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Panorama from the Chevin

September was hot. The hottest September since 1911 in fact. October has been pretty hot too but in the last week or so we’ve started to see those warm South Westerly breezes give way to the chillier North Easterlies. This development has sparked a change in more than just our wardrobe!

As the air has cooled, the trees have burst into the stunning array of colours synonymous with the season. This, in turn triggers a race for every passionate outdoor photographer to rush out and capture these fleeting Autumnal colours before the first strong winds scatter them far and wide. But if you take a closer look, there is a lot more to Autumn than just the warm, fire-like colours of the trees.

Autumn Leaf Close Up

The drop in temperature is a signal to leaner, tougher times ahead; and nothing takes more heed to these warnings than the animal kingdom. Since that first debate on whether it’s time to turn on the heating or not there has been a noticeable change in the behaviour of our local wildlife.

My first observation came when Mrs CB hollered out to me from across the green at our local park. Her keen eye had spotted a hedgehog, in broad daylight! Her initial enthusiasm and excitement may have d’waned slightly as it put a twenty minute delay on our lunch-date while I observed and photographed this typically nocturnal mammal.

Over the last two years or so, I appear to have become the “go to” guy for wildlife enquiries and have been dubbed as the “nature dude” by folk on our street. Regular readers of Walking Photographer blog may have read my previous exploits involving hedgehog rescues. Normally seeing a hedgehog out about in the middle of the day might ring a few alarm bells, especially on a hot summers’ day. However after lying flat next to the critter and observing eye to eye for five minutes or so, it was clear this hedgehog pretty healthy.

Not only was this hedge dweller healthy, but it was actively hunting and I enjoyed watching a successful hunt as this omnivore devoured a worm just centimetres away from my face! It felt like one of those special “Attenborough moments” where the camera crew would be opposite me, shifting focus between my face and the feasting hedgehog whilst uttering some wise anecdotes in that relaxing, reassuring tone that only Sir David can achieve!

While a hedgehog on a daytime hunt might not get the BBC producers jumping out of their chairs, experiencing such a genuine bit of behaviour in daylight and in such close proximity gave me a genuine buzz. It also shows the importance of resisting that initial (albeit understandable) reactive urge of “I must help this lost soul”.

The combination of untidy, obstructive leaves, a very focused hedgehog and a pressing lunch engagement meant I was unable to catch any award winning images, not that any of these factors stopped me trying!

Hedgehog hunting in daytime

Other recent observations also include a bat, on the same parkland on the same day. This stunning (and one of my favourites) creature was out and about hunting before the sun had even set. Birds too seem bolder and braver. Our resident Dipper down at the weir is feeding more frenziedly, closer and less wary of human presence than just a few weeks ago. While up on the moor in recent weeks I have seen common Lizards, feeding up, using those large boulders as a radiator and a hunting ground before their long sleep.

Common Lizard on Ilkley Moor

Geese and other migrating birds have also used the change in wind direction to start their journeys to warmer climates. Just the other day, on an early Sunday morning I watched over a hundred Redwings feasting on berries at Ben Rhydding Golf Course before heading off towards Ilkley Moor, it was spectacular.

Right now is a truly spectacular and exciting time to get out and this golden period of the calendar is short lived. So whether it’s a weekend or a lunch hour make sure take some time to get out in it!