On the east coast, the mournful cries of bull grey seals echo among the chalk stacks and caves of Flamborough Cliffs. Largely hidden from view and showered by salt spray from the North Sea, the dominant bulls call to attract females and to drive away intruding males.

At low tide, if you gaze down from the chalk cliffs, they can be seen hauled out on seaweed-strewn rocks. Soon the females will give birth to their white fur-clad pups. The pups look limp and small at first but with the attention of their mothers, they soon grow and fatten on a nourishing fat-rich milk.

As soon as the pups are born, their mothers come into season and the attendant bulls will be ready to mate, to pass on their genes to next year’s offspring.

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Grey seal mother and pup. Photo: Paul Carter

Look carefully among the seals, and you may spot tiny wading birds. Turnstones, migrants from the high Arctic, arrive in the autumn, spending their winter picking up flies, sandhoppers and other small creatures hidden amongst the tangle of seaweed, pebbles and driftwood. Their dark brown and black upperparts blend the birds in well with their rocky shore home, and it is their orange legs and feet that are often noticed first.

For eye-level views of grey seals, head over the Humber Bridge, turn left and travel to Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Donna Nook nature reserve. The outer Humber here is a vast, low-lying expanse of sand and mudflats, flanked by internationally-important saltmarsh and fringed with sand dunes. To the north across the brown, turbid waters of the Humber, the black and white sentinel of Spurn lighthouse marks the south-eastern tip of Yorkshire.

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Winter visitor: the Turnstone visits our shores to escape the Arctic winter. Photo: Martin Batt

The Humber is incredibly important for wildlife and yet is increasingly pressured as sea levels rise and development covers both banks of the river.

Nevertheless, there is still lots of life here. For the next several weeks, several hundred grey seals arrive at Donna Nook to give birth to their pups at the top of the saltmarsh, sometimes lying within centimetres of the fence next to the footpath.

It is an incredible treat to have the opportunity to watch these marvellous marine mammals going through the breeding cycle. Do take time to scan across the saltmarsh too, as flocks of tiny piebald snow buntings flit about, feeding on the seeds of sea lavender, sometimes joined by small tawny twite, the upland cousin of the familiar linnet.

Autumn is a time of great migration with huge numbers of birds arriving in Yorkshire for the winter. And yet many more depart unnoticed, or pass through on their way further south and west. Large numbers of pink-footed geese, for instance, fly over on their way to North Norfolk where they spend the colder months feeding on discarded sugar beet tops in coastal fields.

Large numbers are now starting to linger on the Humber Estuary and as the Norfolk population expands and perhaps exceeds capacity, this may become a regular feature of Yorkshire winters.

Elsewhere, numbers of more familiar species such as starlings rise as immigrants from the continent arrive to enjoy our comparatively balmy winter weather.

Autumn and winter is the time to witness that super wildlife spectacle, a starling murmuration. Like an airborne shoal of sardines, flocks of thousands of starlings gather above roosting sites and perform spectacular aerobatics before dropping into trees, reeds or even onto buildings to roost for the night.

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Spectacular: a murmuration of starlings. Photo: Steve Wilson

This spectacle takes place just before dusk and is thought to happen in response to the presence of predators, such as a sparrowhawk or peregrine. It is much harder for a predator to pick out a single individual from a swooping, swirling flock – there really is safety in numbers! Once the threat has passed, the birds descend rapidly to roost.

Scientists who have studied these super-flocks have tried to answer questions about how these flocks behave almost like a single organism and how the individuals avoid crashing into one another. It is thought that each individual tracks and responds to the movements of the nearest seven neighbours and this then helps keep the flock intact and collision free.

Birds such as starlings roost communally and it is thought they do this to benefit each other from their collective warmth, share information about good places to feed during the day and also to defend against predators.

There are a number of sites where you can witness this across Yorkshire including Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves such as Potteric Carr at Doncaster, but make sure you wrap up warm and be prepared to wait! To have a look at some footage of the Potteric Carr murmuration, visit Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s YouTube channel.

For information about wild places you can visit across Yorkshire this autumn and winter, please visit www.ywt.org.uk. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is a charity relying on the support of members of the public. If you would like to get involved please visit the website above.

BLOB Jonathan Leadley is the Northern Regional Manager of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust