Home > Haith's Wildlife Blog: > First day of autumn: The autumn equinox falls in the northern hemisphere on 23 September.

First day of autumn: The autumn equinox falls in the northern hemisphere on 23 September.

Tuesday, 23rd September 2014

What triggers autumn and where does the sun go between now and spring? (And what does that all mean for wildlife?).
The question of the day as I mustered my three children into the car this morning: “Where does the sun go during autumn and winter?” 
 
The equinox is apparently triggered when the Earth’s axis isn’t tilted towards or away from the Sun. As for where the sun goes, the answer to that is a little like reading a good book; endings are almost always connected to beginnings – in other words, our (the northern hemisphere’s) loss of the sun’s summer rays is the gain of the southern hemisphere as September signals the beginning of spring.
 
For the UK, we lose daylight hours and we experience cooler weather, but we rarely, thankfully, feel the extremes of the equinox; however, what does the equinox mean for inhabitants of the two geographical extremes: the North & South Pole?
 
South Pole inhabitants are likely to be happier than those in the North Pole as they’re going to soon be celebrating the first appearance of the sun for six months. Whereas North Pole inhabitants are about to wave goodbye to the sun as they prepare for six months of darkness. You can now see why birds head south for winter. What does all of that mean for resident wildlife?  
 
Days with less daylight shorten the foraging window for wildlife - there’s less time to source and secure a supply of good food. Any food is welcome, but high-energy food is what’s required.
 
Just as the increase in sunlight signals nature to flourish during spring and summer, triggering off the bird breeding season, the reduction in daylight encourages wildlife to entrench its position and prepare for what’s to come: cooler weather, loss of natural cover/insulation in hedgerows/trees and a dramatic reduction in “natural” foods.
 
The chill in the air will also trigger off bird migration for those species who will travel south in search of warmer climes. Some birds have already left our shores; the Swallows are most likely well on their way south of the Sahara on their epic journey to Africa. There’s a subtle shift of bird population as, we lose some bird species we gain others...
 
To some birds, the UK is, believe it or not, the equivalent of “warmer climes” - the winter thrushes (Redwings & Fieldfares) will arrive in the north of Britain from Scandinavia. And who can blame them?
 
Isn’t nature fascinating?
 
Have a great autumn. 

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