The season's fading light and dipping temperatures might strengthen the lure of weekends spent inside, but the autumn offers some of the year's finest wildlife-watching experiences. Here James Lowen recommends three experiences, taken from his 52 Wildlife Weekends book.
- Leap of faith. North Yorkshire
The salmon run is the culmination of the one the most remarkable journeys in the natural world. Atlantic salmon, with a flash of silver and a muscular wriggle of the tail, leap up-stream on the River Ribble, heading the to the spot they left four years previously, to spawn and to die. Stainforth Force, north of Settle, is one of the best places to see the spectacle and the upstream rush of salmon usually lasts from mid-October to mid-November.
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- A pup is for life. Lincolnshire
Disproportionately large and endearingly liquid black eyes smoulder atop the creamiest and fluffiest of marine animals. 'Love me! Don't leave me!', the eyes seem to plead. Not 50m distant, individuals of the same species engage in a visceral, hormone-fuelled duel. It is hard to imagine two more contrasting dimensions to a single creature in such proximity. Such is the charming paradox of a grey seal colony. Britain hosts half of the world's grey seal population and the Donna Rook reserve on the Lincolnshire coast offers the chance to see the second-largest breeding colony, and in November they are at their peak.
- Wild Cat! Argyll & Bute
All is quiet. Then... There! In mid-carriageway, a cat! A stocky feline with flared jowls directs a disdainful look your way, then saunters on striped haunches into the roadside and the night beyond. The thick furred, banded and black-tipped tail provides your parting glimpse of a near-mythical and increasing rare beast. Wildcat! The Ardnamurchan Peninsula, an isolated protrusion on Scotland's west coast is the best place to see Scottish wildcat. In autumn populations of predator and prey should be at their peak making it easier to spot these nocturnal animals.