From tiny finches to diving ducks – September serves up a wealth of wildlife to keep us fascinated. Here are some of our favourites.
What to see in Scotland this month IX
Weighing in at as little as ten grams the lesser redpoll is one of the tiniest finches. That’s about the same weight as just three regular teabags; not very heavy at all!
Because of their small size, these birds can be difficult to spot when they’re tucked neatly between branches of trees – seeming to melt away between the leaves. However as we head into autumn, it becomes easier to spy them as the leaves begin to fall, lessening their camouflage.
You can identify a lesser redpoll from its streaky brown body, the red blob of colour on its forehead and a little black bib. Males also get a red flush on their breasts during the breeding season, but it is really tricky to separate the sexes of this species.
Lesser redpolls are pretty well distributed throughout Scotland and are fairly active too – look out for them dangling upside down from twigs and branches to feed.
Maybe not quite so acrobatic, but every bit as interesting is the pochard - another species which you’ll likely see more of during autumn. The pochard is a distinctive diving duck with a reddish-brown head and neck, though the female is more of a yellowish-brown.
There is a small number of breeding pochards in Scotland but the vast majority are wintering birds which begin arriving in September and October, then appear to spend most of their time, well...asleep. But that’s because they usually feed at night, jumping and diving to collect plants, snails, tadpoles and small fish.
We don’t know very much about the Scottish breeding population but the migrating birds come mostly from northern Europe and Iceland; see them on lakes and sometimes on estuaries too.
Another species which flocks to our shores this month is the grey plover. The first migrant adults arrive in the UK as early as July with the young following suit in August and September. They stick to the coast in places like the Montrose Basin, the Solway and the Firth of Forth.
Grey plovers carry out an impressive migration with the birds leaving their Siberian breeding grounds bound for West Africa. Thousands of them pass through Scotland in September en route and many stay here for the whole winter – its thought we have up to 2,800 grey plovers at that time of year.
So, there’s still a lot of movement going on this month with migrant birds coming and going in the lead up to winter. But remember there are plenty of species that stick with us all year round like robins, starlings, crested tits and goldfinches. Why not consider giving them a home where you live – we’ve got plenty of tips and tricks on our website to get you started: rspb.org.uk/homes
Happy wildlife watching everyone and we’ll be back with a new blog on what to see in Scotland next month!
RSPB'S Jamie Wyver visited Mull recently to find out more about the island's white-tailed eagles. Have a listen as he talks to Dave Sexton. RSPB Scotland's Mull Officer, about the eagles' 30 year history there.
Mull's white-tailed eagles
This year we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of white-tailed eagles on the Scottish island of Mull. Twenty pairs of white tailed eagles now nest here, including the first ever couple, Norwegian birds now in their early 30s.
I was lucky enough to visit the island earlier this year and watch these impressive birds myself, as part of a press trip.
Dave Sexton, our Mull Officer, was our host and one of the places he took us was the Mull Eagle hide — a friendly little project set up by RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, the Mull and Iona Community Trust and Police Scotland. Here you can look out at the nest of TV stars, eagles Fingal and Iona. As we watched the eagles I asked Dave to tell me a little about their history on the island - you can listen here.