horrible squawks around woodland, and you may be rewarded with a look at one of these beautiful birds.
Weird and wonderful fungi
It's been a really great autumn for fungi. But now it's getting colder, don't assume that they're all gone. There will be fungi to be found right into November. On your next woodland walk, go a little slower, look down instead of forward, and see if you can spot mushrooms and moulds on tree trunks, in leaf litter and on dead wood. You'll be surprised!
Things that go 'seeep' in the night
It's an exciting time of year. Migration is in full swing, with birds flooding into the UK from the north and east, and leaving via the south. You can experience this phenomenon from the comfort of your own doorstep. Simply step outside on a clear, starry night, and listen. I predict that soon you'll hear high-pitched 'seeep' calls. And they'll be from redwings and song thrushes that are flying overhead under cover of darkness.
During the daytime, watch out for the same birds roaming our hedgerows and fields, on the hunt for berries and worms. They'll be joined by blackbirds and fieldfares which have also made the trip from Scandinavia.
A wild goose chase
If you live inland, you might have to travel to see flocks of wild geese, but trust me, it's worth it. We're talking about the Real goose McCoy, not honking crowds of bread-munching Canada and greylag geese you get in the park. Once you've marvelled at long strings of proper wild geese snaking across the sky, you'll be converted...
Dragons and butterflies
It's almost the last-chance saloon for butterflies this year. All too soon, frosts will finish off those unable to hibernate. But some species - like brimstones, red admirals and peacocks - can hide themselves away in a sheltered spot (maybe even your shed) and be ready for action next spring. Watch out for butterflies basking in the autumn sunshine, or coming to feed on late-flowering plants like ivy.
As for dragonflies, common darters are sure to be the last ones standing. Again, sunny days are the best ones for looking for dragonflies, and a nice warm wall or fence will attract them. If it's a cool day, you'll probably be able to get very close. Check out those amazing compound eyes!
Children never hesitate, but for some reason, adults grow out of it: this month, go and trample through some crunchy autumn leaves. You know you want to! And on a crisp, sunny, cold day, you've just got to admire the beautiful autumn colours. The combination of bright oranges, yellows and reds against a blue sky is something to remember, so why not take your camera?
If the squirrels, deer and birds haven't already had them, why not relive some of your childhood and have a game of conkers?
Birds of a feather...
At this time of year, lots of small woodland and garden birds band together to look for food. And there's safety in numbers too, of course. As well as the usual suspects like blue, great and long-tailed tits, you might see some extra hangers-on - like great spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers, goldcrests, chiffchaffs and nuthatches.
If you stand still and quiet, there's a very good chance that these birds will fly right past you and maybe even come very close!
You've seen it on Autumnwatch, now see it for yourself. Now's the time to see deer rutting. Feel the earth move as stags and bucks chase each other, competing for the attention of onlooking females. We can help you get closer to the action, with our Dates with Nature.
Last month, Rosalind wrote about the free food available to us (and other creatures) in the countryside. She forgot the sloe gin, though! If you haven't tried it before, there are plenty of recipes on the internet. Here's Nigel Slater's.
There are loads of other things to see and do at this time of year. What are your favourites? Please leave a comment and share your ideas - I'd love to read about them!