Introducing Autumn Holiday Watch

Posted by Ed Roberts on 28th April 2020

We love the autumn with its gorgeous falling leaves, the nights drawing in and the opportunity to see flocks of visiting birds on the wing. It’s a superb season to birdwatch and to spend time outdoors engaging with natural play in awesome habitats like woodlands and the British countryside. For our Autumn Holiday Watch in partnership with the RSPB, we have come up with lots of interesting ways to make September, October and November fun and full of family adventure. Read on to discover how you can make the most of your holiday whilst out and about this season.


Watch the wildlife

As the days get shorter and the temperatures cool, many species of birds head for warmer climates, whilst our more earthbound creatures such as squirrels and hedgehogs are busy gathering food before they hunker down to hibernate through the winter. However, some of our resident birds and wild animals endure throughout the entire year, so what can we do to help them a little bit? Here are some fun activities to keep you busy whilst doing your bit for Mother Nature this autumn.


Best times to birdwatch  

If you live or are holidaying near an RSPB bird and nature reserve then viewing conditions are perfect to observe sedentary, and wintering birds. During late autumn, birds like starlings flock together to keep safe after spending the summer in smaller family groups, so look for billowing clouds of them in the fields on your travels. Look out for blackbirds, robins, blue tits, sparrows, blackcaps; the most prolific birds that stay on in England during the colder months – they may even visit your garden. For a full list of RSPB bird reserves visit the RSPB website

The joy of birdwatching has become a life-long hobby for many of us. See if you can pass on the quiet thrill of seeing a lesser-spotted or rare bird in the wild to your children. It’s a calm pastime like fishing that requires patience, poise and a good memory for visual and audible recognition. You will find a notice board at any RSPB visitor centres with a record of recent sightings and whereabouts on the reserve to catch possible sightings. If you are a novice or junior ornithologist, borrow some binoculars and buy an identification book or chart to get started!


Open a bird café

Bird table, children, robin redbreastPhoto (L) courtesy of RSPB

One of the very best ways to observe birds is by putting food out for them in your garden or wherever you are staying on your holiday. The autumn isn’t quite as busy around the garden for birds as the winter is, but our winged friends will begin to show their faces before too long. Many are still seen darting about, finding readily available seeds, berries and creepy crawlies that are still out and about during this time of year. 

What you will need: bird table, feeders, sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, nyger seeds, uncooked oats, fat balls (suet / lard), cooked rice


Build a hedgehog house  

The beloved hedgehog goes into hibernation during the colder months so their mission during the autumn is to find somewhere to curl up and sleep out of harm’s way. Hedgehogs favour bases made from moss, grass, and earth. They can be found in thick brambles or the bottom of sheds, sometimes in sheds or garden junk. If you plan to build a hedgehog house, find a wooden box and cut a small doorway into it; alternatively, buy one from the RSPB shop.  Find a good spot for the den away from the prevailing winds, and in thick vegetation. Avoid checking on the house regularly as it’s best to leave hibernating animals alone.


Be a nature detective  

Nature detectives. Children - AdultsPhoto courtesy of RSPB

Find tracks and signs left behind by the wildlife. Unlike humans, most wild animals are shy and can be difficult to spot. Many are nocturnal or actively avoid us altogether, however, they do leave clues of their movements behind them like footprints, feathers and droppings. Look out for confusing and interesting tracks – can you tell the difference between a rabbit and a hare’s prints? You could even make an animal tracker! Learn more about how to become a nature detective by following this trail


Discover the woodlands

Woodland

Picture a woodland as if it’s a city for birds and animals, the runs between the trees being superhighways for badgers and foxes, the trees like tower blocks and houses for birds, the burrows like subways. It’s very easy to draw fun comparisons to our own homes and travelling habits as, just like the animals, birds and insects, we all have a role to play in nature.

We have put our heads together and come up with activities galore to get in amongst when you are next down in the woods, whether it's at the weekend or on your holidays.


Wild play

Those of us who live in the countryside may take our access to open spaces for granted, but not everybody has an opportunity to reach the great outdoors on a regular basis. Green spaces, although they do exist in cities and large towns, usually consist of a large lawn space and a play area for small children and not much in the way of open woodlands. Woodland play and forest schools are relatively uncommon but their popularity is on the rise. So how about indulging in some wild play on the weekends or on your holiday with a trip to a country park? What can you do to have fun in the woods? 

Here are some inspirational ideas of what you could get up to:


Build a den 

Child den woodlandsPhoto courtesy of RSPB

As trees shed their branches from time to time, they leave ample material to build a den about them. Prop up the largest branches against the trunk of a nearby tree and then develop the structure with small branches – then you can work on a canopy to make it into a proper shelter. It’s an active and involving task for all members of the family, big and small and even four-legged! (Don’t forget, dogs are connoisseurs of stick ‘fetchery’).


Make a journey stick 

Photo courtesy of RSPB

One of our favourite nature crafts for children is helping them to collect mementoes of their day in the woods for a journey stick. Find a stick or a branch and tie or stick woodland treasure like leaves, twigs, feathers, tree bark and anything else natural that you find. Then, when you get home, hang it somewhere for all to see to remind you of the fun day you all had in the woods.


Create a leaf collage

autumn leaves

Autumn ushers in a dazzling dance of natural colour unrivalled in its range of tones than in any other season. The spectrum of yellow, gold, brown, red and orange can be collected by the bundle to make some spectacular collages! That’s the beauty of a woodland: there are enough fallen leaves to make a year’s worth of art – maybe you can catch some falling from the trees. No caution is needed when gathering leaves, it's not like picking flowers that still have some growing to do – collecting leaves for art gives the tree another lease of life!


Forage for foods and fungi spot

Make a fun holiday game of foraging for foods as part of your Autumn Holiday Watch. In the UK, conkers dominate the woodlands as well as nuts, fruits and berries. Many wild animals and birds store up during this season before the winter closes in.  


Hunt for fungi 

Fungi spotting can be very interesting if you know what you are looking for – hidden beneath the surface for much of the year, toadstools and wild mushrooms sprout up in a myriad of peculiar shapes. There are over 100,000 species of fungi, which is a mind-boggling number! Don’t attempt to touch or eat any fungi that you spot. There's so much to learn about fungi.


Forage for fruits and nuts

Foraging during the winter can yield some fabulous culinary treasures, each hedgerow a potential larder. Throughout September, October, and November you will find the edible likes of Hawthorn berries (used in homemade ketchup), beech nuts (for sprinkling on salads after roasting), rosehips (for homemade syrup), sloes (for gin, whisky, jams and vinegar), wild strawberries and raspberries (jams, juice, frozen treats). Don’t forget the abundant sweet chestnuts and hazelnut that come of age and fall to ground for roasting! Make sure you know what you are picking; if you are unsure leave it well alone. Some berries can make you feel very poorly.  


Whatever the weather

We live in the UK, where the only thing predictable about the weather is its unpredictability; thank heavens for the weather forecast. So, if you're adept at following the weather, you can prepare for almost anything Mother Nature has to throw at you. Come rain or shine from an Indian summer, don’t let a spot of mad weather keep you cooped up indoors unless you want to be. Don’t let the elements tell you what to do, there’s a heap of autumn activities you can try out on your holiday that includes real rainbow spotting, going on a puddle-splashing welly walk (link to Joules welly walk blog), build a rainmaker or more ambitiously, construct a weather station!

Pack a dry change of clothes for your outing then you can warm up by the wood burner or fireplace when you get back and heat up some soup on the stove. How cosy does that sound?


Further reading

If you are feeling inspired by our guide, we have written some others that you may be interested in reading. Some of them are educational whilst others are helpful guides to finding the perfect holiday nest for you and your loved ones.


Get involved

Photo (L) courtesy of RSPB

Do you love taking photographs? Then why don’t you share your favourite autumn snaps with us? What will you see on your woodland walks? Busy squirrels, a cunning fox, a conker fight, falling leaves, a stunning sunrise, or some curiously shaped fungi?


The RSPB's Wild Challenge

Why not take part in the RSPB's Wild Challenge. Curated with juniors and young-adults in mind, this cool programme of nature tasks and fun exercises is a brilliant way to learn all about all the different habitats in the UK's countryside and the birds and mammals that live there. All you need to do is sign-up on the RSPB Wild Challenge page and follow some simple steps to enrol on your own adventure.

For every photograph submitted on our #AutumnHolidayWatch via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter we’ll be donating 50p* to the RSPB, saving nature together. For more details on how we’re supporting the RSPB this year… – (link to campaign hub/blog)

*Donations to the RSPB for the Autumn Holiday Watch are up to a maximum of £1,000. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.