May is a great month to take up wildlife watching in Scotland. With summer migrants arriving from overseas and the days (that are supposed to be) heating up there is plenty to look out for along our coasts, in our woodlands, and even in our back gardens!
What to see in Scotland this month V
Peppered moth, Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)
Be honest, how long did it take you to notice the moth in that photo? Peppered moths are masters of disguise, blending almost perfectly with the lichen upon which they land.
This camouflage helps them outwit predators by allowing them to stay hidden; but it hasn’t always been so straight forward. During the nineteenth century pollution killed off some of the lichens in the UK and soot deposits caused bark to appear darker. This spelled disaster for light coloured moths as they could no longer rely on their camouflage and were picked off and eaten by birds.
Darker moths however, were now at an advantage – they were better hidden so more likely to survive, have offspring, and pass on their genes. Dark coloured peppered moths became more dominant at this time, which shows well the phenomenon of ‘industrial melanism’.
Peppered moths can be seen throughout Scotland with their active flight period starting in May and lasting until August.
This stunning image of a dolphin was taken by Walter Innes at RSPB Scotland's Dolphinwatch in Aberdeen this year
This time of year also signals the start of RSPB Scotland’s Dolphinwatch project; an altogether different type of species to look out for. Perhaps surprisingly, Aberdeen is one of the best places in the whole of Europe for spotting dolphins – and you can see seals and otters along the coast too.
We have members of staff down at Torry Battery from 11am until 6pm Thursday to Sunday right through the summer if you want tips on dolphin watching or some information on these brilliant creatures!
Spotted flycatcher, Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
But perhaps one of the best wildlife events to look out for right now is the arrival of summer migrants. Bird species like spotted and pied flycatchers arrive in Scotland after making the hazardous trip from Africa. Both species will spend the summer here before leaving on their return flight come September.
Spotted flycatchers are one of the latest migrants to reach our shores because of their specialised diets. With their agile, twisting flight flycatchers are adept at catching larger species like moths and butterflies, as well as bees and wasps – they remove the stings of these insects by thrashing them against a perch. You’ll likely spot these birds in woodlands, gardens, parks, and church yards – basically anywhere with a good perch.
Pied flycatchers meanwhile, are shyer and will tend to stick to woodlands where there is thicker cover on offer. The male of this species has a quirky little habit of flicking up one or both of its wings vertically when they are alarmed.
Happy wildlife watching everyone – and we’ll be back with a new blog on what to see in Scotland next month!