The first signs of autumn are appearing as the equinox marks the start of the season, with hopes for a crescendo of colour in late October, experts have said.
The season is also delivering bumper harvests of fruit such as apples and blackberries, spelling good news for foodies and wildlife alike.
Dozens of records of silver birch leaves tinting and ripe rowan fruit have been received by Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar citizen science scheme which asks members of the public to help monitor the changing seasons.
The records, which have been received ahead of the start of the astronomical season of autumn, are on time compared with the 10-year average, the Trust said.
This autumn is also delivering a bumper crop of blackberries which spells good news for wildlife that can feed up on fruit before their winter hibernation, according to records submitted to Nature’s Calendar.
And there have been some unusually early sightings of fieldfares, birds which return from their summer haunts of Scandinavia between late September and December, the Trust said.
While the first records of horse chestnut trees having fully changed colour are within the expected date range, the presence of the tree leaf miner pest which causes them to turn early is thought to be responsible for a number of the records.
Judith Garforth, citizen science officer, said: “It’s always tricky to predict whether autumn will arrive early or late, and what the implications of this will be.
“So far Nature’s Calendar records suggest that autumn isn’t especially early, but we’d expect to see more change in leaf colour by mid-October.”
The Forestry Commission said the year’s weather so far could lead to an extended display of autumn colour.
The warm dry spring will have slowed down the production of sugars which produce autumn reds, golds and orange as they are absorbed back into the tree. But the wet summer will have helped trees to catch up and should result in a stunning display.
A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “Our experts are hopeful that a crescendo will come around the last two weeks in October, where if you’re exploring the great outdoors, you’ll struggle not to feast your eyes on some fantastic colour”.
The National Trust said the lack of much frost in the spring had led to an “excellent apple crop” this year.
A spokesman for the organisation said: “Many of our places across the South West are reporting a fantastic yield in our orchards, where we grow a mix of cider and eating apples such as the Brown Snout, Beauty of Bath and Crimson King.
“There is a range of events and activities taking place to celebrate the autumn harvest, where visitors have the opportunity to press apples, enjoy local cider and try apple bobbing.”