This Month on the Emmbrook
What to look for if you are out and about in

SEPTEMBER

General

Hawthorn

September is a time of change as the tide turns from Summer to Autumn with the Autumnal equinox usually on the 22nd September. The hedgerows are full of ripening berries with Hawthorn haws, Rose hips, Sloes, Blackberries and Elderberries. However make sure that you pick your Blackberries before September 29th St Michaelmas Day . It was once believed that on the feast of St. Michael, the devil spat on the blackberries (or worse!) and it was therefore very unwise to pick and eat the fruit after September 29th. According to the old tale, when St. Michael cast Satan from Heaven, the devil landed on earth in a patch of brambles and he returns every year to spit on the plant that tortured him, breathing his foul breath over it and trampling it. The leaves of the trees are just starting to change to the reds and golds of Autumn and Winter as bird migrants start to appear.

When is the first day of autumn?

It depends on whether you are referring to the astronomical or meteorological autumn. We often talk about it beginning to feel like autumn when the nights start to draw in and temperatures start feeling cooler. There are two separate dates which could be said to mark the start of autumn in calendars. One is defined by the Earth's axis and orbit around the sun and the second is a fixed date which is used by meteorologists for consistent spacing and lengths of the seasons.

Meteorological season

The meteorological autumn began on 01 September 2017 and ends on 30 November 2017. The meteorological seasons consists of splitting the seasons into four periods made up of three months each. These seasons are split to coincide with our Gregorian calendar making it easier for meteorological observing and forecasting to compare seasonal and monthly statistics. By the meteorological calendar, the first day of autumn is the 1 September. The seasons are defined as Spring (March, April, May), Summer (June, July, August), Autumn (September, October, November) and Winter (December, January, February).

Astronomical season

This astronomical autumn began on 22 September 2017 and ends on 21 December 2017. The astronomical calendar determines the seasons due to the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth's rotational axis in relation to its orbit around the sun. Both equinoxes and solstices are related to the Earth's orbit around the sun.

Earth's axis and seasons

Solstices and equinoxes are considered to be the astronomical transition points between the seasons and mark key stages in the astronomical cycle of the earth. In a year there are two equinoxes (spring and autumn) and two solstices (summer and winter). The dates of the Equinox and Solstice aren't fixed due to the Earth's elliptical orbit of the sun. The Earth's orbit around the sun means that in early January, the sun is closest (known as perihelion) and in early July it is most distant (aphelion). On the autumn equinox, day and night are of roughly equal length and the nights will become increasingly longer than the days until the spring equinox when the pattern is reversed. It also marks the time of year when the northern hemisphere begins to tilt away from the sun resulting in less direct sunlight and consequently the cooling temperatures.

Birds

Keep an eye out for Jays. These birds are more noticeable at this time of the year as they stash acorns away for the winter by burying them in the ground. Gathering Swallows & Martins herald the beginning of the great intercontinental shift as northern breeding birds head south.

Insects

Insect numbers decline massively as adults of many species die to leave the caterpillars or pupae to survive the winter; however certain insects are more noticeable at this time of year. Around the time of the harvest in August onwards the Craneflies (or Daddy-long-legs) appear in their greatest numbers. September really wouldn.t be the same without one of these clumsy charecters hanging around your porch light.

Other Wildlife

Squirells become more noticeable again hunting for and hiding acorns for the winter.

Plants & Trees

By September the Horse-Chestnut trees (conker trees) have been showing signs of the changing season for several weeks, already with their large palmate leaves browning at the edges like they have passed too near to a naked flame. The Horse-Chestnut also yields up its seeds this month in the form of conkers which drop to the ground in their spiky green cases.

Other tree species such as Ash, Beech and Sweet Chestnut are also turning with tinges of yellow, orange and light green tinges.

Ivy is one of the few late flowering plants and the nectar forms an important food sources for bees and wasps. There are seven different wasp species in Britain. Common and German wasps seemingly suddenly appear in September but this is because their pattern of obtaining food has changed. Their summer past time of killing insects to feed to the larvae in the nest has come to an end (the larvae provide a sweet saliva in return). This is because their queen has now stopped laying eggs and the food incentive has gone. As a result they then move onto other sweet substitutes, such as the sugars of fallen fruit or the jam in your picnic sandwiches. Unfortunately it is now that wasps, with their ability to sting and not die, become particularly unpopular in the garden.

It was once believed that on the feast of St. Michael, the devil spat on the blackberries (or worse!) and it was therefore very unwise to pick and eat the fruit after September 29th. According to the old tale, when St. Michael cast Satan from Heaven, the devil landed on earth in a patch of brambles and he returns every year to spit on the plant that tortured him, breathing his foul breath over it and trampling it. Many plants have or are setting seeds. Rosebay willow-herb plants are sending out fluffy seed umbrella like structures to carry the seed by the wind to a new location.

Fungi can be found throughout the year but a damp September and October will give rise to a multitude of fruiting bodies yielding billions of spores to spread the species far and wide.